Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Just something maybe

Lao sits before a large, unrolled parchment. It cascades down into his lap and onto the floor. In his hand he holds a brush. Simple. Wooden. It has been dabbed in enough ink that it runs to the tip in a bulb and threatens to fall. But Lao dabs with precision. It will not fall. His hand does not tremble. His eyes stay down. Ears up. He’s waiting. A booming voice will come from the stone chute above him. He doesn’t know when and that is why he waits. Lao is very patient.
              His mind, though trained in meditative emptiness, flutters. The ink is black. The parchment is a sunburnt yellow. All manner of shapes and figures could fill this singular parchment. Lao imagines these things. A bird nabbing a worm. Two children laying in tall grass. The sky. Though he imagines them, he has never seen them before. He imagines the sky as the biggest parchment, and all of everything is just ink drawn on it by someone much larger than he.
              Lao chuckles to himself when he imagines a giant version of himself drawing on the sky. He thinks that it would look similar to regular-him drawing on the parchment before him. He wonders if there is a tiny-him inside the parchment, waiting to draw on a tiny-parchment. This makes him shiver.
              The room around him is stone and sand. Stacks of rolled parchments, as long as Lao is tall, cramp him in and make the air smell of an old book. Lao has never smelled an old book. Nor a new book. Nor a flower, or a wet dog. He has only smelt himself in various stages of discomfort, and he has smelt the years as they exist in all things around him, and are always aging and dying. He wishes he had not smelt death, but her frequent visits break even the deepest of meditation.
              (the last time death came, she came on the back of a giant that had blackened skin of ash, and bones that made home for all manner of vermin which poked their heads out and gnarled spit. She had her bag of games and she offered to play with each of the monks, going one-by-one down the halls, knocking on the steel doors with her pudgy knuckles. The ones who wished not to play closed their eyes and put their heads in the left corner of the room, imagining that no two walls ever met, and that with enough will one could fall away between them. Those who answered the knock got to choose their game. Those who wanted to play but did not answer the door had a game put upon them. Lao had his head in the corner and listened to the knocks in his hall. He fell asleep there and had violent nightmares that he had to be shaken from. He confessed them to a cleric from an upper floor and was met with punishment.)

              Lao could not remember the nightmares as images, only as pain in his soul. So he focused on the brush.

(got stuck on something so I had to write)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Publication Diary (1/25/2017)

I worked on the stat blocks of all the new monsters/characters in the adventure. They're as good as I want them to be. Going really basic so it's easy to use in any system. I want to add in three things though: wants, hates, Avalon.

Wants would encompass things that can be done for them, or that can make them like you. Say if the Dream Merchant wants something to help him sleep and you have that thing, he'd answer questions and help you out.

Hates would encompass things that would make them hostile or make them just not want to help you. Say, if Raven hates Orcs and you're a half-orc, she'd be more likely to lie to you about where things are. 

Avalon would just be how the monster/character knows or interacts with the Nymph. Sephalophagus would have "forever and hopelessly in love, though he regrets his choice of undeath".

These things would give the DM easy ways to establish NPCs, plus it gives focus to each NPC instead of just giving them stats. 

I also got replies form both of the artists I messaged. One of them is out. Just the way they talked about it really turned me off. But the other seems really promising. And their schedule is as busy as mine so they're fine with waiting for a bit before any work is actually paid for and done. 

I need to start filling out the hexes. 

I hate to say it but I'm feeling a little off about the project. Is it good enough? Is the idea even fun? I mean, I think the Nymph is interesting, but I don't know. Anyone who sees her falls in love. What if players are just like "Okay...now what?". 

The whole set up is that the players know this Nymph is there. So they know what they're getting in to. But what if they just don't want to do it? I don't know. 

D&D always falls to the back burner after classes start. 

I wish I knew what it took to publish something. People say it's easy but it's like...where do I start? If I get the product done do I just upload it? How do you get the word out? No one knows about this blog.

I'm gonna key a few hexes now. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Planescape Maps

Planescape is cool. Never ran it or felt particular urge to, but the idea behind it is worth thinking about. 

I found these maps that are begging me to rename, key, and use in my own world. Maybe they can inspire you. 

Each of these could be gonzo dungeons.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Publication Diary (1/23/17)

So I'm going to publish a professional-looking adventure/setting/thing this year. Not sure when it'll be done. But I'm doing it. And because I have no idea how to do it (any of it, except the writing part) I'm going to blog about it, so that hopefully anyone who sees this who has ideas (which is all of you) can get the courage and the push to publish your own things.

So I wrote a sandbox hexcrawl last summer. I did it really fast because my party was about to dive into this new region (Avalon's Retreat, see the last post to see where it falls on the map), and because of that (and because I'm a terrible editor) it's pretty shit. Rereading it there were a few points of awesome that I'm taking as inspiration for what I want the entire product to be. Those were these:

Those aren't the only things, but they were ones that made me say "there's still something here". And you can probably see that these things still need work. So yeah. That's what I'm doing.

I got some work done today. I finished my outline (subject to change):

I also populated my word document with the outline and all the expanded shit (like monster names, hex numbers, etc.), so that I can just go in and type without having to worry about formatting.

Then I went and remade the map. Here's the original:

1/2 of this map is not even used. The gray area (the Orc Badlands, which have moved in the world map) and the weird trees on the top left (the Hollow Mire, which also moved) are not detailed. Also there's a lack of a "key" and also a lack of numbers for the hexes.

Here's what the new map looks like:

Huge difference.

It also shows the philosophy I'm going for with this whole product; everything should do as much as possible. Negative space used sparingly or for effect. Charts on same page they'll be needed, but also repeating information, so each hex will have the stats for the monster, but the stats will also be in the "Monsters" section.

After doing this I contacted two artists that I've been following asking them about prices for artwork. I'm hoping to do artwork for the locations and monsters, but with my minimal, college-drained money, we'll see.

I'm about to go check out Lulu.com and see what self publishing is all about. I've never really done it before. I want this product to be an actual book. PDF is cool, but I want to get something in print.

I'll repeat: I have no idea what I'm doing. My hope with these blog posts is that it'll be a learning experience for me and for anyone who reads it. Maybe it's not as hard as it seems? Maybe it's super hard? Who knows...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Inside the Giant's Eye (My Map)

This is a work in progress.  Names may change. Land masses may change. I'll do posts detailing all these locations as they are explored. So far the Everwood and the Dread Lands have been in my campaigns. The rest is all just ideas.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inside the Giant's Eye

So I'm working on my world. It's called "Inside the Giant's Eye". And I've had a breakthrough because of this interesting artist.

These are my elves:

And I don't mean that they are inspired by them. I mean that they look just like this. Elves come from the Cursed Woods and they are cursed. They cannot leave. Well, I mean, they can, they just don't want to.

They are black and white. They are thin and spindley. They have black pits for eyes. They move like they are in water and they have no space in their void-like mind for emotions.

You tell them the dead are coming (which they do quite often) and they'll say "Quite". You tell them that you've slain the jabberwocky and they might say "Really? You must be very proud".

I also think that Elves are the most direct descendants of the giants (which are not to be confused with D&D giants), meaning that a normal human would stand to about here:

So...there's that.

P.S. This guy's name is Hogan McLaughlin, and he's on deviantart.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sandbox Needs/Wants

So I'm sort of obsessed with the idea of Tower Girls. The game itself is fetishized to a cringey degree, but the idea behind it is interesting; There is a powerful dragon and he has trapped 10 princesses in towers around his land.

Simple. Cliche some might say. But I like it and it's for an equally simple reason; There is plot here. In a sandbox world it can be easy to just assume the players will find joy on their own. That might be true. But even in an episodic show there is an through-line, or, something that ties it together. In D&D the through-line is the world that the sandbox (or episodic journey) takes place.

In Tower Girls the world is set up: there are 10 towers (which equates to 10 dungeons full of loot), with 10 princesses (which creates 10 quests with further implication, each one can be planted in different areas of the map and each one can create complications and interesting decisions for the players), and a dragon (which gives the players a BBEG or possible quest giver if they're going the evil route).

If you take that and add in the standard affair of side quests, dungeons, wilderness exploration, a scavenger hunt quest, and whatever-the-hell-else you want, you have a sandbox jam-packed with adventure.

I've been struggling with whether I should map my world or not, because it's definitely not done. I have a few areas (like the Everwood, Aberdeen, Ogura) but I don't know if that's all there is. But I think I can start mapping specific areas and then link them together later.

I don't think I can type anymore. I just feel exhausted.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What I want from this second module

This module is about episodic content, but also about wilderness exploration and adventure. It would be a book that you could pick up, roll on some tables and have an entire session right there.

Every session begins with this line: "You're lost in the woods again."

Then you begin.

  • roll on the "what are we found doing" table, which would be a list of 100 things that the session could open with. Everything from the mundane "setting up camp under a stormy sky inside the ruins of a keep", to the dangerous "running from a monster that will kill us". 
  • There are subsequent tables for this, because some rolls cause plot on their own (such as the monster example). There is a table for generating monsters, a table for generating villages, a table for generating dragons, NPCs, and a list of special NPCs.
  • If the first situation is simple and taken care of with inter-party talking, then you roll on the "what do we run into" table. This could be anything from a cave that was recently the sight of a doppelganger murder scene, to "a village with a tower of bones is ahead". 
  • The party does with this as they like, but in Monty Python fashion it'll be about the moments. Rolling up an NPC or generating a monster will be an experience for the party and the DM as they discover who it is or what it does.
  • Anytime there's a lapse of silence the DM will roll on the Complication Chart, which will have  list of 100 easily adaptable problems or events that can spice up the situation. Things like "someone falls dead with a dagger in the back" and "lost lover arrives with a drastic warning".
  • If these are all failing to drag the party in, you can flip to the "Bounty Board" table, which will have 100 monster bounties to pursue.
  • Or you could roll on the "What does farmer Brown need help with today?" table to see what kind of quests people around need help with. 
  • Did I mention a random dragon table? 
  • It'll double as a campaign setting book, with the tables helping to shape the idea of the world. My dragon table, for instance, is not just determining color and body size. My dragons are strange and interesting creatures who can have the body of a cat and the antlers of a stag.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Some Thoughts...

I haven't slept so I can still make a post for today. It's gonna be simple, talking a bit more about the Gigacrawler idea.

There are no potions. At least not in vials. They're all syringes. And the potion miscibility table is a necessity because there could be a rusty needle, or a potion might be leaking, or it might have gotten too much oxygen in it, or it could have sat out too long and mutated.

(I'll make a table later)

And another thing. Since these dungeon is all the the universe, and some of it is just tunnels and corridors, horses are obsolete. Dogs have replaced them. Everyone has a dog. Some fight, some don't. They're mainly used for carrying supplies.

That is all for now.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Refrigerator

So a few years ago Zak Sabbath had this idea for a Gigacrawler, which was based on the premise that the entire universe is a dungeon. Earth's cities grew and grew and spread to the moon and to other planets until eventually everything is connected by metal and glass tubes and everyone is struggling for survival.

The concept is sound. Two of the things that really interested me from the posts on the Gigacrawl were these gaps in the foundation.

-Lacuna: These are small gaps--the size of a planet or less--of open space in the Gigastructure. It can take months to find a way around them but many are home to shuttlemen who will ferry travellers across the lacuna in battered starships for trade.


-Star Chambers - Massive cavities in the gigastructure built around stars. In most cases the surrounding structure is dedicated to cyclopean power conversion infrastructure. These serve as the main source of energy within the whole of the GS. Most star chambers are strictly controlled by a group or organisation, with various levels of understanding regarding their operation/maintenance, and are often the nexus of power struggles and military operations.

These really got me thinking about location, which can be hard when told "the universe is a dungeon". It creates this blanket of grey. Boring steel corridor after boring steel corridor, with the occasional glass that allows the players to see into the emptiness of space. This creates an atmosphere of oppressing hollowness in a universe that is PACKED with things, as if the world just kept shoving things into its gullet but it never satiated its hunger.

Push this concept further with the idea of survival. Even with all these corridors and planets and stars connected, there is little food (I'll use food as a blanket word for "supplies", which include but isn't limited to gas, water, bullets, arrows, compassion, real human connection...). Food is gold in this world. The dragon hoards cheese, the baron of that floating husk of a destroyer-class battle cruiser keeps his treasured ice cream in the freezer, under lock and key.

There are no treasure chests that hold a wealth of gold. Gold is the first thing to go when the bio-suit gets heavy, or when the war-dog gets tired. Gold gets you nothing. When the psychopaths have you cornered in the bathroom of some abandoned apartment complex that wraps around the wrings of Saturn, they won't give two fucks about the sack of gold you toss them. If you don't give them your food (or, since you probably don't have food either, your leg) they'll just kill you and eat you.

The real treasure is finding an unopened fridge. Refrigerators, like most random electronic items in the Crawl, are still powered by the star chambers. Factions that control star chambers often hire adventurers to check out "spikes" or little drains of power that are just beyond the safety of their large numbers. Most of the time these spikes are refrigerators, or ice boxes, or vending machines.

Getting a sack full of unopened pop cans, or a well preserved ham and bringing it back to the powers-that-be ensures both in game rewards (consistent food for a period of time, survival) and meta rewards (XP). But that's if you're lucky enough to find work at the star chambers. With all the psychopaths wandering the corridors, most people kill on sight.

With the extinction of treasure chests a few dangers have adapted to this new world. Mimics. Nothing worse than opening a fridge looking for food, only to become food. Same with iceboxes, vending machines (the worst kind), kiosks, lunch boxes, old sack lunches, and coolers.

Not only that, but food still molds, rots, and decays. And even though some refrigerators are still powered, most are not. This creates mold. The yellow kind. Hazardous and life threatening.

This world is forgotten and a husk of civility.

That's all I got juice for right now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What I Want From This Module

So I've been reading Zak Sabbath's blog. Stealing all the ideas. Among the many posts there's a great thing he does (which is something I've never thought of) where he posted a "module" and said something about how it was water damaged and he couldn't read it. This was just a clever way to inspire people with an image (or multiple images) and get a cool idea for a dungeon room.

In this same vain he had a post where he talked about what he'd like from a certain module. The idea of listing what you'd like from something, and then going about doing THOSE things feels so simple, so slap-on-the-forehead obvious, that it pains me to have never considered it.

I'm using it to figure out my next module: an EVIL campaign focused around world domination. So here's what it includes:
  • everyone plays as monsters
  • there's a town full of humans/elves/innocent little gnomes
  • the town would be an example of a cool city/village generator that front-loads the module
  • There would be a goblin cave, an orc tribe/mine, a gnoll pack, a dragon-led kobold mountainous group
  • players have to take over village and establish their reign
  • can team up with dragon, but have to live with tyranny
  • can team up with necromancer but have to corral undead
  • can team up with other villains but (insert limiting repercussion)
  • can fight the other monster lords to take over/indoctrinate/enslave other monsters into their army
  • there'd be some fun mass-combat mechanic involved
  • but it wouldn't have to go that route
  • players could infiltrate the culture
  • start a coupe
  • religious rebellion
  • merchant take over

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Grey Dark Tower

Earlier I posted about my way of doing Cragmaw castle and talked about how I'd try to do a dungeon like that. Well, here it is in PDF form (because doing it in Paint would have been abnoxious) (I really need to get photoshop).

PDF just click here...right here...

The map is from Dyson Logos.

I'm curious if this is readable. As in, can you run this adventure with just these pieces of paper? You might need a monster manual, but all the stats could be ball-parked. And it might help you to draw maps for each floor to show the players, but that's up to personal preference.

Monday, January 9, 2017

So I Made an Adventure

It's called "Babes Against Ackwiss" and is about being trapped by a bored, stupid-powerful giant in his Coliseum with all of his prisoner princesses. It includes:

  • 10 pages including title and credits page for art
  • 6 of those pages are random tables to inspire ideas and make running the adventure easier
  • A quick start, putting the players in the action within seconds
  • A mechanic for creating Coliseum opponents with a deck of cards
  • Various areas of the Giant's Fortress that can be used by the players to plot their escape
  • 20 ready-to-go Princesses that can be printed and cut out for easy use
  • A one-shot mentality that plays off conflict, irony, and the threat of death every 10 minutes
  • Complication charts that add to the tension and entertainment
  • A kobold with the Deck of Many Things...


It's for a more laid-back DM who doesn't want to do much but watch the shit spiral out of control and roll some dice while sipping on (insert favorite alcoholic drink).

All you need to set it up are some dice, note cards, a timer (like on your phone), a standard deck of cards, and some people who are pretty alright. And really you could just get away with just dice, but the cards make it easier and a little more interactive on the DMs side.

Here's the PDF

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Check out how I did Cragmaw Castle

So I'm running a campaign for my girl friend and it's a big sandbox with some of my own adventures and some of my favorites ones. It's got some of Phandelver in it and she wanted to kill some goblins, which led her to this castle. I read the adventure once through and then went through and took notes on the map in microsoft paint.

I think this is how I'll do maps from now on. I'm going to try to key one with just text in the rooms and still have enough room to put loot tables and the such. See how it goes.

(short post today because I just wrapped up writing a new adventure and am exhausted and just want to jump around as Winston in Overwatch)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Avalanche/natural hazard/dragon lair mechanic

So I was watching "Planet Earth", putting off making my next post about how Cragmaw Castle went with my gf, when an avalanche occurred (in the show, not where I live). I was thinking about the Everwood and wondering how I would do avalanches. There's always this problem with things that are not sentient. Players don't care, or they can't really take it seriously because how are they going to avoid an avalanche? Just be quiet?

What about if they see a stampede? Or are worried about waking the dragon in her lair? "Well we just don't get hit by the running animals" or "well, (rolls stealth), 20?"

It's always been really boring, at least to me.

I think the only way to make something non-sentient a real threat in D&D is to make it another game. Sentient creatures have games involved with them. If you're talking to someone there's a bit of a word-game going on there (who can say the best thing?) and when you're fighting something there's a dice game there (who can roll the highest the most?).

So here's how I plan on making non-sentient challenges into games. It's called "don't say anything and just start stacking D6s on top of each other". How do you do it? Well, step one is to be quiet. Step two is to start stacking D6s. Just like four or five (more if the party is being extremely obnoxious).

Stack them up and when they fall, slam your fist on the table and exclaim: "Damn it! You woke up the dragon/caused an avalance/startled the herd/woke up that hooker that you weren't going to pay."

Simple. Fun (for you).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cragmaw Castle

It's 8:23 AM. I'm not dressed, I haven't showered, and I should be reading The Lost Mines of Phandelver. Not the entire thing, just the section on Cragmaw Castle. I'm running a sandbox for my girl friend to introduce her to the concept of D&D and she chose to go after some goblins.

"That was really fun," she said.

"I'm glad you liked it."

"LOved it." Sometimes she holds down the shift key too much. "Felt like I was playing Dark Souls."

Greatest compliment I've ever gotten as a DM. Only compliment, now that I think about it. I've been DMing for ten years or so (off and on, mostly off) and have had a few different groups, but she has been the most enthusiastic. Especially after how skeptical she was at first.

Even writing this is a distraction from reading up on the Castle's defenses. A large part of me is like "just wing it" but I don't want to.

It's been great though, introducing someone to D&D. It's a very home-ruled system, using the Swords and Wizardry White Box, and using Wonder and Wickedness for the spellcasting. It creates a very strange, deadly world. Spellcasters get one spell and if they push it strange things happen. And while the fighter as 6hp, the thief only has 4, and a simple goblin arrow can do 4 damage. There's practically no bonus to hit at first level unless you rolled good on your stats (which she kinda did/n't).

I'm not sure if it's the vibe I'm looking for quite yet, but it's getting there.

There's two things this makes me want to talk about:

1. The idea that rules can create a world and
2. How you can just be fighting goblins and still have a blast

I often forget how to have fun when I'm designing an adventure or a dungeon. I get this image in my mind that things have to be a certain way, or more so, I feel like things have to be strange, or weird, or at least different than other things that are published. So picking up Lost Mines of Phandelver and just snagging a few dungeons from it and plopping them into my sandbox world, closer to the main town, I think creates this gradient of oddity.

It's an idea I think I want from my world, especially in this part of my setting. "The further you get from town, the stranger things get."

This blog post is useless. Just wanted to get my thoughts in order.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


I'm working on the next part of my extra-dimensional-space Mega Dungeon, and there's a sky-palace inside a dream that is home to a bunch of witches. Real strange witches. I think there might be 3 (like in a typical D&D coven) but they have disciples or cursed followers/victims. Not sure yet. But I'm looking at paintings for inspiration:

And they're getting the cogs working. I also found this awesome list of superstitions which I think could make for interesting tricks/traps/rooms/enemies and spells. Here's the ones I like the most and what I might do with them:

  • When playing cards which ever seat faces the door will have the best luck, the most unlucky seat is the one with its back facing the fireplace.
  • Four leaf clover magic item
  • There's a room that if you drop a fork in, the spirit of a man will come and aid you, but if you drop a spoon the witches will come. 
  • If you drop a piece of jewelry in front of a certain locked door, someone will come through it, thus unlocking it.
  • Ants fighting warns of combat in the next room.
  • Hands itch before treasure.
  • If two members of the party die, a third must be sacrificed.
  • Any rooms with birds in them means someone died there, or will die there.
  • There's bees in a certain room of one of the witches. Each one killed gives her a bonus of some kind.
  • There are 6 crows locked in cages scattered around. Unlocking each one has some stacking effect, with the sixth one bringing death.
  • Keeping a potato in your pocket protects you from disease (does not cure it).
  • Animals can talk at midnight. They know secrets.
  • One of the witches is tough to beat, but if her wedding things are worn by the party, she will surrender (something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue).
  • The magical chalk from the Sky-Blind Spire can create protection from evil circles.
  • The Witches will never strike anyone with their brooms or risk a curse.
  • Cats can astral travel.

    Okay. So that's quite the list. There's a lot more on the site. But these one are going to go in to the adventure somehow.