Monday, October 30, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Center Cannot Hold

The Ring (pictured above) was created as a Burgess Shale type Traveller environ.  At 3 x 3 subsectors, the Ring is a bit more than third smaller in area compared to a standard Trav sector, but still plenty large for many kinds of adventures.

The individual subsectors were generated using the Zhodani Base's cool random generator tool, with race set to "Pocket Empire," settlement level to "Backwater," and most subsectors either "Standard" or "Scattered" density.  The central subsector was set to Barren settlement level and Rift density.  The graphics for each subsector were autogenerated by clicking the nifty "send to" button.  I then stitched the individual maps together rather hamhandedly in

The inspiration for the structure of the Ring comes from a couple of old strategy sci-fi games I played in my undergrad days.  I fondly remember searching U of I's local AppleTalk network for an unsecure Mac that could host our games of Spaceward Ho!Usually someone in the Foreign Languages Building unknowingly obliged.  Later we spent a lot of time playing the sci-fi mash-up game VGA Planets, where the Cylons could fight the Federation and the Rebel Alliance at the same time. 

As I recall, both games had options for configuring the initial spacemap and we tended to favor ring-shaped universes.  This choice allowed for each player to face at most 2 foes in the early stages of the game.  We liked slow build-ups, ending with titanic battles between well-prepared opponents.

World info and subsector maps below the thingy.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Vyzor #23: oh god I killed another dog


  • Yohey the Carpenter, LotFP specialist (Anthony Fournier)
  • Persimion Finch, pig (Galen Fogarty)
  • Magic Meryl, magic-user (Nick Kuntz)
  • Arhur, doggie (pet)
  • Pitwin Spryneedle, gnome (henchweenie)
  • Gozundi the Lizard (Chris Wilson)

To: Mister Banabus Sleet
c/o The Jarrod Memorial Library

From: Master Pitwin Spryneedle

Dear Mister Barnabus Sleet,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you of the passing of my mentor Magic Meryl, 2nd Dan – Jale Belt Librarian. She perished in the 1st Level of the Violet Vault, covered in a swarm of poisonous snakes. Arthur, ever the faithful dungeon terrier, stayed with her to the bitter end. He, too, died of poisoning under the touch of their most fearsome fangs. I fear I would have suffered similarly, sir, if not for the heroism of the warrior cursed to live as a pig, Permsimion Finch.

I traveled with my mentor, Arthur, Mister Yohey the Carpenter, Mister Gezundi the Lizard, and the aforementioned Mister Finch as far as the 3rd Level of the Violet Vault. While what was encountered there include some of the most frightening brushes with the unknown in my fair short but adventurous years, they were not what befell my teacher. Still, even know; I do not want to dwell long on what transpired in those dungeons deep. Heed, though, this advice: Watch the ceilings.

Included with this missive is a map that leads from the hatch in the root cellar of the Johnsons’ old place to the location where Magic Meryl passed. When we left it, the long room had become flood with snakes. Snakes first poured from the mummified serpent man seated on the southern throne as well as innumerable holes hidden amongst the reliefs of those sinister, slithering creatures. I do not know now if the serpents remain or not.

From among the funds I acquired from the sale of a crown we recovered from the deceased Serpent King and 10 barrels of wine, I am currently offering a reward of 200gp total to those that return Magic Meryl’s body to the Jarrod Memorial Library. This is in addition to any current standing rewards you have for the return of librarians to your institution. It is there that she found a home in Vyzor and would like to return to join her friend Jarrod among the stacks.

I, myself, hope to one day be counted among the Library’s ranks to continue Magic Meryl’s legacy. While I am proficient in the casting of 1st and 2nd Level magic-user spells, I have yet to master one not yet found among your collection. Until then, sir.
With deepest regrets,

Pitwin Spryneedle

Pitwin and Persimion carousing


Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Arthur (faithful NPC doggie), Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call), Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Broodmother related public event

Hey, all!  I'll be at the Flanagan Public Library, 124 S Main St, Flanagan, IL on Thursday, November 7th 2nd starting at 7pm.  I'll be giving a talk, the working title of which is "How D&D Saved the World."  Go big or go home, as they say.

Since I grew up on a farm just outside Flanagan, this is sort of the return to the mundane world of my hero's journey.  In my talk I hope to explain my ridiculous hobby to the community that first knew me as That Weird Kid, so the content of my presentation may not be super interesting to my fellow specialists.  But please come if you'd like!  I'd be thrilled to see some friends and/or meet people I only know online.

If you bring your copy of Broodmother I would be happy to sign it for you, though I will only sign page 5.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session 22


Laurantha the Unbeautiful, elf (Cullen)
Jimmy Neckbeard, halfling (henchweenie)
Sapphean Gratchit, blue mage (Josh Rapp)
Sneakerly Trull, orcish thief (Zak S)
Mozarella, doggie (pet)
Sigismunde von Flederschnecke, gnome fighter/illusionist (Alexei McDonald)
Gary Oldman Badger, badger (pet)

Laurantha to the Sorcerer of the Azure Mask--A Missive

O! puissant one, I, Laurantha the Unbeautiful, have returned from an expedition into the Azure Vaults, armed with new information about Elexus Starchild, and with one of the servants of the dreaded Elf-King in hand. This is my account:

In company of four faithful allies--namely, Sneakerly Trull, Snaphean Gratchit, and Sigismond Flegelschneckel, as well as my sometime companion Jimmy Neckbeard--we descended into the vaults beneath the Azure Tower. Through my perusal of the maps of previous expeditions, I expected to find stairs down to the second level of the vault through certain eastern doors on the first level, in a large chamber with two of the Elf-King's agonizer cages. And thus we did; but entering the large agonizer chamber, we beheld two beholders, emaciated and miserable-seeming in the larger cage (the other was empty).

Sneakerly took the initiative to negotiate with these erstwhile fearsome beasts; they, being half-starved, readily agreed to call out to us in warning if any danger came a-stalking up behind us, and in return, we would feed them the remains of certain carrion crawlers rotting in a nearby chamber. Though not exactly enthused about the nature of this dish, they nevertheless agreed--much to our aid further on!

The stairs were as I recalled them to be from the previous maps; at their foot opened an ancient library, all a-mess and haunted by a ghostly librarian. When I approached the desk and rang the bell, this spiritual custodian obligingly appeared, and led me by my request to the special history section. There, I perused many works, and was able to glean two things concerning our foe: firstly, that the ancient Elf-Druid war was started when the Druids (they being non-human at the time) first taught magic to men, and that the Elves, led by the Elf-King, opposed this folly as madness (as it was, alas); secondly, that the Elf-King's most puissant servant and champion is known as the Purple Mist, which may be a single identity, or perhaps several (the writer seemed uncertain which in his use of number).

Meanwhile, as I researched, Sigismond sought out works on trichology, hoping for a remedy for his hairlessness. It was just as Sigismond finished copying an alchemical recipe, and I my notes on the Elf-King's history, that we heard a great shout and alarum from up the stairs behind us: 'Beware the shadows!'

Thanks to this timely alarum by the beholders above, we were able to escape quickly into the corridors beyond the library and slip away down a side corridor. There, we heard a deep rumbling snore; Sneakerly declared that sleeping giants generally meant nearby treasure, and the party agreed in hope; but when Sneakerly sought out the source of the noise, he discovered no sleeping giant, but a great brown dragon, coiled in sleep and chained to the wall in a wide upward-sloping chamber. When he returned and mouthed the warning, 'Dragon!' to us, that dolt Jimmy Neckbeard nearly wakened the thing by trudging up to gawk at it, but we dragged him back, and decided better to turn aside rather than possibly face a dragon on our way out of the vaults.

There followed a series of explorations of the rooms of the second level of the Azure Vaults. We discovered a great arena, where orcs and morloi battle horrid monstrosities; we discovered the laboratory where those horrid monstrosities are stitched together and stored in stasis, most likely by the Elf-King or his servants; and we also discovered a conference room, complete with a set of decanters bearing golden liquor which we appropriated (and sold above); and lastly, a room with a great pool entering onto a vast underground river. All of this was mapped by myself, and when I have copied it well, I will share it with yourself, o! puissant one, and with my comrades-in-arms.

Lastly, while returning from the room with the great pool, we heard a noise behind one of the many doors of the hallway; Laurantha knocked, thinking that perhaps an Elf might be mistaken for a servant of the Elf-King--but no answer. So Sigismond threw open the door, and alas, what was on the other side was indeed an Elf, but with a fireball at the ready in his gloved hands, which he cast into our midst. The fireball damaged us all, but none of our own were slain by it; and the Elf himself was also injured. He panicked and attempted to flee, but was not only seized on the buttocks by the jaws of Mozarella, Sneakerly's faithful hound, but Gary Oldman Badger also seized him in his great claws.

This Elf--a pathetic creature barely deserving that lofty appellation--wept openly as if the demons of Hell had him in their grasp, and only wept more horribly as Sneakerly suggested a great plan involving his employment as a native dissident intent on the assassination of the Elf-King and the overthrow of his oppressive regime--and wouldn't this Elf (by name of Thesarius) like to be a hero? He very much did not want to do so; in fact, what he wanted and had been intending to do was to quit the Elf-King and escape out of the dungeon, which thing we happily aided him in doing, by tying him up with slightly paralyzing carrion-crawler tentacles and hauling him out of the dungeon with us.

Now Thesarius is with us, and hopefully we can glean further information about the Elf-King from him .
Your lieutenant in the War Against the Elf-King,
Laurantha Akala”

A week in the life of Sapphean Gratchit

I was hanging out with Magic Meryl after hitting it off in our expedition to the Dwarven temple the other day. She asked me if she could cast a spell upon me which I was ecstatic about being able to learn spells the way I do. She said it would change something about me. I didn't listen very much at the time. I sat there and waited for the spell to be finished. As it did, I found myself whisked away immediately and looking around it was dark and I was unable to see clearly. I could feel however, my body being slowly melted away and yet they were not disappearing, I could feel the same parts of me still. It was as if they were being transposed several feet away. This process continued until I was just a head floating apart from my body but I could still feel my body. Then it stopped briefly, I heard a voice reach out to me. It sounded a little bit like Meryl except far more...motherly. It spoke this to me, " Hello, little one. Here is a gift. Let your newfound intellect be a boon to you and your companions. " Suddenly with a flash I was back outside the castle. I was me but I also felt strange like I was able to see the world, more. I understood some things that I didn't before and I thought. I was thinking about things ahead of time!

I was on my way to tell Meryl what had happened when an elf woman approached me and asked if I wanted to accompany her on an expedition to the Azure Vault beneath Castle Vyzor. It was exciting because I had just come here not that long ago. I heartily accepted her offer and ran off to tell Meryl all that had just transpired. She was glad for me and I asked about the spell was it was still ringing through my memory. I was in the middle of deciding to commit it to memory when Meryl interrupted my thought process. " It is a magnificent spell, unfortunately you must have a womb in order to cast it. " I do not in fact have a womb and as such put the spell out of my mind.

A few days past and after some brief preparations, Myself, Laurantha, Sneakerly Trull, and Sigismund with his companion Gary Badger (actually a badger), (There might have been a dog as well? I can't remember) all found ourselves descending into the vault. We go past a room which past expeditions have been in and marked out a pit trap in chalk. I remind myself that I have some chalk for just a thing. After an uneventful first room we walk into another previously encountered room full of dead...things. (Carrion Crawlers, I think? They didn't smell very good decaying and all.) After, seeing Sneakerly smack a dog( It was at this moment I realized there definitely was a dog. Was it his dog?) with one of the half-dry tentacles. The dog subsequently became semi-paralyzed as a result. I thought to myself ooooo that would be a cool ability to possess. I thought better of consuming the long dead corpse of something that might paralyze me before we had even gotten started though. Instead, we picked up all of the tentacle bits we could find and divided them among ourselves. I made off with two.

As we walked into the next room we could hear raspy breathing and as we walked closer two emaciated Beholders in cages suddenly became apparent. Sneakerly addressed them and found them to be both starving and not liking their captors. I wondered to myself why they didn't try to kill us on the way in, but they didn't so i guess we are lucky if nothing else. Sneakerly made a deal with the beholders that we might feed them if they warned of anyone following us. They happily agreed and we continued onward.

As we came to the next door, I couldn't help but notice that we kept on having trouble with doors. When we conquered this door though we found ourselves in a massive library. Laurantha had mentioned the elf king and wanting information on him. So, we stopped here for a bit to do some research. After asking what we were looking for I deftly climbed to the top of a bookcase using my inherent spider ability that I got from eating those dust-blood dwarves in the temple a short while back. I saw a glowing ghost woman and informed everyone as quietly as possible. Laurantha saw a bell on the desk in the middle of the library and rang it. The ghost woman disappeared from where i was staring at her and reappeared in front of Laurantha. Laurantha inquired about the Elf King and the apparition guided us to a section of histories. After sitting down for a while to sift through the books Laurantha seemed pleased about having found something. I couldn't help but notice that Sigismund seemed to be looking for something else during that time, of what I am unsure. Laurantha was mumbling something about a purple mist when we heard the shouting of what I assumed was the beholdrs. They said shadows were coming our way. Not one of us wanted to fight them so we fled deeper into the vault.

A small time later we came upon many intersections of corridors going this way and that. We followed a low rumbling noise that sounded like snoring. We picked a few directions and came upon a couple of corridors leading to the same room. Sneakerly Trull went ahead of us briefly and tripped on something as he walked into the room making some noise. He then almost immediately reappeared in the archway of the room and made some hand motions and whispered. I was at the back holding the Lantern and checking behind us for those shadows so I didn't quite hear it but then suddenly a loud exclamation came from behind me, something about a dragon. A chill went up and down my spine a few times. No way am I ready for that kind of spell absorption. Apparently, we were safe still.

We decided dragon-slaying could wait until another day. We headed back the way we came and found an Arena of sorts. There was fresh blood on the ground and posters depicting the fights that presumably were being held here semi-frequently. We didn't find anything useful but I saw Sneakerly palce a sling underneath a broken tile in the corner of the arena. As he walked backed to the group he said, " Heh, just in case I end up here sometime. It's happened before."

There wasn't much in the arena so we left and headed north down the intersection we had passed. We found a door that led to a room(brilliant Sapphean... brilliant writing) in which there was a sort of council table. I saw in the corner a couple of cloaks. I rushed over and threw one of them on. I also saw a hat which I put on immediately. I didn't feel any magic coming from them, alas. The hat was fun though. I look like a joker or something. Laurantha found much more valuable liquor crystals and we placed some of them in the other sack I brought down with me. I looked under the table as we were leaving but it was just chair legs.

We continued down the corridor to a very large room that glowed strangely as I held up the torch I had been given. There were all these bluish cylinders and as we looked into them we could see the creatures that were being depicted in the posters in the arena. It looked like some kind of mad wizard creation, necromancy or something like it. Some of my tutors had mentioned not to delve into this kind of magic whilst they were failing to teach me anything, or perhaps it was me failing to learn. In any case, we couldn't find another way out of this room at first glance. Sneakerly, Sigismund and I sat around a few of the tubes trying to figure out what was inside. A few were obvious to the eye. There was a giant four frog thing. It looked just like someone stitched a tapestry together but used four frogs instead of textiles. There was one we couldn't wuite place that looked like something of and Ogre but with more bear on it, but also it had horns but the horns weren't on its head. I mentined, " There is definitely some demon in it somewhere." We left it at that. Laurantha meanwhile, went searching around the perimeter and seemingly knew how to find the secret door that was hidden just near the original entrance to this room. She pushed on a stone and an archway opened as the wall slid to the side. We followed this down a ways and it came to the staging ground for what I can only assume is to let these abominations into the arena. There was not much else there.

We turned again back the way we came and went down the final intersection in this area. It led to a series of doors, symmetrical on each side of the corridor. At the end of the corridor was a pool with flowing water, like an underground spring. Also, I looked into a toilet in the corner to make sure it was a toilet. It was Most assuredly so. The pool seemed to continue under the wall wherever it was flowing. There wasn't anything much of interest in this room at the end of the corridor. Sneakerly went along all the doors and stopped at one saying he heard something coming from inside. we couldn't open the door ourselves so Laurantha went up to it and knocked. A few moments passed and nothing happened. I asked if anyone was in there. She said she heard something fall. Sigismund stepped up and used his prying bar to open the door and as soon as it was open any amount at all a flash burst from inside. Luckily, I was being apprehensive and shielded myself from the blast with my newfound cloak. It didn't help much but I suspect if I hadn't been so quick to cover my face I might not have had many more seconds left in this world at that point. I quickly quaffed the potion I had taken in with me just for such an occasion. I could feel the singed flesh on me cover over with magically renewed flesh. As i was doing this looking up there was a small man in goggles trying to run through our entire party, unsuccessfully. He was quickly snatched up by badger and dog. Then, subsequently smacked with a half-slimy tentacle of a dead paralyzing creature. He was then tied up with the tentacle touching him so he couldn't move very well.

When he could speak again the man said his name was Thesaurius and he was a servant of the elf king. He probably shouldn't have said that. Laurantha had specifically mentioned looking for exactly someone like that. Sneakerly then made an incredibly convincing and concise speech about how Thesaurius was going to help us and wanted to help us defeat the elf king. As Thesaurius shed tears of joy for now having known how he could help us defeat the elf king we led him out of the vault. Still bound.

we stopped for a brief moment on the way out at the cages of the beholdrs who harried us slightly about letting them out of their cages. Which we said we would do once all of the vault was explored. Mostly sneakerly said that actually. For a moment I thought I was going to have to give up my carrot and tentacles but luckily Sigismund had some Mock-gnome sausages that he was willing to part with. the beholders commented on the fact that real gnome would have been better but beggars cant be choosers.

we had successfully made it back to the surface with all of our small amount of loot and one live servant of the elf king. Laurantha and I decided to celebrate. I had never been on an expedition before so she decided to show me a good time. We drank and ate merrily. At some point Laurantha handed me something that I thought was just some of the leaves that people around here seemed to smoke quite often and it didn't seem too harsh to try. I was incredibly wrong. My vision swayed and Laurantha waned and waxed in form from my view. Eventually things started to come into view again. Laurantha was nowhere to be seen but instead I saw a woman in front of me whom I did not recognize. She was very beautiful but I had no idea who she was. She looked so incredibly pleased as well. I finally heard her say something clearly, "....future husband..." I panicked. What a night I had, I think? I rushed out of there as soon as she said that. I turned a corner climbed up a wall as quickly as I could and saw her rush out of the building were just in I got to the top of the wall and ducked down so she couldn't see me if she looked up.

I really need to find Meryl. She might know what to do.


Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)., Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

So you want to run your own Vaults of Vyzor-type game, eh?

Over on the Google Plus, cool guy Karl Stjernberg wrote:
Hey Jeff! I've been thoroughly enjoying reading each and every "Vaults of Vyzor"-post on your blog (and a lot of your other stuff too), and it has inspired me to maybe try running a game like that myself, but for people at work. 
I'd like to know more about the game in genera, such as: 
What are your methods for running such a game? What you do for prep, how do you generally you run things, are there things that can be worth knowing for running a vaults-type game, any do's and don'ts, what are your five most valuable resources? 
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who'd like to know more about this and maybe it could even be something you could write more about on your blog? Kind of like a "So you want to run your own Vaults of Vyzor-type game, eh?"-kind of post? 
Anyway, I hope you keep running this game until the end of time, because I am enjoying reading the play reports a lot
Thanks for the kind words, Karl!  I'll attempt to answer your queries here.  You (and everyone else) should feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments.  Anyway, let's begin.

The longer I do this sort of thing the more I'm convinced that good dungeonmastering is about making connections.  In this era of near infinite DMing resources, making up stuff whole-cloth is actually a secondary activity, albeit a good and rewarding one.  Basically, what I mean is that I don't create a campaign like Vyzor so much as assemble it.

So there's 13 known levels of Vyzor.  You know how many of them I wrote myself, starting with blank graph paper and my notebook?  Just one.  The rest are cobbled together, scavenged from old game products, stitched together with a handful of extra corridors and stairs, and edited for a bit of continuity.  One dungeon had a high level elf with super powers and a bad attitude.  Bam.  There's my master villain.

When putting these disparate pieces together, I just try to figure out some useful questions to ask about the different pieces.  Are the orcs in section A in the same tribe as section B? Which factions are allies, which are opposed, who runs the whole dungeon (if anyone), etc.

Prep for each session consists primarily of reviewing who it is I am inviting to the game and maybe looking over my big mess of dungeon notes and maybe reading the prior session report. For me a lot of the magic of D&D happens in the moment of play; the art of the game isn't found (at least for me personally) in writing things before play.  That's an important part of getting ready for the game, but in many ways it is cooking the meal when I want to eat.  Or it's like improvisational comedy or freeform jazz: you assemble your materials, you practice your repertoire of techniques, but when the time comes it's more fun the less of a safety that I have  under me.   So for example during the course of play, I like to look at my map and glance at the key.  I try not to read it if I don't have to and I try to avoid looking up anything in the rulebook.

My primary tools are the map and a screen with a few charts on it (of which saving throws and wandering monsters are the ones I look up most often).  I also have my composition notebook and some pens, penciles, marker handy.  For dice, I’ve really pared down in online play.  When playing by hangout I’m usually sitting in my easy chair with a small side table.  I don’t have a room for the DM’s usual array of dices.  I use a single d20 and a single d6.

As far as do's and don'ts go I think I would start with this: DON’T feel you have to build a whole bunch of backstory for your dungeon initially.  If you look back at my original post pitching the dungeon it was only slightly more than “here's a dungeon let us play.” The rest of the backstory can develop organically in drips and drabs thereafter. Sure I had some initial unfocused thoughts on the relationship of the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask to the Elf King lurking in the levels below, but I didn't need to flesh those ideas out until 15 sessions in.

But what info I did supply mattered immediately. DO give the players something to think about at the very beginning of play. That's why I had 4 entrances to four distinct areas of the dungeon. This is something that goes back to Uncle Gary's Keep on the Borderlands: if you're going to have a dungeon that's going to be the center point of your campaign or at least several sessions with multiple expeditions, then you want either multiple ways into the dungeon like the various Caves of Chaos or you want a place early in the dungeon that branches out in many different directions like say a grand hall with a bunch of different doors or a vast cavern full of branching passages where it's not going to be possible in one expedition to cover it all. I did the same thing with my previous online campaign where we started with three caves next to the sea and later four ways into the castle proper and then one expedition found a hidden fifth way in.

These options ensure some player agency every session by giving something for the players to chew on right away. It also meant that people playing later in the course of the campaign--maybe someone who hasn't played at all for the first 10 or 20 sections of the campaign--might still be able to explore something fresh and new.

Another big DO for this kind of campaign is do take into account the players effects on the dungeon a dungeon is an ecology in some ways a dungeon is a social situation and player characters are going to an evidently disrupt both of those things. You don't have to make huge gigantic shifts in the dungeons situation (though you can) but just little things that acknowledge what the players have done impacts the state of affairs in the dungeon.

I feel like this post is getting rambly and unfocused, so I'll stop for the moment. Karl, does this help answer your questions? If not, please ask follow-ups! Everyone else is invited to do so as well.

Friday, October 20, 2017

a silly experiment

I wanted to see what the party would look like if I simply took the first image that google came up with for each of the seven BX classes.


Is this guy supposed to be a dwarf?  Eh, he'll do as a short and stocky human cleric.


Nice.  This guy looks ready for some adventure.


This result is perfect in every way.


Buy this fellow some armor and weapons and I'm sure he'll get the job done.


Shoes on halflings make me sad.  I worry they are the victim of cultural pressure to conform inflicted by the shod races.


Not the beardy Gandalf I expected, but I'm not disappointed either.


Looks like a ninja badass, but only gets d4 hit points at 1st level,  That's a typical BX thief.

That was kinda fun.  If I could draw I'd do a group sketch.  Anyway, I may have to try the same thing with some Moldvay Basic monsters.

Cool guy Kelvin Green drew the party!  Thanks, dude!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session #21


Yareh Falsong, mutant thief (Sam Mameli)
Harold the Adequate, human fighter (Adam Thornton)
Moar Lût, chalicothere pack ape (NPC)
Big Gnome, LotFP specialist (Luka Rejec)
Evil Steve, assassin (hireling)
Anstonac, demon (NPC, summoned by Barnabus Sleet)

Harold's Diary Entry

Dear Diary (13 Oct. 2017),

Remind me never to piss off Anstonac.
by Sam Mameli

Yareh had some kind of mission to get into the Purple Vaults presumably under the "Thieves' Guild" headquarters. The "Thieves' Guild" was--emphasis on the was--pretty much Goodman Johnson and his sons.

Rose Royce bagged on our delve. I think maybe she just doesn't want to pay me back the 100 gp she owes me. So Big Gnome cast about for a hireling and we came up with Evil Steve, First Level Assassin. He must be legit, he has a black cloak and a dagger and everything.

So then we went to a dinner party at the Johnsons' for some business Yareh claimed to have. Yareh almost immediately started insulting our hosts, and eventually they could take no more insult and came at us, steak knives in their hands. Yareh stabbed the old man pretty hard, but he didn't go down, and then one of the sons came for me. I mean I guess I probably was a tempting target, having dinner in my breastplate and horned helmet and all, with my sword at hand.

I didn't want to be That Guy, so rather than stabbing him, I punched him. Then Big Gnome whipped out a gorgon penis and whacked one of the sons with it, sending him senseless to the ground. Then Yareh whistled, and Astonac, the timber wolf murder demon, came in from where he and Möar Lût had been waiting outside. For the first time this day he uttered one of his charming catchphrases--this one was "it's murder time!"--and popped one of the Johnson daughters' heads clean off. Everyone started screaming and diving for the windows and stuff.

At this point it was clear I wasn't going to be needed for this fight, and I sat down and resumed dinner. Yareh de-spined one of the sons, the demon went on a horrific rampage, and I finished a couple more turkey legs. We grabbed a couple of nice vintages for later (as a "legitimate businessman", Goodman Johnson had had a pretty good wine cellar). I looked under the table and found the expected secret door.

I remembered what had happened to Courtney the Hideous and invited Evil Steve to open it. Amazingly, he dodged the poison darts that shot out, and we sent Anstonac down the ladder that was under the door. He reported back that it was a root cellar with another trap door and no one to murder, so we went down.

There were three large chests there. These were not attached to demonic snake-ladies telling us the Elf King was a douche, and were much less dangerous, as they were only trapped with an acid nozzle, three stabby swords, and a series of poisoned needles, all of which Big Gnome handily disarmed, rather than the bewitching power of breasts, which has brought woe to many, myself included. I closed the door above us, figuring that the po-pos would be looking for us soon, since some of the erstwhile "Thieves' Guild" had made their escape.

In these chests we found quite a lot of gold and gems and jewelry, and Möar Lût earned his name again, handily carrying two chests' worth of stuff. Big Gnome pulled a total dick move and reset the traps and put the Thieves' sign for "all clear" on the empty chests. It was impressively douchey.

Evil Steve suggested we just leave and retire, which wasn't a bad idea, actually, except that we really needed to find a different exit for some plausible deniability. We asked him to take a look at the trap door, and he found, and disarmed, an acid nozzle. The demon wolf leapt down and we followed. Under the trap door was a purple-walled dungeon room, with strange leather-and-metal suits attached to a machine by tubing. Big Gnome told us it was the Lungs Of The Ancients or something like that, and it was for breathing underwater. He's really quite good at figuring out mechanisms.

Anyway, Anstonact went a-murdering, and we followed the blood trail and shouts of "good morning,
Greg's not his real name, but it's
the closest you can get without
mastering Bugbearish vowel blends.
motherfuckers!" through a room with eviscerated goblins to a fork where he awaited us. A little way north we found some bugbears. A fight ensued. Big Gnome cold-cocked one with his gorgon schlong, and Anstonac ate another, although Anstonac got his pretty timberwolf snout broken by one. Yareh told him to man up and rub some blood in it, and that seemed to make him feel better. At any rate it turned out that the bugbear--Gregbear, we called him--we had knocked out and taken prisoner spoke Orcish and would find us a way out and fight for us for 100 gold.

We were running short on time, so we started following Gregbear, who told us we'd have to traverse the Duke Of Ghouls' territory. Along the way we easily destroyed a couple of zombies, and found a party of ghouls, whom we dispatched (Anstonac ripping one of their hearts out and eating it, but getting an artery severed and spraying demonic blood all over everything). Yareh and I took hits but resisted paralysis; Gregbear was paralyzed and Evil Steve was left half-dead and paralyzed. Nevertheless, Gregbear could still communicate by blinking, and we made our way through the doors he blinked to indicate led to the exit. We crossed from the purple dungeon into the pink-
insignia of the Duke of Ghouls
walled one, and we also disguised ourselves by wearing the armbands of the Duke Of Ghouls we took off his patrol party's corpses, hoping to bluff our way past any more ghoul patrol challenges.

Towards the end we ran blindly as our time expired, and everyone but Yareh made it out. We're gonna have to come up with a ransom, but I think we can probably afford it. I was amazed that Evil Steve survived, and Gregbear seems pretty cool. I don't know if he's planning on moving upstairs now and hanging out as a hireling in the tavern, or if he's going back to the dungeon. Anstonac is a terrifying murder machine and a hell of a party wolf-demon. Good for him.

Oh yeah, there's a map I sketched too.

Anyway, really successful delve today. Maybe now that I have some money I should invest in better armor. I'm keeping the horned helmet though, because it's cool.

Yareh’s Journal 10/13/17

After being invited to dinner at the Johnson's I found myself seated with a rather unsavory crowd. All
I love Sam's new illo of Yareh.
was going well until I made the mistake of asking for some salt for my pasta dinner. The patriarch of the family went into a rage! He screamed that the pasta was perfect and salting it was a grievous insult to his family. He pulled a sword, and his children followed suit. I was forced to heroically fight my way through them, luckily I had hired a bound demon to act as a bodyguard and backup in case anything went down. And good thing too! A crazed housewife nearly brained me with a sauce pan, but the demon made quick work of her and a few others of the bloodthirsty thieves guild.

After dispensing with my assailants, me and the rest of the crew decided to take a look around for the passage to the fabled “Violet Vaults”. We found a trap door leading in to a root cellar. Down there were 3 chests. Not sure what was in them, they looked trapped and we had more important work to do. Namely making our way through the Violet Vaults, discovering a strange contraption for breathing in foreign environments and narrowly escaping some goons of the Duke of Ghouls. It seems like the Violet vaults connect with the first level of the Rosy Halls. I would draw a map but as we were leaving I got captured and ransomed for all of my earthly possessions.

What a day!


Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)., Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)


Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Conversation with Jim Raggi: Part 1

~50 minutes of dialogue between Jim Raggi and Matt Finch.  I especially liked Jim's thoughts on adventure design and their overview of the early publishers of the OSR scene.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Fave images from All the Worlds' Monsters

All The Worlds' Monsters was an early Chaosium product (1977) that compiled a bunch of crazy critters from an array of D&D referees, including notables such as Dave Hargrave, Clint Bigglestone, and Steve Marsh as well as lesser known figures of the era.  They were edited into consistent statblocks by Jeff Pimper and Steve Perrin.  The screengrab here of the cover scan really doesn't do justice to the awesome George Barr cover.

My first up close and personal encounter with this product wasn't until the 1990's, when my good buddy Pat got a hold of a copy and used it to write a pretty trippy adventure.  My Demogorgon-worshiping half-orc assassin/cleric killing an Air Squid with an arquebus is a cherished memory.  Critter by the great Dave Hargrave, illo by Carol Rode.

When Roger Harvey's Coachman of Death shows up, he turns a PC into a zombie and then carries them off in the back of his coach.  Another Carol Rode illo.

The X-Ray beast is another Dave Hargrave creation.  Its eye shoots deadly radiation and can see through walls.  Illo also by Carol Rode.

Tucked in the back of the book is an interesting version of the dungeon level versus monster level chart.

You can get a PDF copy of this wacky product and its two follow-up volumes for five bucks each at DriveThru.