Blogger outage? Didn’t notice, too busy (duh) winning

A high-level Warlock at work

The One Page Dungeon results are in.  My The Belly of the Beast was among the winners (in a category that is totally not made up): Best Bio-Crawl.  Suck it, trolls. (And thanks to Scottsz who cleaned up my map which looked pretty awful before he GIMPed it up!)

Many thanks to all the judges, and the sponsors, and Alex for running the show. Congratulations to all the entrants, especially the winners.

  The OPD represents, to me, the best thing about the online DIY gaming community — we share our stuff.  I have used several OPDs in my own D&D campaign and I think they are, by and large, as good as any “published” module you could pay for, especially when you consider the sheer number of them and the ease of use.  I’m thrilled that I was among the winners but honestly, every Dungeon Master wins when these entries are put up on the wiki site for free download, and I was just happy to see a huge turnout of entries, several of which I’ve already grabbed from my own repretoire the next time my players decide to check out something that I haven’t prepped.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 8:58 am  Comments (4)  
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OPD highlights

The One Page Dungeon Contest (link is to main page; you can find all mentioned OPDs there now) has some excellent again entries this year.

I’m pointing out some that I especially like but really almost all of them are just great.  I haven’t had a chance to look at most of them, actually.  There are something like 60 entries this year!

I wish I had the artistic talent to do one with a mostly “visual” key.  I don’t know if there is a term for maps like that where the encounters are drawn directly onto it, but I have been calling them “visual maps” although that sounds kind of redundant. Three with nicely drawn visual maps are: The dungeon with no name (my favorite of all the entries really; bonus: it has a hell mouth!), The sinister puppetee, and Vermin Hollow. The hallways of Thime looks great too, and is very “professional” looking.

There are a lot of entries that are basically a showcase of one interesting and/or original idea, and the OPD format is perfect for them. The great lunar staircase (which reminds me a little of the “Infinite tower” from a previous year) is a neat idea. There’s a sword down there, I promise uses a mapping technique I’ve never seen before. The egg of Gazolba‘s central idea of a non-violent dungeon is something I haven’t seen before (I guess there is that one TSR module with the forest where fighting turns the thing into an almost no-win situuation; The garden of something or other?). The mystery of Godzina house has a great premise too — the house travels through time and the different “levels” of the dungeon are just set in different time periods.  I am seriously impressed too with the idea behind Treasure of Piltarch too — a tactile map provided to the players.

I have to admit that I don’t spend much time looking at non-fantasy OPDs, but I really liked the Old West scenario Hanging in Wolverine City.

I was thinking my own submission, The belly of the beast, would be pretty unique but I see at least two more submissions that are “anatomical” — Down the gullet of the space-god and Into the worm’s gullet; I’m glad I didn’t call my dungeon “Hell in a gullet,” which was one of the titles I was tossing around. 🙂   Both of the gullet OPDs look pretty good.

But that reminds me — I’m getting some free publicity for my OPD via the TV show Adventure Time: see the upcoming episode, “Belly of the beast.” 😉  (poster here)

Anyway the OPDs are a real life-saver and I’m sure I’ll be throw a few of this year’s entries into my own campaign, just as I have with the previous two year’s entries.

<Update> Since posting this, I came across two more stand-outs: Terror in Shadowcliff Vale, which manages to squeeze a village and three adventure locations into one page, and Citadel of Evil, which prints to cut & fold into a six page booklet using the “Pocket Mod” tool.  I’m a sucker for printable booklets.  Maybe someone will start a Pocket Module contest, eh?

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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How Scottsz fixed my map

Scottsz explains the goetic art of ‘Gimping,’ and shows how he transmuted my shi*ty map into gold!  Surf on over to Old School Jump to see how he fixed my OPD map.  It was obviously a lot of work, and I’m very grateful.  Thanks, Scott!

I hope this also motivates more entries into the OPD contest. At this point there are more prizes than entries!  And while that’s good news with respect to my chances of winning something, I tend to use a lot OPDs as spurs when I’m DMing so I’d like to see more entries!  Get on it, people!

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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OPD with revised map

I already posted a bit about the Belly of the Beast here, and mentioned my intention to get the map looking better.  Scottsz has very kindly cleaned up the whole thing, adding legible numbers and more consistent doors etc.

Very bluntly, if it weren’t for Scottsz & Sorcerers of Doom there wouldn’t be a Swords & Dorkery. I stumbled across his first incarnation of SoD (there have been three incarnations of that blog by my count) and saw someone plugging away at a gaming project I could relate to and the whole wide world of blogging opened up to me, and I thought, “I could post my crap! Someone out there will appreciate it!” Scottsz’s Old School Rant directed a lot of traffic to me in the early days too and I feel I owe him an awful lot now. Most recently he gave me feedback on an ealry version of Belly of the Beast, which has become my One Page Dungeon entry, and now he’s even transformed my crude hand-drawn map into something respectably professional-looking. Thanks again, Scottsz!

Here’s my original scan he started with:

Here’s his cleaned up version of it:

And here’s the final (I think!) OPD: Mike_Monaco_The_belly_of_the_beast_OPD

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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OPD: The Belly of the Beast

Something has been feasting on the souls of the dead.  In my campaign, dark elves are feeding souls to the Beast in return for eternal youth.  As long as this continues, the dead return as Larvae and cannot be raised.  The party discovered a portal that transfers them to the mouth of a cave where the beast lives, carved in the visage of a great demon and with tooth-like stalactites and stalagmites at the entrance.  In my campaign, this portal is in a dark elf lair.  A night hag poaches larva from her headquarters  in the brain, but is not really important to the quest.  The party needs to destroy the beast itself to stop the unholy rituals of the dark elves once and for all.

The original idea for this dungeon arose when I was collecting images of “hell mouths” in medieval art, after noticing the theme in Bosch and Brueghel – especially Brueghel’s Mad Meg.  I have also heard of a convention game run by Bruce Galloway, the (in)famous author behind the book Fantasy Wargaming, that involved a dungeon that was actually the inside of a dragon.  I suppose the Star Wars scene where the Falcon parks inside a space eel, and movies like Fantastic Voyage and Inner Space are influences, as is the board game Circulation which I owned as geeky lad, and of course the wonderful anatomical illustrations in old Nation Geographic magazines and Time-Life books.  The computer game Doom is an influence, as is H.R. Geiger’s art, including Aliens.  I have also found several One Page Dungeons with similar ideas about a dungeon that is shaped like body or is actually a body of some kind.  Ultimately I suppose that embellishments of the biblical tale of Jonah and the whale, and also the Norse myth of Ymir, have roles as well.

I owe a big debt of thanks to Scottsz for providing feedback in the early stages, and to my gaming group for play-testing this.  Thanks Tom, John, Ross, Adam, and Matt!

Suggested setups to port this into your game:

  • A pocket dimension entered through a gate, magic mirror, hell mouth, green devil face on a wall of your dungeon, etc.
  • A meteor shower left drops an egg-shaped object, which incubates into this dungeon after a few weeks. If/when the party defeats the dungeon, another shower drops a dozen more eggs.  Better find them before they hatch.
  • Local shepherds have been disappearing.  A party of young nobles out picnicking disappeared too.  Locals murmur about the weird cave uncovered by a flood last spring.
  • A tarasque was imprisoned in the earth long ago by an ancient wizard.  It swallowed a MacGuffin which the party wants or needs.   They plan to dig up the remains.  But it has transformed into…this.
  • A dead party member or important NPC can be raised only if their soul is retrieved from somewhere in “that weird cave,” or from the Abyss, which the cave is a portal to.
  • Mad Meg, a harridan and adventurer, recently returned to town laden with gold and tales of great treasure ripe for the picking.
  • Monsters have begun to appear and ravage the land, and they are surging out of a weird cave lately uncovered by a sinkhole, mining, or geologic events.

I will be ‘publishing’ a fuller form of the scenario as a free pdf suitable for digest-sized booklet printing, or possibly as a submission to a free site or zine, when it is done, with stats for basic D&D/LL/WFRP as I played it.  It was tough removing all game stats for the OPD.  I resorted to hedging a lot of things as “may” do this or that to avoid mentioning saving throws.  “Slight damage” rather than d4 for various effects like the freezing lung and boiling blood.

The map is, in my mind, the weak link right now — I just drew it on graph paper and my penmanship is horrid.  I hope I’ll get a chance to draw something better, or have my existing scan cleaned up a little, before the April 1 deadline but the text, I think, is pretty much finished.  I think in some ways the map is the least important part of the dungeon anyway — the relationships of rooms and halls matter but the map is for the DM’s eyes only anyway.  It’s not exactly Jaquayed to hell but there are a number of loops and forks, so the thing can be explored by many different routes.  The main thing is the party really needs to be sharks.  No sitting still and holing up to heal in a room with spiked doors.  This thing is a hostile environment and will kill you if just stand around.

What I hope sets this apart from other ‘corporeal’ dungeons I’ve seen is the tables: Gastric (random) events, which is really two tables in one since you use a different die depending on what the PCs have done; Antibodies (wandering monsters); and Tumors (Spontaneous hazards).  The dungeon will react to the players and really by re-keying the few fixed encounters you could run this over and over.

The idea of changing dungeon appeals to me, but changing the actual map during play is daunting; I hope the randomly appearing hazards (“tumors”) accomplish a similar effect.

Here is the latest version of the PDF file: Mike_Monaco_The_belly_of_the_beast_OPD

Published in: on March 6, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (5)  
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The Belly of the Beast (Telengard session 14 and OPD preamble)

In my Telengard campaign I planned to have two distinct locales and one sublevel attached to the rather small Level 2 of Telengard. As events unfolded I decided a second sublevel is really called for, and it dovetailed nicely with a side project I’d been thinking about putting together as a OPD anyway. I’ve shown a rough draft to another blogger (Scottsz) and he gave me some great ideas for further development and polish, as well as encouragement to consider submitting it for publication after commissioning a decently drawn map. I might try to get it published in one of the free e-zines like Encounter, if I ever get it finished, and/or running it at a convention…there are two within a few miles of me that I’ve never attended.

So anyway the last 2 hours or so of session 14 were both a playtest of the “module” and the partial completion of a mission the players had been half-heartedly pursuing between treasure-hunting, real estate dealings, ghostbusting, etc.

What follows are many “spoilers” for anyone interested in delving into the Belly of the Beast, which I am going to submit as a OPD entry and later expand into a fuller mini-module (heck, it may one day appear in a compilation of all the original dungeons and campaign material, Mount Telengard…)

When I left off last time they went through the portal and found themselves on mountainside with cave that appeared to have the visage of a demon carved on it.  The opening had stalactites and stalagmites like a row of teeth, and humid breeze blew out of the tunnel.  When they entered they noticed that the tunnel split, and John quipped that they’d found the epiglottis.  (Shit! I was hoping the whole ‘living dungeon’ theme would take longer to be recognized.)  They traveled down into a room where the walls, ceilings, and floor were covered with red lichen or moss, and once inside they were sprayed with acid, leading them to retreat hastily.  Then the “teeth” at the cave mouth crashed together, locking them inside.  With nowhere to go but deeper, they chose to try the other fork of the passage, and found two chambers of porous, damp rock.  The one on the right was freezing cold inside, and partly divided by a pillar.  Behind the pillar they found a large sack , and when they began to investigate it, a great manta-like beast dropped on the party from above, trapping Zorro and Matrim within it’s folds.  Theparty hacked them out, and retreated from the room, badly frostbitten.  They then tried using the Lurker Above’s hide as a tarp to re-enter the acid-spraying chamber, as it had a opening leading to another tunnel visible, but the room began to fill with blood when they tried to burn off the acid-spraying moss.  The party then investigated the second “lung” which was not nearly so cold and housed only a few roosting Robber Bats, which they killed with extreme prejudice.  In this room they noticed a sphincter-like opening that led into a dark, wet tunnel that was ankle-deep with blood and crawling with full-grown larva, including one resembling the late Carlos the Cleric!  These were slain and the party found that the tunnel led to a series of small, interconnected rooms that were knee-deep in near-boiling hot blood.  The dwarf rather cleverly avoided getting parboiled by soaking up stomache-blood with his bed roll, freezing it in the cold lung, and using the icy blanket as a buffer agaisnt the boiling blood.  Disgusting but effective.  From the “heart” they followed a another tunnel to a large chamber of coral-like rock..the brain.  A horrid, purple hag was there, and demanded five live larvae or else she’d slay a party member.  The party attempted to fight her, but lacking +3 weapons, and not trying silver, they could not hurt her.  She turned ethereal and laughed.

Grumble the dwarf decided to hack through to the next room, as a sphincter on one wall suggested another chamber must lie beyond.  (I should note that the dwarf has been hacking through many of the ‘doors’ without checking if they were stuck or anything…which in this case worked out pretty well).  The night hag screeched, “Stop! You’re killing it!” — rather foolishly spilling the beans that the Beast could be killed by hacking away inside the brain.  But hey, the Beast is her meal ticket, as astute readers will know that the Monster Manual explained a fairly involved economy of larva, which the Night Hags use to secure their dominion over Hades.  So the Night Hag began lettting loose with her big guns — rays of enfeeblement, 2d8 magic missiles, and so on.  The party fled into the next room, a dark area filled with shifting fog and echoing laughter and whispers.  This was the subconscious of the Beast.  An Ariel Servant patrolled the room, ordered to let none leave.  Somehow the dice were not him that night and he never manages to hit anyone, so really the party was barely aware of his presence.  The dwarf plunged on into the next area of the brain, a small room illuminated with an eerie red glow: the animal brain or cerebellum.  He went through, unmolested, but pretty much every other PC who entered failed their saves and became enraged beyond words or thought.  Under the influence of the raging animal brain, the party members attacked each other, or wandered aimlessly (poor Matrim the Fighter, being enfeebled by a spell and walking on a peg-leg after last session, moved only 5′ per round).  At length the party broke free of the spell, and fortunately the Night Hag did not pursue them.  From the animal brain they found a slippery slide tunnel running hundreds of feet down.  The dwarf managed to stop himself from sliding and set up some spikes and ropes to catch the rest of the party.  In the spinal slide the party regrouped and went back to destroy the walls of the animal brain, which killed the Beast! (I’m leaving out a lot of stuff, because although we had a good time and laughed a lot by the end I was dead tired and I forget a lot of details.

We normally start playing about 7:15 or so, which is little later than when there were just four players.  I understand people like to talk, catch up, argue about politics and religion, etc. before the game and it give mes time to prepare anyway, since I am home from work at 6 at the earliest anyway.  But — this doesn’t give us a lot of time to actually play, since people often start fading around 10 or 10:30 (my normal bedtime).  Last time we played until 11:15 or so, as I hate to stop inside a dungeon, and the party really needs to be somewhere relatively safe.  They made it out, and I hand waved the remaining keyed monsters, none of which were as deadly as the night hag because the wander monsters and hazards depend on the Beast being alive.  There was a ton of treasure they missed, and I guess I was feeling generous so I let them roll against me to get 1/2 of one of the hoards, just to get the session over with. (In hindsight I am a little flattered that they wanted to keep going so late — there have been times when John asking “Are we done”?” at 9:30!)  They got it, and it make me feel a lot better better about screwing them out of the next treasure.  🙂

So, over the weekend I plan to finish editing the key to the map and possibly redraw the map so it will fit in small area — I’m afraid my OPD will have an uncommonly small map, to fit my verbose key and tables (random events, monsters, and hazards).  The OPD rules specify that no game stats should be in the dungeon either, so I’ll need to cut out a lot of incidental things, and although there are over 20 rooms and three charts, it should all fit onto on sheet.  I will post it whenever it is done enough to enter, and then post the design notes (and work in any feedback I get), and finally restore it to the digest sized module I originally planned in another post!  So there’s plenty of work to keep me busy.

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Telengard session 14: Into the belly of the Beast

This time around Big Mac’s player was back, but Swinlow’s is off on a cruise (lucky duck). Mac is one of the original characters from the very beginning of the campaign and is 5th level, and being Lawful decided to join the Templars and become a Paladin per my Fighter’s Handbook. Carlos’ player made a replacement character, another cleric — named Zorro. Zorro is Carlos’ brother, of course, so he claimed the other cleric’s stuff. There was no cash left in Carlos’ account, his funds being depleted by the effort to Raise him last time, but the party decided to give Zorro a lump of cash to use to carouse and train to get off first level. I imagine the carousing in this case was something more like a series of funerary feasts and masses, and Zorro managed to avoid any mishaps, so he set off as a 2nd level cleric.

Now that the party has really felt terrible consequences of the drow elves’ plotting, they decided to go through the portal in the drow altar room and slay the demon that the elves have been feeding souls.

They had to travel through the first level of Telengard again, since the drow altar is no the second level, and the new cleric couldn’t resist sitting on the throne. This time he was teleported to a random room. By himself. With no light. And being a new character — no knowledge of the dungeon. So he saw a brief glimpse of a fountain and a door as the teleportation’s “afterglow” faded, and was then alone in the dark. His repeated efforts to open the door (after blindly stumbling around and being grabbed by one of the skeletons embedded in the rocks in a connected chamber) drew the attention of the rest of the party, who debated whether to search for the new cleric, leave him behind, or assume he is dead. The noise also drew the attention of some orcs and bugbears on the level, and the cleric briefly fought an orc in the dark, but the party’s light caused the orc to flee, leading the party into an ambush of six bugbears and a few orcs. The encounter took several rounds to settle, and the humanoids attempted to carry off the party’s elf while the rest held a battle line against the players, but Grumble the dwarf force his way through to rescue the elf. I used a simple overbearing rule (I can no longer remember where I saw it) that just uses 1d6 per HD or level of creature involved in the scuffle. The elf got 3d6 for his level, +1 for his STR mod, and the bugbear and orc involved got 3d6 for the bugbear and 1d6 for the orc. Winning side can pin, immobilize, or carry off the loser. It worked very nicely.)

After this the party decided to go back to their original plan of seeking the drow altar and descended to the second level. They noticed a hallway I forogt to draw on their map last time (um…secret door, yeah, that’s it, secret door!) and found some drow elves and lesser driders to fight (I’ve only been giving them 3 HD, as this is supposed to be the second level of the dungeon!); then they proceded to altar room.

The party left their lightbearers, Schozzi and Stabby John, behind in the altar room with a rope to pull them back through the portal when they complete their mission. This is because the portal seemed to be one way — you can go through the altar to the cave entrance outside but once on the other side, thep ortal is not “there;” however someone still in the altar room can reach through and pull you back.

The cave was another one with a face carved on the entrance — this time a demon face.  But what is inside, kind of secret right now, since I’m still working on this dungeon as a module that I’ll either condense into a One Page Dungeon or publish on Dragonsfoot or something so more on that later.

Published in: on March 3, 2011 at 9:02 am  Comments (1)  
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