On OSR gaming releases 5/18/18

Welcome to gaming releases this week!

This is my first attempt at something like this, so feel free to give me comments and suggestions!

There were over 200 products released in the last 7 days, what follows are highlights only. If you'd like to be highlighted, get at me during your release week!


Steve Jackson released a large number of Car Wars .pdfs!

Pandius Provided the Poor Wizard's Almanac: The Year of Chaos
Popular threads on the vault include a civilization, wilderness and monsters density poll; and of course the Mystarn's community response to the denigration of the setting by Matt Sernett during a podcast and his subsequent apology, and their attempt to address the "endemic disrespect for Mystara [in] the community at Wizards of the Coast." Mystara is one of the most D&D-like settings ever created, with ancient human empires, magical flying cities, immortals and a hollow world.

Unearthed Arcana covers the new playtesting rules for centaurs and minotaurs leading to reddit postulating the infinite centaur because medium creatures can ride centaurs who are themselves medium size. It's centaurs all the way down!

Greg Gillespie has 5 days left for his funded Barrowmaze: Highfell - The Drifting Dungeon Megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord and other Old School Role-playing game.



Saturday May 12th

  • Corporatocracy: Company Rule in Fact & Fantasy, by WMB Saltworks
    • A quick perusal shows information about both historical cases as well as specific ideas for campaigns that can be caused by certain company interests. The text is excessively wordy, "Usually, of course, we refer to corporations in a business sense. It can be useful to remember, however, that not all companies are corporations." If you can take that sort of meandering well, this may be of some use to you.

Sunday May 13th


Monday May 14th


Tuesday May 15th

Wednesday May 16th

Thursday May 17th


If you find this post useful, and you'd like to see it every Friday, then now is the time to support my Patreon to make sure I can continue to afford housing and which totally enables putting this together every week. 


Hack & Slash 

On Gygax Design I

It's unspoken in the rulebooks all over the place.

You are just supposed to know certain things from the culture of wargaming. But it blew up way past that microculture.

The immediate casualty was the adventure. This has been my focus now for over a year. What went wrong? Why are the modules Gygax wrote good, while others that ape the style are so bad?

Keep on the Borderlands

Let's just start with the introductions. 

"You are not entering this world in the usual manner, for you are setting forth to be a Dungeon Master. Certainly there are stout fighters, mighty magic-users, wily thieves, and courageous clerics who will make their mark in the magical lands of D&D adventure. You, however, are above even the greatest of these, for as DM you are to become the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe. You will breathe life into the stillness, giving meaning and purpose to all the actions which are to follow. The others in your group will assume the roles of individuals and play their parts, but each can only perform within the bounds you will set. It is now up to you to create a magical realm filled with danger, mystery, and excitement, complete with countless challenges. Though your role is the greatest, it is also the most difficult. You must now prepare to become all things to all people."-Gary Gygax, "Keep on the Borderlands"

Let's see.

"You are not entering this world in the usual manner" is literal. He presents this powerfully as descending not only personally into the realm of fantasy, but the, and I quote, "become[ing] the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe."

Heady stuff. 

Let's look at the introduction of Return to Keep on the Borderlands by John D. Rateliff 1999, at the tail end of the dark ages of Dungeons & Dragons:

"Return to the Keep is an update of the classic adventure, detailing what has happened in the Caves of Chaos and the Keep itself in the two decades since brave adventurers cleaned out the monsters and departed for other challenges. The rules have been fully updated. . ., encounters have been fleshed out, and the section of advice to inexperienced Dungeon Masters expanded and rewritten. In the main, however, Keep on the Borderland remains what it has always been: A series of short adventures, distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section, that smoothly segue together. Altogether, this adventure gives novice players and characters a chance to learn the ropes without getting in over their heads; characters who survive will have learned the basic tricks of their trade, just as players and Dungeon Masters will know the basics of good gaming."

What the f$% happened here? Do you see this shit? Apologies to Rateliff, but I try to edit my blog posts better then this introduction. There's just extra, redundant, words in excess of the words that are needed, for some reason that's a reason there's extra words for a reason. Right? 

"A series of short adventures." is the short description of "Adventures distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section". How about "In the main, however". What purpose does that equivocation serve?

An example from one of the worst printed module of all time, N2, The Forest Oracle. Although terrible, it's common in quality to the vast majority of material on RPGnow and DM's Guild. But I'd rather not punch down on amature creator, so consider this a stand in for the type of dross you find on onebookshelf. 

"The Forest Oracle is an AD&D module for levels 2-4. It is an independent adventure, and not part of a series. It can be integrated into any existing campaign or played as a separate adventure to help initiate players into the world of AD&D." -Carl Smith Forest Oracle
Every single word of the above introduction is patently obvious. The level range is on the cover. You can integrate any adventure into an existing campaign or play it as a separate adventure.  This is literal wasted space. Compare with original borderlands text.

The point I'm driving at here, is Gygax used every word of the introduction to drive home a mind-blowing idea, the introduction was copied for the sequel by a writer who writes as if he gets paid by the word, and the worst adventure writers don't even understand the point of the introduction so they just say truistic generic comments. "This is a module." or one of my personal favorites "This module is for X level characters, but you can run it with higher or lower characters if you increase or decrease the difficulty."

No shit?

Why did I pay? How does this help me? What does this do for me?


Dungeon Master Text

This text varies between each individual module.

Let's look at the original keep:
This module is another tool. It is a scenario or setting which will help you to understand the fine art of being a Dungeon Master as you introduce your group of players to your own fantasy world, your interpretation of the many worlds of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Adventure. THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS is simply offered for your use as a way to move smoothly and rapidly into your own special continuing adventures or campaigns. Read the module thoroughly; you will notice that the details are left in your hands. This allows you to personalize the scenario, and suit it to what you and your players will find most enjoyable.
Which commits the sin of being obvious, but considering the dearth of modules at the time, this was good advice then. Is the pass I'm giving the above text unfair?

The DM should be careful to give the player characters a reasonable chance to survive.
Hopefully, they will quickly learn that the monsters here will work together and attack intelligently, if able. If this lesson is not learned, all that can be done is to allow the chips to fall where they may. Dead characters cannot be brought back to life here! 
Then, Gygax lines out his conception of Dungeons & Dragons:
The KEEP is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Within its walls your players will find what is basically a small village with a social order, and will meet opponents of a sort. Outside lies the way to the Caves of Chaos where monsters abound. As you build the campaign setting, you can use this module as a guide. Humankind and its allies have established strongholds—whether fortresses or organized countries—where the players’ characters will base themselves, interact with the society, and occasionally encounter foes of one sort or another. Surrounding these strongholds are lands which may be hostile to the bold adventurers. Perhaps there are areas of wilderness filled with dangerous creatures, or maybe the neighboring area is a land where chaos and evil rule (for wilderness adventures, see DUNGEONS & DRAGONS@ EXPERT SET). There are natural obstacles to consider, such as mountains, marshes, deserts, and seas. There can also be magical barriers, protections, and portals. Anything you can imagine could be part of your world if you so desire. The challenge to your imagination is to make a world which will bring the ultimate in fabulous and fantastic adventure to your players. A world which they may believe in.
He is a priest, his sermon dense with meaning. Note particularly "will meet opponents of a sort" and "hostile foes of one sort or another".

Jeff Dee's art is a treasure
This is the first module, a teaching module, the first time many of these things had ever been seen. Yet the form of treating it as the first-ish publication anyone may ever see, is not something that other and later modules needed to copy. A lot of the text in the original B2 is almost an errata—a detailed description of procedures in play for lost or confused Dungeon Masters. Other then a few pointed notes, I'm going to excise this from the analysis, due to the singular artifact of "being first".  A rules addendum is tangential to our examination of Gygax's content versus the imitators of form.

Of particular note:
To defeat monsters and overcome problems, the DM must be a dispenser of information. Again, he or she must be fair - telling the party what it can see, but not what it cannot. Questions will be asked by players, either of the DM or of some character the party has encountered, and the DM must decide what to say. Information should never be given away that the characters have not found out - secret doors may be missed, treasure or magic items overlooked, or the wrong question asked of a townsperson. The players must be allowed to make their own choices. Therefore, it is important that the DM give accurate information, but the choice of action is the players’ decision.
It's bolded like that in the original text.

In Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the text and advice is largely similar and fascinating. Perhaps Ratcliffe was just warming up earlier and needed a sharper editor for that paragraph. I'd like to quote  things that indicate people carried true knowledge always with them, even as those who claimed to be kings had lost that knowledge. To wit:
"Boxed text can either be read out loud by the Dungeon Master, or simply paraphrased in his or her own words. Paraphrasing is often preferred by experienced Dungeon Masters. . ." 
"Players have a habit of doing the unexpected; resist the temptation to force them to follow a particular track." 
"For purposes of this adventure, the Dungeon Master is strongly urged to use the optional rule that grants experience points for treasure (at the rate of 1 XP per 1 gp value); this sends the message to the players that there are a multitude of right approaches to take (combat, stealth, negotiation), not a single preferred method of play."
This was in 1999, before the release of 3rd edition, where traditional games of Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire were advising Dungeon Masters to invalidate their players choices, and modules consisted of badly constructed railroads of the sort a grade schooler might create. In the darkest moment the hobby of Dungeons & Dragons has experienced, light still shone.

Next time we're going to look at the background section of the adventures and dig into things both nitty and gritty.

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Hack & Slash 

On Endless War

After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

This is the tale of my first battle. . . and loss. One of many.

I joined with the Iron Shanks, who talked of 'wheedy elves' that we were going to cut down on the plains of Waldenhof. Two regiments of thunderers with their weapons of iron and fire bolstered confidence among the throng of warriors. We also had a unit of irondrakes and slayers! I had no faith in what those non-traditional dawi would bring.

And the cannons. Beautiful cannons. Immediately effective. We set up on a hill in a simple box formation, the slayers and irondrakes hidden in the trees and just began raining fire upon a wood elf regiment of eternal guard, standing in the open. Our engineer directed the fire to devastating effect.

We could hear the screams from where we stood! 30 dead in one volley. 5 more died in the next. Still, the elves stood, unmoving. What cold hard creatures to send their own to die like that. I drew in my breath, assured of success as I watched our cannons work. 49 died before the elves dained to move.

Arrows from waywatchers hit the shield of the warriors on the left flank first, doing little damage against dwarven wood and steel. Our rangers and firedrakes opened up and the swift elves fled, downing firedrakes with their arrows as they left, their preternatural ability to fire while they ran devastating our troops. Suddenly from the trees behind us, a hidden unit rained arrows at the rear of our thunderers!

Our rangers and firedrakes moved forward taking heavy damage, trying to fire on the enemies front, while warriors moved to the back. Another unit had chased off after some archers and was getting picked apart! I grabbed my axe before I felt the hot spray on my face.

Dragonsbreath! From not one but two dragons! The thunderers panicked and fled. A Glade Lord sat grinning aboard his dragon, casting bolts of energy around the field. Arrows came from every direction as the forest dragon landed and engaged our thane in combat. Where were the slayers?!

Later I would come to find out they had foolishly given chase to faster elves. Chaos reigned as we ran back and forth between target to target, the elves taking to the air and peppering us with armor piercing arrows the entire time.

The dragons, their elven lord astride danced, back and forth, causing chaos among our ranks, until we could stand and fight no more.

And so we turned, and fled. "

Thus ends the first battle of Bedun Leatherarm.
Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)


Hack & Slash 

On Dungeon Stocking

I’ll tell you a secret. I am very, very not good at restocking dungeons. I love what’s inside them when I make them. The original idea is pristine. I don’t want it to change and therefore procrastinate at the necessary task.
Originally I approach restocking as one would designing the dungeon. This was a mistake. Restocking dungeons shouldn’t feel like repeating work you’ve already done. The other issue is that of time, it is actually a necessary, active task, requiring doing. This is inconvenient and is often down far enough the pole to just be ignored.
I didn’t have any idea how to restock dungeons and research didn’t really provide a lot of insight. Nearly all of the advice boiled down to "Think about what would realistically happen next with the people in the dungeon." Is this an insight? Yes, in a megadungeon campaign, the dungeon itself is the stage the game takes place on, identical to the overworld map in a traditional campaign.
Can a space be cleared? Oh, to scour it clean. We love to eliminate the fog of war, till all is known to us. The nature of the megadungeon is that it can't be known to us. It is a representation of the unknown; the metaphysical darkness, into which we venture in an attempt to retrieve some vital forgotten knowledge and return with it to the tribe of man. The success of the adventure->treasure->level->adventure cycle is that it so naturally mirrors a hero's journey through life.
There is without question a resonance with that idea.
So, I don't restock a dungeon, as much as I treat the dungeon as a space in which adventure occurs. Here's what that concretely looks like.

The Process

I  ask for an encounter check when they are on a "thoroughfare" and moving throughout the dungeon, once for their movement times 10.
To unpack: No matter how you design your dungeon, certain areas will be the 'grass crossings' on a college campus. Players will just find themselves traversing that area due to it being the shortest route to where they want to go. It's also where you're most likely to meet random traffic, which the hazard die roll will certainly provide. Because the terrain is already explored, they've already poked and prodded with their 10' poles, they can traverse it at somewhat normal speed, 10 times their normal movement. So whereas an unencumbered party could explore 120' in a turn, now they can move 1,200' in that same turn.
Rolling one encounter for every 600'-900' (really 60-90 squares) encourages finding shortcuts and handles getting to and back from play at the start and end of each session. No party is moving around unencumbered.
That's most of it. We've got the other situations.

Quests

Quests are how I logistically handle restocking the dungeon. I have never in my life ever sat down and rolled to restock rooms. I don't think I have it in me.
Every area in the dungeon has. . .things. Resources. If an area's been explored, and I'm looking to "restock it", it initially happens with a quest. I have a selection of Non-Player characters in town, with their own storylines within Numenhalla, who provide quests. Preparation for a session usually involves designing one new quest a week (to replace the last one they took). Each dungeon section has a pre-built set of rumors and possible quests I use to help me.
Let's look at some of resources in the crypts. The Altar of Hierax can grant a long rest, The Anamneopolis allows speaking with the recently deceased. In the upper crypts, there is a pool along with a skull wall that whispers secrets. That's really what I'm talking about: What's still got juice in it after the players have extracted the treasure?
Then the restocking happens when you insert an antagonist for the quest. Note that this doesn't have to be a monster or new encounter. Perhaps some tunnels have collapsed, the resources is corrupted somehow or destroyed. The fact that the quest takes them somewhere they have been and the new obstacle/opponent exists makes the dungeon seem like a living place.
So preparation boils down to rolling on a combined quest table and inserting whatever idea is cool for an antagonist. I can manage one cool idea a week.

Setting up shop

This is the other problem. The players will meticulously map out an area and say, "Why don't we establish a beachhead here?"
The mega-dungeon represents the unknown dark into which we venture—the literal mythic underdark. You can't move into the mythical underdark!
Part of the greatest challenge of running a megadungeon is to keep the impression of it as a threatening unsafe place as the players grow in power, without robbing them of feeling empowered. We have many tools we can use to do this, cutting experience to the bone to slow player advancement, creating a threatening environment that kills players to remove experience gained from the players and more subtle methods such as scaling encounters based on party size and insuring that both overwhelmingly weak and overwhelming strong opponents are encountered.
But most importantly, Numenhalla is a time-locked dungeon. You can only enter it once a week, meaning moving in means surviving for a week. Can they? Even if I approached the problem as a neutral arbiter, I would consider it unlikely. There are worse things then I have listed on my encounter table.
But I'm not a neutral arbiter. I'm representing the chaotic unknown depths, the mystical underworld. As such, chaos abhors order and will react to attempts at colonization aggressively.

On the Crypt Contents

I'm not exactly angry about this, but more like I don't understand it.

There's a crypt. Inside there are lots of coffins and places where they put dead people, and valuables. Characters soon realize that robbing graves while they are down here doesn't hurt the dead any. So you either create specific treasure or a sort of randomized set of options.

We are all together on this point so far, yeah? But then you look at the actual contents and it's dull shit! Like, the precious moments of my life are slipping away, and I'm rolling on some crappy table full of uninteresting crap with my friends out of. . . what? Obligation to find a rotten string?

Well, it's complicated.

First, it's effectively a slot machine. Players pull the lever, possibly roll the hazard/encounter die, and then get the contents. It clearly is less exciting if it only returns danger or treasure. You want the uncertainty and excitement.

You also want the possibility of empty. The problem is, you want them in the right ratio.

Pulling a Lever

I like to think of my players as rational actors. They are going to try to get money with the least amount of risk possible. Therefore, anything that doesn't present as profitable will likely be ignored.

I resolve this by having the first coffin they examine have a "Good" result. (No Quantum Ogre here—I don't care how they examine the first coffin, or even if they do)

I often think chances for something interesting to happen are far far too low. There's a problem of scale where people assume that certain things will be referenced more than they are. Random encounters are a good example. A ~15% chance of an encounter per roll that's made 3 times an hour, means you'll have 2, maybe 3 wandering encounters usually? And yet many (many many) products contain a table with 12 boring monster entries. 6 would make a lot more sense, more likely to give an idea of an ecosystem, and you could design more interesting encounters than (8-12 Bugbears, EL3).

So for crypts, how many will their be? 8? 12? In a session, perhaps, there could be more. If the players are actively engaged in this endeavor, then it should have value. If nearly every roll results in "nothing" then it becomes kind of a tedious task.

When designing a slot machine, you want the good to be good, the bad to be terrifying, and a neutral result to be a relief. Based on these results, the expected number of crypts or coffins you might find, I like to have a 1/3 chance of each option occuring. There's an additional cost if opening these crypts causes noise or a roll of the hazard die. If done quietly, robbing graves and crypts, One hazard die per 3 graves looted is rolled.


Contents of Crypts, Graves, Catacomb burial niches, and other corpse storage

The original Numenhalla Contents of Crypt/Coffin table reads:

Roll Result Roll 1 in 6 chance of treasure
1) Empty 1) 2d6x10 coins
2) dust 2) Jewelry 1-2 pieces
3) corpse 3) 1d4x100 coins + 1-4 gems
4) corpse 4) Magic Item
5) Ash Wraith
6) Mummy

Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

This is simple and effective. However, it's also right near that random table quality we are talking about. Writing this down and adding it to your module isn't helping.  we are looking for more evocative and flavorful text.

Not just text worth paying for, but a real opportunity to delve into the unknown of another human's mind. So yeah, it's worth it.

Numenhalla Crypt table

The first crypt looted or investigating is filled with dust and a set of six pearl dice worth 100 gold each, they sell for 800 gold coins as a set. There's also a small cross set with tiny diamonds worth 900 gold coins.

Thereafter oll 2d6 when looting tombs. The first D6 determines the contents, the second D6 determines if there are valuables present (1 in 6). Conditions last until removed by the hazard die. Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

1) Monster!
2) Empty
3) Dust
4) Corpse
5) Corpse
6) Oddity

Monster Table
1) Stuffed full of ash, swirls into room, 10-40 Ash Wraiths attack.
2) The corpse lurches free, flailing about. 1 zombie attacks.
3) The coffin contains a black ooze. Initially it stays motionless, lashing out to attack people at the most opportune moment.
4) While examining the crypt, spikes and shatters from the shadowplane burn through the area. These do 2d8 damage, with a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw for half (save versus breath weapon for half)
5) Ghouls have caught the scent of unearthed grave dust, 3d12 descend on the party.
6) Yellow mold bursts out of the crypt in a cloud 40 feet in diameter. It does 2d10 poison damage and grants the poison condition, unless a  DC 15 Constitution saving throw is made. The character takes another 1d10 damage at the start of each of their turns. They may attempt a save at the end of every round. (save versus poison or die).
7) Winds and sand blow out of the crypt as a mummy lashes out at the party
8) When even gently disturbed, a swarm of crawling claws pushes open the crypt and attacks.
9) Inside this crypt lies a Helmed Horror that animates and attacks. 3d4 other Helmed Horrors arise and break through nearby shallow crypts within 20' of the party to attack.
10) The crypt ejects bones like a fountain that turn into 6d6 skeletons.
11) A heavily armored knight lies here, until red fire burns from his eyes. 1 Death Knight attacks.*
12) A Nezumi assassin lies in wait here, and will attack with his poisoned daggers, DC 15 Constitution save or fall to 0 hit points and start making death saves (save versus poison or die).*
* Options 11 and 12 can only occur once. After they both occur, roll a 1d10 on this table.


Oddity Table

1) Energy swirls around the room as the corpse inside is exposed. Rapidly, the corpse draws in energy becoming more and more lifelike, until the tempest passes and the nude dark haired beauty awakes.
2) 3 colored beams emanate from the enclosure, striking 3 random characters. The blue beam raises the experience of the character to the midpoint of the next level, the red beam permanently increases strength by 2, the black beam causes the character to appear as a photographic negative, causing death and necromantic spells to be cast as if the caster were 2 levels higher, and granting a +4 bonus on saves versus death.
3) Though the crypt is empty, mist rises from the floor, restricting visibility to a maximum of 50'.
4) The corpse of a giant lizard lies well preserved in this crypt.
5) There is a cracking sound, and suddenly several areas nearby are flooded with a slick substance. All terrain is difficult. You may treat it as non-difficult terrain, but must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw (save versus paralyzation) or fall prone.
6) A pool of spiritstuff lies within the crypt. A wizard can perform an augary or clairvoyance here on a successful arcana roll. Death spells are enhanced near the pool.
7) As soon as the lid comes off, hundreds of ravens and other dark birds begin pouring out of the crypt. Several thousand eventually fly off.
8) The lid was keeping pressure on a pipe, and when disturbed, the crypt spews out a black cloud to 30 feet obscuring vision.
9) Inside the crypt is a stone passage that seems to lead to another area of the dungeon, through a 5' wide tunnel.
10) A strange vine lies in this crypt, growing through various skulls along its length. It is very resilient, but otherwise normal.
11) This 'Crypt' is actually the basic workings of a flesh vat. If the 15 stone monstrosity is extracted and it's repaired with 1,000 gold coins of augatic parts, you can be the proud owner of a medium sized flesh-vat.
12) Melted candles and wax are lining the bottom of this crypt

Treasure Table

1) Leather straps that held this corpse inside this coffin glow with ancient runes. Binding these around yourself grants protection equivalent to leather +1, provides a +1 bonus to saves and prevents the user from having their soul removed from their body.
2) 2434 coins are precisely stacked in the form of a human merchant.
3) In the crypt is a dagger-shaped recess. If a dagger is sacrificed, a secret chamber snaps open, inside of which sit 4 magical daggers. The daggers return to their owner at the end of the combat round. Each does their normal damage, plus 2d4+3 elemental damage for a total of 3d4+3 damage. The elements are Pathos, Ice,  Mirrors, and Shadow.
4) A leather strap with a hemispherical diamond set in the center, focuses the mind. It grants a +1 bonus to intelligence and access to either 2 sorcery points, 4 ki points, or a free second level slot.
5) Inside a small faded box, with a pattern of roses on the cover, lies a few dusty documents. These when presented to any official, military or government officer, or anyone inquiring into your business, will say whatever is necessary to pacify the official and convince him that you meet all his expectations.
6) An ancient amulet, with a bare space with a setting for a gem. It provides a +1 bonus to saving throws versus elements. If a gem is set into the amulet, it increases the bonus to saves by 1 per 5,000 gold pieces of the gem, up to a maximum of +4 to saving throws versus elemental damage
7) Two keys lie within the crypt, a 1"brass barrel key with a horse shaped bow (73), A 3" bronze barrel key, with a cross shaped hole in a flat bow.
8) A ceramic flask is engraved with the name Gilgithas. Gilgithas is a chain demon who's essence is trapped in the flask. If freed he will perform one service. 
9) A set of 12 marbles made from gemstone, 100 gold each, 1500 for the set.
10) A large wooden plank, which encumbers 3 stone has delicate etching of a boar hunt in the woods. It is worth 1,200 gold.
11) Various silver trinkets, badly tarnished and set with semi-precious gems, all told worth about 300 gold coins.
12) A goblet that turns holy water into a liquid that cures disease and illness.
13) A 3" diameter jeweled loop that turns anything passed through it invisible until the next sunrise.
14) A vine necklace that exudes alteration magic. When donned, it comes to life and threads itself though the nasal cavity and sinuses of the wearer, looping around outside the back of the head. While worn, the wearer can breath water. Removing it takes a full round and leaves you stunned for the next round.
15) A crystal bracelet summons a suit of frozen armor that surrounds the bearer, granting them an armor class as chain, but without restricting their movement. Any fire damage will be nullified but cause the armor to dissipate for 1 minute.
16) A vial contains a pungent liquid. As an action, you can take a quaff and vomit a bolt of bile and acid in a 30' line that does 4d8 damage with a dexterity save equal to your constitution modifier, plus your proficiency bonus plus 8 for half (Save vs. Breath weapon). There are six doses in the bottle.
17) Inside this is a geomancers staff made of fragrant hickory. It has the head of a ram which is inlaid with 5 onyx. This acts as a +3 Quarterstaff with 10 charges, and it gains 1d6+4 charges at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20, with a roll of 1 indicating the staff is destroyed. Spells. You can use an action to expend 1 or more of the staffs charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC. Aura of Vitality (1 charge), Erupting Earth (2 charges), Banishing Smite (3 charges), Antimagic Field (8 Charges)
18) A greatbow made of yew wood, known as the Thorliusson Bow. The grip is wrapped in dull brown leather. The bowstring is actually a fine chain made of normal electrum. Accompanying the bow is a quiver of oiled brown leather with sheep fur trim. It contains 23 barbed +3 arrows with shafts of cypress wood painted yellow-orange and fletching of two mustard yellow feathers and one dark brown feather. It is a +2 bow, and any non-magical arrow fired through the bow can be used to cast entangle centered on the target once a day. The targets are ensnared with electrum chains.
19) A ray pistol sits discussed in this crypt. It shoots bolts of flame energy that do 1d8+1 points of damage. It has a 1d12 ammunition die.
20) This body is wearing two electrum gauntlets set with a rare white jade. They can be removed from the crumbling body without difficulty.

Replaced used entries with one of the following
A set of earrings with black agate, worth 150 gold coins.
A copper headband set with a malachite worth 80 gold coins.
An electrum mask of a tiger, vibrantly painted, worth 600 gold coins
A silver cloak pin, set with three tiny rubies worth 400 gold coins
A small leather sack containing 100-400 coins.
Six small tiger agates worth 30 gold coins each (180 total).
A diamond worth 1,000 gold coins.

A Professional Nod to Gus L, who does crypts right.


Hack & Slash 

On the Righteous

We are beset by a plague of the righteous.

That feeling is a glorious one, too often set aside by the unrelenting hostility and blunt reality of the real world. When are you within your body, when you are hungry, tired from hard labor, in struggle and pain, we no longer have the clarity of being righteous.

But when those things are set aside, deferred in the same way evolution is deferred by actions we take to dictate our convenience, oh how righteous we can become. There's even science in it. Even the worst of us believes he's above average. Nearly everyone who thinks that is wrong.

The reason this is important is because we are at or near an apogee. Things are, by every quantifiable metric, the best the have ever been. To note: Parents are half as likely to lose a child as they were in 1990. In thirty years, global poverty has dropped from 40 to 10%. [source] The world is so at peace, open warfare has almost been eliminated [source], Historically, violence has been all but eliminated [source][source], Nearly every human worldwide (6.5 billion) has access to drinkable water [source], in 1820, only 12% of all humans could read. Now over 83% can [source] World production has increased over 100 times in the last 200 years. [source] Access to electricity, food, I mean, it's nearly impossible for you to understand just how blinking wonderful ever little last damn thing is.

Your Warlords
But there's a war on, and don't doubt that it's a war. Those waging it simply desire power and control. It isn't even about money—they have more than they need. This isn't imaginary. We are involved in a culture war. It's a war because harm is being done. There is a public space (the internet) and people are being driven away from it and livelihoods are being destroyed. We're beyond physical warfare, for now, we're engaged in a war of culture between various factions, who wish to co-op you for your own ends.

You see, the insanity that the culture war is thriving on, doesn't exist. Not to dismiss their concerns. But the realities of these situations is well educated, well meaning people, are gaining more and more power and resources to make things better and better for all people everywhere all the time. In all cases. Do you not believe me?

Behold, the infamous C-16! The Canadian "transgender law" of great dispute. No matter what you think, no one can read the discourse over the bill and claim for one second that the people discussing it aren't well-educated, well-meaning, and passionately interested in creating the best society possible.

So if you're caught up in this culture war, because you've voluntarily entered yourself into someone's system of control or perhaps have become a victim to it, driven out of spaces, harrassed, and just not involved because it's too difficult to bear the constant conflict, then, well, you are a sign that the culture war is winning and we are losing.

I was guilty of being a righteous man. It is a trait of youth, and now that I am older, I fear myself then. I think a smarter man than I am would also fear the righteous. They are so pure and certain in a world with no certainty. By it's nature, someone has to suffer from that.

One of the prime conflict of adulthood is assimilating into society. It's always been difficult to do so, perhaps more today without rites of passage and the changing world. Much easier to claim corruption of what came before and in your own certainty to attack the old world with fire. Those who would create this new better pure world (over our insanely good one) never imagine that the gun they wish to aim at others would ever be aimed at themselves.

I'm just a man, who like you, longs to not suffer indignity and maintain my pride. But that is not the way the world works. You cannot exist, they must have you within their control. Shared articles, advertisements, data mining, facebook and cambridge analytical. All lies to get you within a system of control.

And now that we're almost to the point of sounding like a paranoid rant. . . this is relevant to Dungeons and Dragons because-

Fire down below

This is the nature of man. In a world of Dungeons & Dragons, you have, by definition, tremendous inequality. There are archmages with incalculable power, god-cults, hoards driven forth by demi-gods. One group of people is focused on their basic needs. Another, with power, immortality, and wealth—they can become the most righteous of all.

Secondly, it reminds us that the environments that we explore, ultimately are the workings of the nature of men. In a literal sense, it is a man who creates the adventure, so it is his depths you are exploring. In a more figurative sense, the real encounters in Dungeons and Dragons are those of thinking peoples. Peoples who not only have been co-opted into someones system of control, but also individuals who are human.
You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

Many people have difficulty imagining that other people are truly different than them.A large portion of the world finds the idea of wiping with paper and sitting on toilets to be a disgusting practice. Ancient romans had no concept of hetero- or homo-sexuality, rather they viewed sexual preference (and sexual power dynamics) related to who was the penetrator or penetratee.

Yes, functionally we are all human. But the ways in which we approach and think about life are radically different. Those ancient peoples would seem alien. But to their thinking, their beliefs and logic are irrefutable.

When the players interact with someone, they are not a caricature. As different as they were, there were a million romans smarter then you. You know your well held beliefs? There are people with 50 more IQ points than you that hold the opposite beliefs for extremely logical reasons you may struggle to understand. Why is this not so for all people?

It is.

Your environments should be shaped by minds like these.
Your characters should have minds that make them people, not caricatures.
Your monsters should have interactions with characters that make them monstrous.
The worst monsters should be people. It isn't Tiamat that's the danger in Dragon Queen, it's her cult.

The game is a form of catharsis, one made all the more meaningful by real choices, choices that feel real when people are represented as people. The mechanical nature of this is simple. They should have concerns outside of whatever purpose they serve in the game, monsters and humans alike.

Oh, but why this topic? I've long passed a time of righteousness. I'm going to enter the culture war just as far as designing adventures that are easy to use and creativing evocative dungeons enters it. I'm not going to worry about how others or society might describe me. I know my truth, and how I'm viewed by other people—my own conscious will guide me, as difficult and treacherous a road that is. . .

Any day you're drawing dungeons is a good day. Relax, live your best life and enjoy. And I hope to see you free.


Hack & Slash 

On the Upper Crypts

And here reside the upper crypts.
As always, 600.dpi png versions are available for my Patreons for use with VTT. 
Megadungeon #3 is coming.


Hack & Slash 
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