• Death to HP – Long Live HD

    Death to HP – Long Live HD

    One of the unique quirks about my games is that I don’t track Hit Points at all. I’ve described my system a few times on the OSR Discord Server, but I felt it was time to just make a blogpost about it once and for all.

    It’s worth saying that this system is not something I invented whole cloth, it’s inspired by a whole bunch of different things I’ve read and been suggested by people online. For all I know this already exists in published form somewhere else. Nonetheless I think there’s a few quirks in here I haven’t seen elsewhere.

    Hit Dice and Wounds

    In my system, you have a number of Hit Dice equal to your Level and 4 Wounds. Hit Dice are d6s for all classes. Damage is dealt as normal by all weapons, but instead of subtracting HP, you take Wounds as follows:

    1Minor WoundSlight cut, bruise, etc.
    2Major WoundBroken bone, lost limb, etc.
    3Mortal WoundFall unconscious, bleed out in [Level]d6 Turns
    4+Instant DeathDecapitation, major artery severed, etc.

    If you take a Minor Wound and then take 1 further damage, you now have a Major Wound, and if you take 2 more damage from there, you die.

    The Hit Dice may be spent to “soak” damage. In fiction, this means something like knowing how to shift your weight just enough to have your armor take the brunt of the damage rather than your flesh. Once a HD is spent, it takes 3 Days to recover it. This means that leveling up represents getting more combat awareness, enabling you to better apply your experiences.

    In some circumstances, creatures will not be able to use their HD to soak damage due. For example, if a halfling sneaks up on a bugbear and jabs it in the throat with a dagger, the bugbear is not able to use their combat experience to redirect the blow, so the damage bypasses HD and goes straight to Wounds. This is incredibly powerful and should incentivize your players to sneak around more, while also being careful not to get flanked.

    Additionally, I allow Fighters the option to spend HD to deal extra damage. In fiction this is like twisting the blade impaling the enemy.

    To illustrate how this works in play, here is an example of how this might work:


    • 1 HD Goblin hits Level 2 Cleric, dealing 5 damage (Instant Death)
    • Cleric spends 1 HD, rolling 3, soaking it down to 2 (Major Wound)
    • Cleric chooses to spend their last HD, rolling 5, negating all damage. The Cleric is now unable to soak further damage
    • Cleric hits Goblin for 4 damage (Instant Death)
    • Goblin spends its only HD, soaking 6, negating all damage
    • Goblin hits Cleric for 3 damage (Mortal Wound), knocking Cleric unconscious
    • Cleric rolls to determine how many Turns it will be until they bleed out. Since they are level 2, they roll 2d6. They have 8 Turns (80 Minutes)
    • Level 1 Fighter hits Goblin for 1 damage (Minor Wound)
    • Fighter wants revenge, chooses to spend their only HD to “twist the blade”. Deals an additional 3 damage, 4 total (Instant Death)
    • Goblin dies instantly
    • Fighter helps Cleric get to safety, tends to wounds

    Why the Hit Die?

    I think my system provides a few advantages to the standard Hit Point system. When I started testing this system, I was dissatisfied with how the Hit Point system abstracted health. My problems with it were twofold: I didn’t like how players had a hard time conceptualizing just how close they were to death and I didn’t like how leveling up meant longer combat.

    Now I do have to give the caveat that mathematically, my system is not much different from the RAW system, you’re just rolling HP when you get hit rather than before. The average character in my system does have 3 HP more than the average character RAW (due to the Wounds). The difference is more conceptual.

    The first problem is somewhat simple – players see “16 HP” on their sheet and have a hard time knowing how many more scrapes they can get into before they die. Keeping the numbers smaller helps players conceptualize the risk a little better, as well as size up enemies. In my system, they just see “1 HD” and they know they need to be extremely careful, they only have one left. One good swing of an axe could kill them instantly. Or they can see a bugbear and guess “hmm… maybe 3 HD? We can take him”

    The second problem is more complex. RAW, HP increases while damage is stagnant. This means whenever you level up, you increase combat by about one more round on average. A monster with 6 HP could be dispatched in 2 average axe hits. Increase that to 9 HP and it now takes 3 axe hits to kill on average. Unless damage is scaling alongside HP somehow, combat just takes longer without as much risk. The way I see it, there are two ways to solve this problem: either they both scale or they both don’t. My solution kind of mixes the two.

    On the one hand, as I said before, my system mathematically works out to be almost identical to the RAW system in terms of damage and points and all. So my system still has this problem. However, the option to spend HD for extra damage solves it. I find that players rarely choose that option, however. Giving up defenses for a little extra damage isn’t appealing to enough players. Nonetheless, this option sort of allows the damage to scale with the health.

    On the other hand, my thing about bypassing HD by sneaking goes the other direction such that neither damage nor health scale. A peasant can kill a seasoned warrior if they can just outsmart him. None of this nonsense where you might sneak into the Champion’s room at night while he sleeps, bury your dagger in his throat, and he wakes up with 3 HP subtracted from his 38.

    Other Ideas

    I have some ideas I’ve thought of using with this system, but I haven’t tested them all, or some I don’t prefer for one reason or another. If any of these strike your fancy, feel free to steal it:

    • Give different size HD to different classes
    • Give different size HD to all or some monsters
    • Give “boss” type monsters extra Wounds
    • Make small, 0 HD monsters that only have Wounds
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  • Zero to Complete Dungeon Generation, Waffle-Style

    Zero to Complete Dungeon Generation, Waffle-Style

    Dungeon generation is one of my favorite parts of being a DM. Going from nothing to a finished dungeon is one of the most satisfying parts of the game. Done properly, designing a dungeon can be a great part of “Prep as Solo-Play.”

    Everyone has their own process for designing dungeons from the ground up. Mine is based loosely on the BX rules along with a few things I personally enjoy.

    I will soon link a dungeon designed using this method and explain what I was thinking through each step.

    Step 1 – Concept Shopping

    I have a list of ideas, vibes, mechanics, and themes for dungeons that I add to whenever inspiration strikes me. Here’s a sample from my list:

    • Hell
    • Poison
    • Sludge
    • Accursed
    • Gilded
    • Clockwork
    • Balance
    • Elevators
    • Sneaking
    • Eyes
    • Separation
    • Bridges
    • Weight
    • Outdoor Integration
    • Mutation
    • Time Limit
    • Already Dead
    • Hive
    • Forced Resurrection
    • Dead Monk’s Family Recipe
    • Leyline Extraction
    • Causeways
    • Alarms
    • Security Owls
    • Spiral Map, Overlooking Center
    • Inside the Mechanical Beast
    • Backtracking
    • Recontextualization via Tools
    • Shortcut
    • Vertical

    When I sit down to design a dungeon, I pick about 10-20 things from this list that I think might be interesting for the dungeon and write them at the top of a piece of paper. I read them over and over to internalize the vibes I’m shooting for. I don’t worry too much that I include all of them, but whatever comes out as I work is good.

    Step 2 – Monster Shopping

    At this point, I decide what Level this dungeon will be. I tend to make lots of Level 1-5 dungeons or so. Remember that the Level of dungeon corresponds to the Level of the party it is intended for.

    From here, I write out a list of ~6 monsters to put in the dungeon. I tend to roll on tables from the Moldy Basic book or from whatever Monster Manuals I find interesting. I have ~4 of them match the Level of the dungeon, with the other two being one or two levels above.

    Whatever method you use to decide on your monsters, start thinking about how they might interact in a dungeon together. Pick one or two monsters to be the main inhabitants of the dungeon, then roll Number Appearing for all of them. For your main inhabitants, roll Number Appearing using the Lair numbers, and for the other monsters, roll using the regular numbers. At this point, you should start getting an idea of what they’re all doing in the dungeon.

    Now, I will turn this list of monsters into a Wandering Monster Table. I put the strongest monsters at the bottom and include all the information I need to run the encounters.

    For our example, if I am designing a Level 2 dungeon, 4 of the monsters will be 2 HD monsters, one will be 3 HD, and the last might be 4 HD. I’ve rolled/chosen the following monsters for the dungeon, along with their Number Appearing.

    Here is an example from one of my other dungeons:

    RollCreature NameNo. App.HDACMLAttacks
    1Robber Flyd61148Bite d8
    2Rock Baboond62148Club d6
    3Oil Beetled42168Bite d6, Special
    4Mannequin2d62125Strangle d4
    5Carrion Crawlerd33139Paralysis x8
    6Ogred641410Club d10

    Step 3 – Rough Layout

    Now that a Monster table has been generated, it’s time to actually design the dungeon. I like to start by deciding on a rough number of rooms for the dungeon. I tend to add rooms as I go, so I like to start with 5-10 and go from there.

    Now it’s time to outline a sort of flowchart for the dungeon. Then I sketch it out on dot paper to get an idea of how it will look. It is incredibly important to add plenty of choke points, decision trees, loops, secret passages, and objective rooms to make the dungeon layout interesting. I take inspiration from FPS games like CSGO and Valorant. After sketching it out, I tend to draw a Melan Diagram of the dungeon to check for these things. This point is where we work hard to ensure the dungeon has been thoroughly “Jaquaysed”.

    At this point, I will often revise the layout of the rooms a bit, sketching it out a few times until I like how it looks. At this point, all the rooms are just numbered shapes. I have not figured out what each one will be like, but I may have a few ideas going as I sketch it out.

    Step 4 – Stocking the Rooms

    Now it’s time to start fleshing out what each room contains. I like to use the Dungeon Stocking Table from Moldy Basic with some slight changes, reflected here:

    1-2MonsterRoll on the Encounter Table to determine which Monster inhabits the room and how many there are
    3SpoorsRoll on the Encounter Table to determine which Monster left the spoors
    4TrapEither preventing passage through an area or guarding treasure
    5SpecialAnything interactive that affects the dungeon experience
    6Empty*May contain interesting items (like glass tubes) or things that communicate lore (like frescoes)

    Roll once for each numbered area and mark down the results. Then roll on the following table for each room to determine whether there is treasure in the room or not:

    RollMonster RoomTrap RoomEmpty/Spoor Room

    If a Monster Room is determined to have treasure, roll on the Treasure Type table given in the Monster Manual. Otherwise, roll on this table:

    LevelSilver PiecesGold PiecesGems (d100x10gp)Jewelry (3d6x100gp)Magic Items
    1d6x10050%: d6x105%: d62%: d62%: Any 1
    2-3d12x10050%: d6x10010%: d65%: d68%: Any 1
    4-5d6x1000d6x20020%: d610%: d610%: Any 1
    6-7d6x2000d6x50030%: d615%: d615%: Any 1
    8-9d6x5000d6x100040%: d1220%: d1220%: Any 1

    After rolling all this, you’ll know where all the monsters and whatnot are and how much total treasure there is. Now it’s a good idea to total up the treasure and write down where it all comes from. It should look something like this:

    • Room 4 – 500sp, 400gp
    • Room 6 (Guarded – White Ape) – 200sp, 200gp
    • Room 7 (Guarded – Chimera)– 4000sp
    • Room 9 (Guarded – Water Weirds) – 1200pp, 2 gems (950gp each), 5 jewelry (900gp each)
    • Room 10 (Trapped) – 200sp, 3 jewelry (1000gp each), 1 Magic Item

    Unguarded – 500sp, 400gp

    Total – 4900sp, 600gp, 1200pp, 2 gems (1900gp), 8 jewelry (7500gp), 1 Magic Item

    Grand Total – 22,490gp value, 1 Magic Item

    Step 5 – Revisions

    Now, it’s time to make revisions. You can shuffle the treasures, monsters, traps, etc. around as desired. If you want to put the Water Weirds in Room 8 instead, that’s totally fine. Maybe the Water Weirds are there guarding Room 9 where the treasure is, or maybe the treasure is in the bottom of the fountain where they live. In any case, you’ll start to get ideas about how to hide the treasure, what the monsters are doing, etc. Channel these ideas and start rearranging everything until you’ve got something that makes sense for your dungeon

    At this point, you’ll probably have ideas for what your Traps and Specials can be. I recommend riddles, puzzles, keys that match specific locks, talking walls, etc. Really anything that sparks your imagination.

    You’ll probably want to redraw your map at this point, based on the revisions. This will probably be your final design of the map. Now all that’s left is to key the dungeon

    Step 6 – Keying the Dungeon

    Now that you’ve got your revised map and ideas for everything, you’ll need to key the dungeon by writing room descriptions for each room.

    I try to add a few sensory details for each room, descriptions of the walls, doors, smells, sounds, etc. to help with descriptions. It is especially important to add information whenever there is a fork in the road, helping the players to make some decision. For example, if a hallway branches left and right, don’t just say it goes left and right, tell them that you smell the stench of death wafting from the right and you hear clinking cutlery from the left. This makes the decisions more than just a coin toss.

    Explain where everything is in the room and how it works, including traps, treasure, secrets, and anything else in that vein. For monsters, explain what they might be doing in that room. This typically is the most time-consuming part of the dungeon-designing process. As you do this, your ideas will come to life and continue to develop. Think of potential hooks to get the party in this dungeon and write them down.

    After finishing the key to each room, do one final look over for the dungeon layout, make any final revisions, and your dungeon is complete!

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  • d66 Plant-Based Potions

    d66 Plant-Based Potions

    I love putting potions and the like in my games. Whenever I’ve played, nothing matches the feeling of finding some unidentified liquid in an unmarked bottle and wondering what it does. Except maybe exploring the moral “gray” area of forcing random NPCs to test it for you

    Potion Mystery Packs

    In a lot of my games, I tend to put alchemists or apothecaries in a traveling merchant troupe that sell “mystery packs” of alchemical ingredients. They cost 50gp each and contain two ingredients guaranteed to combine into a potion, poison, or drug. The first mystery pack comes with a complimentary potion-making kit and instructions.

    If a player purchases one of these kits and decides to make their potion, I have them roll d66 and consult a table to determine which ingredients were in the pack and the resultant potion. I would then have them log the potion in their inventory as “Potion 42” or whatever for my reference later whenever they use it.

    I was initially inspired by the alchemy section of Disciples of Bone & Shadow, but I tended to forget which ingredients resulted in which effects, and I felt some of the effects were too mechanical, so I made my own table! The idea is that players could potentially forage for specific ingredients once they learn the effects of certain combinations.

    I plan on making a second table like this with animal-based ingredients in the future. For now this is something I’m happy with.

    Feel free to adjust any effects, durations, or sensory information if you don’t like how it works. To generate this list, I would roll a d6 for each entry. 1-2 was a potion, 3 was a poison, 4 was a stimulant, 5 was a depressant, and 6 was a psychedelic. This resulted in quite a few drugs on this list, and I will probably adjust that ratio for my animal-based potion table.


    • Sludgethorn Mushroom
      • Dark green cap, turns bright orange when bruised. The cap is very slimy and covered in thorns
      • Found under conifer trees during the rainy season
    • Whistlebreath Sprig
      • Herb famous for its association with the Whistlebeak bird. Commonly burned in religious rituals as a purifier.
      • Grows in arid mountain regions
    • Goldendew Tree Sap
      • Sap from the famous Goldendew tree. When tapped during the autumn, they shimmer with small specks of what appear to be pure gold
      • Grow in conifer forests
    • Nethergloom Branch
      • Dark red branches from the Nethergloom tree. Legend says they grow over the site of wrongful executions. Famously sent when informing someone of the death of a loved one
    • Waterdew Blossom
      • While beautiful, they cause severe indigestion in a raw state. When dried, however, they can be used as an aid for those experiencing indigestion
      • Mysteriously grow in shallow pools of water in tundra regions
    • Guardian Witch
      • A beautiful flower that is pure white when a bud, but jet black when it has blossomed. Receiving one in the mail typically means someone’s feelings for you have soured drastically. They do smell beautiful when in bloom
      • Found during the Spring in deciduous forests quite rarely
    • Elysian Barley
      • Grow alongside normal barley, but have the appearance of pure silver. It is said that if you find one, you have great fortune coming for you
      • It is extremely rare to find Elysian Barley. They seem to grow randomly with no apparent reason. As such they cannot be farmed
    • Nettlecreep Root
      • These are used medicinally as relief for headaches. They smell like dead fish and taste like raw meat
    • Deathviolet
      • Folklore tells that a great ruler once found a meadow full of these and was assassinated the same day. Finding one is seen as a portent of death
      • These only grow during the winter time in deciduous forests
    • Bridetear Seeds
      • Said to be able to cause a newly-married man to run after another woman. Of course, this rumor is perpetuated by men who have left their wives
      • Are at the core of a pink, pear-like fruit that grows in the Spring in mountainous areas
    • Vomitberry
      • The taste of a raw vomitberry instantly causes the consumer to vomit violently
      • Found growing on bushes in arid mountain regions
    • King’s Ransom
      • A beautiful flower that looks like a crown, even beset with what appear to be jewels. They are extremely rare and costly. Royalty often seek them out as a status symbol
      • Only grow on the corpses of assassinated nobility
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  • Minidungeon Monday – Tomb of Ghoulish Elopement

    Minidungeon Monday – Tomb of Ghoulish Elopement

    I skipped last week and now I’ve got COVID again, so I’m take that as the world’s way of punishing me for my inconsistency. Anyway, this dungeon was originally designed to be a 5 Room Dungeon, using the B/X Dungeon Generation procedures as-written. I found it to be kind of boring that way, so I decided to spice it up a bit.

    I recently heard in a discussion comparing B/X as it was played back in the day to the OSR way of playing B/X that OSR stuff tends to have significantly less treasure per dungeon. This is what inspired me to make the dungeon RAW according to B/X. It indeed has significantly more treasure than any OSR modules I’ve played. It was designed for 2nd or 3rd level, and should be pretty easy for a normal sized party. Again, I use Silver Standard, so if you play with Gold Standard, just multiply all treasure by 10.

    Room Layout

    From the map “Haven” from Valorant

    In terms of room layout, I really wanted to add verticality to my dungeon inspired by FPS games that I’ve been playing recently. I added two raised platforms and a catwalk for this end, and I placed the stairs up to those platforms in strategic places. I imagined the Entrance as the “Attacker Spawn” and Room 9 as “Defender Spawn”, which makes some rooms clearly give the advantage to certain sides. For instance, the stairs leading up to the platform in Room 4 are on the “Attacker” side, so it’s harder for the enemies to get up there and have the advantage, whereas Room 5 gives the advantage to the “Defenders”.

    I’ve long thought that archers and ranged enemies are way more powerful than I see them get credit for. I imagine that a few well-placed archers could TPK a party pretty easily, as long as the Magic-User doesn’t have a spell like Fireball. This dungeon was my attempt at testing that out with Rock Baboons. So I gave them some rocks and wedding decor to chuck at the party from those platforms with some makeshift ramparts.

    Dungeon Objectives and Stories

    This dungeon has caused me to start questioning whether dungeons should have clear “objectives” and “stories/explanations” that need to be interacted with to get the full amount of treasure. This one clearly has an objective: Kill all three ghouls to use their pendants to open the way to the treasure in Room 9. Their story is that they eloped and this is where they were wed (and subsequently transformed into ghouls by the Mythic Underworld). My previous dungeon had an objective too: do the test of virtue to see if you can get the treasure.

    It seems that authentic old-school dungeons were lighter in this regard, functioning more as a collection of rooms with monsters, traps, and treasure scattered throughout. Treasure is not gated behind a clear objective as often, but it does still happen. Delving these dungeons would probably feel more like a risk/reward game than a “complete the objective” game. You can keep going if you want, but you can stop at any moment.

    I am torn about what I think about this. I think dungeons like this one are good because they naturally give players a hook to follow and clues to put together, but it may feel a bit more like a railroad, requiring the players to play the dungeon by my rules to get the reward. To offset this, I think it is even more important to make Jaquaysed dungeons with plenty of choices if they have a clear objective. I wonder if more linear dungeons are fine for the risk/reward types.

    In the future, I hope to create a more classic risk/reward “story/objective-less” dungeon to test out this theory. I think it could be like a “boss rush” or “gauntlet” type of thing that you tend to see in video games as a bonus mode. I am hoping to make an inverted wizard tower for my next dungeon though, specifically because I’ve never done one before and I like the idea of random meaningless chaos.

    Wandering Monsters

    RollCreature NameNo. App.HDACMLAttacks
    1Robber Flyd61148Bite d8
    2Rock Baboond62148Club d6
    3Oil Beetled42168Bite d6, Special
    4Mannequin2d62125Strangle d4
    5Carrion Crawlerd33139Paralysis x8
    6Ogred641410Club d10
    If you feel like it, roll a d7 and make 7 a Lost Gnome – Inspired by @carsonthewombatshaman from the OSR Discord

    This dungeon is the tomb of a couple who eloped. The bride was a princess, the groom a peasant. To evade scandal for romance with someone low-born, the bride and groom took a witness and priest to this dungeon to perform a wedding. As a child, she was assaulted with fantasies of thousands dancing at her wedding, dressed all in finery under a chandelier and the like. She had the dungeon outfitted with the decorations of her dreams and filled seats with enchanted mannequins. They never left the dungeon, causing a great mystery in the ancient kingdom.

    Following their marriage, the four were trapped here and turned into nasty undead because of the magic of the Mythic Underworld. The dungeon was recently uncovered by the monsters that currently inhabit it, turning it into their lair. The Ogres are the main inhabitants of this dungeon now, with the Rock Baboons and Robber Flies acting as their pets.


    1 – Entrance Hall

    • Statue of a male human dressed in fancy garb against the western wall. Crumbled statue of a female human dressed in royal clothes against the eastern wall. A large unlit brazier is beside each
    • Door to the north is wooden with large iron bands. It has expanded due to moisture and is stuck. The faint aroma of a feast emanates from the other side
    • Tunnel to the northeast appears to be natural and connected to this room because of a cave in. Vinegar-like stench wafts from within

    2 – Banquet Hall

    • Massive banquet table covered with delicious food (30 days worth of rations), some of which is actually made of precious metals and gems (worth a total of 102gp)
    • 3 Ogre statues sit frozen at the table, eating soup voraciously. The remaining 9 seats are filled by exquisitely-dressed mannequins
    • Touching anything on the table will cause the 3 petrified Ogres to be released from their spells and attack the party, but the food will be otherwise safe to consume and the treasure safe to steal
    From Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) dir. Guillermo del Toro

    3 – Oil Beetle Nest

    • 3 Oil Beetles burrowing around. A corpse lies covered in blisters, half eaten by the beetles

    4 – Ceremony Hall

    • 2 Rock Baboons prance around in wedding garb stolen from mannequins
    • Dozens of mannequins sit in wooden chairs on the south side of the room, dressed in tattered raiment fit for a wedding, facing the platform on the north end of the room
    • Destroyed chandelier has crashed down from the ceiling on top of the mannequin sitting area. The chandelier has been looted for most of its valuable parts, but it can be scavenged further to find 185gp worth of crystals
    • Gilded sarcophagus set into the northern wall of the platform beside a worn tapestry of a man and a woman kissing
      • If the sarcophagus is opened, the witness Ghoul escapes and attacks immediately. He is wearing a pendant with a symbol of an eye (worth 100gp) a monocle made of diamond (worth 40gp), and a ruined tuxedo. In his pocket is a moldy, but finely crafted fountain pen (worth 10gp) and a key (to Room 9)
      • The tapestry conceals a secret door to Room 6
    • Shattered stained glass windows hang over parts of the cave walls. They are worthless now

    5 – Groom’s Chamber

    • 4 Rock Baboons play catch with 5 damaged wedding decorations (worth a total of 165gp) and some small boulders from atop the platform and catwalk in the room. They have build a makeshift rampart out of scraps of wood along the edge of the platform and will chuck rocks and decorations at any perceived threats to their playground
    • Gilded sarcophagus set into the western wall atop the platform
      • If opened, the groom Ghoul escapes and attacks immediately. He is wearing a pendant with a symbol of a top hat (worth 240gp), a wedding band with vows inscribed (worth 60gp), an ebony cane (worth 30gp), and a ruined tuxedo.

    6 – Priest’s Quarters

    • Inhabited by the priest Zombie muttering ancient prayers in a long-dead language. He wears a priestly crown beset with pearls (worth 100gp) and swings a small censer of tarnished brass (worth 10gp).
    • Large offering box on the eastern side of the room containing 350sp and 10pp and a small lever. If pulled, it releases a Sleep Gas trap and opens the secret door to Room 7

    7 – Decoration Storage

    • 3 Carrion Crawlers sit atop a pile of 300sp, and one pristine small piece of glasswork in the shape of the bride and groom (worth 545gp, 50gp if damaged, takes 3 slots to carry safely)

    8 – Bride’s Chamber (Locked – Key on Witness Ghoul in Room 4)

    • Gilded sarcophagus set in the western wall
      • If the sarcophagus is opened, the bride Ghoul escapes and attacks immediately. She is wearing a pendant with a symbol of a tiara (worth 380gp) a tiara set with a beautiful sapphire (worth 100gp), a wedding band with vows inscribed (worth 60gp) and a ruined wedding dress
    • On the eastern wall there is a beautiful fresco painted with images of the bride and groom kissing with the pendants featured prominently, centered around what is obviously a door, but with no hinges or obvious means of opening it
      • If two characters kiss while wearing the respective pendants, being watched by another character wearing the third, the door to Room 9 will open
      • Inscribed on the door is the following:
    Two, separated by status in birth
    Join with a kiss of mirth
    Their pendants over their heart
    A witness playing his part
    The door to love eternal shall open

    9 – Bedchamber

    • A massive, luxurious bed fills most of the room. The room is lit by candles and filled with incense that will burn forever
    • The room is filled with a pile of 1,000sp, 700gp, 50pp, and 5 wedding gifts worth a total of 1050gp

    Total Treasure

    • 30 Rations
    • 33,120sp worth of Jewelry, Finery, Gifts, etc
    • 13,300sp in Coin
    • Total Value: 46,420sp
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  • Minidungeon Monday – Cursed Ettercap Lotus Shrine

    Minidungeon Monday – Cursed Ettercap Lotus Shrine

    I know it’s Tuesday, but such is life. I promise I designed all this on Monday. All dungeons I design for this will be either given as treasure map destinations, discovered randomly while exploring a hex, or as modular level in a megadungeon.

    For reference, I use Silver standard in my game, so players get 1 XP per Silver rather than gold. Feel free to convert it to Gold standard by multiplying everything by 10.

    I was inspired for this dungeon by the Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword, which is itself inspired by the short story Spider’s Thread which is worth the quick read if you’re interested. The visuals really got my mind working and I just wanted to create that same feeling for my players.

    RollCreature NameNo. App.HDACMLTreasure
    3Flail Snail14166Shell (300gp)
    4Snail-Mand41125d4 sp
    5Giant Spiderd23*148d12 sp
    6Ettercap (Area 4)15147d6x10 gp

    This dungeon is a cursed shrine to a long forgotten god. The deity has nothing to do with the curse, it’s just due to the evil energy around the area that has happened to concentrate in this portion of the Mythic Underworld.

    The Ettercaps are something of necromantic puppet masters. Their string has been enchanted by the Cursed Spinning Wheel and is capable of resurrecting and controlling the dead. Some of the travelers who have come to this place were slimed by the Flail Snail living here, turning some into Snail-Men servants and eating others, immune to the Ettercaps‘ power, but imprisoned in this place and perpetually suffering. The Giant Spiders function as the guard dogs of the Ettercaps in this area, and will help them in their endeavor to construct a nest befitting of such powerful creatures. The two Ettercaps living in this dungeon are a mated pair, once human lovers now transformed by the evil of the Underworld. The Cursed Spinning Wheel is an outward manifestation of this same evil.

    All creatures work as-written except Snail-Men, which work as Normal Human, except they have snail heads and are covered in paralyzing slime. If a PC touches it, Save vs. Paralysis or be paralyzed for d6 Turns.

    I have worked to preserve the themes of the original short story in this dungeon, as well as some of the motifs from the Skyward Sword dungeon this is based off. Some of these include seeing the underworld from above through lotus pools, being trapped in the underworld as punishment for greed, selfishness on the Golden Strand sealing you in the underworld, and the juxtaposition of spiders, blood, and death with lotuses and gleaming spider strands. The Spinning Wheel is inspired by the one in Sleeping Beauty, and the lunar stuff comes from some Zen stories I’ve read recently. The Flail Snail and Snail-Men are just because I kinda always wanted to put slimy stuff in a dungeon.


    1 – Entrance

    • Room filled with massive spiderwebs containing the freshly-wrapped corpses of 5 humans, 3 White Apes, and even an Owlbear.
    • Giant Spider with treasure stashed in its nest (400sp, Goblet 9gp, Comb 10gp)

    2 – Lotus Pools

    • Small pools of water with lotuses fill the room. Each is about 1 foot deep. The pools are perfectly clear, and surprisingly, have transparent bottoms. Looking through the bottoms of the pools, one can see Area 9, except instead of a pile of bones, it is a pile of gold.
    • Undead (including Zombies and Snail-Men) will not enter the pools
    • For every 10 lotus flowers harvested a Lotus Tincture can be made with special equipment that functions as Holy Water. The tincture is hallucinogenic if ingested, creating euphoric floral fractal patterns for 6 hours. A vial of Lotus Tincture can sell for up to 2gp

    3 – Flail Snail Banquet

    • Corpses covered in slime litter the room
      • Scholar (carrying the Key to Area 8)
      • Hunter wearing a grey cloak and a triangular hat (carrying 2 days worth of cooked meat and 15 arrows)
      • Farmhand (carrying nothing of use)
      • The rest of the bodies are unrecognizable
    • Their slime makes them immune to the cursed threads of the Ettercaps of this area. If a PC touches it, Save vs. Paralysis or be paralyzed for d6 Turns
    • Each Turn spent in this room, there is a 2-in-6 chance that d4 of the corpses will rise and attack as Snail-Men

    4 – Sanctum

    • Massive bronze statue of a forgotten 6-armed deity sitting in lotus position in a large lotus pool in the center of the room. Two massive rubies are set in the eye sockets (50gp each), but require 3 full Turns to pry out each, unless assisted by specialized tools or clever thinking
    • For each Turn spent here, there is a 4-in-6 chance that the Ettercap on the ceiling will notice the party and puppeteer d4 Zombies with its cursed threads. It will attempt a 1-in-6 chance of animating another Zombie each round, up to a maximum of 6 Zombies. If killed, all Zombies in the room will fall to the floor and reanimate in d6 Turns, carrying their own threads

    5 – Lotus Pool and Tapestry

    • One large lotus pool fills the center of the room. As in Area 2, the pools are perfectly clear, and looking through the bottoms of the pools, one can see Area 9, except instead of a pile of bones, it is a pile of gold
    • Fresh corpses covered in slime reach toward the tapestry on the northern side of the room, which depicts a man with a halo around his head descending stairs to a room piled with gold. Can be sold for 5sp.
    • A secret stairwell is revealed if the tapestry is pulled back. 1/3 of the way down the stairwell, a pressure plate turns the stairs into a slide too steep to climb, causing all creatures to fall into Area 9, emerging from a hole 25 feet above the floor.

    6 – Lotus Study

    • Walls and floor of wood
    • Massive, thick spiderwebs cover the corners of the room, obscuring a secret passage to Area 7
    • A large desk sits at the south side of the room, upon which lay various tattered scraps of paper and a few implements being used to create a tincture from lotus flowers.
      • One vial of sweet-smelling Lotus Tincture sits finished at the end of the table
      • The only legible piece of writing is written in Lawful, saying “tincture…. repel… unholy”
      • Players may take the implements (5 slots in total) and/or use them to create more Lotus Tincture vials. Each vial takes one full week to prepare, and 2 can be made at a time. The implements include 3 empty vials.
    • The desk has a poison-dart trapped drawer containing two golden earrings in the shape of teardrops (5gp each). The poison will not deal any damage, but it will induce psychotic hallucinations and intense feelings of paranoia. Save vs. Poison or attack the nearest moving thing. Wears off in d4 Rounds.

    7 – Flail Snail Lair

    • Completely smooth, spherical room, glistening with iridescent slime. If not already encountered, the Flail Snail resides here, digesting the body of a fallen wanderer. Move at half speed in this room or slip and be knocked prone
    • If the Flail Snail is interrupted, some treasure may be retrieved from the half-digested corpse (30sp)
    • The shell of the Flail Snail can sell for up to 300gp if undamaged. It weighs 250lbs, and must be sold within 1 month to retain its value, as its magical properties will begin to wane after that time
    • Thick slime obscures a section of the wall that will sink into a recess in the floor if pressed with any force, revealing a secret passage to Area 6

    8 – Astral Observatory (Locked, Key in Area 3)

    • Room full of astrolabes, a telescope, and star charts. A massive chart of the moon phases covers the eastern wall, with the current moon phase glowing brightly
    • Looking through the telescope, one will inexplicably be able to see the night sky, indigo like a deep ocean, filled with twinkling and swaying stars, as though being moved by concentric waves. These waves originate at the Moon, which, if found, has an Ettercap crawling visibly around the surface

    9 – Cursed Deep Sanctum

    • Tens of thousands of bones fill the room, completely covering the floor. The pile is much higher around the edges and funnels down inward toward a defiled lotus pool
    • The hole at the end of the slide from Area 5 is about 25 feet above the top of the pile of bones
    • The defiled pool has a number of dead lotus flowers floating in what appears to be blood
      • At the center of the pool is what appears to be a Flax Wheel of jet black wood. It is cursed. Touching it will cause the following effects:
        • The Wheel will spin on its own
        • A bright white light will shine from above
        • d12 non-hostile Skeletons will reanimate from the edges of the room, seemingly puppeteered from above
          • The Skeletons will only attack in self-defense and cannot communicate in any way. They will shamble toward the PCs, attracted by their Life
          • There is a 3-in-6 chance of d4 Skeletons being reanimated each Turn after the initial wave, and they will not stop unless the Cursed Spinning Wheel is destroyed or the party is added to the bone pile
        • A thin, Golden Strand of spiderwebbing will descend from a point in the light
          • The Golden Strand is strong enough to carry the entire party to the top, but every time a Skeleton is vanquished, the strand loses its luster and is weakened. If an equal number of Skeletons are killed as there are party members, the strand will be snipped from above. Skeletons will attempt to follow party members up the Strand
          • If climbed to the top, the Golden Strand will bring the party into the blinding light, at which point they will climb out of the now open mouth of the statue in Area 4. Any Skeletons that emerge this way are fully reconstituted into living humans. At most, 6 can exit this way before the mouth of the statue closes again.
        • A section of the wall will slide away, revealing Area 10
      • Destroying the Spinning Wheel will cause the Ettercaps‘ power to dissipate, de-animating all Undead in the dungeon and destroying the Golden Strand. Additionally, all treasure in Area 10 will vanish, leaving only the golden statue.

    10 – Treasure Horde of the Ettercaps

    • Glittering bronze sconces burn perpetually here, illuminating this treasure vault. Incense censers burn, giving off a smoke with a warm scent of balsam. A 2ft tall immovable gold statue of the same forgotten deity sits in the center of a haphazard pile of treasure accumulated by the Ettercaps
      • 600sp, 400ep
      • Sword +1, +3 against Undead
        • When set on the floor, always points toward the nearest powerful Undead or Necromancer
      • Scroll with Charm Person and Light
    • The nose of the gold statue has been tarnished black from the smoke. If wiped clean, a stairwell will open up in the back of the room, leading out of the dungeon (or down to a lower floor, if you would like)

    Total Keyed Treasure:

    • 4,325sp
    • 2 Rations
    • 15 Arrows
    • Lotus Tincture
    • Magic Sword
    • Spell Scroll
    1 comment on Minidungeon Monday – Cursed Ettercap Lotus Shrine
  • On Objectionable Content and Knowing Your Players

    On Objectionable Content and Knowing Your Players

    The Halloween Session from Hell

    Back in my days of DMing 5e in the back room of a church at midnight when I was supposed to be cleaning bathrooms or whatever, I thought I had a pretty clear grasp on what was appropriate and inappropriate to include in my games. I figured my 17 years of life had taught me where the lines were and how to avoid hurting people’s feelings. Unfortunately, I had quite a lot to learn.

    For Halloween, I wanted to give my players a special spooky session that they would never forget. I had been watching a whole lot of Critical Role back in these days, and I thought that in order for something to be effective and memorable, it had to have a big shocking twist.

    I prepped a very Trad session centered around an orphanage. There was a mean headmistress and a whole bunch of innocent young kids. As the session went on, the players would start to realize things weren’t all peaches and cream at the orphanage, but kids were disappearing at night and never returning. Kids who stuck around started acting weirder and weirder, and it was heavily implied that the headmistress was abusing them somehow.

    That night, they hid in a closet or something and waited until midnight, when the disappearances were occurring. They popped out and saw a secret underground tunnel beneath the leader kid’s bed. They followed it deep into an underground cave, where they found the leader, Jack, stitching the sacrificed corpses of the orphan children Human-Centipede body horror style to massive spiders, then reanimating them to make creepy minions. The players were shocked by the sight, as I went kind of over the top describing the scene. I railroaded them into a situation where they had to kill Jack (despite the players wanting to use magic to make him change his ways), and his death was brutal.

    Later that night, after the session was over, I saw one of the players (I was 17 at the time, most of my players were in their mid- to late-20s) crying in his car. Never brought it up to him but I wondered about that for months. The next week he told us he would not be continuing to play DnD with us and chose not to really get into why. A few months later, he told us that his wife had actually miscarried only a few days before the Halloween session, and the content in that session was way too much for him.

    I felt absolutely horrible about the whole thing, and I still regret it to this day. Some have told me that it wasn’t my fault and it was on the player for not saying anything to me during or after the session. I completely disagree. He was well within his rights to keep something so personal and tragic to himself, and I absolutely should have had the self awareness to recognize that my session was over the top. I don’t hold it against myself too much, as the player has told me since that he forgives me and doesn’t really think it was my fault.

    Avoiding Traps

    These days, my games tend to be very lighthearted and cute. Cartoony characters are everywhere in my worlds and while dark themes and content may arise, I always work hard to present it in a tasteful way that is thematically predictable. I would never create scenarios in which PCs would be rewarded for outright killing innocents (although they tend to do it anyway), and I don’t really put content like slavery or prostitution in my games. While these subjects are definitely “historically accurate” (whatever that means for a fantasy world) and important, I don’t like to include them frivolously, without thought and research, or alongside gonzo wacky goofball stuff. I think they probably have come up from time to time, but I try very hard to keep it tasteful and reserved when I do.

    My current “home group” and I are on the same page about most content stuff, we’re not really into sex being a part of our games (I’m not about to RP with my homies), we all can handle tasteful explorations of more mature themes from time to time, and I’ve learned their boundaries in terms of horror. We all enjoy splatstick combat descriptions where a basic goblin gets a Mortal Kombat X-Ray vision-esque description when they are brutally crushed by a hammer or whatever. My player characters have been known to consume some “questionable substances” when meeting up with dodgy apothecaries and the like.

    DMing for DnD Club at school presents its own set of issues for content. For the most part, I just run OSE adventures and keep it goofy and lighthearted. The kids push it way more than they should, but I keep my dungeons pretty sanitized for them. This year, we’re playing Through Ultan’s Door, which is a bit more gritty than they got last year, but I think they can handle it.

    When playing with anyone you haven’t played with before, I think best practice is to keep it pretty light and keep open lines of communication for players to let you know when they are uncomfortable. Discussions of Veils and Lines are always good, and the more you learn your players, the less formal they will be and the less time those discussions will take. As you get a feel for the vibe of the group, you can adjust accordingly.

    DMs have their own Veils and Lines

    I have not often seen much discussion about players crossing lines that DMs had, and I think it does warrant some discussion. I have had players who have pushed things in a more sexual direction than I have been comfortable with, wanting me to RP a prostitute for them, or players getting a bit too into their revenge. DMs should see themselves as a player just like all the others, and as such the DM has the right to say when they are uncomfortable as well. All too often I have seen DMs denying themselves, thinking themselves to be subservient to the Players. I have forced myself to stay up until ungodly hours working on maps and prep for players to the detriment of my own enjoyment of the game. It is absolutely essential that DMs see themselves not as above the players, nor as below them, but alongside them as a co-participant in the enjoyment of the game.

    1 comment on On Objectionable Content and Knowing Your Players
  • Welcome to The Breakfast Ossuary!

    Welcome to The Breakfast Ossuary!

    After having spent the past few years oblivious to the blogosphere and its usefulness, I have decided to start my own. If you are reading this, I appreciate it greatly. I hope to turn this place into a storehouse for my experiences and thoughts about TTRPG gaming, especially in the OSR scene.

    Baptism by Fire

    I’ve been the “forever DM” of my friend group ever since I first started DMing back in 2016 or so. I think I heard about DnD from some friends of mine. They wanted me to play, so I picked up a copy of the 5e DM’s Guide, Player’s Handbook, and Monster Manual. I devoured these three books, reading them cover to cover over the course of many nights. I was obsessed with all the different monsters I had never heard of. Reading the DM’s Guide with no example of play (at least to my memory), I was deeply fascinated with the idea of running a game for my friends.

    I was invited to DM my very first session around this time (I don’t believe I had ever played by this point) and I was terrified. Back in those days, I was a maintenance worker at a church (cleaning bathrooms, taking out the trash, setting up classrooms, etc.), so I had access to a very nice facility that would be conducive for DnD. Pretty quickly, the group I was to DM for grew to around 24. I made the entire world from scratch. That first session was hellish. We started at 6p and ended around midnight, we did Character Creation together as I helped new players with that process. Took ages.

    When we finally got into the game, the party was on some sort of ship or something, where an important General was traveling to the Big City of the world. One of the players tried to break into the General’s room for some reason, and ended up getting locked in the brig by security. She spent the better half of an hour trying to break out as the rest of the players sat around, waiting for the story to progress.

    That campaign lasted maybe 12 or so sessions, each roughly 6 hours. I eventually found my groove, but it was by no means easy. At some point, they got me into Critical Role (which they all watched religiously). I was trying very hard to emulate their game, as anyone would with no experience running a campaign. Eventually, someone else wanted to DM, so we worked it out that we would each take half the group and people could swap between groups at will. That made it a whole heck of a lot easier for us, but there were still problems present. The campaign fully died out a few months later as I was starting college and was unable to put the immense effort into prep that was necessary for DMing a group of 12. I want to say that whole experience, start to finish, went from about December 2016 until maybe November 2017 or so.

    Dorms and Disease

    From there, I was asked to DM a number of times for friends at college, always using 5e published modules/adventures. I got really into The Adventure Zone: Balance around this time, and it shifted my style in a much more shenanigan-focused direction, not taking anything too seriously.

    Once COVID hit, all my friends wanted me to DM for them. I decided to run The Sunless Citadel from Tales from the Yawning Portal over Roll20 for them, which went swimmingly. We all loved it, despite finding Roll20 fiddly and confusing. That fell apart right around the time we finished the dungeon due to scheduling conflicts.

    Two of my local friends and I decided to keep going with a new campaign, but we wanted to try out a “rotating DM” thing. Each week, one of us would be the DM. We had a journal where we would write out all our plans for the session and whatever we had put in any dungeon. Then at the end of the session, we would take a sharpie and black out anything we didn’t get to, before passing the journal to whoever was to DM next week. They could take the world in absolutely any direction they wanted so long as it meshed with the currently existing information. No retconning, just working with what there was.

    This rotating DM thing worked out great for a while, but eventually things fell apart after a frustrating session. That session exposed so many of the problems I had developed with what I at the time called “Critical Role Syndrome.” In reality, I had gotten sick of Trad Play and I felt that 5e had some fatal flaws that made combat (for instance) extremely boring and slow. I hated all the rules-lawyering that went on, along with all the handwaving to eliminate potentially interesting rules and mechanics. I found a video by The Questing Beast about HP, and was introduced by him into the OSR scene, which I have been very invested in since.

    Old School Teacher

    Now, I’m a Middle School teacher, running multiple games each week. I run my weekly “home game” every Saturday morning, I have a DnD Club at school that I DM for twice each week at lunchtime (we only get 30 minute lunches, 15 of which my kids spend getting their actual food), and I occasionally run the odd pickup game with people on Discord. I have a few other games simmering on the back burner with some friends in person, but availability is difficult.

    These days, I typically use OSE, but I tend to forget a lot of the rules and end up figuring stuff out on the fly a lot of the time. I’ve tried to hack it a few times, but I think I need some more experience playing it as-written before I can productively hack it into something new. I only ever play very infrequently, but I always love to see how more experienced DMs do things so I can learn from them.

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