Sunday, September 25, 2022

Cavern of the Wraith Count

Well, tonight's pick-up game cancelled due to The Plague in the house. Sigh.

Oh, well, gave me a chance to formalize some notes and build a space, this time a recent Jackson offering of a small cavern complex with a concealed tomb and treasure. The apparent chariot in the loot cache caught my attention, as they are a not uncommon grave good in notables' tombs around Eurasia

No horse skeleton, though. That's ok, I had an idea for that.

Tutankhamun's Grave Chariot 

And somewhere, I found the writing prompt title of "Cavern of the Wraith Count" - possibly Donjon or another random generator. But it stuck. And I had the Big Bad. 

The room contents were roughed out using the standard Moldvay matrix, then shuffled about to make some sense. It's a good space to work with - three 'water hazards' and a bit of a look, as well as some overcrossing corridors. 

I was scribbling away at the brewery a couple of days ago when another patron asked what my project was - He wasn't familiar with D&D, so I gave him a rough overview, and what the map/adventure entailed. He was most impressed by my various shorthands, scribbles, and lists on my working copy:

/..whatever, he was drunk

/Map in hand (and now with a list of monsters to wander and/or await), I typed it up this morning.

Count Malor Oseku got up to some nefarious researches in his life, and as a result, does not rest well. His besieged family attempted to bury him away, hoping that he'd be at peace, but he is restless and needful still...

Descriptions are brief, and critters are loosely statted on the OSE model. Includes a couple of newish magic items, and a couple of new or revised monsters. 

Download The Cavern of the Wraith Count here.

More to come...

9/27/22: Minor edits to adventure for flavor and details.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Roger Brings the Pa(i)n, or, the Brewery Crew Finishes the Banshee's Tower

Well, that was fun.

The Sunday night Meetup game at the brewery went down after a hiatus for the local con. I had two folks signed up, along with my stalwart coworker and my shorter half. Chris continued to run with Frederick, the pocket-picker, and Seana ran Jax, a slightly befuddled barbarian with a sword that whispers to her. Michael, the solo Meetup attendee was another RPG first-timer, but eager to dive in. I ran through a quick character overview, and he responded, "Can I just play someone dumb?" Of course. Michael grabbed a dwarf off the deck and stated, I've been learning how to cook with cast iron, so he's a cook. Can he be armed with a heavy frying pan? I crossed "battle axe" out on the character sheet and wrote "Frying pan." Yup.

Chris and I had previously discussed finishing exploration of the tower space, and I set up a bit of a scenario for clearing the remainder of the space. Since Chris/Frederick was the only returning player, I let him take lead. The party re-entered the fort compound, and cautiously ascended the steps. Hearing scuttling in the rubble, they came upon three giant centipedes defending their nests. The party laid on with blade and pan, while taking a couple of bites. Frederick failed his poison save, so felt slow and sickly the rest of the day. After bashing the last centipede to pulp, the party found the dragon skull, and investigated the commander's quarters. Frederick slipped the found dagger into his belt. Nothing to see here.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Poor Baldo Woldarm: A found Tim Shorts map

 Happy Sunday!

Tim Shorts dropped a small map on the Reddits, and I picked it up.  I've known Tim since the G+ days, and always appreciated his hand drawn and colored maps. 

Tim shared this unnamed piece: 

... and I wanted to write up a brief encounter to fit the space. So our poor dwarf, Baldo Woldarm, happened upon something unexpected during his excavations of a family shrine. Discover what Baldo found, here. 

Coincidentally, I also recently saw an article on the venomous marine bloodworm, with its odd copper and protein teeth. And I can't turn down monsterizing a worm...  But I'm sure that's nothing to be concerned about.

Tim also has a Patreon, where he creates encounters, colorful NPCs, and malevolent beings based partly on his home Komor Forest campaign. 

Anyway, enjoy, and I'm off to the gym and then to prep for tonight's game.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Local Con Games Run-Down - Chaos Managed

Last weekend was a local game convention, Dragonflight #42. I signed up to run a pair of B/X-OSE games under the same general conceit that I run my Meetup games: I'll figure out what I'm running when I get there...

(Adventure spoilers, of course).

I had a pretty good idea that I was going to run 'Vats of Rats' on Saturday. The signed-up group included three of the usual suspects from our FLGS group, one of the player's daughters, and two new-to-me folks. The party was comprised of two dwarfs, two elves, a fighter, and a cleric. A sufficient group for sussing out the source of the mysterious man-rat who had appeared in town. 

The party met the aforementioned man-rat in the reeve's gaol, and through some offerings of food and a blanket, were able to get sufficient information from the fellow, in addition to some random rumors around town. 

They cautiously approached the 'abandoned' mage's compound, and were able to make contact with a pair of famished imprisoned man-rats in one of the exterior cells. Killing a monstrous rat that shared their cell, the party earned their trust and got some generalized information on the compound, and to look for the side door for entrance.  

Safely accessing the compound, the party inspected the trap mechanism, which I decided to be comprised of a large Leyden jar, the size of a carboy. Of course they had to detach and steal it. So the party continued to stealthily explore the compound with a Leyden jar on a hand-truck with a really squeaky wheel. 

The party soon found Natália Potkanová's quarters, telling her housekeeper rat he was free to go. They tossed the room, finding some good loot, before being set upon by a pair of man-rat guards. A brief fight, and the party was victorious. 

Entering the dissection room, they got somewhat squidged out by the pieces-parts strewn about. They could smell the true lab, and prepared for assault. One of the dwarves pulled open the door, and the fighter hucked in the Leyden jar, hoping for some effect. Sure enough (die roll), it blew up. Natália dodged, but her assistant Vlastimil was one-shotted by the exploding apparatus. The party then burst in, firing bows and preventing Natália from casting spells. Seeing the party strength, I quantum-ogered in a few more man-rats to defend her, and the fight began in earnest. 


Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Hallucination Made Flesh

So I added to my list of sketchy camp followers a couple of weeks ago, and #25 was evocative enough to me that I needed to expand on the idea... So here ya go, for whatever it's worth...

The Hallucination Made Flesh*

(An NPC companion for a PC who got into a batch of REALLY good mushrooms.)

Occasionally the powers of our minds and illusions are so great, that dreams or visions seem real. And even more rarely, does that mind-altering trip, perhaps in search of enlightenment, inspiration, or an experimental mode, rip a hole in reality, letting that dream enter through.

That hallucination that you swore was so real last night while under the influence of those halfling-grown shrooms, or that sparkly powder you bought off that gnome? Well, it just showed up to breakfast and helped itself to the bacon.

Eyebeam by Sam Hurt

Perhaps your buddies can't see or hear it, but it's there, plain as day, and it just introduced itself as “Hank.” It seems harmless, and friendly enough. Although the appearance of a bug-headed six-foot-tall bunny is a bit off-putting.

But the next time the charlatan illusionist tried to fear the party away, his conjurations had no effect on you. “Don't worry, I got you buddy,” says Hank.

OK, so the odd looks from your companions as you talk to something only you can see might just be worth it.

The Hallucination Made Flesh

HD: PC's Level-1

AC: 7/14 if visible to opponents, otherwise 0/19. Illusionists and creatures with mind control or displacing abilities have a 2 in 6 chance to see a Hallucination Made Flesh.

Attack: Non-combatant. Will use trait from Defense table, below, if attacked.

Saving Throws: As companion PC

Alignment: Neutral

Distinguishing characteristics?

*This is for parody purposes only, and is not intended to make light of addiction, trauma, or mental health.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Banshee's Tower play and thoughts

Another Sunday, and another brewery session.

I had two returning "customers" and three first timers - All of the newcomers were familiar via 5e, so explaining the pared-down world of B/X was fairly straightforward. 

The three chose from the pre-gens: a hill dwarf named Braddock, a tea-aficionado halfling, and a not-too-bright but well-meaning fighter named Bonk. Frederick the "antiquities collector" returned. The fifth player chose a librarian elf after test-driving a heretic cleric in the last session.

The party met in Neuförde, as we've done the last few sessions. I had re-stocked the prior session's adventure, in case they were interested in returning. With a tepid response, I offered the alternative to investigate an abandoned fort rumored to have been owned by the Matuli family, whose signet ring was recovered from the goblins. This new investigation was acceptable and the party trooped into the foothills to find the tower.

Oh yeah, the locals call it The Banshee's Tower for some reason. It's probably nothing.


Spoilers, of course:

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Beave-phant, coming to a swamp near you!

 Ok. So the wife picked up this thing on impulse:

Apparently it's a plushy called a Squishmallow. And although the character tag claims that this particular plushy (reportedly named "Mila") is an elephant wearing a beaver costume, we of the adventuring community know the truth.

This is yet another unholy chimera, redolent of the owl-bear. 

Do not let Big Plushy lie to you.

The Beave-phant:

Denizens of the meandering savannah rivers, the beave-phant is a dwarf pachyderm hybridized with a beaver by someone who thought it was a good idea.

HD: 4-6; AC 5/14; Atk: Trunk toss and tail slap (2x 1d6+concussion) or trample (2d8); Move 120’ (40’) (on land or swim); Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (3); Morale 8; Alignment Neutral; Number Appearing 1d4+2; Special: Concussion - save vs paralysis or be knocked unconscious 2d4 rounds. Drowning potential if victim lands in water.

Ancestor-elephant tusks have been substituted with large chewing teeth, which the creatures use to fell trees for construction of their dams and massive lodges. After felling the tree, the beave-phant will drag it to the waterway, manipulating the log with its trunk. The logs are then stacked and woven together and wattled with excavated mud to build their structures. The dams can block rivers, create lakes, and redirect waterways. Additionally, the beave-phants will excavate into the riverbed to create underwater accessways into their lodges. Where an infestation of beave-phants occurs, they can significantly impact river navigation, canal integrity, and riverside communities and agriculture.

Beave-phants live in small family groups, with a matriarch accompanied by one to two generations of her offspring. The females tend to have a retiring nature, and only act in defense of their family pods or lodges. 

Bachelor herds comprised of semi-aquatic, non lodge-building males migrate between water bodies, seeking mates and sparring with one another for territorial dominance. The males have been known to wreak havoc on crops, as well as excavating furrows through saturated ground during their foraging. The males tend to be overtly aggressive, confronting intruders into their territory, whether beave-phant, other large herbivore, or humanoid. The males will often occupy ponds and lodges abandoned by matriarchal groups or other beave-phant.

Abandoned lodges find other semi-aquatic occupants, including the lizard-folk, who may share the environment with the beave-phants. Beave-phants tend to be wary if not defensive towards lizardfolk, as the latter have been known to hunt beave-phant. If a matriarch or male recognizes lizardfolk who have hunted their kin, they will attack on sight, with no quarter. 

While these aquatic pachyderm-hybrids don't have the valuable tusks of their uncorrupted kin, the heavy chewing teeth can fetch a good price with some ivory collectors (1d6x50gp per tooth).

Not a Beave-phant, but a Platybelodon.
Because Nature is more random than I am.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

More of Who/What has followed the party?

Just putting out a bit of content of the random sort today. A long-awaited continuation of  "Who/What has followed the party?" Because random mooks and ne'er-do-wells are always "helpful" to saddle our otherwise serious and upstanding adventurers with...

Wilhelm Diez – The Camp Followers (1888)

More minions, hirelings, and camp followers of dubious value, a D30+ list:

  1. Miscellaneous torchbearer, whose life you inadvertently saved from a tragic tumbril accident. Insufferable and cloying.
  2. Drunk who followed you from that bar. Just never leaves.
  3. The Last Goblin Standing. Surrendered. Acts as a servant. Awful cook.
  4. Former/deserter soldier. Constantly looking over their shoulder. Wears ridiculous fake moustache when in towns.
  5. Uplifted, sentient giant rat. Can't help stealing food.
  6. Dwarvish twins. Indistinguishable. Their names are indistinguishable, as well.
  7. Alewife. Doughty. Wields a mean beer stein.
  8. Snake-oil salesman. Always has 2d4 vials of questionable potions on hand.
  9. A very attached chicken. Lays one egg per day. Miraculously survives all threats and hazards.
  10. Silent, hooded figure carrying a chained chest. Useful for storing stuff you won't need for a while. Or ever.
  11. Pair of argumentative siblings. Pawned off on you by a distant relative to get them out of the house.
  12. A bankrupt lamp-oil salesman with a gambling problem.
  13. Surveyor. Constantly measuring things with the 10' pole.
  14. An animated hammer. Somehow appeared after visiting that wizard's tower. Taps on doors, sets spikes on command.
  15. Ghost attached to that signet ring you found. Helpful for communicating with undead and peering through walls.
  16. Emancipated gnomish automaton. Communicates through beeps and boops. Collector. Presses flowers, and the occasional fairy.
  17. An ogre named "Petunia." She's a hugger.
  18. A dude that hums that same song over and over again.
  19. Kobold trap-master. Constantly showing off the "provisions" they've caught (Usually rats and large spiders). Spiders are surprisingly good when seared.
  20. Pet ooze. Cleans up after dinner and altercations. Good at obscuring tracks and disposing of evidence.
  21. An escaped cloistered nun. Passable bandaging and herbalism skills. Fascinated by EVERYTHING.
  22. Nudist elf. Maintains eye contact a bit too long. Helpful in finding secret doors, at least.
  23. Mummy on a frankincense bender.
  24. Serpent-folk mystic. Speaks in riddles. Or nonsense. Fabulous feather headdress and bone necklace.
  25. A hallucination made flesh. Those were some reaalllyyy good shrooms.
  26. Several squabbling brownies. They do keep the party's footwear in good condition, though.
  27. A familiar that lost its mage. A random PC now has an extra 1d4 hp and a random 1st level spell, useable once per day.
  28. Drummer boy. Perhaps a fife player too. Blatantly patriotic.
  29. "Famed Mage From Another Land" Actually just a passable sleight-of-hand street magician. Makes balloon animals. Useful for distracting goblins and hayseeds.
  30. Halfling pipeweed dealer. Just got some good shit in from the shire, plus some sketchy powder from the gnomes. May have sold you those shrooms (#25).
  31. Washed-up prizefighter sporting a fine set of cauliflower ears. 2x1d6 unarmed damage/round and grapples opponent on a 19 or 20.
  32. An alien. Taking notes. Will carry something under duress. Zaps things with blaster only in self defense (2d12dmg).

"Camp Followers" by Anton Hoffmann

And updated the Chartopia table with the expanded list of characters...

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"Notebook Failure Dungeon" play and notes

Well, wow. I ran my second open table Meetup OSE brewery game Sunday night. This time, I had a full table signed up. Crap. Better have an option or two for a larger group. 

My coworker Chris (as Frederick the Thief) was to attend, so I had one known quantity, but others were new. Fun fact, Chris had played in a epic multi-year campaigns in his youth. Where the final characters were the grandchildren of the original characters, and were tapping out at epic levels. So he's got a bit of experience... 

Everyone else was a ??? I had gotten a note from one player that it was their first time, other than listening to some podcasts. I assured him that was sufficient experience.

Turns out, of the five new players at the table, four had NEVER played an RPG. One had played a little 5e and a Star Wars RPG. 

OK. Let's do this.

Flip the pregens out, give the sales pitch on the character classes and some how-to's. Hand out dice (I had bags of gimme dice just in case, and I gave them all out). Run through the overall basics of RPG - describe situation, actions, roll dice if things are questionable. And you're a team. 

Like last session, I warmed up the table with some questions on backgrounds and character relationships. Elf seeking estranged father, disillusioned cleric, thief a disinherited noble, an oceangoing dwarf, and a fighter who left the farm in search of a mythical chicken. The usual.

A quick shuffling through the scenario pile and we're hunting goblins in the "Notebook Failure Dungeon."

I gave them the usual "goblins raiding farms" pitch, and that the abandoned dwarven temple may have something to do with it, and we were off.

Spoilers, of course.

The party entered the complex, and were confronted by the earthquake-caused chasm at the entryway. A bit of back and forth and a rope was secured across to traverse. When one PC asked about climbing in and out of the cavern, I (encounter roll) mentioned that they heard something in the dark below, and this:

Carrion Crawler by Rob Torno

...was visible at the edge of their torchlight. The PC chose to shimmy across the rope.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

OPD 2022, Just a little randomness...

The 2022 One Page Dungeon Contest closes today, with almost 70 entries at the time of this writing. I've thrown in an entry every year since 2013, so didn't want to break my streak.

Creatively, I still feel I'm in a lull, with little to stand out in the last year(s). The Muse, she does not speak so clearly these days.

The contest always gets a wide swath of content, although I do feel that it leans more towards a competition of design, rather than content. Probably me just bein' grumpy since my design skills are 'gorilla with a crayon' level. 

My objective is to create something hopefully fun and playable as an entry, so I scrolled through my map files and found a five-room cavern that have been languishing, tucked into my notebook pages. The 5-room dungeon is an easy trope, with many variations of the entrance/guardian/trap/fight/reward model available. So I tabled out four tersely-described scenarios, using more of the classic "dungeon stocking" approach - empty, trap, special, monster, big-bad/reward model. The first four components were mixed about, with the final fight and reward in "Room 5." And since random tables are always good, why not offer the option of selecting a room from any of the four in that particular table row? Makes for 20 little adventures, or more, if other elements are considered. And while the "straight down the column" scenes might have some internal consistency, throwing dice at each room definitely lends itself to a certain level of chaos...

and you get to use this deceitful little caltrop

Welcome to a little cavern down on the coast, with its host of potential challenges and foes. 

Download me here

Anyway, I have a full table for the brewery game tonight, so I need to read up a bit and get my psyche on. At least one new-to-RPGs in the group, so hope to make it a fun intro.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Vestin Tomb playthrough and revisions


Ran a one-shot at my local brewery via Meetup. Decided that if I wanted to play more, and of what I like, I'm going to have to do it from the opposite side of the table... And the brewery folks (a few who are also players of various games, tabletop and otherwise) were warm on the idea and happy to set a table aside for me.

Since it was my first public play, I wasn't sure who would show up or drop in, so I had a fistful of pre-gens and a couple different scenarios available, depending on party size, player experiences, etc.

I ended up with three folks for the first run-through - A Meetup attendee, a coworker, and my other half. All were reasonably experienced players, and brought prepared Old School Essentials characters (tonight's system of choice). 

I asked the table a few questions to get them thinking of their world and associations or significant events between the characters (to establish that the characters knew one another, and hadn't just met in the tavern...)

I picked The Vestin Tomb as an option for Sunday night's session. A 10-room space, a couple of branches, but linear otherwise, but hopefully some atmosphere.

original map

The PCs were: Frederick (thief), Jax (barbarian, accompanied by Goober, the MVP wardog), and Elorna (halfling). I bumped the new folks to 2nd level, plus threw them a man-at-arms and 1st level mage with a spare scroll for a boost.

Spoilers galore:

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Black Fang's Dungeon meets B/X

When I stumbled back into gaming some years ago, I was recommended the Pathfinder Beginner Box set as a good choice to reenter the world of funny shaped dice.

While the experiment of PF didn't really work out for me, and I eventually rediscovered the Old Ways of Gaming (tm), I did appreciate the product of the Beginner set. Having picked up a number of introductory sets and quickstarts (and of course holding fond memories of my old Holmes box set), I think that Paizo put together a good product. It does seem to be inspired by the Red Box and similar sets of yore, with separate, slim player and GM manuals, an intro adventure, and a number of accessories (char sheets, map, stand-up minis, etc.). The material, and a few free supplements available at the time, provided sufficient material to roll up characters, and get the character choices to 3rd level.

The GM manual includes a 10-room dungeon, "Black Fang's Dungeon" as an introductory adventure. Like the intro adventure in the B/X books, the scenario is interspersed with how-to's on running encounters, skill checks, combat and other nuts and bolts for a beginning GM. And it has a dragon.


So why not convert it back to OSE-B/X? I was curious on how it would fit, if I could do a direct porting over. Plus I wanted to experiment with the terse presentation style of the OSE adventures, such as "Hole in the Oak", etc.

So how does it look? Well, the original scenario is a bit encounter-heavy from an old-school design style. In ten rooms, I count six encounters (one can be negotiation, and a second negated with an application of Cleric). The remaining rooms are one empty, one trap, and two special, if we are using the classic "room content" matrix.

Six rooms contain recoverable treasure, at least two of which will be important for confronting Black Fang. From a B/X or similar "Treasure Type" determination, the value and types of treasure actually roll over fairly directly. I really only tweaked one bit of treasure (a scroll) in my interpretation. (Edit: I also multiplied Black Fang's gp total by 10 to sit more in line with B/X equivalents)

For the monsters, most are basic underground denizens (goblins, skeletons, spider). I converted a Pathfinder aquatic critter to a roughly-equivalent giant frog. Black Fang is a low-HD "juvenile" black dragon, with some adjustments to AC and damage proportional to the reduced HD (although still plenty deadly to some low-level mooks). In general, though, I think it fits pretty well across the two editions, although YMMV.

Anyway, here's the Experiment. All pared down to four pages (no spiffy art, layout, or advice).

And the Original for comparison.

(Heh, forgot that a B/X party could still drop a nuke on Black Fang via sleep, if someone held the spell in reserve. Better turn in my old gamer card.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Dune, June '22 read-through thoughts

I first read Dune the summer of 7th grade, I believe. Checked out the big 1st edition hardback from the library. I'm certain that part of the read was in the wheat truck, waiting to unload the combine harvester. (I'm sure that my treatment of said book was detrimental to its collector's value. But if anyone out there has a used library copy with a bit of wheat chaff in the pages, you know where it's from...)

Since then, I've re-read the book a good handful of times, every few years or so. Because of the multiple themes lined out in the book, I tend to pick up something new each time, or at least read with a different emphasis or context.

I've also read into the series, but it took me multiple tries to surmount “God Emperor.” I finally pushed through the entire series in the late autumn of 2001 while on a road trip.

Talk about context.

Anyway... It's been a number of years since I've creased the cover, and I had a week away from home out visiting family on the Plains (site of the first read), and I decided to bring along a few books that were due for a re-read, Dune among them.

Although I haven't seen the current film iteration, I'm sure that my reading was colored by discussions of the film, as well as some recent commentaries on the book (esp. Matt Colville).

What did I pick up this time?

Well, it's a fast read for me. Partly due to familiarity, partly Herbert's writing style. The chapter length is good, and the flow of writing and plot tends to get me into that “one more chapter” mode, especially since I was reading this with the anticipation of particular upcoming plot moments.

I few other observations on this run-through...

Leto and his advisers are aware and angling to contact and enlist the Fremen almost immediately. They suspect the capabilities of the Fremen, especially with respect to their potential martial prowess. And although the team makes good in-roads, both Leto, and separately Jessica via manipulation of the Missionaria Protectiva framework planted within the religious consciousness of the people, they simply run out of time as the Emperor/Harkonnen collaboration intervenes.

A recollection of Paul's ongoing fears and resistance to becoming the Lisan Al-Gaib. He repeatedly uses the premonitions granted through his genetics and Spice addiction, seeing the majority of futures resulting in jihad, and fearing that – it seems he only attempts the Water of Life as an attempt to find a way to avoid this outcome. Either way, it seems that the prophecy is self-fulfilling, no matter Paul's machinations.

Paul's observation that Count Fenrig is one of the failed Kwisatz Haderach bred by the BG, and that Lady Fenrig intended to become impregnated by Feyd-Rautha as a fallback or means to salvage the breeding program interrupted by Jessica.

Speaking of Fenrig, I always recalled him speaking with a lot of Hmmms and Ahhhhs. But I noticed that Herbert wrote the interjections into many peoples' speech patterns as they hesitate or think before speaking. This probably stands out, also, due to my multiple reads of the “Doon” parody.

Leto's strength of leadership through empathy and personal connection. Late in the book, Gurney Halleck repeatedly points out to Paul that he has lost that empathy in comparison to his father, indicating the loss of humanity as Paul succumbs to the KH myth.

Seems like this whole messiah thing may not be all its cracked up to be. Perhaps time to revisit more of the series...

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Return Trip (and Updated Tourist's Guide) to Griswall

When I shared my map interpretation with u/therealregalis, I noticed that they had also uploaded a few building layouts for select locations in Griswall, so I ganked them for possible incorporation into a revised edition of the town description. More on that below.

First of all, a couple of quick shout-outs and thanks.

First, Rosie and Adam discussed her contribution to Jackalope 2022, as well as my contribution to her prompt for creating six festivals for a community. The podcast episode is here: Gelatinous Cube. I'm glad that they appreciated the entries, especially one of the "bonus" festivals that they could envision dropping into their game. Their podcast focuses on creating encounters and scenarios.

Also, u/therealregalis mentioned that they used a faction tool I'd incorporated into my 2017 One Page Dungeon contest entry, and that is appreciated, as well. 

I don't know how much of my scribbling here sees the light of day, so it's always a pleasant surprise when something pops up in the wild.

Anyway, back to Griswall. I pulled up the layouts for the three locations: Manor-house, Inn, and Trader's Shop. I ended up not dropping them into the revision itself, as the floor plans and some interior features didn't quite work for me. However, I did update some elements of the general descriptions of the three locations to align a bit more with the layouts, but the general descriptions are similar to my original concepts.

But what I did do was flesh the area out a bit. u/therealregalis mentioned that they created the map in the style of the old blue-line module maps such as Village of Hommlet, and since I take after format of the occupant and locations from the old modules, it fits.

Things added. Although we don't have an area map, I treated this as an implied mini-hex, with possibilities of encounters in town or within a few selected radii. A few of the NPCs have some additional details. Then there is a rumors table, because of course there is. Some entries are trivial, some more substantial. Several point back to the NPCs, locations, and described setting, but plenty may be hearsay. And a random encounter table, because who doesn't like those. Might as well codify if/when a skeleton wanders through town while the PCs are having an ale at the inn. 

After I gave the writing a day to ruminate, I decided that I needed to flesh out (or skeleton out...) a fallen NPC mentioned in the town description and subsequently in the rumors. I just couldn't leave him (and his sword) as a loose end or vague arm-waving. And I added a chance that he will appear as an event or encounter.

And prettied it all up a bit with some public art, either from Wikimedia Commons or the Metropoitan Museum of Art, a couple of my standard go-tos for setting color pieces.

The Battle of Towton, Richard Caton Woodville

Ok, enough rambling. Time for a second visit to the Hamlet of Griswell.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Passing through the Hamlet of Griswall

Hidely-ho, internet neighbors!

I finally took the time to transcribe a bunch of scribbles into legible text on the laptop, so filling in some blanks on the map, so to speak. Had some time, as I've been taking a burnout break away from work, and waiting the start a new gig next month, hopefully in a different, possibly better, work environment.

Back to maps.

Creative souls are posting up on reddit, and user u/therealregalis provided this map:

with the following note:

Decided to make a map deliberately in the style of TSR modules like N1 and T1. Quick outline of the map key:

  1. Manor-house.

  2. Church.

  3. Mill (duh).

  4. Inn, tavern, or the like.

  5. Livery stable.

  6. Traders' establishment.

  7. Leatherworker.

  8. Potter.

  9. Weaver.

  10. Tailor.

  11. Smith.

12 thru 17: Farm houses.

There are wells near 15, 17, and 1.

Ok, good. I typically use the Hommlet text format for my town descriptors, and I'll stick with therealregalis' building/occupant distribution for this writeup.

So a raison d'etre for this little burg. A crossroads should be an obvious point to establish a town, preferably a successful one at that. But Griswall, at least in this snapshot, is pretty small (I've populated it with around 60 folks). 

Serendipitously, I've been listening to some history bits (among other things) while taking the dogs on long walks, and picked through a couple of programs on the English War of the Roses. One of the bloodiest battles was the Battle of Towton, involving 50,000 troops of the Lancastrian and Yorkist sides, and taking place in marshy land on a snowy spring day. At the end of the day, up to 9,000 lay dead, most as the Lancastrians fled a rout. Many troops attempted to flee across rivers and were either drowned or shot down until the channels were choked with bodies. Bodies were buried where thy lay, or in unmarked mass graves.

Ok, on that pleasant note, Griswall is built on a site of a similar battle that took place some time in the past. Like Towton, bodies were buried or consumed by the land, and even the notable dead became anonymous. Unlike Towton (probably), occasionally a few of them will arise to walk around. So who would settle a haunted place as this and think it a good opportunity? Retired adventurers, of course. Several of the town's notables are old comrades-in-arms, and fending off the occasional restless dead is a small price for some good real estate, and no longer involves poking around in some dank dungeon somewhere.  

So anyway, feel free to pay a visit to the Hamlet of Griswall, have some buckwheat biscuits at the inn, and perhaps cajole a joke out of Degrir Oakenvier.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Writing Prompt: Secret Jackalope 2022, Part IV

One more prompt from the OSR Discord "Secret Jackalope 2022" writing prompts (Round 2 assignments). This time, "Nonstandard creatures with useful bits and how to harvest them" via user @wyattwashere.

Nonstandard creatures, eh? 

Well, OK. I guess I'll delve back to the lunacy that is the 1981 Fiend Folio and pull up a few uncommon (and at least one better-known) critters and make up some stuff.

The harvested organs and products are each one element in the creation of their respective products, and other undetermined ingredients or reagents will be required....

1d7 Unpleasant Monsters and Their Useful Bits

The Adherer - The adherer is a creature resembling a mummy, but is not an undead. Instead, it secretes a “resinous solvent” that causes any weapons to stick to it until the creature is slain. Fortunately, it is susceptible to fire, and boiling water, in sufficient quantities, can break the adhesive's grip. The adhesion breaks down 5-10 turns after the creature's death.

Product: Although the excretions from this creature have been rumored to be ingredients for sovereign glue or universal solvent, wise practitioners of the alchemical arts know that this is folly. However, the “glue” has been incorporated into another reagent to help deal with more ghostly foes:

Spirit Gum: An application of this viscous fluid will cause an incorporeal foe to become semi-corporeal for 2d4 rounds, allowing them to take half-damage from non-magical weapons during that period. 

Adhesive from two adherers is required to create one use of spirit gum. The adhesive must be collected immediately upon the adherer's death by dissolving the adhesive in four gallons of hot water. The water is then distilled off to provide raw material for creation of the gum. 

Crypt Thing – This is a moderately powerful undead whose primary defense/effect is to teleport its foes to a random location (100-1000 feet distant, or up/down one dungeon level). 

Product: Arcane research has determined that this ability lies within the shriveled pituitary of the creature, nestled at the base of its mummified brain. Upon slaying one of these challenging undead, a knowledgeable individual may be able to identify and remove the gland with a magical weapon.

These may be used to create a Wand of Teleportation at half the time and expense. However, because of the corruptions inherent within the crypt thing's preservation and reanimation, there is a 2 in 20 chance that use of the item will send the user in a random direction consistent with the crypt thing's inherent abilities (table from FF, below).

Disenchanter – This aggravating creature's ability is magic drain, as it "feeds" on magical energy, attacking enchanted items and sucking out the magic through its extensible snout.

Product: The capacitor-like organ where a disenchanter "digests" enchantments resembles a stomach, but is packed with filaments capable of absorbing arcane energies. From this organ, an expert biomancer may create one of two devices. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Tabaxi as an Old-School PC Class

User Sivinus at the OSR Pick-Up Games Discord server offered up to host a character class contest. 

It has been decided that we would run a contest to see who could make the best class! The way this contest works is that you sign up below and make a class, very simple. The start date (May 30th) is when you should have submitted your class and voting stars and the end date (June 2nd) is when voting closes. Anyone can join, the only requirement is that you sign up below and then make your own class, which you will submit by sending it @sivinus (me).

Good enough - I've done a few character classes in the past, some more serious than others. And it's a fun exercise to build out a class, typically with some help from random inspiration and some math help by Building a More Perfect Class.

And as much as I wanted to just enter The TechnoViking, I figured new class for new contest.

What to do... what to do...

Serendipitously, I've been perusing the Fiend Folio for some other inspiration on a writing prompt. And I noticed this somewhat familiar critter:

So yeah, the tabaxi have been around since 1981, but weren't an official character class until they were ported into the the current edition, as far as I can tell. There were a couple of other playable cat-folk races, but "tabaxi" as a player race appeared in 5e. And from occasional perusing of 5e actual plays - people apparently like to play cats.


Ok, so back to the source material. I'm not a 5e player, so other than watching some cat PCs, I'm not a subject matter expert. But I do like to convert or create player classes back to B/X. And I have the Fiend Folio.

So here we go.

Cat - so obviously a DEX-based race. The "tabaxi rogue" is pretty much redundant. Let's grab some elements from the FF, and just because, add some climbing/falling qualities for a feline. 

Let's let this cat out of the bag...

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Five Variations to Yet Another Ruined Tower (#3 in an ongoing(?) series)

Like many of us, I can't resist the mystery of an abandoned tower out in the hinterlands. The “deed to a ruined tower” inspiration came from an occasional result in the Donjon RPG tools “Random Pickpocket Loot” generator. I've used the concept of the “deed” as a potential seed or impetus a couple of times before: here, and here

And really, any “free” thing should be a bit of a white elephant, especially when we are talking about a piece of real estate.

I've written multiple adventures from a single map as a creative exercise before. In previous cases, it was four scenarios. In this case, y'all get an bonus scenario. No extra charge. So enjoy, and I hope one of these little adventures finds its way to your table.

Download your Real Estate Here

Monday, May 2, 2022

Writing Prompt: Secret Jackalope 2022, Part III

Sneaking in another uncompleted Secret Jackalope writing prompt off the OSR Discord:

Goblin Glenn Close requested:  "Party time! Please invent 6 festivals for a town or city in the setting of your choice."

Here we go:

Several years back, I roughed out an insular halfling collective of interconnected villages out in the hinterlands somewhere, so I suppose that they need a few celebrations specific to their community and individual settlements...  

1. First Bloom: The village of Amberhallow tenses with anticipation in the spring as the buds swell on the sacred tulip tree, an ancient, twisted growth in the center of the market square. It is a unique tree, with none like it in the forests, and although it blooms, no seeds ever germinate. It also hearkens the end of the Hungry Gap, as herbs and leafy greens begin to emerge. Oh yes, the blooms. Lots are drawn and food and drink laid in for the fete. Eyes can't help but drift to the tree as it greens and buds. What day and hour will it bloom, and who will receive the blessed tiding of the year for having guessed the closest to the emergent moment? At the sign of the first bloom, all tasks are dropped, all duties set aside, as the town explodes in joyous exultation, with gaunt residents pooling the remains of their stores to feast and dance, for the spring can't truly arrive until this storied tree reveals itself.

2. Burning Minds: Upon the summer solstice, the Myconids silently emerge from the deep forest to join the citizens of Birchspell for a week of spore-driven hallucination and hive-minding. Secrets are revealed and thoughts stripped bare during this week of ecstatic dance, commutation, and clairvoyance. It is a time of soul-baring and forgiveness, going back generations for the community, since they first made contact with the mysterious mushroom-folk. The Myconids receive, in turn, wagonloads of manure and corn whisky, which they carry back to their enclaves hidden within humid caverns deep in the forest for their own cultivations and purpose. 

3. The Scouts' Honor: The Bogaert Scouts are the community's watchful eyes and outriders. In the summer, they are honored in Myrkan with a festival of food and competitions. This is one of the few celebrations where outsiders join, as halfling marksmen, hunters, and snipers from far-flung communities ride in to try themselves against the Scouts. The Scouts and their guests compete in archery and slinging, both in accuracy and trick-shooting. Many apples are slain, and arrows are split. The sling competition of “Bonk the Giant” is always a crowd favorite, as the large wicker figure takes abuse from sling stones until collapsing into a splintered wreck. The celebration culminates with a hide-n-seek competition lasting three days, with the winner receiving the honorary Green Hood of Peplyn.

4. Call of the Bread: Upon the grain harvest comes the Call of the Bread, the hallowed celebration of the baked crafts. This is often the most festive and raucous of the community celebrations as the halflings gather in Myrkan to celebrate and eat. And eat. All things baked are joyously and intensely celebrated, and baking contests of complex artworks of bread, sweets, and rolls are the order of the day. Last year the theme was “Bread as Hats” and quite elaborate and tasty headgear was flaunted by the competing bakers.

5. Return of the Brown Cow: The hamlet of Deepshire releases a blessed cow into the Ablan Timberlands every spring. She fades into the dark forest, rumored to be haunted by the dead of failed pioneers, or by ineffable fey. Upon the bovine's return in the autumn (and somehow, she always returns), the village feasts and fetes, with the village elders and seers gathering around the prodigal beast to read auguries writ into the scars on her hide and ferment holy draughts from her milk. 

6. Grim Dance of the Winter Wolves: Held on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, lean villagers gather to make a solemn dance in their halls, howling in imitation of the wolves that call at the edges of the forest. At midnight, an extra pig, or perhaps a totem of salted meat, is left in the market square, to be stolen away by the wolves in the night. There are rumors that in past times, or during particularly harsh winters, that a resident would be chosen by lot to be drugged and left out as offering for the beasts, but if anyone inquires to this tale, the villagers will politely change the subject.


And Some Bonus Festivals:

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Writing Prompt: Secret Jackalope 2022, Part II

Folks over on the OSR Discord have started sniping one another's Secret Jackalope prompts, adding to the variety, creativity, and insanity of the writing prompts.

And I need to loosen up my mind with a bit of free-writing.  So here's a request from user Sigmacastell: "1d10 Failed World-Ending Rituals"


First of all, a word from our sponsor: Tonight's creative muse is brought to you, in part, by Hellbent Kölsch.


Apocalypse 6. Opening the seals

1d10 (plus one) Failed World-Ending Rituals 

(or, Eleven Reasons That the World Was Inadvertently Saved From Certain Doom On This Fateful Night)

  1. Dyslexia: The Ancestral Invocation of the Wraiths of Insanity was disrupted because Brother Llewellyn brought a vegan for the sacrifice instead of a virgin.

  2. Scheduling Conflict*: Who could have known that both the the Creed of Greprithos and the Harbingers of Clarity would have foretold that their particular apocalypse rituals at the Stone of Perchaverack would occur on the same night intersecting a particular 200-year planetary alignment and gibbous moon? A serious kerfuffle ensued, followed by a coordination of Google calendars for the next bicentennial planetary alignment.

  3. Pronunciation Error: The Chant of L'etllx inadvertently called up the Dark Lord's brother-in-law L'yttlx, who, instead of ushering in The Burning Winds, indoctrinated the Cult of the Wanderers of Aleflashi into a multi-level-marketing scheme, inspiring them to shill questionable dietary supplements and ergonomic sacrificial daggers to friends and relatives.   

  4. Dress Code: Brother Simon wore the wrong socks to the Ancient Ceremony of Fiends. The Fiends are quite particular about their 100% merlino wool. Blends will just not do.

  5. Procrastination: Fortunately the world-core-shattering Consuming Evocation of the Ghastly Monolith keeps getting postponed by the Cult of Our Holy Sister of the Frittering Nemesis.

  6. Quality Control: No organic-certified(tm) sacrificial goats were available during the window of opportunity for the Paragons of the Comet's Star-Fall Ritual of the Chain of Disorder.

  7. Divine Intervention: Planetary doom was delayed when the dark All-Father-God Croesten showed up when the Cult of Harrowed Emissaries summoned his son Antasban the Dire to enact the Bane of Mankind. Croesten admonished Antasban and grounded him for being out after the solar alignment, before likewise giving the cult a good scolding and leaving in a huff.

  8. IT Problems: Vaccine-implanted 5G microchipping was found to be incompatible with the original coding used by the Antikythera mechanism for the Summoning of the Grave of Heaven.

  9. Failure to Read the Terms and Conditions: Something-something first-born....

  10. Global Warming: The Ritual of the Sallow Wolf has been canceled due to the death of the One-Tree Athachenth, which has been attributed to climate-change-driven invasive boring beetles.

  11. Dead Language: The last native speaker of the Hallowed Tongue of the Hontintur passed away last week prior to the completion and quality-control verification of the final phonetic transcription of the Moon-Splitting Song of Vlu.

or perhaps pancakes...

Completed with some help from a few Random Name Generators.

* And, because user Jojiro was curious as to what constitutes a 'kerfuffle' when two apocalypse cults meet on the same foretold night:

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Scaldwater: Another Little Town on the Coast

Quite some time ago, I ginned up the story of a little thorp on a spit, separated from the mainland by a decaying wall. Why it was there, why it was walled, what it role may have been in the local politics or economy...

So Jackson crafted up another little burg with a similar geography and form around the same time, by the name of Scaldwater Bay

Like many maps and projects, it languished in the to-do list and backwoods of some notebook. In the interim, Matt crafted up one of the business establishments in the village, The Weary Wench, with a brief background, which I took it upon myself to expand.

Returning to Scaldwater Bay, I built out the remainder of the points of interests and personalities of note. It's been a while since I populated a town, so why not? And I needed to figure out where its name came from. 

And in the name of completion, I folded the tavern in as its own expanded feature in the town description. Because, after all, a tavern is where it all starts...

Download me here

A note - I uploaded this to, and will probably port over other selected works to that venue. Not that I expect to become a gaming dollarnaire, but more as the purpose of a tip jar. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A Return to the Abbey of St. Martin

So we were at the brewery a couple of weeks ago, and as is often our habit, the wife and I were doing our creative things. She was doodling in her sketchbook, and I was scribbling up some map content. In the back of my notebook I found a filled character sheet and a short adventure. So I handed her the sheet and asked, "green or purple?" (dice). And off we ran.

Jax is a human barbarian that the wife rolled up via the OSE Advanced Fantasy Characters supplement. She's all about long walks on the beach, looking for helpful herbs, and being somewhat sketched out by magic.

And as she was on her own in this adventure, I gave her the option of a buddy.

"Do you want a hireling or a war dog?"

"War dog." (I should know this already.)

Meatshields provided "Goober" from Central Casting. Above average hit points, and a "rescue" dog. Although we weren't sure if he had been rescued, or performed rescues. More on that later. As I've done before, many of Goober's responses to commands or situations were determined, in part by a 2d6 reaction roll.

Spoilers, of course

Jax entered the old abbey, stepping carefully over the detritus of the entryway. She avoided the doorway to the left, continuing in and inspecting the floor mosaics. Jax felt that the pulpit area seemed a bit sketchy, so only gave it a cursory inspection (avoiding deadfall). The open door to the southwest was intriguing, and Goober was sent ahead to scout. Goober paused at the door and sniffed (2d6 reaction roll, neutral). Listening and peering in, Jax saw a large black furry lump. Recognizing it as a bear, she left it to its slumber, backing away slowly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Writing Prompt: Secret Jackalope 2022

What's in my Discord inbox today?

You've been paired with Rook#1407, who wants "Take a non-intelligent DND monster of your choosing from the 1977 Monster Manual, like a Roper or Bulette (or a couple of real world animals) and 'speculatively evolve' it into a few distinct evolutionary niches. Basically, take that creature and specialize it into a new environment or ecological role for several dozen million years and see what happens to it. It's more biological that putting gills on a Rust-Monster if it evolves into the oceans. Here's a great example; Points for stats. Ten thousand million points for a couple of sketches of your new creatures. "

(Or perhaps After Man...)

Welcome to Secret Jackalope 2022. Been a couple of years (or maybe I just missed last year's effort)?


Meet the Hegemonic Cube.

Through assimilation of genetic material over generations of scavenging and predating, at some indistinguishable moment, the gelatinous cube reached a tipping point to gain an alien intelligence, after a fashion


The body form modified from a cube into a lobed protoplasm that extruded throughout its territory, slowly creeping, branching and creating sensory nodes of massive neurons to "feel" its environment. The evolved "hegemonic cube" became a decentralized intelligence, with each nerve center sharing a portion of the creature's intelligence and memory, a redundant, multiple-parallel network.

Creatures of humanoid intelligences, or those similarly evolved, speak of feeling a 'static' in their minds upon approaching one of these slow-moving minds. Those who attempt to probe the cube's "minds" by mental means are often met with blasts of howling psychic energy that can stun, blind, or even destroy a mind. 

Although light sensitive, the "hegemonic cube" has no true vision, relying instead on the sensory input of chemical means. Likewise a "cube" will communicates with other colonies of its type via chemical means - establishing boundaries, or sharing memories and resources.