Dyson’s delves

Some time ago I got a pdf copy of Dyson’s Delves. I didn’t have to pay for it — it was a consolation prize to replace something else he’d tried to send to me and which was apparently lost or stolen in the mail — and he didn’t ask for a review, but it’s only fair to post one now because I have had some time to look it over and have even used one of the scenarios. <Edit: There is also a Dyson’s Delves II? I didn’t know about that until just now when I went looking for links. So this review is just about the first one.>

Anyway idea behind Dyson’s Delves is to provide both a set of usable dungeon adventures and a set of maps, ready to be keyed and stocked (with sheets of blanks provided on facing pages for those who want to keep a permanent record in their copy). Some of the maps and adventures have already been published on Dyson’s blog. They are all pretty good. There is a “mini-mega-dungeon” that was originally published on the blog as “Dyson’s Delve,” and which consists of eleven smallish levels (with room for expansion). This mini-mega-dungeon has multiple entrances, so higher level adventurers could bypass the goblins-infested uppers, and there are multiple paths through the dungeon — the party may need to go “up one, down two” to find everything. This dungeon could easily serve as the centerpiece to a dungeoneering campaign, and yes there is dragon in there somewhere. The dungeon is designed to take a party from first to sixth level. (I have a copy of the “deluxe edition” printed out that I keep on hand just in case I ever need to run something with no preparation… though I’d probably swap out the goblins for almost anything else.)

There are several other keyed dungeons, ranging from single-level adventures to multiple-level dungeons. The dungeons have a variety of difficulties, which is very nice for DMs looking for a quick side-adventure in a campaign, as I am often am because I did not have time to prepare or because the players go so far afield of what I expected. There is a surfeit of first-level one-page-dungeons, so it’s nice to find delves here for mid-level parties. My favorite is probably The charmed grotto (for level 5-8 characters), which I ran  in my home campaign and provided a decent challenge to a mid-level party, but you’ll also find adventures for 3rd-6th level parties, ranging from the award-winning one-page The worm’s gullet  to another multi-level crawl, Erdea Manor.

The blank maps are generally very good.  Anyone who has visited Dyson’s blog will have seen his work, so there is not much for me to add about that.

It’s available in PDF, softcover, and hardback. No-one asked me, but if he did I’d tell him to see about offering in a spiral bound edition, as my experience with perfect-bound print-on-demand has been that they do not hold up well to use at table, especially if you’re writing in them. As it is I guess you could get the pdf and print yourself a copy and have it spiral bound at an office supply store. Or just three-hole punch your printout.

In any case Dyson’s Delves is great idea, well-executed and worth a look.

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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I am so dead

You can tell cause there’s my name on a tombstone, in the back there:

Dylan Hartwell, the “Digital orc“, has just published another creepy module — just in time for Halloween.  I got a preview of this, being one of the proofreaders/commenters, and it’s a nice adventure with a good mix of role playing, tricks, puzzles, and funky new monsters.  Also the best use of the folkloric sin-eater in a module yet.

It looks like it would be pretty fun to run, and deftly mixes horror and dungeon crawling in a way that certain a Finnish company used to….  The action centers on a graveyard, and the party must defeat a series of baddies in a variety of environments.  It is a fairly traditional dungeon crawl style of adventure: enter location, defeat monsters, exit, repeat.  But it is also creepy as hell in parts, and many tropes of horror are there, sometimes presented in a traditional manner, more often with a twist.  Although the module was very concise when I previewed it, there was clearly enough material for several sessions of play, and you should have no problem dropping the troubled town which houses the graveyard into your campaign.  I’m not even sure you have to follow the “plot” of the adventure and you might find the individual adventure sites useful little distractions when you’re DMing on the fly.  (I’d keep them all linked, though, as they really fit together nicely in terms of offering a range of challenges and requiring a variety of tactics, so that the whole looks even better than the parts.)

Full disclosure, I will be getting a free copy of the module for my editing help, but have no further “interest” in this product.*

For less than the price of whatever drinks or snacks you’d normally get for game night, you could pick up the pdf here now (or wait a few days and get it in print).  You won’t be disappointed.


*In the sense that I am not a co-author nor receiving royalties & gain no benefit from its sales … but I do take an interest in seeing this succeed because it a cool adventure and Dylan is a cool dude who deserves success.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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If you are reading this blog, you are on the outskirts of a phenomenon called the “OSR” or “Old School Revival” (or the R might stand for Renaissance, depending on who you ask).  The OSR is not really movement and the only real unifying principle I see is that it is an intersection of do-it-youselfers (DIY) & players of older games (“old school”).  So the point is that while the OSR might not have much in common on the particulars of their game table, there is an inordinate number of people in these circles who are publishing their own stuff.  It’s mainly the ease of self-publishing that made the OSR possible.  Anyway all that preamble is just to get around to saying that I’ve had the pleasure of helping out on a few projects and one of the ones I’ve gotten the most use out of was an innovative little module/rules-lite game called “Out where the buses don’t run,” a free horror game/module written by Dylan Hartwell, aka The Digital Orc.  Since then he’s been steadily releasing inexpensive but highly imaginative modules for D&D and D&Dish rpgs.  The latest is an ambitious booklet called “Verloren : the rufescent and the atramentous.”  (Yes, I had to look those words up.  I’m not convinced it sounds better than Verloren : the red & the black, but then again he’s probably trying to avoid giving a false impression that this is a setting based on Stendhal’s novel.)

Anyway I say it is ambitious because it sketches out a city of 200,000 and its environs, all ripe for looting and the doom of foolish adventurers.   He knew better than to try to give a detailed key of city such size; instead we have reasonably short summaries of key people, places, and things.  No description of the market district and how many fishmongers there are vs. cheesemongers nor a list of inns.  Just important stuff you couldn’t pull out of the air like cults and factions and how they might come into conflict and how those conflicts might involve the PCs.  Similarly there are some adventure hooks, again with just enough to get the wheels turning, a handful of places outside town that will certainly be monster-haunted, and nine new monsters.  About half the monsters look like stuff I’d use in any D&D and half are more setting specific, but all are interesting and/or disturbing.

In other words the booklet has just enough fluff to give the DM a mental image of the place and just enough meat for several sessions of gaming.  After you use some of the hooks and get the players “into” the setting, a competent DM could run with this for a long time.   Should the PCs succeed in freeing the city, it would make a nice base for further explorations.

The big picture is that the once-mighty city of Verloren underwent a mysterious catastrophe that has isolated it and placed the city under the yoke of a hidden, and horrible, master, that the players might identify and might figure out how to defeat and might save the city from.  It says it is for characters level 5-14, which is quite a range but basically communicates that the mission is fairly grand and it may take a lot of ingenuity, or serious firepower, or some combination of the two to solve the problem.

The challenge is that using the city as written will require introducing a large, lost city to your campaign.  I assume most D&D campaigns would be able to accommodate this but it might not jibe too well with a standard vanilla published setting.  Even so, the threat Verloren faces could be focused instead on some city in your game world.  If you are creative and clever enough to run D&D, you should be up to the task.  The only question is, would you enjoy shipping your player characters to a lost, isolated city for an extended adventure cut off from the regular campaign world.  It sounds like a winner to me, but then again my campaign has characters exploring the dream world and the moon alongside ‘regular’ dungeons and a pit that may lead to hell itself, so maybe I am just more open to this sort of thing than usual.

Dylan very generously sent me — with no strings or expectations for a review, let alone a good review — a hard copy. It’s a stapled digest of just 30 pages, counting the cover as it includes maps.  Dylan illustrated the thing himself, and he does a decent job there; if some of the illustrations are rough, they do have a very consistent feel to them of darkness and doom.  At just $4 as a pdf (or $5 for a print copy) it is a good buy.  Dylan is clearly getting better and better at layouts and design and his editor, thank dog, was not me!  Stop by the Digital Orc for more info.

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 10:23 pm  Comments (3)  
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That campaign blowed up real good!

Farm Report

There’s nothing like Death Frost Doom to stir things up when your campaign is beginning to peter out a bit.  Minor spoilers follow, so if you’ve never read or played DFD, you might want to stop reading now.

I’ve had DFD sitting around in the mountains since my first Telengard campaign (although I only actually got a copy of the module later; I’d heard of the basic idea and thought it would be a great fit, and would have improvised something like it if anyone had checked it out then).

I think level is not too important for this adventure, since it mostly exploration. The party was really near the upper limit — it’s supposed to be for PCs level 1-6, and most of them are level 6 now.  Still, the finale could be a TPK for almost any level of PCs, considering the confined space and overwhelming numbers of foes.  Being of highish levels made it possible for the party to fight one foe that a lower level party would have almost certainly had to bargain with, and defeat some other foes a low-level party might have been killed by, but since combat is not the focus of the module, it really didn’t matter too much.

Our party took on the module in two sessions — the first extremely carefully, as only the bard, assassin, and magic-user were present for the session, and the second a bit more recklessly, as the assassin and magic-user were joined by the paladin and dwarf, as well as four low-level meat shields.  Two meat shields died (one suicide, one energy drained) but otherwise the party was mostly unscathed.  The assassin gained a point of strength but lost a point of intelligence, and Funko the gremlin also lost one point of intelligence.

They had only opened one big crypt door by the time “hell vomits its filth” was triggered, so most of the undead were not immediately able to swarm the party. The one turn “lead time” meant they were able to find Cyrus’ tomb just before the undead actually began awakening.   Opening his tomb, they quickly found the coffin and surmised that there was a vampire about, so the dwarf immediately began destroying the coffin and scattering the earth.  This caused Cyrus to appear and attempt to parlay, but the party immediately attacked and being some serious ass-kickers, defeated him in matter of two rounds.

It took a bit of discussion before the party realized that there was no way to simply fight their way out, and they came up with a reasonably good escape plan, barricading a door and going out a ‘chimney’ to the surface.  My lax ritual casting rules let them escape with all their gear intact, but under stricter rules they would have been forced to leave a lot of stuff behind.  As it was the magic user could cast ‘fly’ enough times to give the party a safe exit from the dungeon.  I suppose if I’d been a jerkier DM I would have had ghouls come for them via the chimney while the casting was being done, but that would pretty much be a TPK by fiat, so I overrode the module’s suggestion there.  Instead, the party flew down to Zeke’s camp and rode their horses off the mountain.


With a village (Clovis), a town (Puddington), and a small city (Skara Brae) all within a day’s forced march, the party was scrambling to give warning and figure out how to deal with the army of the dead now on the move.  Hilarity ensued, and the party even split up, but I’d already determined that they had a fair amount of time before the main body of zombies and skeletons were really on the move, and the ghoul horde was too disorganized to give immediate chase, so probably the undead will not make a ‘bee line’ for anything and instead need to fan out until they find victims.  Or a leader.  I understand the party let a mummy-priest get away a few sessions back. 🙂


Time to start figuring out potential troop strengths for the local settlements and how to handle large-scale battles.  One thing that might be fun could be a “cut scene” where a hopelessly outnumbered force fights the vanguard of the undead army, both to create some foreboding and to introduce mass combat rules.

I’ve heard of DFD  ‘ending’ campaigns but I think it Telengard it might be a bridge to the ‘end-game’ of fortress-building, army-raising, etc.  DFD would also be a fun campaign-starter at low levels or even first level, come to think of it.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Congratulations to the 2012 OPD winners!

And thanks to everyone who submitted something — as a DM, I lean on these all the time when I need a map or some ideas for a session.  Sometimes I run them straight as written and sometimes I just use them as a jumping off point, but I’ve gotten WAY more out of these than any of the longer, published modules I’ve bought or downloaded. And especially thanks to the organizers of the contest — it is a great way to build the community & encourage people to share their ideas.  See all the entries here.*

*Yeah, I had an entry too, and hope my players don’t read it — I may still throw it at them.

Published in: on June 4, 2012 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Out where the buses don’t run…playtestish

This week our regularly scheduled DM was feeling under the weather so we played something else.  I volunteered to run Out where the buses don’t run, a module released earlier by the Digital Orc

I didn’t have time to re-familiarize myself with the module, although I’d looked it over last month and had the jist of it down OK… it did however turn out that I’d never really studied the map, and did not recall some important details…

Anyway I decided to try out the super-simple “Optional Resolution System” as the core mechanic of the game.  PCs were handed a d6 and a note card.  The note card was for their character’s name, background if any, and inventory.  The d6 was rolled first for initial Luck Points and then was the die they used to try to do stuff.  Simple as pie. 

The players (John, Matt, Chad, and Aaron the new guy) were all told, they need to come up with a character — someone from roughly the present day, who might be out at an isolated, old mansion late one afternoon.

John made an amateur TV producer, scouting a supposedly haunted house for his ‘paranormal reality TV show’.  His character was more interested in recording the odd events than participating…he even stood by filming while a ghoul attacked.

 Chad made a gas company employee, there to investigate a gas leak at a house where the gas should have been turned off some time ago.  His character had a pack of cigarettes, but no lighter, which was a running joke, as there are no open flames in the house; at least, no normal fires…  He also proved to be the ‘moral compass’ of the party.

Matt made a mute young man, who had been hitchhiking, and was looking for a lift or directions.  He would turn out to be a fairly nice guy, but kind of stabby. (“I stab her in the head, just to be sure…”)

Aaron’s character was a college student, pranked by his friends who told him a party was going to be at the house.  A typical fraternity/party boy type, he only put down his beer to arm himself later on with a dead cat.  As play progressed we realized he was also the ‘doomed black guy character’ in this horror scenario — always going first and drawing monster attacks. 

I was really tickled that everyone willingly made characters with various weaknesses and quirks.  I suggested a few ideas but they mostly came up with these characters, which play on various horror tropes, on their own while I was busy looking over the maps.

I know most readers don’t care for play-by-play accounts of sessions, and I don’t want to spoil the plot for people who might play this module some time, so I just note some highlights and problems.

I should get the problems out of the way first, and mention that we had a great time playing this.  My wife heard wild laughter coming from the basement all night, and dryly observed “You guys were really having a ball, huh?”  In fact the time flew by, for me at least, so I think we were all having fun.  But the module could be better.

First, this Dylan guy should fire his editor.  There were errors in several places of the texts (the Luck Points optional rules give a 1. and 3. but no 2.!); the key (room 20 mis-cites a critical verse from a book); and the random tables (one typo and a few more errors citing the verse in question).  What a mess.

Third, the module’s resolution depends on the PCs figuring out that they need to do something.  The get a load of clues as to *what* the thing they need to use is, and *where* to use it, but the *how* is up to them to figure out.  They might figure this out on their own, but there are a few things in the module that might actively dissuade them from the ‘correct’ solution — notably a cemetery scene that will punish them for doing the thing they’ll need to do, and the larger issue that some of their clues about what they need to do are coming from very suspect/hostile sources.  Nothing that makes the thing unplayable, but definitely a hinderance.  As GM in other circumstances I would have probably just dropped some hints about the *how*, but they seemed on the verge of figuring out, and I wanted to see how it played out as written.

So some of the highlights of the game, for me anyway, were:

  • Aaron’s character killing a cat, and then using it as a weapon until the party slew a knife-weilding witch.  He threw the cat at the witch to distract her, and before that he used it as a ‘cat mace’ to bludgeon a ghoul.  (I made the cat hit on a 4+ but only damage on a 6)
  • The party realized, after killing a witch that jumped out at them, that they’d just killed someone, on camera, and were probably pretty screwed if the authorities ever showed up.
  • The random effects from the telephones and other features in the house kept the party on edge, especially when the phones began ringing. 
  • The module references a dozen or more classic and/or cheesy horror movies, and players noticed a lot of them in play, leading to quick discussions of various movies, Bruce Campbell, etc.  The comedy/horror mood was not really hurt by these ‘distractions’ and in fact probably helped contribute to the hilarity of the game.
  • My inept accents/voices for the various deceased relatives of PCs provided some comedy relief too. 😦
  • The party bravely sent a comatose, helpless pregnant woman through a whirling vortex to who-knows-where… as a humane alternative to Aaron smashing her head with a shovel or Stabby Matt stabbing her to death, in order to prevent the birth of her possibly demon-spawned baby.  Heroes indeed!

I think my one fear, going into this, was that in my mind horror really works when you care about what happens to the characters, and we played this pretty silly.  But I think the investment the players had, just coming up with a character, was enough to make the menace/fear real in places, even if we mostly played it for laughs.  I would strongly recommend trying this out.  I’ve already given Dylan some feedback and he’s planning a revision, so you might wait until the next the revised version if you like ‘complete and ready-to-play’ modules.  By then it may be available for sale.  But if you are willing to adjust a few things on the fly, this is a really fun one-shot game, and would be very easy to adapt to any published horror game, whether or not you want to use his ‘optional resolution system’.

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 10:16 am  Comments (4)  
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Out where the buses don’t run

Dylan Hartwell (“The digital orc”) has just released a modern horror module (link) that you should look at (unless you’re in my regular gaming group because I’d like to run this some time when we are short on players as a one-shot).

It includes maps and illustrations, and a bunch of cool tables you could use in any modern horror game.  But the thing that I especially love about it is that it includes his “optional system for ruling”  — an ultralite set of rules that anyone should be able to use, gamer or not.

Personally I think horror games ought to be mostly one-shot affairs.  The characters should be mostly ‘normal’ people and death should be easy.  The system presented in the module would work perfectly for that. You character is basically a single die (d6), and you roll it to accomplish tasks as needed, and if you are injured you are booted down to a d4, and if hurt again, adios amigo.  You could expand on this a little, maybe have a few dice for each PC, perhaps a physical, knowledge/mental, and perception (or insight/spirituality/psychic) die, and even throw in a d8 for the character’s strong suit.  Physical damage might reduce the physical die; insanity-inducing horrors might reduce the mental die…you can see where this is going, yes?

Anyway both because it is neat little scenario (which really is a sandbox locale…no railroading!) and because it has a super easy system you could use to draw anyone into a gaming session, I heartily recommend it.

Dylan also let me offer some suggestions, so I have an ‘editing’ credit on it.

Published in: on October 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm  Comments (2)  
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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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Keying the ancient copper mine (short B/X dungeon for level 1-2 characters)

I mentioned earlier that by rolling randomly in the Moldvay book (with some help from the Dungeon Alphabet and Kelri’s Old School Encounter Reference), I got a set of encounters for this mine map (the second one in this thread — the first one looks even better but when I printed it out is was a little too faint to use), and then came up with a rationalization for why these monsters were all in the same dungeon. The party cleared out the dungeon last night so I finally publish the key.


1. The entrance has an old stature, crafted finely of stone, showing a man and a dwarf shaking hands. The eyes of the two figures seem to follow the party. (see area 7)

2. Three spider crabs (AC 13, 2 HD, d8+poison, 120/40′, save F1, Ml7) hide on the ceiling here. They may ambush adventurers who are investigating the mines between here and area 1. Those tunnels are mostly empty, but one is filled with webs and small harmless spiders.

3. Among the debris here is a cask filled with sleep-inducing gas. If it is opened, gas fills a 20′ radius area and all breathing it must save vs. Poison or sleep as if affected by a Sleep spell. The gas takes 1 turn to dissipate.

4. The passage to 4 is filled with water, and slopes toward the middle so that the central part is completely underwater. Five gnomes are here mining, and they are crazed with Gold Fever (see below). (AC14, 1 HD, wpn., 60/20′, D1, Ml8)

5. The pool in this room is magical and will teleport any who enter to area 10. If two characters enter at the same time, they will teleport on top of each other (Save or die — Telefrag!). If a character does not move from where they appeared before the next character enters, this also causes a telefrag check.

6. These tunnels are also filled with webs and the egg sack of the Crab spiders from 2.

7. There is a puddle on the floor which shows whatever the statues in area 1 see. One kobold from area13 will be on duty here to watch for intruders.

8. Kobold guard room. Four kobolds from area 13 are stationed here. They will send one of their number to rouse the remaining kobolds to ward off intruders. (AC 13, 1/2 HD, wpn., 120/40′, NM, Ml6)

9. Dwarf camp. Five dwarves will be gorging themselves on Goldbug Shrooms here. They will challenge any intruders and attack if they don’t immediately leave, calling them “claim-jumpers.” (AC 15, 1 HD, wpn, 60/20′, D1, Ml8) 600 platinum pieces (and two cobras (AC13, HD1, d3+poison, 90/30′, F1, Ml7) are in a locked chest. The dwarves are irrational and if subdued will lead the party into ambushes if possible, heading toward areas 13 and 14. There is also a small smelting set-up for casting metal into coins here in one corner.

10. This chamber has a throne set between the two pillars. Sitting on the throne casts a curse (save vs. Spell) which makes the recipient unable to lie. This effect will not be apparent until the character actually tries to tell a lie. It also creates a shiny, sparkly halo around whoever is seated on the throne, whether or not they make their save.

11. A living statue (iron) in the shape of a giant black cat sits here. It will demand that each human or demihuman who enters the room answer a riddle. After four riddles are missed it will attack.

12. Heaps of human bones litter the tunnels here. Six skeletons will emerge from the side tunnels, rising from the bone heaps, when a living creature passes. (AC13, 1 HD, wpn., 60/20′, F1, Ml12). A sack under another bone heap contains 300 SP and 30 GP.

13. Kobold quarters. Fifteen kobolds in all live here, but some are on guard duty in areas 7 and 8. The kobolds here will always hide if given warning and spring out from their hiding places (there is an old dining table and fireplace in here for cover) to ambush intruders. They will retreat through the hall to area 10 hoping to lead the party into the skeletons and escape by doubling back through area 9, if possible. Alternately they may call on the dwarves in 14 for help. They have convinced the dwarves and gnomes in the mine that they are actually gnomes too, and the party is actually goblins. The Gold Fever has addled their sense enough to make this possible!

14. Six dwarves are noisily mining here, looking for gold. They have the Gold Fever.

15. This chamber has a large (10×10′) open shaft dropping 20 feet.

16. Three cobras nest in the tunnel.


So how can dwarves and gnome be in the same mine with kobolds? The easy answer is they are at war, but with these small numbers and the small size of the mine, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. And what the hell are the gnomes doing in a room blocked off by water?

I decided the gnomes and dwarves must be deluded or crazy, and are actually working for the kobolds, mining whatever precious metal still can be gotten out of the mine. The kobolds are taking advantage of the fact that the special mushrooms which grow in the area cause both “Gold Fever” (an obsession with finding precious metals) and hallucinations. So, the gnomes and dwarves believe that the kobolds are gnomes, and willingly hand over the gold they find because the kobolds say they are taking it to a safe vault. When the dwarves and gnomes meet the adventurers, they are very suspicious and the slightest provocation will convince them that the party are “claim jumpers” and they will attack. Their high morale makes surrender unlikely and they will get a +1 to checks since they are so obsessed with protecting their gold.

Most of the mine will have strange yellow & orange mushrooms growing on the floors and walls.

Goldbug Shrooms: These large, yellow and orange mushrooms are edible, but eaters must save vs. spell each time they eat it. A failed save inflicts Gold Fever. The sufferer will want to search for veins of precious metals, and work tirelessly on mining. Soon their life will consist of little more than eating more mushrooms, mining, and sleeping in fitful snatches. They will also hallucinate, confusing humans, humanoids, and demihumans (believing that humans are orcs or that kobolds are gnomes, etc.). The mushrooms are addictive, and withdrawal from a diet of them requires the addict to roll under his or her CON on 3d6 each day for a full week. At the end of a week, if all rolls are made, the addiction is broken. Otherwise the addict loses 1 CON per day until death (0 CON) or more mushrooms are consumed. Exposure to sunlight will negate the obsession and hallucinations but does not cure the addiction. It is rumored that a cure for the addiction may be found among the hidden scrolls and potions of the Alabaster Tower.

The skeletons are obviously the remains of human miners, and possibly guards or soldiers. When I rolled that the statue in area 1 would be a pair of creatures, I decided to make it a man and a dwarf, since the mining operations of Telengard were historically run by humans but presumably they would take help from dwarves if available. Because the odd effect for the statue was “eyes follow the party,” I decided to make it a spying device, and the kobolds watch the entrance of the mine with it. The back story is that humans and dwarves mined here together but the Goldbug Shrooms drove them mad and they killed each other off. 150 years later a few gnomes decided to see if any gold was still in the mines. When they did not return for some time, a band of dwarves went to search for their cousins, but obviously they did not return either. The kobolds have effectively enslaved all the dwarves and gnomes with Goldbug Shrooms, and they take the mined gold away to the pay tribute to a large band of humanoids in a local dungeon (the kobolds need to hand over a lot more loot before their tiny band will be allowed to enter the relative safety of the dungeon!) The dwarves stumbled across a small platinumvein and have finished exploiting it; this will pay off the rest of the kobold’s debt.


I used a bunch of riddles I found online; in hindsight I should have selected the better ones to use rather than rolling. A few were really too hard, and the different styles (modern and Anglo-Saxon) threw the players off. A two-minute timer worked very well to add tension to the riddle-solving though.

There was a trap in a room with a pool (so I took the obvious route and rolled on the pools table in Dungeon Alphabet to get a teleporter, and to make it a trap, I decided it will teleport everyone who enters to exactly the same spot, so that they will teleport on top of each other, save or die!).

A special in another room I decided to make a throne, to foreshadow the many magical thrones in Telengard.

The throne and pool and statue are not explained at all. Dungeons are weird places.

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 8:54 am  Comments (1)  
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