Monday, March 2, 2015

The Brass Canon's Plunder - A One Page Dungeon Contest Entry

It's getting to be that time of year again.  Time for the One Page Dungeon Contest.  My entry this year was designed for ease of use at the table.  Most of the relevant backstory didn't make the final cut.  Maybe it wasn't so relevant after all.  For those who are curious, more information is presented below the fold.

The Legend
The tale of The Brass Canon, pirate captain and terror of the Rainbow Seas, is a ripping good cautionary tale about the fate of all thieves.  A holy man captured by slavers, he turned pirate himself and rose to become the most notorious high-seas brigand of the last century.  Such a nuisance he made of himself, that the Old Empire sent a small fleet to bring him to justice or send him to the bottom of the sea.   The long search finally concluded when the Imperial Fleet found the Captain’s ship, the Godshank, sheltering from a heavy thunderstorm in the lee off a small lighthouse isle.

The captain ran for open sea, but was driven onto the rocks protecting a small cove. A thousand imperial sailors and officers watched as every man pirate fell into the wave-tossed waters and drown. The Brass Canon’s plunder was never recovered.

The Facts
The Brass Canon had already buried his treasure on the island, and intended for the fleet to watch him crash his ship on the rocks and bear witness to the death of he and his men.  The plan was to swim to shore and steal the lighthouse supply caravel.  The Captain didn’t reckon on the high seas, and did indeed perish in the seas along with all but one of his men. A young cabin boy managed to swim to shore and wait out the storm.  He recovered his Captain’s body and buried it in a shallow grave.  Before burying his Captain, the boy cleverly recovered the Captain’s journal from his great coat pocket.

Escaping on the supply caravel by stowing away, the boy grew to an honest man and never managed to return to the scene of the wreck.The journal passed down from father to son to grandson.  After a one hundred year journey, it somehow found its way into the hands of the party...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Megadungeon Bonus Post: More Secrets

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the dungeon...

When I run this dungeon, the entrance looks like this*.
  There is a narrow path up to the left side of the mouth
shaped cavern that leads down to the dungeon proper.
Even after carving up that amazing map by Dyson Logos into a baker's dozen different levels, there were a few small nooks and crannies that didn't quite fit into the rest of the dungeon.  These little rooms are perfect for small vignettes.  As a final entry in the mini-megadungeon, here are four more little secret areas to explore.  I'm particularly fond of the massive treasure horde hidden right near the entrance to the dungeon.  Play your cards right and your players should walk past it a dozen or so times before they find it.  Those reveals are some of the most priceless moments in the game.

This essentially closes out the mini-Megadungeon series.  It may be revisited from time to time.  If my players return, I'll let you know how it evolves in my own campaign.

*Shamelessly cribbed from Google Image Search - I think it is from an episode of the Smurfs of all things.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Megadungeon Level 10: The Mad Lich's Prison

At long last, the very core of the MegaDungeon - a prison for a mad lich.  The lich was once a fire wizard who burned his way into this inner sanctum in pursuit of  a safe place to hide his phylactery.  He found it, but the Dungeongod tricked the lich by dimensionally anchoring him, waiting until he had wasted his gate and teleport spells, and then barred his escape with a creature immune to all of his fire powers.

Now the lich is trapped with his back and his phylactery against the wall.  If the party manages to make into the lich's prison, they will have beaten the hydrax and now stand as the only things between the lich and freedom.  Not only that, they are standing with yards of his phylactery.  That's some pretty powerful motivation to bring the hammer down on them hard and fast.

No treasure listed here.  As this is the ultimate level of the dungeon it should represent a definitive capstone.  If the party needs more loot, you can stash a couple hundred thousand gold in the phylactery room along with an artifact or campaign specific magic item or two.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blog Restructuring

In addition to polishing off that nearly ten year old module, yesterday saw a minor restructuring of the blog.  A bunch of stuff from the sidebars has been moved up to the top bar for ease of access including the mini-megadungeon, the play through of Tyranny of Dragons, and some random D&D stuff including yesterday's module.  That frees up some clutter and should make it easier to find the stuff most likely to see use at the table.

Also, why am I so reticent to step off the cliff and dive into the G+ swimming pool?  Is it General misanthropy?  The lingering burns from Facebook?  Weariness with the all-pervasive presence of the drama-llama?  The knowledge that being located way the heck out in the GMT-10 timezone means no chance for gaming in a G+ hangout?  Perhaps I'm just an old man who finally hit his technological event horizon.  After all, none of my grams are instant, and my chaps aren't snapped, so maybe I just don't have the gumption to get my googles plussed.

Tomorrow:  Mini-megadungeon Level 10 - finally, the Big Boss and the bottom of the pit!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From the Archives - Free 3rd Edition D&D Module

Way back in the height of the days of third edition and the OGL, I wrote a short series of modules suitable for use with first level characters.  This series was intended to fill the gap in first level adventures left by most publishers.  It was also a way to challenge myself to sit and complete something, and to experiment with the new powerful self-publishing tools.  Aside from learning a lot about the process of writing and formatting and such, nothing much came of the whole endeavor.

Those modules languished on an old hard drive for years, but they were recovered along with the mega-dungeon. It ain't much, but it's something to look at while I'm putting together the last few levels of that mega-dungeon. Bear in mind that these are statted up for 3.5, and represent my earliest attempts at writing adventures for other people.  I'd like to think that I've learned a thing or two about the process since producing these, so if you're going to comment on the quality of these...take that into consideration. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

An Adventure 10 Years in the Making

My ten year old daughter ran her first D&D adventure yesterday using the Moldvay ruleset.  She is either a real hard case or an old softy.  The jury is still out.

Out three heroes, Father Zeke Brimstone, the mighty warrior Angel Algerbio, and thief Ezio, find themselves on the run.  Framed for the crime of stealing gold from the village of Rattenrude, a crime for which Ezio would later confess, the trio heavily pursued by pitchfork and torch wielding villagers through a deep dark forest.  Surrounded, and beset at every turn, Angel discovers a normal sized door set into the trunk of a large oak tree.

With no better option the party disappears into the door, to find themselves in a long corridor stretching off into the darkness.  Turning to spike the door shut, they find themselves trapped at the business end of a dead end corridor.  A lone villager, an old man not part of the mob, lies at their feet.

"Don't let him get you as he got me," the old man croaks with his last breath.  Ominous and prophetic words.

Ezio wastes no time turning out the old man's pockets.  No luck.

A passage to the right.  A large room with a minotaur statue and two heavy chests.  A sign above the chests, "CHOOSE ONLY ONE".  No fools, Angel and Zeke search for traps, only to find themselves standing above a series of coin sized holes.  Open the chest and spikes rip into your feet.  A job for the thief.

Ezio climbs the walls to reach the chests safely and chooses poorly.  The chest contains only a pile of desiccated small animal corpses.  The other chest?  Disappeared in a cloud of smoke.  The minotaur statue is made of copper and has dark red eyes.  Do we look at them?  No!  Back to the corridor...

A short ways on, a tile star of the richest blue.  We all jump over it, but the warrior who trips on approach and triggers...nothing!  (Later it would be revealed by a giggling DM that the star had the power to remove a curse affecting the cleric and thief.)

Another large chamber, this one with two waist-high pedestals and a lever.  With no choices, the fighter and cleric strongarm the thief into pulling the lever.  Magic darkness descends and when it lifts, the thief stands on the right pedestal and his identical twin stands on the left.  But which is the real thief?

(To add to the confusion, our DM pulled the thief's player into another room.  They played rock-paper-scissors to decide who was the real Ezio.  Then they returned to the play table.)

Accusations flew.  Tempers flared.  Fingers were pointed.  After literal minutes of confusion, Ezio the player slashes at Ezio the DM and splits the imposter's head wide open!  Which triggers a backlash against the real Ezio - a wicked slash across the forehead.  First blood for the party.  With the death of the imposter, a secret door in the rear of the room opens.

A short hall which is crossed by a wide perpendicular passage - a thick and flowing sewer.  Through the clever use of climbing rope and iron spikes, the disgusting sewage is bypassed.

A small room, two levers, two doors out, and a waist high copper statue of a frog.  When rubbed, the statue emits the spirit of the frog and warns the party, "The Master will destroy you as he destroyed me."  When queried about the levers and doors, the frogs-spirit feigns ignorance, but as Zeke moves to the right lever, it smiles in satisfaction as it disappears.

Zeke doesn't trust the frog-spirit and moves to the left lever, pulls it, and gets sprayed in the chest with acid.  No HP damage, but his armor is degraded by two points.  The doors open, and the party moves out through the one on the right.

A wide circular chamber with four wide pools, three filled with blood.  The back of the chamber dominated by a tall statue of a staff wielding half-man half-snake.  It's the Master!

"My villagers lured you into my trap, and now I will feast on your souls."  He charms the fighter for five turns.  A vicious brawl, the cleric and thief hold off their ensorcelled friend and numerous spells from the Master just long enough for Angel to shrug off the effects of the charm spell.  With her last act of slavery she slashed Zeke to the ground.  That very round, Ezio falls to a flame bolt from the Master.

One on one now, Angel goes berzerk, hammering the Master with her sword.  Again and again the blows rain down like...well, like rain.  Finally, the evil snake man succumbs to the onslaught, shrinking with each blow until Angel finally cuts the Master in half like a dollar store pinata.  He explodes, jewels bursting every which way.  Jewels that contain the souls of his most recent victims.

Misty forms slither into the corpses of Ezio and Zeke. It is their spirits - they yet live!  And still seek a solution to their unstated curses.  The party gathers up the remaining jewels and leaves by way of a doorway in the previous room.  (It was time for church, so we didn't have a chance to investigate the pools in the room.)  The party finds themselves back in the forest, a week later with the heat off.  They walk to the next village, now 65 gp and 250 xp the richer for their harrowing experience.

The Master's Dungeon Trap For Unwary Adventurers
Not bad for a first timer.  We had brutal combat.  Foreshadowing.  A wealth of traps.  Even a doppleganger.  It was obvious she drew on her own exposure to media, in fine DMing tradition. Overall the dungeon was a bit railroady, but on the whole it's a great start to her DMing career.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Return to the Megadungeon: The Dragon Sublevel

A couple of years ago, this blog presented readers with the first ten levels of a miniature mega-dungeon.  The series ended abruptly when the hard drive on which it rested gave up the digital ghost.  Over the last few months a few loyal readers have asked for an explanation, and rather than provide one...aside from the previous sentence...I finally dug up the old hard drive and grabbed the necessary files to finish the thing off.

By way of a refresher, what we're doing here is stocking one of Dyson Logos' impressive full page maps. The only things left to detail are the final boss level, which contains a lich imprisoned by his own limited spell set.  The poor crazed thing is a fire-based mage whose escape has been barred by a powerful creature immune to fire attacks.  Before we get to that final level, though, there are a couple of nooks and crannies left to flesh out.  Sublevels like the green dragon lair in the upper left hand corner only reachable by pulling yourself upstream against the swift underground current.

In retrospect, and having spent time reading through the amazing amount of material scattered throughout the OSR-verse, this dungeon might not be very playable.  It's way too cramped.  Moldvay, Holmes, and the great Gygax himself suggest having plenty of open space, and there aren't very many of those in this dungeon.

More good news on the recovered hard drive front!  I've found a few full-blown modules that I put together almost ten years ago.  These are for Third Edition D&D, and designed for use under the OGL, but they should be suitable for any edition or any OGL game.  Give me a few days to polish one up, and if there's interest, I can probably bang out a few more with little effort.