Saturday, June 29, 2013

Doodle Downs [Mini-Mega-Dungeon]

This is how things start...
I was waiting in the break room after work, doodling on the back of a vacation request form. My doodling usually takes the form of  geometric patterns that repeat and build on each other. I looked down at what I was drawing the other night and said "Hey that looks like a dungeon."

So I switched gears and kept building on the doodle, now with the intent of covering the entire page with a mini-mega-dungeon. I had already doodled a little adventurer dude on a different part of the paper, and as the doodle dungeon spread from the corner where I started, I figured I'd just incorporate him. Now the little fighter guy was wicked huge fighter guy. What is he? a massive statue? The corpse of a giant? A dead godling? Some folks on the Google Plus suggested he's an ordinary sized guy and the dungeon is made for pixies. Who knows.

My goal was not to think about the structure of the dungeon as I drew it. Just let my hand wander, drawing as things came. Room, room , room, hallway, hallway, hallway, door, insert circular chamber here, pop in a lake there. No planning. It's given it a neat organic look.

Click for a much, much larger version

The map was drawn all freehand on the back of a standard letter-sized sheet of xerox paper with crappy ballpoint pens. I did it over three days in little bursts where I had some free time.

I'll probably never actually use this map, but it was fun. If you happen to use it for any of your games, please gimmie a shout to let me know how it turns out!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome to Las Diablas, Y'all! [Stars Without Number]

We're about five or six sessions into our Stars Without Number game. I haven't been making regular actual play posts (and I'll probably continue to be inconsistent with it), but some folks have expressed interest in hearing what's going on in Persephone Sector, so I thought I'd give a game report. A handful of sessions in, our “heroes” have had several exploits. Most of these involve varying degrees of robbery, kidnapping, and murder. You know... adventuring. They have traveled from the corporate planet of Croesus to the prison world of Oubliette and now head for the twin-sunned, desert planet of Las Diablas. Characters have died and been replaced a number of times. The current party looks like this:

Player “Heroes”
Dr. Jackie Montana (Expert 3, xeoarcheologist) – The only still-living PC from the original line-up, thanks to her very effective technique of “running and hiding.” She faked her own death and is considering going by the name “Jackie Danger.” She has no combat skills but carries a pair of matched pistols “for show.”

Pete Stevens (Warrior 3, assassin) – A no-nonsense, expert killer from Netherpool, quick and deadly. He sank all his starting funds into a high-tech shear rifle, a decision that has served him well so far.

Hana Sola (Expert 3, pilot) – Born in the Scavenger Fleets, Hana was raised in space. She is abrasive and crude—a spitting, swearing, cigar-smoking space-broad. She's also a fair hand with a monoblade.

NPC Hirelings and Henchmen
Helper – A decommissioned guard 'bot the heroes wrangled from the warden of Obuliette as part of their reward for dealing with his “hideous alien monster infestation” problem.

Professor Henry Chase – Eccentric “genius” xenoarcheologist wanted by the Oroborus Corporation. The PCs were hired by Oroborus to take him form his prison on Oubliette to their corporate HQ on Croesus. Instead, they faked their own deaths and took the Professor to Las Diablas, where he claimed to know the location of an old pre-Scream lab full of unknown treasures.

Welcome to Las Diablas!
"Oblivion," a movie only I liked.
Las Diablas is a desert planet with a strong western/cowboy theme. It is a home to pirates, refugees, smugglers, banditos, and other desperate types. It's equal parts Mos Eisley, Oblivion, Tortuga, and Sparks Nevada's Mars. With two suns, there is no night on Las Diablas. Adaptive nanites in the atmosphere trigger slow mutation in residents. Over the course of years, humans on Las Diablas gain red leathery skin, jet black eyes, and horns, supposedly to protect them from the heat and radiation of the twin suns (Lilith and Jezebel).

Jackie, Hana, Helper, and Prof. Chase arrive in the town of Lost Dog, having hitched a ride with the smuggler Jack of Spades. Pete arrives later, separately, on a commercial tour ship full of rich college kids. Taking a quick walk around, they first meet Lost Dog's new preacher, Ezekiel Forgiveness, and his bodyguard Pollyanna Stew refurbishing the abandoned old church. Instead of being abusing of violent, Jackie and Hana are surprisingly polite to the earnest young reverend and hire themselves out to help him put up the new roof.

At the marshal station, they briefly meet the local law, Sage Redd and her koth hound Blue. They take some time to look at the newest wanted posters. They are pleased to see that none of their names appear. They do take note of the three largest bounties posted: Slaughter 5000 (a rogue AI tooling around in a war-bot chassis), Amala Matrix (the rubenesque queen of space pirates), and GhrΓΌt (the Hochog leader of the local banditos).

With a steady source of income, the party sets themselves up in the Tin Pan Inn and the Last Leg Saloon. Once Pete arrives a few days later, the PCs quickly gather exploration supplies while selling off a big pile of unneeded gear collected from past exploits. The ruins they intend to explore lie a thousand miles south, so most of their money goes toward buying a beat-up old ATV Explorer from the marshal's impound lot. Rightfully concerned about their health, they also comb the city looking to hire an psychic healer. They find a Naga named Salussa, a telepath with some skill in biopsionics (Psychc 2, Dexterity 3!). S/he agrees to accompany the PCs for 10% of the salvage.

All equipped and ready, the PCs roll out into the desert badlands. Due to some weird malfunction, "MMMbop" plays on a continual loop on the old vehicle's sound system. Several tech rolls (using the experts' precious re-rolls) are made to fix this.

After a few days of steady travel, the Heroes come to the great dry canyon where the ruins are supposed to be. A small shack is perched on the edge of the canyon, and they decide to check it out. Outside the shack they meet a crazy old man on a rocking chair with a shotgun talking to a poorly taxidermied squirrel. This is Crazy Old Levi, the former preacher from Lost Dog, now gone thoroughly space-crazy. He's a character I shamelessly lifted directly from “Sparks Nevada,Marshall on Mars.”

Crazy Old Levi claims that the ground they all stand on is filled with explosives, and that he can blow them all up with the press of a the detonator he holds. He demands that the PCs strip to prove that they don't have three nipples or other witch marks that would show demonic influence. The PCs only put up for this for a few minutes before they just up and shoot the old guy. It turns out that the detonator is just an empty black box with a stick-on button. Now they have a shack to use as a base of operations. Also, a free shotgun and a stuffed squirrel.

The next morning they zip-line into the canyon and make their way tot he half-buried doors into the ancient compound. The old ruins have no power, but the Experts manage to hard-wire a power cell to the door to get the open-up-actuators to work.

The place is a mess. 500 years of neglect has destroyed the tile floors and rusted the steel walls. The interior of the compound is strangely humid and musty. There is no power, and the players quickly fall back upon their Minecraft experience, leaving a trail of glowbugs (palm-sized, sticky, portable lights) wherever they go.

Snap snap snap...

The place shows signs of (relatively) recent exploration, as they find graffiti on the wall that reads “Holz, Zin, and Kirby were here, 3175.”

Glitterwasps attack, and are quickly squashed.

They discover a large menagerie room with independent power. The room's environmental control is broken, however, and the room is a deadly -300 degrees. The bodies of several alien animals and an armored man lie frozen solid on the ground.

In the old sickbay they find some injectors full of powerful pretech medicine.

The body of a dead man holds a will leaving everything he owns to his daughter on Pinipat, a planet none of the PCs has heard off.

Camouflaged spider-lamprey things attack. Helper gets torn up pretty good, but is repairable.

The walls of a monitoring station is covered in skull paintings with the words “We are all doomed.” Logs indicate that the compound was a bio-lab from the Genetech corporation and there was some kind of accident, possibly due to the Scream. Also, the station had an AI named Gabriel.

The PCs find the back-up quantum generator and bring it online, powering up the station. “Your Cheating Heart” plays on the PA system... over... and over... and over...

While camping for the night in the generator room, some unknown things bang on the door, making creepy “girl from The Grudge” noises. There is no trace of them in the morning.

They find a ruined lab guarded by automated laser turrets. Jackie finds an access panel and cuts power to the turrets. They find more pretech medicine and the Grudge-things return. Luckily the PCs had closed the doors behind them, and the things eventually wander off. Still no clue as to what they are.

In the barracks, they find some good (if standard) armor and weapons and are attacked by a giant amoeba (ochre jelly). It dissolves Hana's armor, and she has to quickly strip out of it's remnants to avoid its gooey embrace. Monoblades and mag pistols only split the critter into smaller critters, but plasma throwers and lasers boil it away nicely.

The PCs find the indoor gardens, complete with independent power and cute little gardener 'bot, of which I spoke of previously.

I used the random complex generator in Hulks & Horrors to create the map of the abandoned complex. I used a combination of flavor and room dressing tables form both H&H and SWN to fill the map. This worked exceptionally well, and I managed to get a complete two-level “space dungeon” in just a couple of hours. Monsters from Labyrinth Lord work very well for mad-science alien bio-monsters, especially slimes and oozes.

Before this session, my Stars Without Numbers games have been pretty straight and pedestrian. That's weird because I love crazy/gonzo sci-fi. Hell, I co-wrote LeopardWomen of Venus, y'know. There's just something about SWN that makes me think Mass Effect and Blade Runner, not Heavy Metal or Flash Gordon.

That changed with this session, as things took a much-needed turn for the weird. The cowboy planet certainly is a big reason for that. I love space westerns, and I mean real space westerns like Galaxy Rangers, Bravestarr, and Oblivion, not Firefly.

Oh man... I need to add robot horses to this game.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stars Without Number, Strawberries, and Mid-Session Inspirado

I ran another session of Stars Without Number set in Persephone Sector this past weekend. The heroes explored an ancient, pre-Scream lab complex beneath the surface of a desert planet. It was essentially a sci-fi dungeon-crawl. I designated one of the rooms as an artificial garden—a large chamber full of overgrown plants, trees, and vegetables, diligently tendered by a stalwart little gardening robot for the past 500 years.

Originally, I had intended this room to just be a bit of flavor. No monsters, traps, or treasure, just an unusually pleasant and safe place in the middle of a dangerous locale, as well as a shout out to Silent Running. Something changed, though, as the heroes explored the garden, looking for anything of value. It suddenly occurred to me no one in Persephone Sector has tasted strawberries, apples, even brussels sprouts, in 500 years. “The stuff growing here,” I told them, “it's is old-Earth fruits and vegetables. It's fucking valuable.” The players were suddenly excited. They came into the ruins expecting to get all their money off artifacts and data. Instead, they stumble into something unexpected and new.

I love this part of GMing, when sudden inspiration hits you in the middle of the session, when things suddenly “click” together and something new emerges about the shared universe that was really just sitting there all along, ready to be discovered.

And the PCs decided to keep the gardening 'bot.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Faraway Lands [Mini-Map Monday]

I'm trying something different with Mini-Map Mondays, today. Instead of a dungeon, I'm posting an overland map!

The Faraway Lands are erroneously named, as they are actually fairly close to the mainland. The mountainous and forested areas to the north are relatively safe, but as one travels further south, you come across ashen wastes, an ancient wizard's tower, a violent volcano, and a mysterious dungeon of unknown depths. Tread lightly, bold adventurer!

Click it to big it!

Drawn totally freehand on board with illustration pens!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pulp Weird Encounters #1 [Mystic Bull Games]

Pulp Weird Encounters #1
Mystic Bull Games, the people who brought us the wicked In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer, have a new pack of adventures available. Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army contains two short adventures ("Temple of the Squonk" and "The Silent Army") that fit squarely in the "weird psychedelic pulp" kind of fantasy that Moorecock and friends made. Weird monsters, bizarre antagonists, deadly traps. I like 'em.

The adventures are written for Dungeon Crawl Classics. I don't play DCC, but the adventures wouldn't be too hard to adapt to Dungeon World or Labyrinth Lord.

Oh, and there are some really cool dungeon maps drawn by some guy named Josh Burnett. Hey, wait a minute, that's me! Yup, Mystic Bull hired me to do the maps on this one, and it was a blast.

Anyhoo... GO BUY IT!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Return of Grendel! [Mini-Map Monday]

Grendel's back, and he's mad as hell!

In the Northern Marshes, the legendary monster has made his home in the ruins of his mother's lair. Grendel lurks in the cold murky water of the lower chambers. Ancient treasure from Times of Old lies piled in another cavern, seemingly unguarded.

My buddy +Leighton Connor  (GILGAMESH!, Laser Ponies)  is writing a new QAGS adventure called "Beowulf vs. Grendel." I'm drawing the map for the adventure. This here map is something of a practice run for that map.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The River of Slime [Mini-Map Monday]

Way in the Deep Down Below, a clan of degenerate Halflings worship Aboath, the God of Filth. The disgusting River of Slime is a sacred spot where these Filthlings perform their disgusting baptismals. What connection these creatures may or may not have with the Sludge Dwarves remains to be seen.

Drawn freehand on board with illustration pens. I'm not sure I like the "outline" I put around the map walls.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crypt of Morgrath [Crypts & Things adventure]

"Hi, I'm a random sorcerer who doesn't
necessarily appear in this adventure."
I haven't talked much about Crypts & Things on the blog (or at all, actually). It's a groovy sword & sorcery rpg written by Newt Newport and based on Swords & Wizardry. I dig the reworked classes and the magic system, and the last-days-of-Earth setting really thrills me.

I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I wrote a starting adventure for it that I plan on using with my group. It just so happens that I'm trying to teach myself Indesign (it's significantly different from PagePlus), so I took the opportunity to put the adventure together in a nice little PDF. I thought I'd share.

The Crypt of Morgrath uses the map I posted a while ago here. It's statted out for Crypts & Things, but it shouldn't be to hard to adapt to your favorite OSR game. At some point I'm likely to readapt it to Lamentations of the Flame Princess.


Thursday, June 6, 2013


(c) Weebl --
Number Encountered: 1d6 (5d8)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 60' (20')
          Fly: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2*
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d8 (great mace)
Save: D2
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XV
XP: 29 (Badgerhawk), 650 (Blessed)

Long thought to only exist in the oldest of Dwarf myths, the legendary Badgerhawks have recently been rediscovered in the highest ruins of the old Skypillar Mountains. Badgerhawks appear as dwarf-sized, humanoid badgers with mighty golden wings. They are stalwart defenders of Law and implacable foes of evil. They bear a special hatred toward harpies and wyverns. Badgerhawks speak their own language, as well as that of dwarves and the alignment tongue.

In combat, Badgerhawks wear elaborate golden armor and helms and fight with large two-handed maces and hammers. A group of 25 or more Badgerhawks will be led by a Blessed. A Blessed Badgerhawk is a 5 Hit Dice creature, has an AC of 3, and inflicts +1 damage in combat due to strength. A Blessed can also cast spells and turn undead as a 5th level cleric and can speak Common.

Note: Apparently the UK is considering a badger cull. Brian May, BRIAN BLESSED (my two favorite Brians) and Weebl have strong opposition to this. Find out more at I for one quite like badgers.

Check out the Weebl, May, and Blessed video below:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Alien PCs in Persephone Sector [Stars Without Number]

Persephone Sector is mostly human-centric, but these alien species are available as starting Player Characters. More aliens might "unlock" as the PCs encounter them.

The “space orcs” from the Stars Without Number core book. They are the warrior-culture aliens familiar to any fan of Klingons or Luxans.

Lenses: Conquest, Honor

Home Planet: Like humans, the Hochog lost contact with their native planet during the Scream. They have large settlements on Uld.

Requirements: To be a Hochog, a PC must have a STR of 14+. You cannot be a Psychic.

Benefits: You get to be a bad-ass space-orc. Shout a lot and die for glory!

The Naga are androgynous, hermaphrodite reptilian humanoids possessing a weirdly exotic allure. In aeons past, the Naga had a shamanistic religious tradition. This tradition disappeared centuries before first contact was made. When humanity colonized Cedar, the Naga had no concept of religion or spirituality. They were fascinated by the idea, and rapidly embraced the teachings of the Temple of Babylon Eternal. The humans and Naga of Cedar have worked together to form a prosperous society.

The Naga are an introspective, casual race that values the pleasures of life and learning. Their reverence for philosophy and wisdom has kept their hedonistic nature from declining into decadence.

Lenses: Joy, Sagacity

Home Planet: Cedar

Requirements: To be a Naga, a PC must have a CHA of 14+. You can be any class.

Benefits: You get to be an exotic/transgressive lizard person.

Yurglings resemble human-sized furry-faced slugs with high-pitched, grating voices. The Yurgling species possesses three sexes—an egg maker, an inseminator, and a womb-provider. Yurgling marriages are complicated three-way affairs. Partially due to the complexities of these triple-relationships, Yurglings have evolved to become the greatest traders, arbitrators, and contract lawyers in the Sector.

Yurglings cannot swim and have a superstitious fear of their planet's cold, salty oceans. When humanity first arrived on Yurgoloth, the Yurglings were more than happy to let them settle on the mineral-rich ocean. However, the yurglings charge the human settlements outrageous rental fees and taxes. They have wheeled-and-dealed human corporations for trillions of credits, and Yurgoloth has grown to be one of the richest planets in the sector.

Lenses: Greed, Tribalism

Home Planet: Yurgoloth

Requirements: To be a Yurgling, a PC must have an INT of 14+. You can be any class.

Benefits: You get a +2 to saves against poison, but you cannot swim. Also, you get to talk like Gilbert Godfrey, Andy Kindler, and Eddie Pepitone. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vaults of the Undergate [Mini-Map Monday!]

Deep in a forgotten spur of the Deep Down Below lies a strange gate of obsidian and onyx. No one knows what weird realm lies beyond the swirling purple ether of the mystic portal. Ruined finery and a shattered throne room indicate that the Vaults of Undergate were once controlled by some form of darkling nobility.

Drawn freehand on 110# board with Faber-Castell art pens!