Sunday, February 19, 2023

Beastmen: An Introduction to the Brugor

Brugor are voracious, horny and irrationally violent. The worst qualities of man and beast mashed into drunk, shrieking, manic bullies. They are a scourge on the earth.

The Brugor exemplify the bestial excesses of humanity: unrestrained appetites, poor impulse control, and vacillation between slovenly sloth and irrational aggression. A parody of toxic-masculinity. 

This is a tried and true archetype in fantasy (particularly in games) and I can't claim any originality in the basic shape of these adversaries. Like many before me, I take inspiration from Glorantha's Broo and Warhammer's beastmen. Arnold K has a particularly good rendition (here and here).

Brian Froud

What are the Brugor?

The Brugor are an all-male race of horned, hairy, cleft-hoofed, animal-headed humanoids. They breed prodigiously with domestic livestock and can reproduce at an alarming rate. Given access to a heard of cattle, they'll produce a horde in a matter of months. Their young are standing within minutes of birth, and on the hunt shortly thereafter. 

The most common varieties vary with the breeding stock available in an area but the most often seen include bovine (i.e. minotaurs), caprine (goatmen), ovine (rams) and cervine (stags) types. Often an outbreak begins with wildlife, before moving into settled areas and afflicting farm animals. 

They are carnivores. Their preferred feed is humans but they'll eagerly devour any animal they can catch that they can't impregnate.  

While clever enough to use tools, they lack the industry to make them. Any weapons they use more advanced than a sharpened stick will be plundered from humans. 

Herds form around particularly strong individuals and raid together, becoming bolder as their groups grow larger. Fortunately, they are fractious and disorganized so warbands larger than a dozen or two are rare. Occasionally, they'll be forced into the service of a non-brugor leader but it is almost never worth the effort.

Left to their own devices, brugor lack the social organization to form settlements or coordinate anything but the most haphazard raids into human territory. However, their mean little minds are perfectly suited for infection by Baphomet. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

#dungeon23: Week 1, the Beast Cave

 I have ambitions to write a longer post about my dungeon23 goals and methods. Today, however, I'll just take a few minutes to share Week 1:

Formatted like a journal with maps and ancillary details on post-its
1.1 - Ordure Entry
Vaulted entry hall, waist deep in muck. A rickety catwalk crosses the mire between the doors. Rotten, splintering boards may collapse under a person's weight. 

  • Beneath the surface, jagged stakes & protruding nails will pierce anyone that falls in
  • Making noise in this hall will draw beastmen from other areas.
1.2 - Crossroads
In the middle of this intersection, a large object under a filthy tarp.  
  • Under the tarp, an iron cage containing a sickly, molting buzzard. If the tarp is removed, the bird will make a huge racket and draw beastmen from nearby areas

Monday, January 2, 2023

Mute Monks

Alexander Gauge as Friar Tuck

In my new #dungeon23 project, one of the commonly encountered factions will be the Mute Monks.

The local arch-cleric has taken the opening of the old mountain's fortress-monastery as an opportunity to thin the ranks of low ranking clergy and has declared a crusade into the haunted halls. Now the local abbeys, convents and charterhouses are sending their least useful and most enthusiastic adherents up to the dungeon. 

Though woefully ill-suited and under-equipped for dungeon exploration, the silent friars will cheerfully do their best to recover artifacts and render aid to the needy within the ruins. 

  • These are intended as a comedic cannon-fodder group. Adventuring parties will find their hapless bodies everywhere within the mountain. If I need to telegraph traps, a monk will be discovered clutching his poisoned throat. If I want to forecast a monster, a monk's gnawed bones will be the clue.
  • So long as they are not actively mistreated, the monks will do their best to aid adventuring parties within the mountain. They will share rations (bland, sad food), cast blessings and bandage wounds. Hopefully players will feel a little twinge of sadness whenever they find them mangled.
  • The monks don't speak and communicate in pantomime (this just seems fun to do as a DM).

Sunday, January 1, 2023

#dungeon23 Kickoff

If you're reading my blog, you are almost certainly already aware of Sean McCoy's viral #dungeon23 challenge. In short, make a mega-dungeon one room per day in 2023 -- 365 rooms divided into 12 levels, one per month. Ben L. of Mazirian's Garden is compiling periodic round-ups

Like so many others, I'm setting out to make an attempt.


In 2022, after years of having our travel constricted by the ongoing global health crisis, my wife and I were fortunate enough to go on a couple of big trips. In the spring, we went to Peru and visited a lot of Inca sites, including Machu Pichu. In the fall, we went to France, and spent a few days in Normandy, where we spent a day exploring Mont-Saint-Michel. The broad concept for my dungeon23 project draws inspiration from both of these trips. 

Machu Pichu is located on top of a isolated pinnacle of rock. The complex is built into the stone and was originally only accessible via miles of steep stair cases and ledges carved into the mountainside. It is believed that this site was a royal retreat and ritual space (and perhaps a religious academy). 

Mont-Saint-Michel has been a fortress since the dark ages. Over the centuries it has been used for many purposes. It houses churches and an abbey. It's been used as an armory, a prison and a treasure storehouse. 

Both of these places inspire me with their long history of different uses, their grand, imposing prominence in their landscapes and the rock-hewn nature of their construction. 

The Concept

My dungeon23 (name TBD) will be a grand fortress-monastery, carved into an imposing granite spire. Over centuries it has been used to safeguard holy relics of the Gothic Church and to hide profane artifacts. It has been used as a prison and a menagerie of monsters. It houses armories, stocked with obscure and powerful weapons. Deep within the stone, there are labyrinthine crypts, holding both the sacred slain and the bodies of those that the church feared might one day wake if left unattended. 

Perhaps it is something within the mountain itself or perhaps it was the presence of so many evil artifacts, prisoners and corpses but whatever the cause, over time the fortress twisted its inhabitants. Heresies sprouted, monsters spawned. The once orderly bastion became a warren of fratricidal warfare. Dark things escaped in the chaos and now roam the halls unimpeded. 

Cutting their losses, the Church sealed the mountain off, hoping that the fires of chaos would burn themselves out within. It seemed to work. The mountain became desolate and quiet. For decades it was avoided and the surrounding country mostly forgot its sinister history. 

As fear subsided, unsavory elements have begun to move in. It is rumored that cults have begun to climb the mountain to make their sacrifices on it's high places. Bandits have found hideouts in old towers. 

The Church has not forgotten their treasures. They are ready to begin recovering them. Adventurers are needed to delve inside, to map the lost halls and bring back their relics. Those that survive will be paid handsomely (and those that don't will surely be richly rewarded in the next life). Are you up for the challenge?

Fortress Monastery, 40k style

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Monster/Hazard: Glue Snail

Darkest Dungeon

Snail the size of a large dog. Leaves behind a glistening slime trail that acts as a super strong contact glue. Stepping on the slime immediately adheres your boot to the floor.

Dungeon denizens often follow these slime trails to see what's been caught.

Glue Snail

Armor Class: 16 (as plate)

Hit Dice: 1 (HP4)

Attacks: None, see Special

Move: Glide 1/4 speed of unencumbered human. Can move on walls and ceilings.

Saves: 13+

Morale: Flees all conflict, slowly. If attacked directly, retreats into it's shell and glues itself to floor (+4 AC), shrieking loudly.

Number Appearing: 1

Treasure: Shell is worth 100GP if undamaged. If the glue-slime can be gathered and preserved, folks will want it.

Special: Slime trail is super glue. Anything adhered to it will be nearly impossible to remove without ruining the item. If flesh is glued directly, tearing it free will deal d2 damage. Distilled alcohol dissolves the glue.

Adventure Time 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Burn Baby Burn: Simplified Immolation Rule

"Fire is a burning thing..."

A simple and consistent rule for adjudicating when something is set on fire:

If a creature or flammable object takes fire damage ≥4 it is set on fire. 
  • While on fire, it takes d4 fire damage at the end of each of its turns (or the round if it doesn't have a turn), if the damage is ≥4 it continues to burn.
  • If a creature is doused with oil or some other accelerant, they'll take d6 instead of d4 and are consequently much more likely to keep burning for multiple rounds.
  • Taking a turn to stop, drop and roll will put out the fire on humanoids but may not work on especially flammable creatures (e.g. a scarecrow).
Some implications: 

Torches: Usually, the torch is passed off to a hireling or underpowered PC so that they can stand near the back in safety. No more! 
  • Torches deal 1d4 fire damage. If they roll a 1 for damage they go out, if they roll a 4 for damage, they set the target on fire (assuming it is flammable to begin with). 
  • Torches are great vs. a range of threats: Scarecrows, mummies, paper-golems and twig blights. Things with fire vulnerabilities are almost certain to be ignited and will burn up quickly. Furthermore, in my game Shadows, Specters, Phantoms and other incorporeal monsters made of darkness take damage from fire but not from most mundane weapons.

Molotov Cocktails: Throwing flasks of burning oil is a D&D classic. 
  • A burning oil flask deals 1d6 damage to creatures in a ~5' radius. Usually, 2-3 creatures if closely grouped. 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Magic Mirrors

Disney's Snow White

Magic mirrors are a common trope in myth and fantasy.  Across history and around the world, people have seen mirrors as possessing supernatural power, from Vulcan to Tezcatlipoca.

Trying to tap into that mythic resonance, I've come up with several mirrors to stock dungeons: 

  1. Paralyzing Mirror - This mirror instantly paralyzes anyone who can see any part of their own reflection in it. Escape requires help from someone who avoids looking at their reflection.
  2. Window Mirror - This mirror shows whatever is on the other side of the wall on which it is hung as if it were a window.
  3. Ghost Mirror - This mirror shows ghosts in its reflection. 
  4. Spell Mirror - If any magic user peers into this mirror for one minute, they memorize a single use of the Mirror Image spell (in addition to any other spells they have memorized). If the spell has not been cast by the time the mage sleeps, it fades away. 
  5. Extra Object Mirror -  This mirror shows an object (perhaps a vase etc.) not present in the real world. Finding the object and placing it to match its position in the reflection will unlock a secret door to another part of the dungeon. 
  6. Broken Mirror - One shattered piece is missing (hidden elsewhere in the dungeon) but if the mirror is reassembled, a floating face appears and will answer any one question for each person that stands before it. 
  7. Reflecting Pond - The surface of this small pool is agitated by a large and active fish that darts about in the water. If the fish is removed or stilled, the water will settle and show scenes of the distant past. 
  8. Paired Mirrors - If the scenes reflected in these two mirrors match (aside from any living things) a person can step into one mirror and out of the other like a magic portal.  
Still Snow White