CALL OF CTHULHU: The Price of Charity Day 2




Ellis Williams PI
Caldwell Zimmer Drifter
Evelyn Dalton PI
Darleen Marsh Miskatonic Lady's Track Coach


  • The investigators decide to split up into two groups: The ladies will hit up the library to dig into some of the local personalities and history; the gentlemen will seek out Ross Waightly
  • Ellis and Caldwell ask around town about Ross Waightly. They get the location of his farm but are warned that the family is a bit touched in the head and Ross is nice enough but odd. Ellis takes that as a good sign and they head out up the way to meet him.
  • Once in Fox Field, Ellis and Caldwell are confronted by two men in a truck with bats. These "friendly locals" try to warn away Ellis and Caldwell by informing them their business is very much concluded:
    • Ellis: "Hmm is either of your names 'Ross Waightly'? No? Well then, me and my associate's business remains unresolved. And while I'd love to stay for a game of baseball, I seem to have forgotten my bat <pulling open his coat to reveal the .38 at his side>.
  • Ellis and Caldwell head to the Waightly farm where Ross informs them that (1) he was helping Kai figure out the mysterious illness afflicting the town and (2) it seems to center somehow on Gilory.
  • Ross tells the men to bring their friend back at midnight for a summoning of a being that can hopefully push back against the Gilory blight. Caldwell is all in! Ellis believes none of this.
  • At the old Bonner Mansion, Evelyn and Darleen find several interesting records concerning the Gilroy family and their surprising fortune:
    • The Gilroy family has made their fortune in two ways: corn & gems
    • While bootlegging might be the reason for the corn, no other farm has had success growing anything in the same rocky soil
    • The gems are also a new aspect, most folks don't understand why these precious rocks are all of a sudden showing up there. Maybe the Gilroy farm is trafficking people to mine?
  • The investigators meet back up and all but Ellis agree to travel to the Waighly farm for the summoning-- Ellis, uninteresting is such nonsense, will run decoy for the truck that seems to be lingering outside the hotel.
  • DISASTER STRIKES! Once at the summoning, all goes well until the inhabited vessel (Nancy) speaks and it is revealed that the group has mistakenly summoned the malevolent being they were hoping to thwart.
  • THE BEING ANSWERS QUESTIONS & PROPOSES A SACRIFICE: The being calls itself THE TOAD a patreon to sorcerors and confirms that Kai is walking among its servants. And that a godling is being prepared that will serve THE TOAD's will in this reality. Then Nancy's body, grotesquely swelling through this interrogation, explodes! Everything is drenched in a black ichor that starts coalescing where she once stood. 


DUNGEON 23: Week 2 The Slumbering Field

The area around 0109A is supposed to be a moat

Click here to see this evolving #dungeon23


  • I have added a fuller encounter table. I am trying a nested format because I want to increase the likelihood of PCs encountering factions then powerful monsters. So, the four results are more "vermin", the next four are factions, and the final four are big monsters. I'll start with a d4 and for every geomorph the PCs cross, I'll increase the die one step to a d8 then again with a d12.
  • Each morph still needs a bit stronger focus or visual element. I think I need to make them a little more stunning. Either in terms of the lawns there or have some interesting statue/water feature/ monument there.
  • Factions: I finally settled on factions that will be encountered in the garden I think I want their "home bases" to be found on deeper levels and leave this garden space as a sorta battleground/food gathering place.
  • Worried I've not started with a strong enough theme or push, but the good thing about morphs is they are easy to combine and adjust.
  • Like the fuller random encounter table
  • Stronger theme to it than the entrance does, but still don't know if the players will get a sense of what this dungeon is building to. Of course, a megadungeon doesn't have to build to anything its a sprawling mythic underworld.
  • Different environments here, something funny (coffee machine), and something to try and figure out- how to get in the tower.

Closing Thought: Most likely by the end of dungeon23, no matter the quality of my dungeon, I will probably know far more about dungeon design than when I started dungeon23. That itself makes it a valuable endevour.

CALL OF CTHULHU: The Price of Charity Day 1

I have written about Call of Cthulhu before a little bit. Mainly about how I really like Sean McCoy's investigation sheet as a way to turn a CoC game from a horrible revelation structure to that of a true investigation

We actually ran a pretty good 10-12 session arc involving my investigator, Henry Heart, who eventually lost his memory and fled Arkham. I am sorry I did not write down those reports as I do Nightwick so I aim to correct that. 

For this run of CoC, I decided to use an CoC NPC generator because I find that really I don't need nor want the mass of skills a traditional CoC character provides. Once skills drop below ~30%, I'm not going to relay on them. And I don't want the temptation to load up on Spot Hidden, Firearms, or Occult. I want to avoid the temptation to meta-game given I know so much about CoC. But I also have another tool.

Yup. The investigation sheet. Its great because it works outside of the character mechanics in CoC, yet, I don't view it as a meta-object or tool because its exactly how one would investigate a crime-- establish persons of interest, means, motive, and eliminate alibis. Any character type can do this and that's part of the charm of CoC everyone from antique booksellers to flapper girls become PIs.

But even the players using the investigation sheet become literal investigators in a way they are not fighters or wizards when playing D&D. Almost like a sit-down LARP. That is what is so cool about it. In fact, I would reckon that you could almost only give CoC players the investigation sheet and need nothing else.



Ellis Williams PI
Caldwell Zimmer Drifter
Evelyn Dalton PI
Darleen Marsh Miskatonic Lady's Track Coach


  • The investigators are summoned to the office of Dr. Price at Miskatonic. Alas, influenza has found its way into the Price household and taken is only son Kai Price. Given though, that Dr. Price is older, he has asked his friend Darleen to retrieve the body and personal effects.
  • Kai Price was known for his charitable works in the rural areas around Essex country. Especially since those areas have been hit the hardest by the recent influenza outbreak.
  • "Well of course do this for you Dr. Price, it should be a simple task."
  • Investigators drive to Essex Falls which contains the Divine Mercy Hospital, Kai's workplace, and his small apartment.
  • MERCY HOSPITAL: "What do you mean there was a mix-up? Why was he buried in a pauper's grave?! Yes, we want you to get him!!" This will take 2 days- allegedly.
  • KAI's APARTMENT: Kai's journal speaks of a new strain of flu, local witchcraft practices, and grave robbery, but local authorities seem unconcerned. Weird dead frog full of undigested bloat mosquitoes that pop with black sludge.
  • LOCAL GENERAL STORE: "Wait is one of those men Kai?" The group drives off after persistent questioning. Local police remind the investigators that visitors should not hassle the locals. Cops...

DUNGEON 23: Week 1 The Four Halls


Please click here to see this evolving dungeon


  • Judging from Ben L's #dungeon23 round-ups, a lot of the foundational OSR blogs are firing back up to participate in d23. I am very excited to see that happening because I think watching a step-by-step act of creation by these members could be very instructional.


  • Geomorphs work great. Especially since the 10 x 10 square format comfortably houses 6-9 "spaces" easily. This is also good because each geomorph then conforms to BX stocking procedures.
  • So instead of working room by room, I'm more looking at 6-7 areas as a whole. This seems to be suggested by Arnold K and In Places Deep. Matt Finch also suggests this in Tomb of Adventure Design and Ava of Permanent Crainal Damage also remarked once that a 50-room dungeon is really just 10 five-room themes.
  • Whatever makes geomorphs "good", I don't know if I quite have it down yet. I am neutral on the one above but it serves the purpose of a starting area. 
  • After reviewing some mapping of Nightwick Abbey, I think there are some unlaying principles that elevate a 'morph to "good" from "serviceable". Let me see if I can express them here
  • Good geomorphs...
    • Contain at least one single interesting "thing", 
      • then you can create 6 variations on that thing. An idea for the types of variation could involve the BX stocking procedures: monster, monster (+ treasure), trap, empty, empty (+ hidden treasure), special 
    • Room in 'morphs should mostly be connected in a Jaquays'ed fashion
      • But not always, if you have 7 'morphs with connected rooms, but 2 'morphs with very disconnected rooms this can really add variety to various configurations
    • Most 'morphs have 8 doors per 10 x 10 area, PC should mostly be able to travel for the most part from one door to its diagonal counterpart (not necessarily easily)
    • Not all doors should be left, long unbroken hallways camouflage a 'morph and create long travel routes
    • Feels like 30x30ft or 30x40ft rooms are some sorta optimal but not all 'morphs should be symmetrically laid out
    • Asymmetric morphs can be fun, but also terrible
  • Or I could be completely wrong. Certainly, it varies with what you write but I think there are some underlying principles.
Great advice from In Places Deep 
regarding mega dungeon building
  • Dunno. But the key, I think is to just keep moving. I did happen to just sit down and draw 9 additional quick 'morphs focusing on "fantastical garden area" and I think I came out with more exciting 'morphs.
  • I did want to rate each morph using Arnold K's Dungeon Check List but maybe I'll wait on that because I don't want to become too critical of myself.
  • Here is what I did accomplish with this 'morph though: 
    • The "thing" this 'morph is centered around having the players make a choice and have somethings to fiddle with
    • It provides two early challenges: a locked door and a trapped archway
    • There is a choice that has to be made as to where the party wants to go: four halls
    • Each hall has an environmental descriptor- its not just "pick a door"
    • There are some enemies to fight- not hard but could pose a problem
    • Something to rig up, a lever behind the locked portcullis
    • A talking set of statues

EMPTY BUT NOT NOTHING: Thoughts on Actionable Empty Rooms

Its not much, but it's honest work

Here is an entry I just wrote in a dungeon:

06. SPENT KITCHEN: A simple kitchen is here. Empty stew pot. Skull inside.

Much like the previous "03. TOMB: 8 skeletons", it is serviceable, generic, and expected, especially for a room that was rolled "empty" and "no treasure" by BX stocking procedures. Even too wordy because I shouldn't repeat the obvious so: 06. SPENT KITCHEN: Simple; empty stew pot- skull inside.

However, like encounters, empty and special rooms, I believe, can also be layered to provide for a more dynamic environment. But the aim here for "dynamic" is to provide actionable information. Not just lore, but lore that can be used. Why?

Remember, players generally want to play D&D, not listen to a DM's made-up history about totally-not-Westeros. Knowing something about the world just to know is not as engaging as then being able to act on the same information. This really goes back to the same principle as with dynamic encounters: choice. And to that end, we want our lore to mostly be actionable in some capacity.

Also, I think these sorta rooms help appeal to a type of player that likes to play the "scholar role" as well. Or if you're moving a 5e player who loves investigation checks or insight checks into an old-school system.

How is this encoded in an empty room? Here are the ways I think about it:

The empty room contains:

1 | ...mundane items
2 | encounter clue
3 | ...a warning
4 | ...a clue or password
5 | ...a mosaic, fresco, or basrelief
6 | inert feature or nothing, but is an interesting shape

1. The empty room contains mundane items. Nothing is valuable in the same way as treasure. More functional, but not delving equipment-- like the stew pot. Can it be used for something? Yes. Conveniently. Not so much.

2. The empty room contains a clue to the encounter table. So in the stew pot is a skull. Most players will ask what kinda skull. This is an opportunity to help them be informed about the level they are on and what monsters or humanoids exsist.

Another variation on this might be a corpse. The players could investigate to determine the cause of death. But they have to get close to the body- potentially risky- which can create nice tension. Stab wounds, claw marks, or death by stirge all are going to be different. But remember don't say "death by stirge", instead "puncture marks on the neck, drained of blood"-- which might also make the players think "vampire'".

3. The empty room contains a warning. Maybe its an empty kitchen, but scrawled on the wall in chalk could be message: "The gnolls are only out for blood!". A little better than the skull because it gives two pices of information: creature and potential motivation. This could also be a territory warning, letting players know how far a territory could extend: "Oh $%&*, the Red Wolves are here too and they still completely hate us for offing their mage."

Suggest from a Discord I'm on;
A great example of both a warning & clue from Deadspace

4. The empty room contains a clue or password. I like the clue or left note because it implies it was left for someone or left to be returned too. I think placing notes in empty rooms really drives home the dungeon is being visited by other adventuring groups or factions. This can also allow players to become aware of factions they might previously not know exists or foreshadow them.

Riddles are fun because secrets can be placed in plain sight so your players will run into them, but not completely given away. Also its a sorta puzzle that doesn't limit play like say a puzzle door might. And given the use of Discord and such, players can puzzle the riddle outside of game-time.

Notes to avoid traps is good too. Like an empty room with three doors. Maybe the doors themselves are not trapped but the hallways on the other side are. A chalk scrawl on the opposite wall might say "As the middle child of 3 siblings, I survived, while my eldest brother died of poison, and my youngest sister died by the sword"-- the hallway behind the middle door is safe the other two have poisoned gas and a blade trap.

NOTE ABOUT PC LITERACY: I think its worthwhile, especially for old-school games, to determine if a PC is literate in "common" and if they know other languages. Employing 3 & 4 effectively requires the judge to know if PCs can read. And a lot of information can effectively be hidden in plain sight simply by being written down.

For instance, an order of wizards might simply write the "use this door" in common on the non-trapped door for their house staff. For more esoteric but still low-level information, it might be written in "wizard tongue". The first could be understood by any PC with an INT of 10+ while the second might be only known by MUs & Elves. But this could work for demi-human and monster scripts.

5. The empty room contains a mosaic, fresco, or basrelief. I like pieces of art because the biggest "lore drips" can occur with them. Its a way to show potential relationships between multiple elements while not having to explicitly lay it out or be answerable to further PC questioning-- which can be an issue with an NPCs handing out the same sort of information.

6. The room is empty, but interesting nonetheless due to space or an inert feature. Empty rooms don't have to be square, white rooms. Since there is a chance empty rooms will be employed by the PCs and/or they could eventually contain monsters, traps, & treasure, they might as well be interesting. Its a sorta future-proofing.

And if they are interesting enough that PCs "waste" time in them, eh, all the better. You as the DM/dungeon designer don't have to construct a space optimized for PCs to move through.