Monday, April 30, 2012

Dungeon Plunder: The Leech Wand

Feel free to print this up
and give it to your players
when they find this 'treasure'
in a hoard somewhere.
Welcome to Dungeon Plunder, a new series of blog posts.  Each one details a magic item that you can use in your campaign, complete with history, rules, effects, and pretty pretty pictures.  The first piece of dungeon plunder is a magic item that might force your players to make some hard choices.

The Leech Wand is a magic wand with a handle carved to represent a big fat leech.  To activate it, you grip the back end of it in the palm of your hand, point the business end at a single target, and squeeze the handle good and tight.  The wand will latch onto your palm and suck out a few ounces of your blood (1d4 damage worth).  At the same time it does this, it will drain even more blood from the target (no save), who takes 3d4 damage from the blood loss.  Sated, the wand will not work again for at least another 12 hours.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kids Stuff Fourdux Redux

A couple of days ago you saw some junk being spun into Tau terrain in the hopes that the Tau terrain could be spun into gold - or at least some Imperial Guardsmen.  Here are the buildings with paint.

The Tau stuff is really easy to design and paint.  It's so alien, and so clean looking, that you can't go wrong just slapping random stuff together and giving it a hefty white base coat.  Boom!  Nearly instant terrain.  Now to see if the boy can deliver on the trading end of things.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Axerat Cometh

More painted Pendraken figures for your edification today. I've got four each of the axerats and swordsrats. That's a convenient number, as it lets me show you left, right, front, and back in a single shot. These skirmishers have slightly different colorations to give them more individuality, but the Devlan Mud wash ties the whole scheme together in a dirty brown haze.

FR4 - Large rats with axe
The shields on these murderous vermin are great.  Lots of personality.
FR2 - Large rats with swords
Pretty sure the curved swords here are a design decision that has more to do with protecting the blades from bending than any sort of design consideration, but I like them bent.  It makes the figures look more alien and sinister than bo-standard straight blades would have.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Dungeon: Level 5 - Pool of Earth

The weight of the earth presses down upon those who explore these halls.  The walls themselves seem to bend with the stress, and trickles of sand and dust fall from the sagging ceilings.  At odd moments, the halls fill with the creaks and groans of the roots of the mountain settling around this part of The Dungeon.

Living statues - it's about time we hit these classics.

The Dungeon: Level 5 - Pool of The Earth

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kid's Stuff Fourdux

The boy thinks he can trade some Tau terrain for more Imperial Guardsmen, so I spent a day knocking together some random bits of junk from around the house and this is the result.

On the left we have a deodorant package with some disposal razor blade handles glued to it.  The center power station thingy is the top of a dish soap bottle with five blade covers glued to it, and a super glue cap to top it off.  The right building is a flower pot and a large syringe cover detailed with more razor handles and platicard.  This will only look like a bunch of junk glued together until first coat of paint.  Then it'll look like a bunch of junk glued together with a coat paint on it. 

But!  Once the detailed painting is wrapped up, then it'll look like home sweet home to a band of Tau.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pendraken Homo Rodentia

Pendraken's line of stupid, stupid rat creatures has a lot of variety to it. The six types of rat things that came in my dungeon pack assortment barely scratch the surface, but they fit my needs just fine. The gun and bomb wielding packs don't jive with the dark age feel of my current D&D campaign. The ratmen carrying the ghetto-blasters are right out.

These assasins and spear-rats definitely jive with it, though.  Click on the picture for a bigger view, and you can see the greenish poison dripping from their daggers.   You should also be able to see that each cloak has a different color trim to it, as well.

FR3: Large rats with daggers

FR11: Small rats with polearm

For those of you following the megadungeon posts, these guys are going to fill in for the goblins on Level 1.  Nothing changes but the miniatures and the feel of the unknown.  A couple of the crew know all about goblins, and just swapping out this miniature should go a long way towards adding some mystery and danger to an otherwise standard goblin murder run.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leman Russ: Complete!

Gentlemen! Behold! The five dollar Leman Russ!

The boy made a very bold choice of color schemes, and I've hewed exactly to it.

The boy is painting his own little mans, and the one shown here isn't complete yet.  It's just here for scale and to show how the unified paint scheme will look on the table.

Clearly, I need to work on my freehand brush work.  That winged skull on the turret is hack work.  The rest of the tank more than makes up for it.

Just in case the color scheme isn't enough - this should help establish whose tank we're looking at.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Swordsrats and Bill and Another Bill

Pendraken DNP7, the dungeon booster pack includes 2 supplies horses.

Pendraken ratmen.
Not sure what we're looking at in that last photo. I bought the Pendraken dungeon pack and it came with a nice assortment of ratmen, but it didn't identify the product number - just a big bag of little mans.  These could be little rats or big rats, and the could have swords or polearms or spears.  My bet is FR13, Large Rates With Scythe Like Spears.  (Ed Note:  Nope - it's FR1, Rates with Large Swords.] Since they will be stand ins for goblins (who need that second rank of fighters), they're gonna be sword-rats in my dungeons.

The white powder that makes it look like they've just come in from the cold is a big goof up on my part.  Didn't shake the can of varnish well enough before spraying and wound up giving them a light dusting of white.  A toothbrush took most of it off, but there's a bit left.  Not gonna worry about it - just adds more texture to the figures.  But learn from my mistakes, kids; for best results, you should always shake your cans.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Leman Russ: Painting Strategy

Peter D asked a great question in the comments on the last post. It's such a good question, it deserves it's own blog post. I didn't want to hide the answer among the comments.

The acrylic paints that you get for a buck or two at the local craft store are cheap and come in a wide variety of colors, but a lot of them aren't thick enough to show up against a black background. The lighter shades really need to be applied to a white background to get the full effect. Without the white drybrushing, the light greens and purples won't show up.

The white drybrush coat also gives you more texture for less work. When you block paint a color onto the white ares, the places where the white isn't as thick give you colors that are muted. This means more shading in the figure's colors. You can even control the amount of shading by controlling how thick you apply the dry brush. A dark figure gets a thinner coat of white, and the same color will wind up darker. You'll see exactly what I mean when I post the fully painted tank. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek:

Notice all the black lines in that picture?  Those are a result of the black base.  The white drybrush also turns your miniature into a bit of a coloring book; that is to say, it leaves you with a lot of black lines and a clear indication of where the colors go and where they don't.

This technique works for pretty most figures.  I haven't been using it on the 10mm figures, as the ink wash does the same job with less hassle on the smaller figures.  You can use both techniques on bigger figures, though, and you get even more depth in your miniature. Maybe one of these days I'll post a step-by-step of my technique on a 28mm figure to show what I'm talking about. Thanks for the inspiration, Peter D.

Work in More Progress: Leman Russ

The cardboard tank nears completion.  Side sponsons, black paint, white drybrush, this beast is ready for its final paintjob.  In keeping with the theme of the Imperial Guard unit, it's going to get a green and purple camouflage paint scheme.  Wouldn't be my first choice, but it's a commission for my favorite client.
 Main battle cannon, lascannon, smoke dischargers, and heavy bolters.  That's a lot of dakka.

The rivets were made by placing a drop of black 'puffy paint'.  That's a fabric paint that beads up well enough to give you rivet-like texture.  In retrospect, I should  have fully painted the tank first, then added the rivets.  As it stands, I'm going to have to paint the whole tank, then paint each rivet black, and then add a flash of silver.  That's going to take a while.  Live and learn.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trapped Like Rodentia

The rodents are coming.  Better keep them away from the foodstuffs.
FR10: Rats, and DN28: Tables

Pendraken figures all around for a bit.

With a sneak peak at tomorrow's post - the first of the ratmen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Dungeon: Level 4 - The Lizard King

The Lizard King crawled from the mire of the water pool and wandered The Dungeon for a time before claiming these halls for his own.  He frequently visits the river on the left side of the map via secret (as in: not available to the characters) submerged passages, and has laid claim to most of that pool's spawn.  In his own twisted way, he loves the monstrous beasts that it spawns, and guards them well against the other denizens of The Dungeon.  He may appear during any combat on this level to lend aid to his poor attacked 'pets'.

This may be the most random of the levels inside The Dungeon.  The hallways range from cavernous to confined, rough wall to worked stone, and from high and dry to fully submerged.  The creatures that dwell here consist of a menagerie of monstrous beasts barely kept from slaughtering each other by an inscrutable ancient lizard king. It also serves as a rarely traveled crossroads, with access to four other levels:
  • The goblins on level 1 rarely venture close to the water out of fear of the owlbear who often plucks rats out of the hordes that live on the far shore
  • The bugbears on level 3 have made incursions in the past, but the threat of the predatory trolls keeps them in check
  • The trolls on level 6 have access to a pool, but use it only for fishing to supplement their diet of bugbear and hate.  Thanks to their secret tunnel, they can also sneak in through a back door, but why bother?
  • The giant spiders on level 8 are content to lurk in their holes.  Giant webs span the stairs and ledge that connect these two levels, providing a clear warning as to what lies beyond the large pool.
The Dungeon: Level 4 - The Lizard King

This level ties The Dungeon together in ways beyond the mere physical.  Access to the submerged treasure can be achieved by tapping into the water breathing properties of the Well of Water in the Dragon's Lair.  The knock spell inside Garinginax's spellbooks on Level 7 can negate the wizard lock on the door to Level 1, making for a much shorter (and dryer) route between the dungeon entrance and the deeper levels.  Finally, the characters may have already encountered a clue to the existence of the Tree of Solace in the tapestry hanging in the study on Level 2.

In fact, due to the properties of the Tree of Solace, this portion of The Dungeon may become a favored stopping point for the characters.  The Lizard King's throne room, with its one exit, may serve as a relatively safe harbor for the party as well - if they can devise a way to bar the door from wandering monsters.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pendraken Interlude

How about a group shot of the contents of Pendraken's DNP3 -  The Rat King's Lair.  [update: Just realized this photo is missing the two sewer entrances.]

That's 24 figures for less than 10 quid.
Try pulling off that trick in 28mm.
I'll have better shots of each figure in a few days.  For now, here's that cuddly thingy in the front rank.  The dreaded sewer beast.
DN45 - All teeth and tentacles.  Eyes are for suckers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

These Orcs Aren't Going to Kill Themselves

I'd have a lot more stuff to post if this horrible, horrible time sink didn't steal all my time:

Of course, I'm not guiding this smug bastard through normal Nightmare difficulty, oh no.  That's for chumps.  I'm playing the game on double secret Nightmare.  That's where you play a game designed for a modern TV on a fifteen year old CRT TV so that half the information that you need like cash reserves and threat maps and such are just vague and unreadable smears of color.

Not knowing how much money your dude has to spend or where the mobs of orcs are headed makes a huge difference in the difficulty of the game.  Of course, I know how much money I have.  None.  That's why I don't have a TV that works with this addictive game.

Tomorrow:  More painted Pendraken figures.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Work In Progress: Leman Russ

Spent the Easter weekend working on another addition to my son's Imperial Guard unit.  This main battle tank costs upwards of fifty bucks in the store, but you can cobble your own together with a bit foamcore, a little plasticard, and a lot of patience.  This is the result of one evening's work:

One more evening gives me more detail and some side sponsons:

It still needs a pantload of rivets and a decent paintjob to spiff it up, but I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.  Once finished, it'll look great on the table.

I have no idea whether this model is street legal or not.  The boy only has the sixty dollar hard cover main rule book, so he doesn't have all the rules needed to play.  He's got a lot of nice photos, but none of the point costs to build a legal force or even know what weapons are legal for his force.  As much fun as it was to build this tank, it's a great reminder of why Games Workshop games never really grabbed me the way so many small press games do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Dungeon: Level 3 - Bugbear Den

This area was once territory controlled by the Cult of Chaos on Level 2, but the large and fierce bugbears that crawled out of the abyss quickly claimed the area for themselves.  This situation serves the cultists well, as the bugbears serve as a buffer between them and the large minotaurs and ogres who raid the upper levels from their lair on Level 6.

The floor of this area is smooth polished tile.  In contrast, the walls and ceilings are rough cut limestone blocks poorly mortared together.  This works to the advantage of the white apes, who swing wildly through the halls at odd moments.  They sometimes cling to the ceilings of rooms where they wait to ambush the bugbears in play, or hide from the brutes on level 6 during their raids.

Level 3 - Bugbear Den

The rightmost room and hallway are a demilitarized zone - the decor matches the bugbear's rooms, but they know the brutes pass that way.  As a result, the bugbears try to stay safely on their side of the battered heavy door.

As with every level in The Dungeon, you can have the bugbears wait in their rooms for the characters, or you can have them take a more active defense.  One bugbear can run for help and be back in 3-4 rounds with reinforcements of more bugbears, one of the wokans, or both.  Those wokans are twins, but most humans and demi-humans can't tell bugbears apart anyway, so it doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

If the character's first meeting with the bugbears doesn't prove hostile, the bugbears may hold out the promise of much gold to lure them into the hole in the floor that leads to the ogre and minotaur caves.  The bugbear wokans know that sending more manflesh down that hole will keep the brutes at bay for a few extra days.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dungeon: Level 2 - Cult of Chaos

Greedy men whose ambition exceeds their power gravitate to The Dungeon where they serve the unknown entity that spawns its children in the Black Pool of Chaos.  They protect and serve the pool, guide its stronger children to appropriate portions of the dungeon, and murder and steal from those that they can.  As such, this area of The Dungeon is the brightest and cleanest and best fit for human occupancy - if you are an insane human that can tolerate the bizarre wall carvings, delights in murder and suffering, and can live with the presence of vicious monsters around every corner.

The floors of this entire level are identical flagstones 2-foot square mortared in place.  Each one is engraved with the strange letters of an alien alphabet.  They do nothing, and their meaning is open for interpretation. Dwarves will find something sinister in the the perfect precision with which each stone is cut, and the identical nature of sigils of the same letter.  They are almost too perfect.

Level 2 - The Cult of Chaos

The halls of this portion of The Dungeon are well lit by burning torches placed every sixty feet, indicating that these halls are better traveled than most.  The walls are smooth faced stone carved directly out of the rock with pedestals jutting into the hall every twenty feet or so.  The pedestals support arches that would support the roof were the roof itself not also carved directly out of stone.  Along the central spine of the vaulted arches, the roof reaches fifteen feet above the floor.

The vaulted roof of the central hall is covered by bizarre frescoes - images showing gargantuan tentacles swarming over cities and mountains and forests.  Most will never see these, as the ceiling is more than forty feet above the ground, too dark for standard torches to penetrate the gloom.  The gargoyles who perch above the Pool of Chaos use this darkness to their advantage, swooping down from unexpected angles.

Why do men gather here to worship this pool?  Avarice - plain and simple.  The creatures that rise from the pool carry gold and treasures with them, and when the cultists ambush these newborn children of the DungeonGod, they help themselves to the gold, but always add to the offering pile that surrounds the pool.  As is so often the case, their greed will one day doom them when their master sends them a challenge they cannot match.  Until then, their leader dreams of finding the tomes of the wizard Garinginax so that he might unlock the mystery of the pool of Chaos and bend the DungeonGod to his will.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Dungeon: Know the Warning Signs

The illustrative example from the Cook edition of D&D.
In the grand old OSR tradition, long stairways were a sign for the players that they were moving on to deeper, darker, and more dangerous depths of the dungeon.  The challenges became greater, and the rewards commensurately so, as you penetrated the mysteries of the deep.  The Dungeon* itself sprawls across two dimensions, and the variations in depth occur within levels, not between them.  This calls for alternative means of indicating when characters leave one level and enter another.

In The Dungeon, this is accomplished by varying the architecture and dungeon dressing. Most walls and floors in The Dungeon are manifestation of the malice and cruel imagination of the DungeonGod whose will created The Dungeon in the first place, but they area as chaotic as you'd expect from an entity of that nature.  Some walls are formed as natural caverns (Levels 1, 6, 8, and 9), and some are tunnels of smooth rock (Levels 2, 3, and most of 5), while others take the form of fitted stones or stone blocks mortared in place.

Despite these variations (detailed further in each level description), some general rules of thumb do apply.  Unless otherwise noted:
  • Hallways are generally ten feet wide and ten feet tall.   
  • Rooms (with doors) have ceilings 15 feet tall.
  • Chambers (any large room with a column, archway, statue, or any other feature that justifies more headspace) have ceilings at least 20 feet high, and possibly taller.
  • Caverns range in height, but generally the wider a cavern is, the taller it's roof will be.  Remember that the walls slope up at an angle with the highest point somewhere near the center, and that most large chambers will have ceilings higher than simple torch light can penetrate.  Flying creatures like wyverns and gargoyles know this, and they will take appropriate advantage.
Every time players (and their avatars) cross the threshold of a new level, there is another architectural clue present to indicate the change.  Every level is separated by a dramatic feature - a heavy locked door, a strong portcullis, a wide of water, to name a few examples.  In most cases, the denizens of The Dungeon have ways around or through these barriers that the characters do not, but this is a living dungeon, and the players may spark inter-level conflict when they crack open a seal between levels.  As always, suggestions are detailed in the respective sections, but use your head - there are others waiting for an intrepid DM to discover or create.

Since The Dungeon sprawls about with little rhyme or reason, it is possible for characters to wander into troubles greater than they can handle.  Most of the level breaks have built in safeties - you can't get directly from Level 1 to Level 4 without cracking a door wizard locked at the 2nd level (requiring a 4th level knock spell) or fighting a strong beast that can't leave the water (and thus can't pursue characters who know all about the better part of valor).  This isn't always the case, so smart players will expeditiously retreat to safer areas in the face of overwhelming force.

* This dungeon really does need a better name.  In my lazy moments I tell myself that naming the dungeon is a job for the players, or that it will arise organically during the design process.  For the sake of simplicity, this particular dungeon will have the boring but descriptive proper name The Dungeon, whereas a general hole in the ground with monsters and gold will use the lower-case 'dungeon'.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pendraken With Paint Redux

This is one of those rare cases where a figure looks better on film than in person.  See that guy on the right?  The rangery elfy looking guy?  The back of his cloak is supposed to look like a tree branch with leaves on it.  Out in meat space it just looks like blotchy camouflage.

But in blogspace, the tree shows up pretty well.
That fire turned out pretty good, too.  Just needs to tighten up the static grass a bit.  All five figures, plus the fire took about an hour to paint.  These things make a lot of sense in terms of saving time, talent and treasure.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pendraken With Paint Dux

Old School D&D assumes a human-centric civilization with the demi-humans being rare exceptions.  And yet, with my latest order of Pendraken miniatures my collection now includes nearly three times as many demi-humans as humans.  Gonna have to fix that one of these days.  In the meantime, here's a quick shot of my latest stunties, two dwarves and a dapper halfling with a big 'ol club.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Pendraken Metals

The first batch of Pendraken figures showed up in the mail this week.  This post is a reference post for those who want to see what the Pendraken figures look like sans paint...sort of.  Shiny metal doesn't photograph well, so these have all been photographed after basing and base coating.  Here's why:

 That's the booster pack of adventurers.  It comes with two pack mules and a fire pit.  See how the bottom one is missing the gnome figure?  Not a fan.  I also had to trim down the beardy one's helmet wings.  They didn't mold right, so I had to trim the right one to get a better match.
FR3 (?)
Can't speak for everyone, but the bottom ones show off a lot more detail.  Even in person, you pick up on things in the primed minis that you don't notice in the naked metal.


DN45 (Sewer Beast) and FR10 (Lurker Rats)
The tables, the sewer beast, and all the rats you see here came in one big dungeon pack - The Rat King's Lair.  Including the two sewer grates (not shown here), that's a total of 26 figures for around twelve bucks.  Less money spent on miniatures means that I have more money to spend on buying more miniatures.  I like the sound of that.

Those product ID numbers are pretty speculative.  Pendraken has two different "rats with sword and shield" on offer - I might have given the wrong code here.  If so, let me know, and I'll fix this post in post.  Otherwise, these still do a pretty good job showing what the Pendraken rat figure line looks like.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dungeon: Level 1 - Goblins in the Foyer

Once the characters enter this map they have left the old world behind.  There are only two ways to get back to the world they left - turn around now and walk back up the stairs to a long and boring life full of kids and bills and everyday worries, or take the long dark plunge down the river on the left side of the map.  Of course, no one knows exactly where that river vomits back out into the world.  It may be a long walk home.

Level 1 - The Goblin Burrows

The goblins, as with all natives of The Dungeon, subsist on a steady diet of hate and anger.  They are well stocked in both, as they are supplied by the DungeonGod.  They have no qualms about supplementing that diet with some nice tasty manflesh or even fish from the caves to the right.  They only fish in groups, and keep a sharp eye out for predators from Level 4, whether it's the owlbear or shark or even one of the giant crabs.

Humans are not unknown to these goblins, as they often allow safe passage through their burrows to the gates of chaos - the heavy, jet black door to Level 2.  Safe passage for groups, that is.  Lone travelers have been known to disappear before they reach the Temple of Chaos.  The goblins never allow safe passage to the bugbears south of them - they know the bugbears poach goblins as they poach humans.  The door south is heavily barred on both sides, but a clever man might be able to lift the bar on the far side with a long thin blade.

This entire level is composed of rough cavern walls with a floor of uneven stone, loose rocks, and the occasional thick layer of well packed soil.  The first two rooms have thick layers of hard packed soil for floors, and the pit near the entry way has been dug down into it.  Every time the players enter The Dungeon, that hole will be there.  They can mark it's location, steal the covering material, or even fill it with rocks, and when they return it will be right back to a simple 10-foot pit with a stretched cloth cover camouflaged by loose soil.  Since this is the only entrance to The Dungeon, the characters will become used to seeing that pit, and walking around it on either side.  When they start to take it for granted, that's when the denizens of The Dungeon (or the DungeonGod itself) will fill the center pit and place two pits of the same style on either side of where the pit used to be.  That should keep them on their toes and remind them that this place has a will that is set against them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Dungeon: Getting Started

Before you throw your soon to be long suffering players (and not so long suffering characters) into The Dungeon, you're going to need to know a few things. The Dungeon is a journey, not a destination.  There is no set finish line, no ultimate goal, and no final boss fight.  There are things to accomplish and some very dangerous fights, but this is a dungeon - not a narrative.  The pieces are here for multiple story lines, and players and DMs can pick and choose, or even wind back and forth between them.  To help you decide, here's a brief overview of what you and your players will encounter in The Dungeon.

Does The Dungeon contradict itself?  Of course it does.
It contains multitudes. That's the nature unnatural
places spawned by hate filled alien entities.
The Dungeon contains ten major levels:
  1. The Goblin Caves
  2. Cult of Chaos
  3. Bugbear Den
  4. The Lizard King
  5. The Pillars of the Earth
  6. Da Brutes (Minotaurs and Ogre Slaves)
  7. The Dead Wizard's Laboratory
  8. The Arachnid Burrows
  9. Forge of the Fire Giant
  10. The Mad Lich's Prison
Four smaller sub-levels are scattered throughout The Dungeon as well:
  • The Dragon's Lair, upper left corner
  • Tomb of the Lost Dwarven King, lower left corner
  • Temple of Air, lower right corner
  • Wardens of the Mad Lich, upper right corner

There are five red circles scattered throughout the dungeon.  Each red circle represents a font of pure evil.  These are holes in the fabric of this reality through which the DungeonGod forces its influence.  For now, its power is limited to spawning children, hideous creatures born of malice to spread malice.  Man knows these children by many names - goblins, trolls, wyverns, and giants, just to name a few.  Each font takes the form of a low, wide pool, but each one is unique:
  • The letter A (in the Temple of Air) is an open, bottomless pit.  Winged creatures rise up from its unmeasured depths.  It may tap into the elemental plane of air, but only creatures of evil use it for passage.
  • The letter E (on Level 5) is a fountain of sand.  A central font spews the sand up and into the pool, which never fills.  All manner of creatures rise up from the sand that fills this pool.
  • The letter F (on Level 9) is a burning pit of charcoal that the fires never consume.  A fire giant and his apprentices have converted it into a forge.  Whatever climbs from this pool they catch and toss to their hellhounds or to the spiders that live nearby.
  • The letter W (in the Dragon's Lair) is a bottomless pool of water.  The dragon does not watch it carefully, and its proximity to running water may have allowed all manner of evil to enter the world and make homes for themselves far downstream even to the depths of the ocean.
  • The last pool is the pool of chaos (Level 2).  A foul black ichor burbles away inside this pool, and countless creatures have been vomited up by it.  They are all welcomed by the human cult that monitors the pit and hopes to turn the power of the pit to their own ends.
The deepest, darkest part of The Dungeon is actually a prison.  An ancient lich is trapped there, guarded by creatures unimpressed by his mastery of all fire related magicks. This undead evil force is stuck inside four small rooms with no laboratory, no books, and no means of researching a way past his guardians.  Powerless despite all his power, he dreams of the day that some brave but stupid souls will break the chains that bind him.  If some naive hero were to slay his guardians, then the lich would show his gratitude by making that hero's death swift and painless.

There are many legends and rumors about The Dungeon, some of which are even true!  As is so often the case, the best source of information about The Dungeon can be found within The Dungeon itself.  Treasure maps, history tomes, and memories of the intelligent denizens of The Dungeon are useful sources of information about The Dungeon.  Smart characters will use each of these to find clues to the presence of the dragons, the lich, and even unguarded treasure hoards.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

AAR: Bargle's Cave

Last night I ran my son and six friends through a dungeon run.  I used the excellent one page adventure There's a Sword Down There - I Promise written by Jensan over at Rustfoot.  Click on that link to see the slick format he used for his dungeon - the map is made of words that describe the dungeon.  For something a little easier to mark up and map, I used Dyson's more traditional mapping style.

Dyson's Map of the Dungeon
The evil wizard Bargle had stolen the King's symbol of authority - the Sword of the Eagle.  The wizard stashed it deep in a dungeon behind riddles, traps, and monsters, and they descended into the depths to find it.  Of the seven, only one had ever played D&D before, and that 4th edition.  We used the Rules Cyclopedia, and it worked like a charm.  Even with seven players, we managed to get through four full combats, lots of traps, and even some intra-party conflict - all in the space of three hours.

In this case, I knew we had a struct time limit before the kids had to go home.  To press the urgency upon them, they started with three torches, and each torch would burn for one hour of real time.  Not only did that guarantee that the adventure would end within the allotted time - it forced the boys to not waste a lot of time dickering over which fork in the cavern to take.

I added a few tweaks to the dungeon.  The alcoves in the long hall each had a lever that opened a pit trap inside that alcove.  The secret door alcove didn't have a pit trap, the wall rotated, turning the person pulling the lever around into the shorter hallway.  The boy's had the one guy with a torch pull the lever, leading to a few tense moments in the dark.

The boys walked straight to the teleport room (the one with the magic circle), and it looked to be a very short night.  They (wisely) didn't trust the magic circle and left without triggering the teleport.  Instead, the cleared everything else on that level first, and saved a dwarf held captive by the ogre in the lower right corner.  (One player showed up late, and right after that fight, so it made for a natural way to introduce him into the adventure.)

After clearing the gray ooze in the pool room, the goblins up top, finding the key, and going into the vermin warrens (giant spiders instead of rats in my dungeon), they finally stepped up to the magic circle.  After triggering it, they chose right, and ran down the steps to grab the sword, return it to the king, and reap a well earned reward.  They can't wait to go try the other doors in the teleport room and finish clearing the whole dungeon.  They don't know that Bargle has other plans for them...

All in all, this was a great adventure with fun traps, easy riddles, and challenging tricks.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a light evening's dungeon run.  Thank you Jensan and Dyson for doing the heavy lifting for me.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The MegaDungeon to Be Named Later

Welcome to the MegaDungeon design series.  We're going to walk through the design and stocking of a 10+ level dungeon.  We started with Dyson's wonderful map (left), and carved out ten levels.  There are a few secret sublevels in there, along with a handful of blank nooks and crannies.

This series isn't expressly written for beginner DMs.  Most of the basic work of dungeon design and stocking are done without comment.  The tedious brute force dungeon stocking won't be discussed in a 'how to' manner.  Instead, you'll see the 'why did' and 'so that', with a sprinkling of game theory and design theory.  At best, you can expect a few nuggets of basic reminders, the sort of thing that 'everybody knows', but does so often it gets pushed to the background and not mentioned until it is overlooked - those will be here as a verbal nudge.

In the end, this will be a reasonably fleshed out dungeon, but one that needs a good, experienced DM to really breath some life into it.  It will have full monster rosters and stats, and detailed trap plans and hoards ready for a good plundering. But this dungeon won't shine unless it is a living, breathing, entity, and no amount of writing can plan for every eventuality.

And that's the upshot to this series.  As a sketched out big damn dungeon, you'll have the heavy lifting done for you.  You'll know that the answer to this riddle is guarded by that monster.  You'll already know that the characters can't get through that door without the key hidden in that secret room.  That gives you a lot more time to think about how the bugbears on level 3 will react to the power vacuum created by the players wiping out the cult on level 2.

The figure shown here is a general overview of how each piece of the dungeon fits together.  It also shows where the water and the deep water can be found.  The red circles are the five pools of doom - each one represents a source for the monsters found here in the dungeon.  These can play a key goal in the dungeon - destroy each one to stop the flood of monsters into the surface kingdom - or just as a unifying element of design.  That's up to you - as it should be.

In future installments, each Level will be presented in blog post as a .pdf document.  The posts themselves will contain design notes, relationships between that level and neighboring levels, and whatever else doesn't fit onto a one  page document.  The one page is all you need; the blog posts should help, but aren't necessary when you sit down at the table.