Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Face in the Furnace

DM notebook sketch 

This is an antagonist that I sort of made up, mostly stole. It's a stationary boss-preview monster. 

Wizard Phone

When a wizard is tired or her message is mundane, she'll send a courier or put it on the clacks, just like us regular folks, but when a message is really important and secrecy is imperative she'll probably send it via fire.

Really, it's not that hard if you have an appropriately prepared brazier on each end and know the right semantic coordinates. A few minutes of concentration and poof, your face appears bobbing and flickering in your correspondent's flame, and their's in yours. It's a skill nearly every professional wizard knows.

Cunning wizards of particularly deft power don't even need a special preparation on the other end. They can speak or spy from any mundane fire. This has created a bustling trade in herbs and hearth additives to prevent this sort of intrusion.

Praman Nand on Hell 71

This is a concept that's been omnipresent in folklore and fantasy fiction but the above panel from Kill 6 Billion Demons has really stuck in my head. 

Boss Phone

When an archmage, demonlord, or other major, campaign-arc defining bad guy needs to communicate with his lieutenants, cultists or assorted party-level appropriate mooks, he can give them a call via a furnace level inferno. It'll project him super huge and scary and with a thunderous booming voice. 

It makes him feel important. Better yet, it gives scrappy adventures a chance to interrupt a bad-guy teleconference and meet the Big Bad while they're still low level without getting squashed.

Oceans of Potions


Lots of people have made potion tables. This one is mine.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Hypodermic Spider

This week I ran another Gus L mini adventure, the Star Spire which features glass spiders as the primary antagonists. 

Gus describes transparent spiders with venom visibly sloshing around inside their bodies. A very cool image! It started me thinking and I came up with a slightly different take that I really like:

I should have drawn eight legs

The Hypodermic Spider 

# Appearing: 3-12

HP: 1

Size: Like a biggish dog.

Attacks: 1x per round. 1d4 damage + special.

Special: On a hit, roll a d6.

1: Head - 2x damage, face paralyzed, speech is impossible.

2: Body - 2x damage

3 - 6: Limb paralyzed and unusable.

Each player draws a little figure and marks paralysis

Breaking the central toxin basin: Save vs paralysis.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Bruja, The Beast and The Barrow: Review & Play Report

I have been a big fan of Gus' dungeons & adventure modules for a long time. I introduced my little brother to old fashioned D&D with Hel's Crow's Final Rest. I've run Red Demon in the Swamp and Prison of the Hated Pretender 3+ times each (most recently using Mork Borg last May). 

I was pre-disposed to love this dungeon.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Three Trap Types to Minimize Boredom

I have been thinking a lot about traps. 


My games tend to be fairly crawly. Dungeon crawls, blob crawls, forest crawls. Always crawling. 

Traps are an iconic part of the crawling mode of play but it's easy for them to be boring or frustrating. 

The key to making traps fun is to have a clear idea of what you are trying to add to the game play by placing a trap. There are three distinct reasons I use traps: as obstacles, as set-ups and as resource taxes.

It's also worth mentioning that I never use traps that punish players for insufficient caution. Game time is scarce and I don't want to waste it tapping the walls and examining floor tiles. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Golems and Robots


Cybermen = Necrons = Warforged

Of the canonical D&D races, Warforged are one of my favorites

Made Men

Constructed life interests me.Where is the line between machine and person? What must it be like to know that you were made for a specific purpose (or made for no reason at all)? Does your creator own you? Can you rebel?

Frankenstein, Pygmalion, Blade Runner, the Iron Giant. Perhaps even Milton's Lucifer?

This is a cluster of themes and questions, that I find myself invoking a lot in my games, both when choosing characters as a player and when building worlds, societies and NPCs when I'm DMing.

For me, it all originates here: 

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7

Our Successors

Will we be overtaken by our creations? Will they resent us for making them to labor? Will they enslave us in return? Will we become to them, what cattle are to us?

Second Variety, At the Mountains of Madness, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, the Matrix and the anxieties of Nick Bostrom. 

Relics of the Deep Past

What if the past is better left buried? Will the uncovered armies of lost ages resume their wars, unconscious and uncaring towards present people?

The Mummy, The Pastel City, Prometheus.

Friday, September 4, 2020


I'm on vacation & posting from my phone so apologies if the formatting is even rougher than my (admittedly sloppy) usual.

I designed this as an ambush encounter for the White Apes of Thurstle Island's City of the Ancients. But it should be transferrable to any system and most settings.