Sunday, November 4, 2012

D&D Coloring Book

In 1979 an official Dungeons and Dragons coloring book was released. The illustration was done by Greg Irons. In addition to some wonderfully evocative illustrations there were also descriptions of various creatures and a write-up of a quick adventure that you could play. Over at Monster Brains Aeron Alfrey uploaded scans of the book. I've gone and downloaded the scans and made a single PDF file out of them using the free software Image to PDF Converter. Counting the cover and the back page the pdf file is 32 pages long. I'd love to see people scanning in their coloring and giving them to me so I can upload and share with others. Here's a link the pdf.

Here are some sample pages.


The Inn

The Great Serpent

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Twenty Scenes for an Urban Dungeon

For a long time I was of the mindset that dungeon crawls were boring. "Who wants go open up another prison door and face some more skeletons?", I'd ask. Some time ago I had an epiphany of sorts and realized that regarding all dungeons as simple underground prisons was being very short sighted of me. These days I look at just about any underground structure as a "dungeon", whether it's a vast cave complex, a sewer system, a train station, or anything else really. Part of what I like doing in this blog is presenting different aspects of dungeons, and as you all know I'm of the opinion that the best fantasy is reality. 

As such I present 20 (well really 21, but who's counting) scenes that you could use in your next urban dungeon crawl. 


Which one do you take?

You know this excursion isn't off to a good start. 

Abandoned bunker? Arms depot? Secret experimental lab?

Space station or space ship entrance?


Down or up?

You didn't think it was going to be as easy as stairs did you? Only way up or down is climbing the pole. 

I'm sure these stairs are completely stable and reliable. 

Hello claustrophobia. 

This has a very sci-fi feel to me. 

No stairs? No ladder? Guess you'll have to make do with an abandoned elevator shaft

Partially destroyed landing. Poisonous mold on the walls--don't touch if you value your life. 


Clearly some sort of secret installation housing horrible things. 

Brief glimpses of light make this one spooky. 

Industrial tunnel with blood spattered walls. 

You do not want to know what's in the water.

Sci-fi/cyberpunk environment.


Lots of places for bad things to hide

What did this machinery control?

Sci-fi control room or observation room. 

This room is not safe. Too many corridors and tunnels converge on it. 

Store room? Bunk beds? Shelves?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alice in Wonderland as a classic dungeon adventure

I was watching Alice in Wonderland the other day and I realized partway through it that it's really a classic dungeon delve with some cool and interesting twists. Wikipedia calls it a prime example of the "literary nonsense" genre. The only connecting thread between all the various chapters is simply Alice, who is exploring Wonderland. That's not unlike many adventures and campaigns that try to have a unifying theme but end up being disjointed.


--down the rabbit hole is just a euphemism for entering the dungeon via whatever dungeon entrance there might be (or in some cases going to a different reality, e.g. "Follow the white rabbit" from Matrix)

Does this not look like an entrance to an underground lair?

--the movie version has a prophecy of Alice being the savior of Wonderland. Rather a cliche for fantasy rpgs, but it happens often enough. 

--ambushes from weird and ferocious creatures happen almost immediately. 

Jubjub Bird by David Elliot (from Carrol's Hunting of the Snark)


Either of those could be interesting monsters to fight. 

--there are magical potions aplenty, though in one case it's actually disguised as a cake.

--there are magical items (fans, swords, potions, hats, timepieces)

--weird magic (time stopping still during the Mad Tea Party for example)

--magical swords (The Vorpal Blade)

--nasty monsters to defeat at the end of the campaign (the Jabberwocky)

Jabberwocky vs The Vorpal Blade

I'm a big fan of the end fight sequence in the movie.

I think it's an interesting thought experiment to re-invent or re-tell stories in a new genre or look at them in a new way. I especially think it's interesting to change the story almost completely based on changing viewpoints, or mood. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Underground Cities

If you've read this blog at all you know I'm a big fan of using real life settings and events as inspiration for gaming. I've often linked to cool "real life megadungeons", most of which were actually tunnels or mines and such. When I've linked to an underground city it's been underground because of extreme age. Today I have some underground cities that were purposely built to be underground.

Derinkyu was built in the 8th-7th centuries B.C. and could accommodate 20,000 to 30,000 people. It consisted of 13 levels, more than enough to keep you busy exploring. 

Side view 


The city above

Kaymakli is another underground city similar to Derinkuyu. It's probably older and is more spread out than Derinkuyu, which is built deeper. People in the area still use some of the rooms as stables, cellars, etc.


Entrances dotting the hillside. 


I couldn't put this post together without mentioning Petra. Established by the Nabataens around 300 B.C., the city grew rich on the spice trade by charging each caravan for safe conduct through their lands. 

Entrance to the city.


View from a distance

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ten Features for Your Dungeon

For your enjoyment ten things to spice up your dungeon. 

Just imagine if the mouth started speaking just as your party walked by.

No dungeon is complete without a statue

Or some cool architecture.

You also need some cool landscapes

How about a shrine to unknown gods?

You definitely need some flying things to swoop down and get tangled in hair.

I love the idea of sloshing through a flooded cavern and having to deal with debris in the way.

Is it rock? Is there something inside waiting to be hatched? Whatever it is don't knock it down or break it open or you'll surely regret it. 

Lost tomes of knowledge.

A warrior's fate. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Necromantic Investigator

This is an idea that I've had kicking around in my head for awhile. Most of the time in fantasy when we see necromancy at work it's out-and-out evil. If it's not blatantly evil, it's at least implied to be dabbling in evil. Does it have to be that way though?

Here are some thoughts of mine on various things that a Necromantic Investigator would have at her disposal to be able to do her job. I actually talked about it a bit in this post, which mostly a collection of thoughts about the job. I want to lay out some skills and spells that an Investigator would need.

--communicate with the dead
level 1 - ghosts (or other active undead)
level 2 - freshly killed
level 3 - dead for 30 days to a year
level 4 - dead for more than a year

For ghosts and other spirits, no physical object is needed. To speak to a person who has been killed but is not a ghost, the necromancer must be touching or holding a piece of the body (skin, hair, teeth, bones, etc.) The length of time which a Necromancer can speak with the dead is based on skill level and is measured in tens of seconds.

--sense violence
level 1--sense if murder was committed recently
level 2--sense if murder was committed within the last 30 days
level 3--sense if murder was committed in a location within the last year
level 4--sense if murder was committed in a location longer than a year (very rare ability)

Investigator must be in the physical location where the violence took place. The distance at which the investigator can sense the violence is based on skill.

--read the past
This skill allows the Necromancer to see an object's past history. Not necessarily a solely necromantic skill, but one developed by them to be used in solving crimes. The necromancer must be touching the object in order to use this skill.
level 1--up to 24 hours in the past
level 2--24 hours to 30 days
level 3--30 days to one year
level 4--more than one year

--lay down to rest
Unquiet dead (ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, whatever) can be laid to rest. The Necromancer can do this in several ways.

level 1--lay to rest at the gravesite
level 2--lay to rest by touching a part of the deceased's body
level 3--lay to rest by touching something that was precious to the deceased
level 4--lay to rest by touching someone that was close to the deceased

--see through your eyes
Somewhat similar to "See The Past". This allows the Necromancer to see the last moments of the deceased. Same levels as the other categories. Needs to be touching part of the dead person's body or holding it (skin, hair, teeth, bone, etc.)

level 1--up to 24 hours in the past
level 2--24 hours to 30 days
level 3--30 days to one year
level 4--more than one year

--compel to speak
Like communicate with the dead, only more powerful. When communicating with the dead, the magic user is not able to force the dead to speak and instead must cajole, intimidate, threaten, bribe or do whatever else is necessary to get them to speak. With compel to speak the necromancer can force the dead to speak. Must have both a piece of the body and something that belonged to the deceased that they cared about to offer as a bribe/sacrifice.
level 1--up to 24 hours in the past

level 2--24 hours to 30 days
level 3--30 days to one year
level 4--more than one year

--command the undead
Like compel to speak, only the Necromancer can compel the dead to perform a task. Only very high level Necromancers have this power. A Necromancer can have the skill to command the undead, but not be able to raise the undead--that is reserved for the very highest level of Necromancy. The length and complexity of the task is determined by the Necromancer's skill (i.e. dice roll).

level 1--up to 24 hours in the past
level 2--24 hours to 30 days
level 3--30 days to one year
level 4--more than one year

--raise the dead. Only the most powerful of Necromancers can raise the dead. There is an artifact controlled by the Order that can raise the dead briefly, but it also requires great skill to use and is very unreliable. The length of time that the dead stay raised is based on the skill level of the Necromancer and can vary (based on dice results).

level 1--up to 24 hours in the past
level 2--24 hours to 30 days
level 3--30 days to one year
level 4--more than one year

I haven't quite figured out the mechanics for this class yet, but I'm thinking that setup where the player can either gain an extra level, or gain an extra dice would be ideal.

The most basic Necromancer skill is communicating with the dead. A beginning necromancer can speak with spirits without any problem. The player gains a "level" (using this as shorthand for now), and can choose to either gain an extra die (to increase the amount of time she can communicate), or can move up a level. Player can gain any skill they want, but they must do it in order (they can't jump from communicate with the dead to raise the dead, they have to go through the steps).

Not sure how much I like the mechanics, but it's a start.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ten Real Life Sea Creatures for your RPG Game

In honor of the G+ Hangout that was hosted by Richard Guy earlier today I've put together this list of twenty weird, odd, or downright scary monsters for your game.

The Blobfish

While not exactly terrifying, the sheer lack of features of this creature give it a kind of chilling nature all it's own. Think of it as the equivalent of the gelatinous cube, only in the ocean. 


This creature looks like an underwater iguana and not at all terrifying, until you realize that it can regenerate limbs. That gives the potential for some rather creepy combat situations--let's say a dozen monstrous Axolotl's jump onto the ship and your party keeps trying to kill them only they won't die.

This looks like something out of a horror movie's set design, but it's a real fish. The teeth are so large that they don't fit in it's mouth. Instead they go over the top towards the eyes. Plus it has a blinking light on it's dorsal fin to attract prey. 

If that isn't one of the most terrifying things you've ever seen, then you're a braver person than I am. It's the younger sibling of Shelob, only living in the ocean.

Goblin Shark

It's looks like a cross between a goblin, an orc, and a unicorn. Mean, nasty and a full of sharp teeth this little guy lives so far down in the ocean that the light can't reach him. Oh, and it's jaws can retract.

Blue Ringed Octopus

This creature looks like someone went crazy with the day-glo paint. It's actually really, really small, but incredibly venomous. You get poisoned by one of these guys and your muscles stop working and you die from asphyxiation.

Warty Comb Jelly

This creature is just plain cool. Glow in the dark, and they come in all sorts of different colors. They're also unusual in that their bodies are 97% water, plus they're also hermaphrodites, being able to reproduce with themselves. 

Giant Jellyfish

The picture gives some idea of the scale of this thing. 

I'm cheating here because the stingray is actually a freshwater fish, but still, it's a giant stingray! How could I not include it?

Marrus Orthocanna

Not a trail of fire. Just a creature that looks like it's on fire. I'm sure you can think of many cool uses for this little guy.