Tuesday, May 21, 2024

d133 Roadside Meetings

With my ongoing campaign heavily influenced by Professor Dungeon Master, I figured it was time to share one of my first PDM inspired creations, something I made years ago and have used frequently since.

One of his first campaign videos, described a session that was essentially a series of road encounters based on a big list that he'd prepared in advance. Rather than share his list, he urged viewers to create their own. I did. 

I wrote a bunch of encounters on post-its while killing time between other activities and pasted them into my notebook. It was fun typing them up and reminding myself how they really imply a setting (something very WFRP-ish). 

1. Hanging cage

2. Vagrant looking for work

3. Blackmailer head to town to confront her victim

4. Artisan with a cartload of wares

5. Political dissident - not too shy to criticize the establishment

6. Political commissar - ready to enforce proper belief

7. Man chained to a tree

8. Wagon full of stolen art, abandoned

9. Frankenstein's monster, escaped

10. Hunchback struggling to fend off two beautiful bullies

11. Zhentarim mercenaries - Fantasy Blackwater

12. Evil alchemist - Eager to source exotic ingredients and promising high pay

13. Friendly alchemist - Free samples!

14. Gunpowder Wagon - Driver and guards are dead

15. Assassin - If the players have a hit out against them, this is the guy. If not, he's super nice

16. A friend of the party, fleeing from an angry gang. Maybe they deserve it?

17. Acting troupe

18. Friendly woman with a pet monkey (a pickpocket)

19. Sudden ice storm

20. Blizzard - whiteout conditions

Monday, May 20, 2024

Owlbears Must Die!

My re-mixed, PDM inspired, version of B2: Keep on the Borderlands continues. It's acquired the name the "Wild North" campaign (like Wild West but turned 90 degrees)and this week my players surprised me by delving into a cave I was not expecting. 

This was our 4th delve into the caves. So far they've cleared out Kurtzman's Creepers, dipped their toes into the Mines of the Mutants (Caves D&E) and skirmished with the Hill Men in Cave F. Consequently, I was anticipating a stronger push into the left flank of the canyon to be the most likely plan or much less likely a probe into the Brugor or Rebel Caves to the right. 

I had not planned for them to plunge straight to the back of the canyon and assault Cave G, home of the infamous Owlbear. Nevertheless, I had an excellent little module to run for them. 

Players' diagram of the cave entrances

Monday, May 6, 2024

Burrow of the Brugor & the Rebel Redoubt

Drawing is mine, modelled on Lydos' pot

My B2 Campaign is underway! This post continues on from my Cave of the Creepers (revising the Kobold Caves), this time updating the Orc Caves (B & C).

  • Again, my updates take as much inspiration from Professor Dungeon Master's videos (Orcs & Bandits) as they do from the original module. 
  • Dyson has some upgraded maps that I referenced while making my version.
  • I've tried to keep the maps and room contents similar in spirit to their original versions, but I've added a few connections to make the dungeons loopier. 

In my versions, I've replaced the orcs in Cave B with Brugor (because I can't get enough of beastmen) and those in Cave C with a rebel faction, opposed to the imperial rule imposed by the governor, Lord Kostritz at the Gulworth Keep. 

Burrow of the Brugor

The brugor in Cave B, have gathered under the iron hoof of Borghast, a ram-headed adept of Baphomet from the frozen chaos wastes. He came to the Caves of Chaos about a year ago, drawn by the malignant energies of the fallen star that created this ravine and the psychic shadow of the chaos rituals being performed in this area. Since arriving he has been assembling an army of his descendants to invade the soft human lands.
  • Borghast supervises the cultivation of an alchemically potent fungus (grown on the living bodies of sedated humans) which he trades to the rebels in Cave C for liquor, salt & molasses imported from the human towns.
  • The brugor are gathering strength & stockpiling resources by raiding local farms and ambushing foresters. They will bypass the Keep and attack the town of Hommlet in one month. 

Map Key: 

  • Entry: I've kept the classic wall of severed-heads gimmick, with one head being a watchman spying from Area A.
  • Areas 7 & 8: Guardrooms. Will respond & attempt encirclement if alerted.
  • Area 9: A major hall, equipped with big, crude tables.
    • Many human bodies being cured into hams. Provisions for the impending invasion. 
    • Several donkeys present. Pregnant with brugor children. When"Speak With Animals" is inevitably used by the party's druid, they'll proclaim how great it is being with the brugor.
  • Area 10: Barracks: A dozen brugor. Likely very drunk. Slow to respond to alerts in other rooms.
    • Raised planters filled with bones: growing Corpse Shrooms. These mushrooms restore 1hp & impart memories of the dead if consumed.
  • Area 11: Fungal Vault: Fluorescent orange fungus grows on sedated humans.
    • This fungus is the active ingredient in the infamous "God Talk" drug and is useful for producing "Enlarge" & "Haste" potions. It is a vital trade good for the Brugor. d12 Jars of finished product (worth 200GP each) are stored in the closet at Area B.
  • Area 12: Borghast's Chambers: 
    • Borghast is clad in chainmail and has a war-axe from his past adventures. 
    • A locked iron chest contains his treasures: 200GP in mixed coins, a potion of healing and a scroll of fireball that Borghast can't read, but knows is valuable. 
    • The niche in the NW corner of his lair is a shrine to Baphomet, goat-headed demon of vengeance. 
    • Behind a dingy tapestry, there's a crudely hidden door into Area 13
  • Area 13: This secret room is where Borghast meets with Janus, leader of the rebel faction in Cave C to exchange his fluorescent fungus for rotgut. 
    • Contains several cases of Rothko's Rotgut and 2 jars of fungus worth 200gp each to a wizard or alchemist
    • Janus believes that by supplying the brugor with alcohol she's blunting their danger to the region.

The Rebel Redoubt

There is an organized resistance to the imperial authority enforced from Gulworth Keep. An important cell, under the command of Janus, has taken up residence in the Caves of Chaos. While not entirely aligned with the goals of the Chaos Cultists controlling the valley, they use the other denizens as cover from the authorities and trade partners to acquire important resources. 
  • Janus has an agreement with Borghast (in Cave B) to buy alchemically potent fungus, which she sells on to the rogue wizard Hieronymus Tulgar for a staggering profit. This is becoming an important funding source for the movement.
  • Janus is also working with the Hillmen  warriors in Cave F. She has brokered a deal to provide them with steel weapons in exchange for a large shipment of Warpstone mined from Cave D. I'll get to caves D, E & F in a future post. 
    • Warpstone is the primary component in the gunpowder the rebels are manufacturing elsewhere (at the Smoke House, another dungeon I'm working on). 
  • Frontal assaults on the Redoubt are likely to be very bloody. Janus' fighters are well armed with swords, pistols and grenades. 
  • The fighters wear Zorro-style masks.

Map Key: 

  • The Entrance is rigged with a trip wire that will trigger an alarm bell. 
  • Area 13: A large wardrobe hides the entrance from this side, the hidden room can be accessed via a moving panel in the back. 
  • Areas 14 & 15: The living quarters of the rebels. Fighters from these locations will respond to any alarm. 
    • Area A on the map denotes a black powder claymore set up to fire down the hallway. It is triggered by a pull string from Area 15. 
    • If assaulted, fighters in Area 15 will bar the door. While 2 defend, the rest will circle around via the northern passage to flank the attackers.
  • Area 16: The quarters of Janus
    • Janus is a tall red-headed woman. She'll be armed with a pair of pistols and an epee. She wears a large gold belt buckle worth 100GP. 
    • The antechamber to her room, contains a large locked wardrobe containing 1000GP worth of warpstone ore, 3 jars of orange fungus and a potion of Enlarge Self. Next to the wardrobe, two large crates contain 40 machetes.
    • In her chamber, Janus has a writing desk containing written correspondence:
      • Letter from Hieronymus Tulgar regarding his purchase of fungus
      • Letter from a senior Rebel officer approving the exchange of machetes for warpstone. 
      • Letter from a Druid in Hommlet, expressing interest in further discussion of "matters of mutual concern"
      • Several inflammatory pamphlets & a political manifesto.
    • Additionally she has: Ivory bracelet (100GP), a 100GP gem in the pommel of her sword, 50 ancient platinum coins, fancy copper bowl (50gp).
    • If combat seems to be going poorly, she will retreat via the secret door to area 13 to fight another day. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

How My Light is Spent

Drawing is mine, modeled on a panel in Dracula Motherf**ker
Lots of systems have existing light rules. Why make my own

I want my game to be streamlined so I don't always enforce rigorous torch timelines or sightlines. However for the right kind of classic dungeon there's a lot of interesting prioritization and strategy choices created by adhering to specific light rules. 

In this post, I've collected some of the things that make light & dark rules fun: monsters, spells, items and obstacles that create novel challenges and provide tools for creative problem solving.

Sean Cruz

This will be a fairly long post...

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Lunchbox D&D 2: Cavern of the Carnivorous Coffin

In session 2, I finally got to use Arnold K's Hungry Coffin monster, which I've been placing on my dungeon keys for years without any of my groups actually managing to fight one. 

Konstantin Kostadinov

Still accepting new players, for my short-session open table game:

  • Sessions are Fridays, 1 - 2pm US Eastern time. 
  • Discord for voice/video & Owlbear Rodeo for maps. 
  • True open table, no expectations that players will be able to join for all (or even most) sessions
  • If you're interested in joining, please reach out

Session 2: Cavern of the Carnivorous Coffin


The intrepid adventurers, steal necromantic texts from a library and nearly get eaten by an animate coffin. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lunchbox D&D: The Zombie Juicer Caper

I have started a Friday afternoon D&D game (using my homebrew Ultra Bastard system) with 1 hour sessions. The idea is that folks who are working from home or have flexible schedules can join on their lunchbreak, explore a few rooms, and then get back to their workday. 

  • Sessions are 1 - 2pm US Eastern time. 
  • Discord for voice/video & Owlbear Rodeo for maps. 
  • True open table, no expectations that players will be able to join for all (or even most) sessions
  • If you're interested in joining, please reach out!
Art of my own making

Session 1: The Zombie Juicer


After finding some big paintings, the players squashed a bunch of zombies and recovered two gold busts.

Friday, January 12, 2024

True Darkness

True Darkness is more than the mere absence of light. It actively opposes light rather than just removing it.

True Darkness can also be a source of revelation. Ancient texts describe Darkness emanating from sources deep with the earth and radiating from distant black stars. The chroniclers tell of powerful civilizations and vast cities, deep in the twisting caves below the roots of the mountains, that are “lit” entirely with cold fires that dim and overpower the lights of explorers.

Even in our times, mages ply the the Darkness spell and alchemists have devised Dark Candles and Dark Lanterns that project pools of this anti-light.

Light and True Darkness obscure each other. Mechanically, this means weak Darkness will obscure dim light and reduce a brightly lit area to dimness.

A simple concept, but it has big implications for the world, and opens up a lot of fun possibilities for magic, traps & tricks.