Reviews Aren’t Easy

A lot of modern traditionally-published fantasy and sci-fi is dreadful. Heck, a lot of independently-published fantasy and sci-fi is dreadful. Many big fantasy and sci-fi media properties are worse than my singing.

While I’m not quite to Rawle Nyanzi’s #BrandZero, I’m pretty close.

However, there are some exciting things coming out of independent creators. Therefore, supporting independent creators (and small companies) who are doing good work should come naturally, right? Right.

I try to support as best I can with limited funds. (Haven’t become a billionaire yet, so the plan to create a giant community for all my favorite creators / internet friends to come live at won’t be happening anytime soon)

As I understand it, reviews are the best way to help small, independent creators. And here’s the thing: I want to help these people, but I am awful at writing reviews.

Pug Derp
My brain when trying to review something

So, here is a list of small authors / RPG designers whose stuff you should support (presented in alphabetical order and will be updated / edited over time):

The company that publishes ACKS, best old-school game on the market. In addition to rules expansions, they also publish their own adventures. I promise they are MUCH better than what I’ve made! Drive-Thru RPG Official Website

Misha Burnett
One of the most wildly imaginative writers out there today and a darn fine ACKS player, too! His name on something pretty much makes it an instant buy. Amazon Blog

Best short fiction magazine on the market. Period. Amazon Blog

Jon Del Arroz
Comic / book writer who produces so much quality content, I wonder if he sleeps. Amazon Blog

Alexander Hellene
He likes flaming swords and coffee… and exciting adventure stories. Amazon Blog

Brian Niemeier
Intellectually stimulating author who loves giant robots more than I love mozzarella cheese sticks. Also an excellent witch finder. Amazon Blog

Rawle Nyanzi
Someone once gave me a strawberry that was dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with brown sugar. Those flavors should not work together, but they do. That’s Rawle. Puritans and pop idols? Giant robots, ninja villages, and schoolgirls? He does it and does it well! Amazon Blog

Venger Satanis
Gonzo gaming greatness! So much fun to see my players get into trouble with his adventures. Drive-Thru RPG Blog

You’ll notice that there are no classics on here. No one needs me to say that ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ or ‘B2: The Keep on the Borderlands’ is good. Also, these are NOT affiliate links. I ain’t making any money if you buy anything from the links in this post.

Christmas Dungeon Session # 01

One of my ACKS players asked if we could a Christmas-themed dungeon. I assumed he wasn’t asking about defending the baby Jesus from reptilian space aliens, so I asked if he wanted to rescue Santa Claus.

He said, “Yes”.


Due to a bit of a time crunch, I found a module that explicitly is about rescuing Santa Claus. The ideas in it were good, but the maps would not look good in Roll 20. I decided not to use the adventure as is, but steal a map and stick the ideas into my campaign.

Threw the map up on Roll 20 and gave my party the thinnest of justifications. One of the party clerics, Felicity the Docile, follows the Unknown God. She got a vision that a saint of the church had been kidnapped by an evil sorceress. The party exited the dungeon they were in (just after defeating the Tall Man from Phantasm and a couple of lightning-throwing statues) and went back to town.

They met one of Santa’s elves in town, who gave them a wand that shoots hot chocolate and directions to the evil sorceress’s castle. After a heart-warming talk with Killbot 9000 (who wants to kill all humans and thinks that Santa will give the children dangerous toys, the elf also gave Killbot his elf hat.

The party asked if the elf knew of any mutant reindeer. Perhaps, one with a glowing nose.

Due to the proximity of this land to Cha’alt, I figured there would be a mutant reindeer to guide them to the icy castle of the sorceress. Particularly, there was one with a red nose.

They used their once a week wish stone to wish for a bag of never-ending cookies and went to the door of the castle. They decided to pose as door-to-door cookie sellers.

Two gingerbread samurai (with candy cane katanas) answered the door and demanded that the party hand over their baked goods brethren. A fight ensued and a quick spray of hot chocolate melted the gingerbread samurai.

The party explored the castle and ran into some candy cane spiders in their den of candy cane webbing. Using some of the few sci-fi grenades they have left, the party cleared out an encounter that should have killed one or two of them. The sugary arachnids are NOT to be trifled with.

Some frost dwarves in a workshop were slaughtered horribly. For once, a shred of morality appeared, and the party wondered if wandering into someone’s castle was a good idea. After all, they were invading someone’s home. Then the dwarves shouted a battlecry… something along the lines of, “FOR THE SORCERESS” or something. The desire to murderhobo reappeared and much murderhoboery occurred.

The random treasure table got me in trouble. The whole workshop thing came about because the random treasure table was just some statuettes. What were they statuettes of? The sorceress, of course!

Got accused of making vain female villains. Guess I am just an evil misogynist.

The session ended during exploration of the castle, so we will see what happens next week. If you are fan of the Christmas music of Sufjan Stevens, you may have a hint of what the party may find deeper in…

House Rules vs House Rulings

Imagine pulling up a chair to a new Dungeons & Dragons (or ACKS or Gamma World or Traveller or any RPG system, really) game. The excitement of a new game is upon you. You grab your dice, a pencil, a sheet of paper, and the rulebook, preparing to roll up a character.

Then the GM says, “Oh by the way, here are my house rules…”

Oh no.

You came to play a specific game, not an interpretation of the game by some dungus. You want the raw, uncut gaming goodness contained within the cheeto-stained pages of the rulebook.

Quick confession: I am that GM. I adjust the rules of ACKS in my Sunday night game, probably to the game’s detriment. Any future games I run will hew closer to the rules. I bring this up to mention an idea that has been banging around in my head for a while.

There is a difference between what we call “house rules” and “house rulings”.

For the purposes of this blog post, a “house rule” is an adjustment to an established rule in a rule book. For example, some systems give max HP at 1st level, but many do not. However, the temptation to give max HP at 1st level (regardless of system) is STRONG. Or, to give a board game example, putting all the tax money from Monopoly into the center of the board and allowing a player who lands on Free Parking to take it all.

What to say when someone wants to do that Free Parking nonsense

A “house ruling” is a rule created by the GM to cover an in-game situation not explicitly covered in the game rules. Grabbing a chandelier and swinging over to another table to kick a dude is probably not a situation explicitly covered in most rules. Therefore, the adjudication of this situation would be different from GM to GM. As another example, what do you do when a rolled die falls off the table? Do you require another re-roll or do you accept whatever result the floor gives you?

I want to encourage more house rulings and fewer house rules in gaming. One thing to keep in mind, though. Keep track of your house rulings. Be consistent!

Let’s look at the chandelier example and see how that might play out at the table:

Cohn Jarter, the West Virginian Fightin’ Man is standing on a table and wants to grab a chandlier and swing over to another table in order to kick The Mixed GM.

Let’s look at each component of this action and a few options on how to adjudicate it. I can think of three specific aspects of Cohn’s action:

1) Grabbing the chandelier
2) Swinging across the gap between tables
3) Kicking The Mixed GM

a. Automatic; no roll needed
b. Attack roll (probably against the AC of an unarmored person)
c. Grapple check

a. Automatic; no roll needed
b. Save or hand slips and Cohn lets go
c. Roll under Strength or hand slips and Cohn lets go

a. Attack automatically succeeds and The Mixed GM dies because he is a worthless waste of cells
b. A normal attack roll that deals unarmed damage
c. A charge attack that deals unarmed damage + charge bonus damage

Now, I’m sure there are other options on how to adjudicate the action, but I hope this little example helps you see the possibility in house rulings.

Creating A Dungeon Part IV of IV

In Part I, I went over some basic overview questions. In Part II, I looked at maps briefly. In Part III, I actually put together a level that I am currently using in my Sunday night game.

Now, the final part of making a dungeon is the double check.

Look back at your objectives when making a dungeon and make sure it meets them. For example: do you want it to be possible* for a 1st level party to reach 2nd level (if they are careful and diligent about their exploration)? Add up the available gold and monster XP and make sure it is possible!

If possible, run a playtest of the dungeon. See what works, what doesn’t work, what needs changing, what you have neglected to think of. No matter how good you are at design, you need alternate viewpoints and unexpected ideas. Players can bring this to you.

Already seeing this with the 1st level of the dungeon I mentioned in Part III. May have gone overboard with the idea of a mated pair of owlbears.

Of course, if you are just making a dungeon for your personal group, a playtest isn’t really possible. And that’s okay. Just run it and see what happens. You can always adjust future dungeon levels based on feedback and ideas your players give you.

* There is a difference between something being “possible” and being “forced”. I am not advocating any railroad design.

Creating A Dungeon Part III of IV

In Part I, I went over some basic overview questions. In Part II, I looked at maps briefly. Now let’s fill the maps!

Now that I have the maps downloaded, I will create a copy of each one and label each room (or important feature, like a underground lake) with a letter or number.

There are basically two options for stocking the dungeon. Random tables (Such as pages 238-244 of the core Adventurer Conqueror King System book) or placed by hand.

While it is more work, I like to place everything by hand. I enjoy the control of putting everything in its proper place (except wandering monsters and some treasure).

Overview of Dungeon Stocking

While looking at the map, I find the entrances / exits to the map and note them. It seems obvious, but it ties into the next word:


Depending on the size of the map, I try to have at least 3 factions within each dungeon level and give each one a territory. A territory is a few rooms / hallways that the faction owns. The factions may not be in all-out war against each other, but generally there is at least a lot of distrust (cold war-type situation) or they provide a service to each other (but not truly allied). The reason for this is to give the party the opportunity to betray, befriend, etc the various groups. After all, at least one reaction roll is going to be positive, right? In any case, make sure you know what the status quo faction relationships are.

While the map may not allow it, I try to make sure each group has some sort of “peaceful” access to an exit, the kind of access where they do not need to kill another faction to get through.

Generally each faction is given a leader of some sort. Maybe just a chieftain or a beastman with an extra Hit Die. This leads into the Wandering Monster table.

Additionally, a faction needs a goal, as well as something they don’t want to happen (let’s call it an anti-goal). “Getting more treasure” is an obvious goal. “Getting killed” is an obvious anti-goal. You should assume those and try to think of other ones.

I will try to put a small squad of each faction in the Wandering Monster table, along with some unaligned critters or a weird threat (like a rust monster, a rock lobster, or a golem made of cheese puffs). If the leader of the faction is taken out, any random encounters on the wandering monster table become a “no encounter” result.

There should also be at least a few empty rooms. Or at least rooms without occupants. Maybe the rooms aren’t empty of treasure, traps, or a puzzle.

Also, make sure you have a basic idea of the construction. Sure there may be special rooms that are different, but you need to know that “unless otherwise specified”, the dungeon ceiling is X feet high (don’t you dare use the metric system) and the dungeon is built out of… worked stone, natural cave wall, drywall, the skulls of thousands of elves, etc. The doors are made of stone, wood, iron, wood reinforced with iron, the flesh of fallen angels, etc.

What about traps, you ask?

Yes, it is an obvious and lame joke. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING!

Seriously though, I try to put traps in places that make sense. On doors to storage rooms, on treasure chests, or in places with minimal monster traffic. Not a fan of giant swinging blades in the main thoroughfare of the dungeon level.

Actually Stocking Level 1 (Anyone In My Sunday Night Game, Read No Further!!!)

As mentioned previously, all the maps I am using in this dungeon are made by Dyson Logos. He did all the cartography and I am just using them for my Sunday night game. I have NO intention on selling this as an adventure and I am not affiliated with him. Here is a link to his blog: https://dysonlogos.blog/

The unedited map:

Now, here it is with the rooms marked by letters:

The lettering was done by me.

As far as the entrances / exits are concerned, I am going to use “A” as an creek that the party will be wading through. It’s how they are getting into the dungeon. Still using the pitch-black hole in a mountain idea for the dungeon entrance, but there is a little bit of water flowing in.

General construction is worked stone (except around the creek that is area A). Ceilings are 10 feet tall. The doors are normal wooden doors. No light, except in areas occupied by The Witch and the AWOL Soldiers.

Faction Information

Territory: B, C, E, F, & G
Leader: A goblin chieftain named Bigg Gorgg
Goal: Create a race of half-goblins to take over the world
Anti-Goal: Lose access to the Witch’s potions and poisons
Relations: Trade with The Witch to get the paralyzing poison; Distrust the AWOL Soldiers
Info: All their weapons have a painful paralyzing poison (Save vs paralysis or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds). They do not harass anyone travelling on A or D unless the travelers appear defenseless or weak. Even then, they prefer to wait until they can surround the travelers before they attack. They also routinely leave the dungeon to hunt and capture people to bring back to the breeding pen and to The Witch.

The Witch (10th Level Chthonic Witch)
Territory: X & Y
Leader: Herself
Goal: Eternal Youth. Believes she can get it from bathing in the blood of innocents. She is 87, but looks 21, so it’s working.
Anti-Goal: Lose access to her supply of innocent people
Relations: Trades with anyone and everyone. Unless they wrong her. She has no concept of forgiveness (without copious gifts).
Info: Wants people (the more innocent, the better). She chops them up and harvests them for their soul energy, which she puts into her potions. Her potions are powerful and strong, far beyond normal potions. She doesn’t like leaving her home, so she relies on others for resources. If she meets adventurers, she will try to ‘damn’ them by asking for herbs, then monster & bandit corpses, before she moves on to requests for innocent people. She can make any ‘book’ potion/poison at double potency (double duration and/or effect, as appropriate). Also she can make ‘custom’ potions (like permanent +1 to a stat and such), but requires at least one innocent person to be sacrificed.

AWOL Soldiers
Territory: M, N, O, R, S, & T
Leader: Stefan the Inheritor, a 6th level Anti-Paladin
Goal: Make The Witch an ally and take over the fort
Anti-Goal: The fort commander learning of his cult
Relations: Trades with the Witch for potions to heal wounds. Distrust the Goblins.
Info: This is a group of soldiers from the fort that have gone AWOL. Stefan has converted them to an evil cult: human sacrifice, worshiping dark powers, etc.

Wandering Monster Table (d6)
1. 2d4 tired Goblins escorting a prisoner (young woman, only survivor of an ambushed caravan). They will abandon the prisoner and flee at the if their morale breaks. (If goblin leader is killed, this becomes “No Encounter”)
2. 1d6+1 AWOL Soldiers (3rd Level Fighters) looking for skulls to give to Stefan as ritual aids (need at least one per soldier before they can go back). They aren’t above decapitating someone for a fresh one. (If AWOL soldier leader is killed, this becomes “No Encounter”)
3. 1d8 zombies stumbling around and attacking anything that moves. Accidental magical side effect of The Witch’s potion making. they can go back). They aren’t above decapitating someone for a fresh one. (If The Witch is killed, this becomes “No Encounter”)
4. 1 bat swarm disturbed by the sound of the party wandering the dungeon.
5. 1d4+2 giant crabs trying to find their way back to the water.
6. 1 troll chieftain with a big sack looking for food to bring back to its mate. Food in this case, being a screaming humanoid or three. (If killed, this becomes “No Encounter”)

A. Knee-high (for humans) creek that flows into the dungeon. Ceiling is 30 feet high. This area looks like a normal cave.

B. 2d6+4 goblins peek out the door in preparation for an ambush. They will wait for the party to pass and follow them. If they believe they can defeat the party, they will ambush them from behind. Otherwise, they will fall back to B after following the party for a couple of minutes.

C. 10 goblins sit around a lantern and gamble with dice made from human bones. The pot is 4 gp and a golden ring with a tiny polished mirror on it instead of a gemstone. Unknown to the goblins, this is a ring of spell turning that can reflect 10 spell levels before becoming useless.

D. This is a rickety wooden bridge that goes up an over the creek. an ambush could be set up underneath it.

E. Goblin Autonomous Zone. 8 goblins have set up a barricade and will demand a toll of 10 gp a head for anyone who passes by. The barricade forces anyone fighting the goblins to either scale the barricade (which has the paralyzing poison on it. Save vs paralysis or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.) or fight single file. (if combat breaks out, 2 goblin champions from area F will come to assist in 1d4 rounds).

F. The lair of Bigg Gorgg. He is a corpulent goblin chieftain who lives in this room with his elite guard of 6 goblin champions. Several skeletons of human women litter the room. Bigg Gorgg has been unsuccessfully trying to breed with human women to make half-goblins. When they fail to get pregnant, he kills them. He holds the key to the chest in area G. Bigg Gorgg fights with a +2 polearm of x-ray vision.

G. Treasure Room. In this room, the goblins keep their treasure. In a locked chest, there are 2,000 gold pieces and 200 platinum pieces. In the room proper:

3 crates of fine porcelain (500 gp, 5st each)
10 bundles of healing herbs (100 gp, 1st each)
3 bundles of mink pelts (300 gp, 1st each)

1 captured lady who is unconscious. Her name is Alyssa and she is the sister to the innkeeper at the fort. While looking for mushrooms outside the fort a few days ago, she was grabbed by the goblins. If returned to the fort alive, the innkeeper will let the party stay for free indefinitely. If returned dead, the innkeeper will thank them, but will not let them stay free unless the party volunteers to help pay for the funeral (100 gp).

H. Empty Room.

I. Refreshing Fountain. This immaculately-clean room contains a fountain with crystal-clear water. If drunk from, the character immediately gains the benefit of a hearty meal and a full night’s rest. This only works once per character. The only drawback is that as long as the character is within 10 miles of the fountain, they will have a recurring nightmare regarding an angry balding man raving about goblins and a new world order.

J. Stairs down to Level 2

K.  Mated Owlbear Room. A pair of owlbears have taken up residence in this room. In the back of the room is a big nest with an egg in it. The owlbears will fight to the death to defend their egg. If the party spends a turn to dig through the nest, they will also find +2 leather armor of warmth. As long as it is worn (or used as a blanket), the character never feels cold and suffers no ill effects of being in the cold for long periods of time.

L. The Boneyard. This room is knee-deep in bones. Digging through the pile (takes 2 turns) will reveal a +2 shield that allows the wielder to breath underwater. Also, the shield is transparent and several colorful fish swim through the shield, as if the shield was an aquarium. This has no effect on the shield’s usefulness and the shield cannot be opened up to gain access to the fish. It’s magic, so don’t worry about feeding the fish or anything.

M. The Tollbooth, Minus the Booth. 7 AWOL Soldiers (3rd Level Fighters) stand around and demand a toll of at least 20 gp a head to let anyone pass. Each time the party passes through, they will ask for the toll again. A ‘Friendly’ reaction roll halves the toll.

N. Library of Evil. The door to this chamber has two locks on it, which requires two successful ‘Open Locks’ check or one ‘Open Doors’ check at a -8 penalty. Inside are books bound in human skin about all kinds of evil rites, philosophy, etc. The library contains 25 books, each one worth 150 gp to a collector.

O. Hellish Bath. 2 #Skyclad AWOL Soldiers (3rd Level Fighters) are relaxing in a hot tub that smells slightly of sulphur. +2 to any reaction rolls if an attractive female is in the party.

P. Empty Room

Q. Fishing Room. This room contains fishing rods, fillet knives (treat as a dagger that breaks on a “natural 1”), a bucket full of worms, and other fishing paraphernalia. 10% chance of an AWOL Soldier (3rd Level Fighter) preparing to go fishing.

R. AWOL Soldier Armory. 1 AWOL Soldier (3rd Level Fighter) who is a blacksmith fixes equipment while 1d4+2 others clean blades and organize the room.

S. AWOL Soldier Barracks. This room contains 20 cots. At any given time, 1d6+4 AWOL Soldiers (3rd Level Fighters) are sleeping.

T. Stefan the Inheritor’s Throne Room. On a throne of skulls, Stefan the Inheritor sits. He has spirited philosophic debates with a chained-up prisoner (Level 1 Lawful Cleric named Varnus). At all times, he keeps 6 AWOL Soldiers (3rd Level Fighters) as body guards.

U. Blood Room. Blood pools in this room, about ankle deep. The blood never rises or falls. Any water brought into the room becomes blood. Any blood taken out becomes water. If magic is used to determine whose blood or what kind of blood it is, the blood registers as the blood of the person investigating.

V. Deathwater Pond. This small, clear pond is 15 feet deep. At the bottom is a golden statue of a man. Anything put in the water turns to gold. No save allowed.

W. Statue Room. There are four statues in this room. Each one is of a woman. The first is a maiden in mid dance, the second is a gravid mother, the third is a hunched crone, and the fourth is a maiden with the eyes of a crone. The fourth statue is on a movable plate which requires a successful ‘Open Doors’ check to move (up to 2 characters may assist by adding their unmodified Strength bonus as a bonus to the adventurer’s throw). Under the movable plate, is a sack of 500 platinum and 3 potions of healing.

X. The Witch’s Workroom. A massive cauldron dominates this room. The Witch spends her waking hours in here… consulting her multitude of alchemical tomes, petting her two bone golems like dogs, cooking up some foul brew. If anyone goes into the cauldron, save vs. spells or die.

Y. The Witch’s Private Chambers. Both doors to this room are closed, locked, and trapped (the key The Witch holds unlocks the door and disarms the traps). The trap is a poison needle (save vs. poison or die). Contains her bed and a large copper bathtub with a reddish stain on the inside. Under her bed is her spellbook and a copy of forbidden rituals designed to align a practitioner of the dark arts to alien entities that exist out past the stars. Attempting any of the rituals changes the person’s alignment to Chaotic.

Creating A Dungeon Part II of IV

In Part I, I went over some basic overview questions. Now let’s look at maps.

There are three major ways to get a map for a dungeon.

  1. Use a random map generator (such as Appendix A in the 1E AD&D DMG)
    Advantage: It might make a weird-ass dungeon that could be fun to explore.
    Disadvantage: It might make a weird-ass dungeon that is too nonsensical to be enjoyed.
  2. Look around online (or in a module) for a map
    Advantage: It’s faster than Chiktikka Fastpaws.
    Disadvantage: If you are trying to make a product for sale, make sure you have the right to use the map. Also, some may accuse you of being an uncreative hack.
  3. Draw your own map
    Advantage: You can make exactly what you want.
    Disadvantage: It takes a while and you have to be able to draw.
Here is a map of the continental United States that I drew. I think you can guess that I won’t choose option 3.

My Choice In Maps (Anyone In My Sunday Night Game, Read No Further!!!)

I chose option 2. Yes, I am an uncreative hack. But since I run the game on Roll 20, it is nice to be able to just upload a picture file and be done with it.

Because this dungeon is for personal use, I don’t feel bad about grabbing maps. Long story short, I went to the website of Dyson Logos and grabbed four maps I liked.

Each one is a little bit bigger than the last. It suggests that the dark underworld becomes a little bigger, a little scarier the deeper in you go. And the deepest level has a lake with some rivers, so I can put in Florida Men riding alligators as a threat.

And any dungeon that has Florida Men in it, is a good dungeon. MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Creating A Dungeon Part I of IV

How do you make a dungeon? As a GM, you will eventually want to make your own place of monsters and mystery. Modules are fine to use, but to truly flex your GM powers, make your own dungeon!

I guarantee that every GM has their own way to do it. Here’s mine.

Ask Questions

First, ask yourself a few overview questions. The answers to these questions will guide the rest of the dungeon creation process.

Who is this dungeon for?
* Is this for a specific party? A specific campaign?
* Are you making a module for a party of X-Y level?

How big / how many levels does the dungeon have?
* Is each deeper level harder than the first?
* Is Level 1 is for 1st level parties, Level 2 is for 2nd level parties, etc?

Is there an overall theme to the dungeon? To each level?

Where is this dungeon in the fictional world?
* How close is it to civilization?
* Where is the nearest settlement?
* Is it in the middle of nowhere? Under a city? In a mountain side?

What is the entrance like?
* The dungeon ought to be a different place. Some call it a mythic underworld. Make the entrance something that, if even briefly, makes the party realize they are about to enter somewhere truly different than the normal world. To partially quote the introduction to The Twilight Zone, “It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.”

Check out the entrance to Dragon’s Eye in the Icewind Dale video game. Narrow path onto the eye socket of a dragon. The dragon is carved out of the mountain. When you go in, you know you are going into somewhere special, somewhere beyond the normal.

What is my inspiration, my “Appendix N” for the dungeon?
* It doesn’t have to be just books. It can be comics, movies, video games, artwork, other modules, etc.

My Answers (Anyone In My Sunday Night Game, Read No Further!!!)

Who is this dungeon for?
– Specifically for my Sunday night group. It is for our wild, out-of-control campaign.

How big / how many levels does the dungeon have?
– Four levels. Each level will be a bit bigger and harder than the last, but not quite in a “you will level up between each one” way.

Is there an overall theme to the dungeon? To each level?
– No and No. This is about shoving all the best ideas my stupid brain can muster into a dungeon.

Where is this dungeon in the fictional world?
– On the far western edge of the desert of Cha’alt is a mountain range. This mountain range is the edge of a decaying Roman-ish empire that has only heard rumors of Cha’alt. There is an outpost of the empire near the dungeon (honestly might just plop Türos Tem from AX:1 The Sinister Stone of Sakkara in)

What is the entrance like?
– A pitch-black hole in a mountain. It is like a doorway, but made for someone about 12 feet tall. Light does not pass through the barrier at all. If you light a torch outside the hole, you cannot see in, but it stays lit as you pass through. Once inside, you cannot see outside.

What is my inspiration, my “Appendix N” for the dungeon?
– Kit Sun Cheah’s “Dungeon Samurai” series
– Goblin Slayer
– A couple of the stories from Misha Burnett’s “Dark Fantasies” collection. Wonder how long it will take for him to catch on…
– This crazy idea to put Touhous in B/X
– It might not quite count, but the adventures of Venger Satanis. Not necessarily any particular aspect of his adventures, but his sheer confidence in what he puts in. I really respect the fact, that as far as I can tell, if he has an idea, he sticks it in. Period. He does not fear what people might think; he is true to his artistic vision. If he wants a tri-boobed alien wearing a top hat (and nothing else) in his adventure, by golly there is going to be a tri-boobed alien wearing a top hat! I could really use a fraction of that confidence.

As always, I do not make a cent from anything purchased via any links in this post, nor do I benefit in any way from their purchase. I merely provide them in case a reader is interested in purchasing.

The Fall of Ja’alette

I know I haven’t done a session report in a while, but last session was so crazy I had to put this together.

The party decided to go to Ja’alette in order to, and I quote our one female player, “save the scrotums!”.

Let’s back up a second.

Q: What is Ja’alette?
A: It is a city in Cha’alt run by women. The vast majority of the males are castrated and enslaved.

There are only a few paragraphs of information about Ja’alette, so I winged it… wung it… made it up as I went.

The characters are mostly female, with the exception of Gristle (a figher who is a desert nomad) and Billy the Buff (a handsome shirtless man who wears a bag of holding as a fanny pack and carries all their stuff in it). They are stopped by the gate guards and because they have un-leashed, un-castrated males, are not going to be let in.

So the party offers Billy the Buff as a stud to the gate guards for a week to be let into the city. Another condition of being let in was putting Gristle on a leash. They agreed to this.

After wandering the city, watching castrated males fight to the death in the arena, and spending lots of money, they decide to meet with the Harmonious Validity (the all-female council that rules the city).

While meeting with the Harmonious Validity, one of the council made an off-hand comment about another council member wearing the same dress. The party latched onto this idea and decided to get the council to turn on each other.

Some party members spoke to the guards, some to the council, some even to the priestess of Tha’ates. They tried to stir dissent, but it did not quite work.

Until they remembered that they had the Violet Gemstone of Ultimate Power. Which allows a wish once a week.

“Now, Mr. Mixed GM,” I hear you say, “Per the Chaalt: Fuchsia Malaise book, that genstone won’t show up until the next book!”

That is correct. But I stuck it below Kra’adumek as a way to help explain the power of the Purple Priests. BECAUSE PURPLE AND VIOLET ARE THE SAME COLOR, GOSHDARNIT.

The party picked it up, but ignored it.

Until now.

They use the gemstone to make the entire Harmonious Validity into males, but each individual does not recognize that they are a male. However, they see that the others are males.

Chaos erupts. Accusations fly. The guards arrest the entire Harmonious Validity. An interim council is considered, but a party member takes Gristle and Billy into protective custody and takes over the city as a dick-tator because the party can grant exclusive access to working dicks.

This is how Gristle and Billy felt after a week

They barely keep order for a week by using access to Gristle and Billy. After a week, the party uses the gemstone to make all the men of the city invisible. All the men immediately flee into the desert. They would rather die than live under matriarchy.

The party convinces the angry women to march on the city of A’agrybah to get men. Because the men of the city mysteriously disappearing was totally the fault of A’agrybah.

While the horde of angry women move across the desert in a giant angry mob, enough time had passed that the party used another wish to make the women unable to fight.

So now all the men and women in the city of Ja’alette have died in the unforgiving desert of Cha’alt.

Having destroyed an entire city (and looted the treasury), the party decided to live the empty, barren city that they destroyed. Because I am integrating Chaalt: Fuchsia Malaise into my campaign, the players are going to Elysium next, probably to secure more high-tech loot and cause more chaos.


Maybe I will make my own dungeon for this campaign.

A Florida Man for AD&D

Per the following request…


… I have made a Florida Man NPC for AD&D

Sonny Swan-Striker: AC -1 (Ring of Swamp Luck), MV 12″, Level 6 Human Fighting Man, hp 50, #AT 1, D 2-7 (club), Str 16 Int 4 Wis 5 Dex 17 Con 15 Cha 7, AL CN

Ring of Swamp Luck: As long as the wearer is fully nude (other than wearing jewelry, weaponry, and a backpack) , this ring gives the character the AC of wearing platemail and a shield. It also allows the user to speak with animals, but only to non-magical lizard-like creatures (such as alligators and crocodiles).

This can only be used by Fighters with an Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma of less than 9. If anyone else tries to put it on, all alligators, crocodiles, and non-magical lizard-type monsters (such as dinosaurs) within 10 miles will be automatically hostile to the wearer, and as long as it is worn, will try to locate and eat the wearer.

Sonny Swan-Striker is a a man from the deepest reaches of the Floridian swamp lands. He hates swans and loves living in his swamp shack. There is a 60% chance that he is high on bath salts when awake. While on bath salts, any reaction rolls should be rolled twice. Choose one result as “heads” and one result as “tails”. Flip a coin and the result is the reaction roll that is used. Additionally, while high on bath salts, he will gain an extra attack in combat.

If friendly, he will guide the players safely through his swamp for some fancy city food (like iron rations) or more bath salts. He could be convinced to be a henchman for a higher level character, but being high on bath salts (60% chance every day) means in combat he is controlled by the DM and will not listen to the players.

Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise Proves That More Madness Is More Better

The cover gives two very good reasons to review this favorably.

Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise by Venger Satanis is the sequel… sorta… to Cha’alt. These products are not pure setting books (like the 17 quadrillion Forgotten Realms books I remember from 3E), or character option books, and they aren’t just dungeons to use. They are a sort of regional setting with some dungeons and character options. And pop-culture references. And character death. And sexual innuendos. And the potential to the end the world in more than one way. With a healthy dose of genius (or madness, hard to tell them apart) added on top.

While owning Cha’alt is not strictly necessary to use Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise, I would highly recommend using both products together. This review is based on the pdf (physical copy should come later this year).

I mentioned earlier that that Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise is a sequel. It moves the timeline a few months after the situations described of Cha’alt. Some new factions and new locations have appeared in the desert. All of the new stuff is easy to integrate into a pre-existing game happening in Cha’alt and the new content makes logical sense. Even though the world of Cha’altis a gonzo world of futuristic technology and high magic, somehow it all works here. Can’t quite explain it.

Like Cha’alt before it, Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise is a sandbox that allows the party the freedom to explore and go wherever they want. There is always something weird and unique around the corner.

The Good

– Much better organization of the material than Cha’alt. There is even an index! There are new character options at the beginning, some setting information, dungeons, and then the appendices. It flows nicely and is easy to find what you are looking for.

– Weird and wild magic/technological items for your players to get their hands/tentacles/paws on. This module is not filled with +1 swords, no siree! There are items that let you summon diminutive candy clown devils, travel through time while dreaming, and, of course, laser caltrops.

– Expands on a couple of places mentioned in Cha’alt, specifically A’agrybah and the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.

– If you enjoy gonzo, I cannot recommend this enough!

– The interior organization / layout / art is a mix of digital art, live people/props, and what I assume are paintings. It really gives you a vision of what Cha’alt is supposed to be.

– If you buy the pdf at Drive Thru RPG, the maps are included as separate downloads. There are a couple versions of the two big maps, numbered and not numbered. If you run on a virtual tabletop, this is a huge help.

– Enough strange events and encounters to keep players in the desert for a looooooooooooong time.

– It is simultaneously post-apocalyptic and (depending on the actions of the players) pre-apocalyptic.

– This:

No, it is not.

The Bad

– Treasure seems a little light if you run a gold-for-xp game (like I do). Now, Venger uses his Crimson Dragon Slayer system for the books (but it is easy to convert to any other system), which does not have gold-for-xp. He was even kind enough to include the rules for Crimson Dragon Slayer in one of the appendices. I would recommend looking at the HD of the monsters and consider giving them treasure equivalent to a monster with similar HD from the system you use.

The Ugly

– Still no coupons for free mozzarella cheese sticks.


Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise is more Cha’alt. If you liked Cha’alt, you will love Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise. It’s full of gonzo goodness!

You can buy it here. I get NO financial benefit from any sales.

P.S. My beloved wife, if you are reading this, just because the title has the word “Fuchsia” in it, doesn’t mean I accept it as a color. Colors like fuchsia, periwinkle, maroon, vermilion, cerulean, and cornflower don’t exist. It’s all a plot by Big Crayola to get you to buy more crayons. As a kid, I had red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, black, and white. THAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH THEN AND IT IS GOOD ENOUGH NOW!

Still Alive!

I haven’t posted much lately, but I promise that I live!

You should start seeing more posts from me in the near future. In the meantime, keep gaming and never ever let my father-in-law be the caller at your table. Trust me.