100 MINUTES OF MEGADUNGEON MAYHEM: My Open-Table Megadungeon Format 2024 Goal

I never feel that I have a good handle on retrospectives and I don't have awards to give out yet, so instead let me talk about an RPG goal that I have in 2024 given it is the 50th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons.

Play is a key activity in the RPG space and a key goal of mine in 2024.

Few other activities trump play in terms of keeping the hobby alive. A crucial loss of the G+ era was the ability to have actual play be in such close proximity to the discourse and creativity around old-school D&D. The whole scene vibrated with this energy. Talk about a cool idea on Monday and by Thursday/Friday night, you had games running with those same concepts. I want to continue to evangelize that aspect. Play is the best expression of D&D. And experiences from actual play still seem to be a minority in the hobby space. 

I started out running Caverns of Thracia & Forbidden Caverns of Archaia at my local game store. It proved popular as I would regularly have tables of 6-10 strangers. Wonderfully, 3 other people from that experience decided to start DMing as well. I love my present-day 2+ years experience with Miranda Elkins' Nightwick Abbey and its done a lot to make me want to get back into the DM's seat more.

But time per week will be a factor in 2024 and I want this to not be a burden on me and morph into feeling like an obligation instead of something fun. To combat this issue here is what I think is a nice setup:


1 | Two-Hour Format

WHY: I'll be busy this year so a short session would work best for me, the DM. Also, if a player happens to join and it is not their thing, then they will not have wasted an afternoon. Here's the breakdown that is technically 120 minutes, but "100 Minutes" is a punchier sell.

  • 10 min: Gather...
  • 50 min: Play!
  • 10 min: Break.
  • 50 min: Play!

2 | Megadungeon-Focused Open-Table

WHY: With the goal of adventure crammed into 100 minutes, I think this "microcosm" would be ideal: town-to-dungeon and back again. This keeps the world simple and it can be quickly conveyed in a few moments. I think the past couple of years of ZeldaDark Souls, Blasphomous and Darkest Dungeon games have also prepped the wider potential audience for a megadungeon environment.

Plus, I think there is great potential for a megadungeon to grow specifically through the actions of the store players. So a nice opportunity to build something that is community-specific if that makes sense? The great podcast Into The Megadungeon expounds on this.

I also want to encourage a more low-overhead version of D&D. I want to break down this idea that it requires so much prep and backstory and PC optimization. Bleh. Sit-down, roll up a PC and play!

3 | BX-based System 

WHY: It's the one I know the most and would be easiest for me to run. This gets back to the whole idea of keeping this a fun activity and not an obligation. I can also add in a lot of the OSE Advanced classes for players who want that. And since I am running it at a store, Old-School Essentials might be the way to go because it is also something the store itself could stock✤. 

Some possible alternatives:

  • OD&D: The 50th anniversary of D&D this year would be a great time to roll this out thematically
  • Shadowdark: Best option to draw 5e folks and it was inspired by BX
  • Knave 2e: Just released, so a simple classless system, but might throw too many people off who want to play an elf barbarian
  • Cairn: Like Knave quick and to the point especially the auto-hit combat and ablative armor (or Mork Borg)

I'll most likely use the house rules document Serpent Song Hymnal to adjudicate. I also think I'll be throwing in some recent rules I've picked up:

  • If a PC fills only four equipment slots, +1 to all rolls
  • Fighters have a bonus equal to their level which can be added to the to-hit roll, damage roll, or to make an extra attack with no bonus
I might also use Shadowdark's sand timer method of tracking torches to keep everyone making decisions fast. This won't always result in optimal decisions but I think it will keep game playing feeling fast and risky (I hope).

5 | Downtime Procedures

WHY: I think downtime procedures from carousing to crafting to romancing provide (1) a sink for resources, (2) a sense of a living world, and (3) an outlet for role-play that might not quite be provided by strict dungeon crawling. Keep it simple at first, but use Downtime in Zyan to flesh out any additional needs of the table. Ben L., the author, puts it best here:

[Downtime] serves as an antidote to the relentlessly cooperative and world-focused character of OSR play by allowing PCs to develop some uniqueness and depth. It facilitates the pursuit of individual ends in addition to the collective ones. By not gating downtime behind name level play it allow players to pursue their dreams and leave their mark on the campaign world from early levels. It is also designed to be part of a virtuous circle with adventuring, so that downtime itself creates hooks and problems to be solved through adventuring, and adventuring creates the possibility of further downtime.

6 | Just Play

Hope this is an inspiration for you, dear reader, to run a game this 2024. Remember, no one knew how to do it "correctly" or the "best way" in 1974 and 50 years later I think it is still that way- just play. As Miranda so wonderfully put it:


✤ I know that RPGs make next to nothing when compared to MtG or Warhammer. But when recently speaking with the ower of my local FLAGS, I was dismayed to learn that even 5e makes nothing for the store because most folks just come in, see the books, and buy them on Amazon.

The owner did think about pivoting more toward indies inorder to support the RPG space, but still be able to make a profit on the books.

THE OLD DUNGEON WORKSHOP: One (Quick) Way I Build A Dungeon


I've recently completed the first level of my "wine dungeon", run it for 12 sessions, and finally have strong thoughts coalescing for a level 2. Given that next year will be the 50th anniversary of D&D, dungeons and dragons have been on my mind.

I think two three of the best articles I've read on dungeon building are:

Looking at Nick's The Two-Week Megadungeon post, he had a nice little table (below). I think it demonstrate that when creating a dungeon it is helpful to thing of monsters, traps, and treasures that define your dungeon.

I've taken that table below and linked to one of my various thoughts on the matter:

Roll 1d20 for each Room
1-10: Empty
11-13: Creatures (and what they want)
14-16: Creatures with Treasure
17: Trap
18: Trap with Treasure
19: Something Weird
20: Unguarded Treasure

Get to that map-making because after all: 
It also important to remember that something is better than nothing.  All D&D is hackwork and a half-assed idea that gets your game on the table is better than a perfect one that takes months. ~In Places Deep, Mastering the Megadungeon

Make your monster, trap, treasure lists, check 'em twice.
And draw out that dungeon- rooms both naughty and nice!
Grab friends one and all, 8-10 should suffice.
And kick in a door one, twice, thrice!
For their trouble, they die by tooth, claw, slime, or vice!
But the danger is worth it with treasure in their sights!

I SHOULD HAVE CAST LIGHT: And Other Lessons From the 4th Level of Hell

Couldn't help making a book cover for the campaign using
the King story that in part inspired Nightwick, Rose Red

Finished our 76th Session of Nightwick Abbey and that session was a bad one. Well "bad" only in the sense that the party did not get much done, gained no treasure, and almost died. Almost. Its good because the Abbey re-established itself as a threat. Its good because narrowly avoiding a TPK made things tense.

What makes it a good "bad" game, well at least from my perspective I felt like with this session I ignored everything I have learned from my previous 75 sessions of delving Nightwick. And as a result, risked a TPK. Here is what I did wrong with Mayfly:

  • Lack of basic equipment accounting makes for poor trap management: We've transfered from a VTT to Figma-a virtual white-board. This has been great because it decreased prep time for our DM, Miranda, and made it more likely that game would happen.

    But this has caused me to not transfer over some of that stuff to my new sheet. Stupid. Because in our 76th-session we encountered a trap that would have be disabled with 10ft poles, 50' of rope, and sacks. This trap came back to haunt us.

  • Not talking first leads to fights you don't need to have: This one really gets me. I am a big fan of talking to things in dungeons. It is often interesting as a player and interesting as a DM. Sure maybe cutting deals with dark forces is a bad idea, but it makes for exciting gameplay. Not what Mayfly did this time.

    The minute two demons introduced themselves- Fireball. Now true one introduced themselves "The Bane of Mothers" and "The Eater of Children" so such a crazy reaction, but...eh... maybe should have given them a few more minutes. They were also immune to fire and Web burst into flames.

    However, Mayfly is high INT (can cast Fireball), but low WIS (doesn't always judge the best time)- so this really was on point.

    Now the setup orientation looks like this: Demons-Best Fighter-Paralyzing Trap-Rest of the Party. Bad. We escaped due to a well-cast Fog but due to the trap our best fighter was uncontrollably sobbing due to understanding the sins of all mankind.

  • When threats are unknown, assume maximal threats: I have two general spell memorization strategies ✤ for Mayfly (well three as I have one for overland travel) which are:
    • Attack Target: Fireball (3), Fireball (3), Web (2), Protection from Evil (1), Light (1)
    • Level Recon: Fireball (3), Web (2), ESP, (2), Protection from Evil (1), Charm Person (1), Sleep (1)

      What happened here is that I chose the "recon program" without really understanding the threats of Level 4 very well. Which caused Mayfly to not have additional damage heavy hitters. But even so, I might try running more with Lighting Bolt because that will help with fire-immune creatures.

  • Light is still GOAT and a still underappreciated offensive spell: With a now magic-sword controlled fighter (yup, gotta be wary about magic weapons with egos when you are feeling down), the party decides to keep going. We run into 5 "Bleeding Knights". Our sword-possessed charges ahead and the party rushes to form a skirmish line. 

    Ulf fires off a Light spell and blinds one knight (in BX you can't attack if blinded✤✤). Mayfly follows up with the single Light scroll he has from 20 sessions ago-- blinding another. Ulf is able to blind another. Then our magic sword friend gains purchase and begins slicing through them

    Next time, prep Light at least once. Best twice.


✤ In Miranda's Nightwick Campaign, Magic-Users use spell points instead of slots. So the spell level is how many points it costs to cast. I like this system because it still constrains spell choice but allows some high-level spells to be cast a lower levels-- which fits into my view of how to conform old-school play to modern environments (see also here and at All Dead Generations).

✤✤ Even if the Metzer interpretation of Light is used (-6 to-hit and -4 to saves instead of blind) it is still a good bargain and strong against 4+ HD enemies.

THE SERPENT SONG HYMNAL: My Collection of Tables & Such for Running BX Dungeons & Dragons

I like this illo because it looks
like the heads are singing

Since running the "More Wine!", the wine cellar-turned-dungeon, I have been collecting various tables & rules that I always reach for when running the game. 

I have collected these into a document I call, The Serpent Song Hymnal.

If you have been around the old-school scene for a while, its really nothing surprising but I found it nice to have it all collected in one spot for my own reference. Its kinda feels like assembling my own lightsaber.

My aim is for it to be a living document that evolves as I run games, scratch out well-used results, add new ones, and add/subtract whole tables. It is also not intended to be a new RPG ruleset or anything like that, but more my reflection of BX D&D. The way I butter my toast.

I do have a sort of player version as well. This document is more d6 tables concerning the backgrounds of various classes and the "spin" I like to give them as well as generating equipment rapidly. But I've not quite settled on what I'm reaching for when I'm helping players. Some tables might need to be more concerned with motivations like what I did with Lair of the Lamb.

Here is the fighter for example:

FIGHTER (All receive: Sword, Dagger, Shield, Gambeson)
D12, W13, P14, B15, S16

1. Barbarian     Battle Axe, Horned Helm, Oil Flask (2x)
2. Hunter         Bow, Arrows (10x), Snare (2x 2:6 trigger)
3. Guard        Spear, Manacles + Keys, Whistle
4. Errant Axe, Javalins x 2, Chain
5. Mercenary     Bastard Sword (1 or 2 H), Chain
6. Bastard        Loyal Squire (follower), Ancestral Claim, Chain

ROOKS: A Kenku Cleric Class

Found this from some notebooks I had. Dated around 2016 which I think was when I was just getting an inkling about the OSR.

I love a good cleric class because they should be weird and unique and have built-in "goals" but often they get reduced to "healer". So here is a chaotic cleric class:


Domains: thieving, relics, theater, air

HD, Saves: As cleric

Armor, Weapons: As thief (cannot use sentient magic objects or those with a "purpose")

Alignment: Chaotic because they do not build only barrow/take/steal

Holy Symbol: thieves tools

Belief: To create new things/beliefs/magic ect is to create new ways to "sin"✤. Copying old sins is fine because while they should be avoided, they also already exist. Once no new sin can be created in the world- these raven folk will be gifted wings and the ability to fly.

Of particular importance is hunting down sentient magic objects and destroying them regardless of the alignment of that object. Because the objects often control other beings, which then build institutions, and that creates new sins.

"Something old, never new/Something borrowed, best its blue"

Borrowed Magic: May choose from the following 1st level Illusionist spells in addition to normal Cleric spells: Auditory Illusion, Glamour, Phantasmal Force, Spook, Wall of Fog

✤ What is the list of sins? Well just borrow a collection of them from other religions in your world

PAINT THE (VILLAGE) RED: A General Purpose Carousing Table


What self-respecting old-school blog would be complete without a carousing table? 

This is part of an effort to build my own pamphlet DMG, The Serpent Song Hymnal, which is a collection of tables and such that help me adjudicate games. I feel like doing this sorta thing was popular circa ~2009?

To improve the table, I think I would try to rewrite it to better match the specific campaign I was running so that it is a mechanism by which the PCs would come in contact with more named NPCs, factions, and whatever constitutes the "law", and maybe also more visitation from the gods/spirits in a Clash of the Titans sorta way. Maybe make it a d30 table which feels like a 2012 blog thing.

But I think the below is good enough for your generic dungeons. And please excuse the choppy wording- it was originally formatted for a column taking up half a page.


During downtime between sessions, the character spends 1d8 x 100sp, gains that much XP 1:1, and then makes a Save vs Poison:

  • If you fail the Save vs Poison then roll a 1d20 and consult the table below. 
  • If you do not have enough money to cover your carousing, then lose all your money, gain only 1/2 the XP, and roll on the table below.

1. What Happened?!: No memory of the night before. Lose all your money & a random valuable item.
2. Chug! Chug! Chug!: Consume a mysterious potion: (1-2) -1d6 hp, (3-4) Gaseous Form at the start of the adventure, (5-6) soft glow
3. Light. It. UP!: Burn down (1-2) your fav inn (3-4) the other fav inn (5-6) the blacksmith’s
4. New Ink is… (1) lame (2) blasphemous (3) on your face (4) misspelled (5) a map? (6) metal!
5. Magic Beans: 3 items replaced with 1 alleged magic bean (1:6 one bean is magic)
6. Outlaw!: Now all the king’s men are looking for you; few in town will deal with you
7. Pig!: Rebuffed advances of a MU & now cursed as a swine; Save vs spells next week 
8. BASTARD!: Insulted, your hirelings leave
9. Lover! Romantic Interest creates (1-2) jealous ex-lover, (3-4) angry parents.
10. Your Large Public Painting is (1-2) a defacement (3-4) slanderous, (5-6) immoral
11. Arrested: D6 x 100sp to bribe your way out or jailed until a bribe can be paid.
12. Enigmatic Gift: Its true nature remains unknown until a critical moment
13. Did That Seem Undercooked?: Save vs. Poison or gain a parasite
14. Gourmet Experience: (1-2) Mildly addictive, (3-4) +1 to CON, (5-6) Hallucinogenic.
15. Recent Convert: Replace class abilities with 1st level cleric for next adventure
16. Duel Challenger: Prepare to face a skilled opponent next week.
17. Mysterious Patron: Gain a mysterious benefactor who offers assistance in times of need for a price
18. Fame Backlash: Your newfound reputation attracts unwanted attention. Roll 1d6: (1-3) Annoying fans, (4-5) a 0-level camp follower, (6) Bounty hunters.
19. Strange Markings: Gain +1 RxN checks with occult enthusiasts, but -1 with religious types.
20. Divine Visitation: Experience a moment of clarity. Gain a prophetic vision related to your next quest.

DEVOTEES OF ORCUS: Hobgoblin Monks the Erasers of Afterlife Identity

More microblogging from the scrap pile.

I think the following might be one of the single best things I've written to make a BX monster seem fresh:

Monster Shaggy Humanoids: Bugbear monks are removing objects of identity from the human dead rendering them “lost” in the afterlife; Orcus approves of this

I don't say this because I think I'm an amazing adventure writer, but because this sentence is something that really satisfies a lot of requirements I have for good monster design of a type:

  1. it gives the monsters an activity other than just seemingly standing around when they encounter the PCs.
  2. it points toward a cultural bit that gives them a greater depth.
  3. especially for humanoid monsters, it involves religion and brings the afterlife a little bit more to the forefront of the game
  4. points toward something outside of the dungeon/place/plot they currently are involved in: "Wait if bugbears are doing this here, have they been doing this elsewhere? And for how long? And is this important? Should be be keeping tabs on this?"
Good stuff.

UNTITLED PROJECT: When The Church Can't Hear God

In an effort to "microblog" more and just get ideas out there, I've been going back through fragments of post not-yet-complete. 

May be a good setting for OD&D or pending the arrival of Fantasy Medieval Campaign. Maybe I should also mix this with Vermis. At any rate here is the setup in which I think I initially trying to create a setting where "law" is evil and "chaos" is good in a sorta inversion to D&D.


LAW: Steeple-punk pseudo-Catholic church that...

  • ...is all-powerful and numerous
  • ...hoards artifacts
  • ...imprisons angels
  • ...can no longer hear god
  • ...believes those who can are demons
  • ...manifest low-level magic, but no longer can perform big miracles

CHAOS: peasant revolts, downtrodden prophets, hidden savors, "heretical" knights who...
  • ...can hear god
  • ...and often go mad
  • ...speak in tongues but not understood
  • ...few in number but manifest singular, but power magic
  • ...face infiltration from demons
  • ...face jealousy from angels
  • ...know god is trapped/inhibited
Those that hear the voice of god can only know after they die?

CON JOB: Brief Reflections On Convention D&D

A last reflection on my con experience a few months back. Never hit post so thought I'd get it up later than "never".

CON Games are an interesting species of game to me because they feel like a sorta "exhibition one-shot". Maybe I put too much pressure on myself to rep BX D&D, ensure people have a good time, and ensure folks don't think I suck at DMing. For ReaperCon 2022 and 2023 I ran Through Ultan's Door and Tomb Robbers of the Crystal Frontier.

I wanted to give people a micro experience with BX from rolling characters to dungeon delving. Rolling characters to showcase the speed of old-school D&D and dungeon crawling to showcase player-driven adventuring, instead of laying out signs painted with arrows toward the end.

The point of rolling characters is it showcases the speed with which characters can be created in BX. For both of my games, 6 players were about to roll complete characters with equipment and small backgrounds in ~25 min.

My two con games were four hours. But I really wish I had planned them for 3. First, because playing for 3 hours means you generally give folks a 1-hour "break" for them to do other things before the next slot starts. And second, it helps not to go overly long if it turns out it is not something folks are really into.

To me, the most difficult thing about con games is sticking the "landing" particularly when using dungeons which are more geared toward a more methodic 3-5 game session. By sticking a landing, you give the player the feeling of a completed arch and a sorta sense of accomplishment. For the Ultan's players that was getting the mark after a fight with the priests and follows of a rival god. For the Tomb Robbers players that was releasing then pledging loyalty to the Red Queen- a short narration gave them a sense of what that choice meant.

I can't decide if it is better to run something between a large battle map or a much smaller modular dungeon like the one Frank Mentzer supposedly ran in public games (redrawn here by Dyson Logos). 

And next year I will try and ask folks two things they liked and one thing they would want more of in a game just to better understand what folks want from a convention game.

TO SUN SATURATED ISLES 03: Adventuring in Cuccagna

In the sun-soaked isles this week, my regular character Skleras is taking a bit of a rest after losing his hand to a geo-thermal vent. So, I rolled up two additional characters and set off with the rest of the party to investigate the palace of the missing Sea King.

Velveteen la Bleu (sibling to Neuf): STR 10 DEX 12 CON 15 WIS 13 INT 11 CHA 10 HP 8 (7+1); notable starting equipment- a smuggle bunny.

Velveteen was able to help the party enter through other routes into the palace and eventually stumble into a large hallway with a monstrous octopus. With an auspicious start of firing off an arrow that hit with a natural 20 and for 6 damage, he was stabbed through the head for 10 points of total damage by the devil-fish.

The party moves through the palace coming upon several large ugly fish buried a sandy hallway. After dispatching these ugly fish and cutting them open for fillets, out slides...

Ambrose de Iles (landless noble): STR 14 DEX 13 CON 13 INT 13 WIS 07 CHA 14 HP 9 (8+1); notable starting equipment- a worthless title (PC NOTE: Absolutely one of the best characters I have ever rolled)

Ambrose is on a quest to gain enough money to buy back his title or at least improve the claim the title pertains to in order to increase the title's worth. He is wasteful but honest.

He is also dead too. 

The reason for his death is climbing atop a large idol AD&D Player's Handbook style and prying out the ruby. It took him a few turns at which point several 7ft tall crab men were alerted to the party's presence. With precious seconds ticking by Ambrose pops the ruby out!

A strange pale heavy fog emerges from the opening covering Ambrose!

Save vs. Poison...rolls...5...

Ambrose's body slides off the statue, hits the soft sand floor, and is devoured by crabmen while the rest of the party absconds with the ruby.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 73 WAR!

Previously...Level 4!

Blossom (Rogue 5)
Mayfly (Magician 4)
Mechtilde (Fighter 4)
Yevegniy the Coward (Cleric 4)
Verinka (Changeling 3)
Cherwe (Cleric 3)
Liminal Space (Changeling 3)
Krupe (Cleric 1)
Bluegum Lemony Spice (Changeling 1)


Despite last week's discovery of yet another level of the dread Abbey's gullet, the party turns its attention to more earthly matters. South of Nightwick, bandits and pagan forces have combined to harry and pillage the towns along the southern road to Blackleg. Lord Ekard recently suffered defeat there and is licking his wounds. Additionally, the forces of Castle Blackleg emerged to hold the line and throw out Lord Ekard's weak ally.

Hearing about all this, the party previously traveled north back to Lychgate to secure mercenary forces in order to ride south and once again save the Dark Country from lawlessness... or at least lawlessness not originating from the party's own actions. Lawlessness such as opening and reading a lord's sealed letter outlining said bandit problem.


DAY ONE: The party embeds with the Corby Calvary (Black Sheild) in Nightwick Village (1507; the titular Nightwick Abbey is 1607) and ride south to meet with the forces of Netta of Blackleg in 1113 lead by her sister Nethe

Mayfly is almost thrown from his horse, Crow. An ill-omen.

DAY TWO: The party continues to make good time traveling south.

At midday the sortie comes across a strange sight on the road: a Bogdani man is being surrounded and violently questioned by a group of elves (PC NOTE: Think as in North Pole not Tolkien). Liminal steps forward to interpret as neither group understands the other.

Elves: "He is a man in violation of our home! He deserves to be flogged!!"

Bogdani: "I don't understand what they want?!"

Liminal to the man: "Don't worry, you'll be safe as long as you cough up a lot of money"

Bogdani: "I...I don't have any money, but I do know about the trap being laid for Blackleg!"

Liminal to the elves: "Oh we can take it from here. This man will be flogged. Repeatedly."

The party learns that the forces of the bandit Yim Yimsely have laid a trap for Nethe of Blackleg in the Fog-Bound Forest in the form of a false camp. It is decided to dispatch our thief and changelings to recon the supposed bandit camp in 1409 and send Mectild and Cherwe on a forced ride south to warn Nethe's forces. Mayfly is left with the Corbies.

As the sun dips low, Mectilde and Cherwe ride into the Blackleg camp and warn them of the trap. Blackleg agrees to hold until the Corbies arrive. Nethe, out of frustration, proceeds to wail on a tree with her two-handed sword.

Nethe of Blackleg
(who will be fixed by Mechtilde)

Meanwhile, the changeling sortie arrives to find at least one of the bandit camp is only lightly guarded. They quickly sleep the guards and ransack the place recovering 200GP, 800SP, a silver rod, a crown, and 3 amaythest gems. And then slit the guards' throats in their spell-induced sleep as non-evil people do and make off into the night to meet up further south.

A night envelopes the land, Mayfly makes walks the parameter of the Corbie. He comes upon shoe prints forming on the frosted ground. Invisible intruders! Mayfly quietly follows the foot prints (DEX 16) and when they stop- he immediately casts web snaring the would-be saboteur. Mayfly raises the alarm and the camp only loses a few tents to fire. Unfortunately due to some miss handling by the guards the invisible intruder slips away.

DAY THREE- A PLAN: All allied forces gather together and form a war council. As it currently stands, the Corbies Calvary, the Blackleg Calvary, and the PCs form "the good guys", while Yim's Company, Yimsely's Company, The Pagan Liberation Front and a Bogdani Band form "the bad guys". Not exciting odds.

However, scouts return word that a Bogdani Band has been spotted moving south from Frogguts. Given that the party did clear the tomb of Father Winter and we might be able to fork over the crown of Bogdani make-- maybe these forces will flip? 

Liminal rides forth to meet the Bogdani Band and the minute the crown is offered up a deal is struck. 

[PC NOTE: Wait...too easy. Maybe we should have investigated that crown a little more. But that is a problem for future us. ]

Apparently, the "Black" Bogdani are those who resisted the rule of the Relmish Kings (aka Lychgate). The "Red" Bogdani are those who have more integrated in Relmish society in the Dark Country.

So basically the party has just handed over a uniting symbol for the "Black" Bogdani potentially against Lychgate who the party fight's for so they will flip sides and fight with us against Yim Yimsley's Company who are against Lychgate.

[PC NOTE: YOLOjimbo]

The plan is revised. The party will hide itself in the Black Bogdani Company (star on black field) which take a right flank position as normal in Yim's (green man) trap. Corbies (solid black field) will take the left flank and Nethe (yellow diamond, triskelion) will "fall" into the trap. However, as the battle commences, the Black Bogdani will attack Yimsley's Company (red snake) and press into the Liberation Front's Flank (red deer) where all "good guy" forces will converge.

DAY FOUR- BATTLE!: Nethe of Blackleg is more than willing to walk into the heart of battle and wet her sword on the sap of humans, pagans, and whatever else can "bleeds" or at least be cloven in two. 

[PC NOTE: Alright, as noted, this time Miranda decided to try out The War Machine which is a set of rules I think found in later additions of BECMI, but you, dear reader, might most easily find on pages of the Rules Cyclopedia pg 117. 

Basically, each force shown above has a rating from 00-126 based on troop class, which is modified by its composition in terms of missiles, magic items/weapons, spells, and speed. There can also be modifications based on the leader's WIS, INT, CHA or morale, tactics and/or even PC actions before battle. 

Once those scores are determined, each side rolls a d100 and adds it to their base score for a final combat result. The difference between that score determines the scale of casualties, fatigue, and location for the winners and losers

From the above picture, there were three battles that were fought so three rolls of a d100-- and that was it!]

With the Black Bogdani converted and the bolstering from the party, Yimsley's Company (red snake) was met with 2:1 odds, and despite some trouble (Rolled a 32 on the d100) the right flank collapsed allowing us to push in on the Pagan Liberation Front (red deer).

The Corbies easily defeated the far less battle-hardened Yim's Company. And Nethe, full of bloodlust, routed the Pagan Liberation Front, gave chase across the river, and smashed them on the other side. What became of the "witch" who was leading this rebellion?

Yes that is the Abbey north in 1607



I like it. I think for the scale of what our group wants to do and the level at which there is interest in large battles it is a good middle ground. tWM basically has you calculate a combat check. And while the math is a little extensive it's nothing that also could not be rolled into an Excel sheet for quicker automation. But even without that, a little back-and-forth in a Discord chat will establish the biggest parameters for a DM to have all the math ready.

But maybe most importantly, it was easy to allow the party to perform some hijinks or make some critical decisions that factored into the battle. Which is most likely how a majority of players would prefer it. We were still able to use the resources of our ~3-5th level characters while not having to drop down into Chainmail scale.

Does this mean that tWM is better than Chainmail? No. It is just a different tool. If our group consisted of more war game nerds then I would have no problem maybe doing an off-cycle Chainmail battle to determine outcomes. But that is not the case and instead, we have a system that allows the resolution of regional-level battles in an evening. And allows the players to see the effects of their choices on the world.

That last bit is key to most RPGs: player actions result in (majority) observable change. This is what keeps players coming back.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 71 FAILURE!

Session 71. What. A. Nightmare.

Tonight, on a very special Weeknights in Nightwick,
the party learns that despite having felled giants with fireballs and possessing the sword of Father Winter and a shard of the God of Law-- you still might have to run like cowards. But still living cowards nonetheless! And living stands in contrast to the poor fates of the 3 brave souls we hired that morning. Two of which were horribly incinerated by once-man-now-monster created, no doubt, by a concoction of hubris and satanism. The third was literally torn in half by a group of #3d6+1 Blind Dead.

For previous excursions, please check out Mycelium Mischef


Mayfly (MU 4)
Verinka (Ch 3)
Ulf (MU 3)
Liminal Space (Ch 3)
Bluegum (Ch 1)
Mechtilde (F 4)
Hirelings: Gutteral Noises, 2 other hirelings


LEVEL TWO: The intent of the party in this delve was to "simply" sojourn down into the Abbey (1). Finish mapping the second level and hopefully make it back with ~500-1000 XP each. Instead, when we hit Level 2 and turned south, we ran smack into a horrible radioactive abomination.  The party ran through a series of ill-formed plans hindered by a simple door that we could only see the eldrich light shining through.

(PC NOTE 1: Return to the Dungeon: Megadungeon campaignsI think, have a wonderful strength in that the dungeon is the thing. This provides a convenient, well-known, easily understood "(5') square one" to always return to. This is especially advantageous in an open-table format where you might have different players, different competing interests, and PCs of different levels. There is less reliance on everyone or at least a core group to make every session in order to advance the "plot". Rather, if the party that week has the needed capabilities then you can run the delve you want. Or easily change the goal of the delve)

Should we fire up spells now and kick the door in, then fireball? Maybe we could phantasmal force? Maybe we could phantasmal force and then fireball? But what if we can't see the target, do we wait? Who would go first? Whoever does, MUs should move next- but wait then they can't cast spells and we might lose a round of combat initiative-- so what now? Our DM starts moving 1-by-1 and asking: "What is YOUR character doing?"(2)

(PC NOTE 2: Plans Are Especially Exciting When Occasionally Poorly Executed: With a totality of information and cross-table talk, its easy for players to dither and/or recursively make plans. Good plans are key in old-school D&D. However, this can sap excitement and tension. So when Miranda started asking for what each PC is doing without cross-checking with everyone else-- it really brings me into the game world. The tension returns. The stakes get raised especially when it comes to an important battle. The confusion, while one part frustrating, also adds realism- sometimes plans don't come together perfectly.)

The door is kicked open- SUPRISE MOTHERF****R! - to an empty hallway...green light streaming out of a doorway further south on the east wall. One hireling is ordered down the hallway to verify the target- a once-man-now-monster created, no doubt, by a concoction of hubris and satanism. Yup, its there. Mayfly slings a fireball into the sliver of the room he can see and lets the blast radius do the work-- 19 points of damage! (solid). But with a wail, the first hireling is reduced to an ash-coated skeleton. Disintegration is not what we are craving. The party runs, beating another hireling to the door, and therefore creates a second ash-coated hiring skeleton in the process (3). We make it out and up to Level 1, then out of the Abbey to circle around to the crypt level.

(PC NOTE 3: Second Level- Still Scary: I still like that there are things that can insta-kill, especially when combined plans gone awry as in (2) it creates great tension. It adds to the horror vibe of Nightwick. Our party has 4th and 5th-level characters, powerful magic swords, and equally powerful magic, it is nice to still have something on Level 2 (!) that can potentially kick our ass. It also is something that helps keep the level in a perennial state. And these perennial elements of Nightwick's three levels combine to create an environment that has kept a party playing weekly going for 2 years now. No sorta of 400-page Aduin Vul situation is needed; three levels with ~250+ rooms total. Not trying to say there should not be more, but hopefully demonstrating a DM needs far less than one might think before kicking off a campaign.)

LEVEL THREE: The party regroups to try Level 3, which we have a solid map of, and know that in an unexplored area there is a set of stairs back to a different room of Level 2. Okay, good plan B. Down to Level 3, up to Level 2, find some loot and scoot (4). The party turns north then east to hit this set of stairs and just as they are discussing what to do-- a hireling is torn in half by two skeletal figures! 

(PC NOTE 4: I still think mapping is great. For me it is a form of exerting control over a space that initially seems sprawling. As the unknown is revealed, you can take better action and anticipate outcomes- survival becomes easier. Maps function as a sort of emergent quest log due to its record of hallways, doors, portals, and areas unexplored. And at least in Nightwick, creating a map allows a form of fast travel in that we don't have to crawl square by square, but the DM will just roll the required encounter checks from point A to B and zip us to our goal if nothing pops up.)

Stretching before us is a long column of skeletal dead. F**K. The party re-forms ranks. Mectilde, with the sword of Father Winter, cuts down 4 of the things, but fearing wading into the mass given the rend ability that was just one display. A quick vote is taken among the PCs: Let's leave.

The party leaves Level 3 and the dungeon as a whole. DM calls it a night as that was the second route (5).

(PC NOTE 5: These two delves are about as close to a "loss" as one can have in D&D, short of losing a character or a TPK. We were run out twice, lost 3 hirelings, gained no treasure, little XP, and didn't kill the "boss" monster. I am disappointed but only as much as I would be losing a game of Halo or Catan. It spurs me to do better next game. Bitter defeat helps enhance the flavor of sweet victory. Our windfalls are all that move meaningfully because we have 0xp sessions like this one. In the vein of Farfhd and Grey Mouser, my character, and I as well, experiences the boom-bust cycle of adventure. I think these defeats or setbacks also help ground an otherwise fantastical setting & game realistically-- each adventure does not guarantee a happy ending. And that is also not the fault (or responsibility) of the DM; Miranda runs a great game of D&D.)

Total Play Time: 2 hrs
Total New Rooms Explored: 0.5
Hirelings Dead: 3
Hirelings Left Behind to Haunt Us Again: 3
Enemies Defeated: 4

Damn you Nightwick.

Our fearless scribe has also chronicled the terrible result of this ill-fated outing.




Great illo from the Pyramid of the Undying

Last Friday I was asked to run a game of D&D over pizza and beer. A classic pairing and impossible to say "no" to. The hosting couple was I had previously run my "wine dungeon" . And given that the last outing ended in somewhat of a TPK, they were down for starting over with new characters. I asked if they wanted to try to delve the wine dungeon again or try something more classic? 

"Classicwas the answer and I just happened to have a revamped copy of B4 The Lost City✦ with me. No, not the Goodman Games one, but a lighter PDF call "Pyramid of the Undying"- highly recommend this PDF.  It creates a much tighter layout for the first 5 tiers of the dungeon, changes the gods to the more familar Zeus, Athena, and Hermes, and also creates a small set of boons if you join the factions. Keeps Zargon of course.

This group of novices had played with me before, so they are used to my low(er) fantasy D&D. It doesn't seem to bother them a bit. In deference to this being a friendly game, I just allowed my friend a STR 18 "barbarian" (or a fighter with a background equipping him with a battleaxe, leather, horned helmet, and 2x oil flasks). Each of the 3 players rolled 2 characters, so in total we had 6: fighter, thief, cleric, wizard, wizard, thief. I also started folks at Level 2 because- eh, wanted to keep the game light. I'm trying to get folks to have fun with D&D not prove some sort of old-school bona fide.

What was also interesting was that despite offering maybe a d66 roll for additional power, the players elected just to start the game. Again, I interpret this as your average player of D&D just wants to start playing some D&D ASAP.

Adventuring in The Lost City

  • My brief background is that the party is fleeing through the desert from a definitive war their side lost. I ask three questions to establish this and at least answering one of them brought about the fact that dragons no longer exist. Oops, now we are playing Dungeons & [deleted].

  • Needing water in 2 hours (12 exploration turns), the party succeeds in only setting off 1 trap before figuring out a way to disable the other two. And dropping torches down into the first level to trick the fire beetles below.

  • After a brief scuffle, they investigate the three doors and scare off a pale-skinned "werewolf" by waving wolfsbane (randomly rolled equipment) in their face. The explored northward and ran into a well-armed group wearing the stylized mask of an old bearded man- the devotees of Zeus.

  • Despite the chauvinistic leanings of this group and in desperate need of water, the party decides to join up and receive food, water (!), and lodging. They are led down below to Level 3 where they decide to try delivering a message of parley to each of the other two factions.

  • The exploration yields a remnant of a potential "fourth" faction devoted to a sun god, but the altar is destroyed and desecrated. A vicious fight with a giant black widow spider ensues and almost kills the two fighters. They decide to leave this area and make it back to the Zesus compound to recuperate but not before encountering a group of pale figures clad in the costume of adventurers. A brief beheading (Nat 20, plus max damage, +1 STR bay-bee!) by one of the PC fighters is enough to get them to back down.

  • When the PCs return to the compound they recount their sojourn with gusto. A series of awkward looks are exchanged between the Zeusians: "While we appreciate your need to protect yourselves, we do try to avoid killing the former inhabitants of our great city. It is our duty to protect them."

    PCs: Oh...😓...mah bad
In all a fun session and the same folks reached out to secure another game for end of October so a certified success.

 I've always wanted to do a review of B4 The Lost City because I believe it's possibly the best module of the B series and I think actually deserves a spot higher than the venerated B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

BAD MOON RISING: An Adventure & Campaign Starter for Tomb of Black Sand


Jesper Myrfors

Apparently, one thing I really like is strange moons and in particular, those that, like a Cuckoo bird, have displaced the native moon. Here is a quick set-up that I did to run Tomb of Black Sand (Swordfish Islands) for PAXSouth 2020 (RIP). I have also included a short blurb on how to spin it into a potentially longer campaign.


✦DM NOTEThe PCs are part of a mystical order representing a union between human forest communities, druids, and forest spirits. The players have done something wrong. And in their dispiration to correct that mistake (not necessarily all the exact same one) they ended up in the Tomb. The Siblings are powerful but have been petrified maybe by the Order or maybe by some other faction. They are not benevolent, but still only children. To reinforce this mystical order, I only provided pre-gens in the following 5e classes, Thieves, Fighter (Champion), Druids (Circle of Land, Forest), Fighter (Eldritch Knights), Rangers, Wizards

OPENING: All of you stand on a dark grey plain. Flocks of corvids & carrion birds, not yet glimpsed by your eyes, wheel & dive overhead.

In front of you is an endless void swallowing black sand. A step forward would bring release, but that blessed step is halted by a warm presence- one that holds promise. When you turn two figures, siblings, speak in unison:
“You desperately seek oblivion, but purpose we now supply:
Rescue us from this tomb, where we rest not in death, but still eternal lie.

Beyond a lover’s lake measuring adoration in tears,
We embrace under a purple sky, trapped only together with our fears.

And our egress is blocked and your eyes won’t reveal,
This portal home or its lock; the key- a smashed lunar seal.

Now we must be silent as the Raven Queen is always vigil,
So holy knights remember us and the quartered silver sigil.”

✦DM NOTE: This describes the two purple sheet-covered statues of two siblings in room 13C described as being petrified by the nobility to prevent a world-ending prophecy involving them from coming true. The rest is references to how to get out of the tomb.

CURRENTLY: You awake, stiff, heavy, and covered in a gossamer and crystal burial shroud. It is cold like woven ice water and burns the thin skin of your face.

You have a heavy almost life-ending guilt for something you did or didn't do-- a broken oath. But this is only a dull ache, covered over by the scab of new purpose the Siblings have given you.

Around you the sounds of a shovel scraping against stone in deafening silence. The scent in the air is two types of rot: bodily and spiritual. Shroud-muted figures toil lit by flicking candles.
CONNECTIONS OF THE PAST (roll for your relationship to the person to your left):

✦DM NOTEThis just helps explain party cohesion and gives the players a little something to roleplay around. Its amazing how well little things like this work.

1. Entered the Order together
2. Inexplicable doppelganger of
3. Mentor to
4. Squire of
5. Broke an oath with
6. Do not fully trust
7. Owe a life debt to
8. Share a dream of the nemesis moon

OPENING: The PCs are part of an important pact between the scattered human communities of Vast Wold and the creatures therein. The pact was brokered by the druidic communities. These sacred woods sit in the center of the world (at least as far as the PCs are concerned).

Its main opposition is to the arrival of the nemesis moon, Ghorath, which has unseated the silver moon in the sky. It now sits as a black spot against the noon sun and a red baleful eye at night.

In this world the gods have gone silent, their voices drowned by the usurper moon’s song.

EAST the coastal communities of the cities under the Seven Faceless Angels (the only human fortifications left)
WEST the GÜL kingdoms in the unconsecrated empires (the ruminates of the human kingdoms)
NORTH the northern desolations of the Null and Hobgoblin enclaves
SOUTH is a flooded coastline that connects the EAST to the VAST WOLD