Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Wallet Dungeons

 While chipping away on dungeon maps, adventure writing, and messing around with miniatures, I came across this cheerful little document.


Essentially, roll some dice and get a tiny dungeon. I think I've seen other similar things (I believe a Mothership adventure has a dice rolling method to create derelict ships) but I've had some good fun with this one.

An array of my creations. I love random generators, and there's something about throwing a handful of dice and moving them around that gives me some tactile joy apparently.

The adventure that I'm working on has some high level notes of adventure locales I need, so I jammed my smaller dungeons together to see if they could be used to make a larger dungeon. I've been messing around with all sorts of flow charts and nodes in dungeon design, so this is right down my alley.

Not a long post, the inspiration and drive are ebbing and flowing of late. I've been slowing working on things, but nothing massively interesting to share at the moment. My figure adventures have been thrown up on instagram (for those that are interested in that sort of thing).

Friday, July 9, 2021

19 hexes: hex briefs

After writing out 19 hex briefs and taking notes of potential factions and adventure locales, I hit a bit of a wall. The ideas weren't really fitting for me, but I didn't want to dump the idea because of a little speed bump. After a day of trying to push on, I eventually decided to stop and leave the project for 2 days. Afterwards, I'd come back and have another go, perhaps with some fresh and new threads.
The two days passed and, returning to my hex briefs, they bored me. So I scrapped them and wrote another set, and things have gone much better since.

As a reminder, my aim is to make a 19 hex setting. Inspired by The Evils of Illmire and Hot Springs Island, I wanted to try my hand at a project of a similar scope. The current draft has brief hex summaries, a list of potential factions and adventure locations, as well as some thoughts on a possible "big bad" that could be used if desired.

So what is it? At first I was trying to be more generic fantasy, but when I scraped the old idea that went in the bin too. It is now a river valley and surrounding lands, where various peoples live around the ruins of ancients who buried themselves in metal bodies. Unknown to the locals, some of the buried tombs are reawakening, which could snowball into a robot-undead horde rising from their resting places. Imagine undead invasion, with more metal bits.

My thoughts are that, as the project continues, I can release them onto this blog (about 1 blog post to a hex) and then group everything into a single file once its all done. If I were making this to run soon, I'd populate the various dungeons with premade modules, but for the blog posts I'm thinking of making everything whole cloth. If premade dungeons are used, they'll probably be place holders. For now, here are the hex briefs.


1. Dawnglider Pass: A high plateau in the mountains is the domain of a dawnglider, a huge, winged serpent. Generally, the dawnglider prefers to keep to itself, leaving to fly and see the world or hunt. Some take the perilous journey to meet with it, either leaving offerings or reverence, or seeking its wisdom or knowledge of spells and history. The dawnglider appreciates intelligent company and can spend days or even weeks with visitors of particular interest.

2. The Split Mountain: Local mythology tell that long ago these two peaks were once joined but were hewn in two during a battle between primordials that formed the land. Surrounded by lesser hills and dense wilderness, there lies within it a dormant Metal Catacomb of the [Leader Name].

3. Anomaly Fields: The forest and marshlands here are plagued with anomalies, magical phenomena that is both fantastic and dangerous. Occasional treasure hunters come here to scrouge for the arcane debris of these anomalies, with no clue that a laboratory of the ancients lies just under their feet.

4. Valley View: High hills give a magnificent view of the valley below. The region is a pilgrimage site for outlanders, who come here to meditate or contemplate the world and the gods. Some paths are blocked with cord and wards, for a grim opening has been discovered. This Metal Catacomb remains quiet for now, and the outlanders wish it to stay that way.

5. Mountainside Opening: Where hills climb higher and become mountains can be found remains from the past. Notably there are scattered walls and metal beams, while high on a mountainside are metal aeries, the opening to a Metal Catacomb. [At the mountains’ base is a sealed tomb to a buried demon who loathes their imprisonment and wishes nothing more than to escape.]

6. Shimmering Grotto of Futures: Deep in the marshes is a grotto that reflects and refracts light from cracks above. The dancing colours are said to be messages, and by studying them the gods tell fortunes and futures. It is an old place, with many aged coins pressed into cracks or thrown into the pool. Some distance away is a stretch of marshland where outlanders come with objects of the Metal Ancients and offer them to the little gods here. The waters are gorged with treasure, but removing items earns one the ire of the gods unless something is offered in return.

7. Metal-Mad Mage Lair: Concealed amongst an overgrown structure lies the lair of the Metal-Mad Mage. Once a laboratory of fine arcane arts, it resembles more a pawn shop or museum of curiosities. The Mage combs the area for relics and clues to the machines below, driven by his most recent metal additions.

8. Shambling Vents: Geothermic rents and other more artificial gusts of melting heat eject from the earth amongst the hills here. Warmth and heat are a source of life, and here the vents can be called upon to defend the land.

9. Outlander Villages: Scattered villages and homesteads line the river valley, with a larger village beside a crystal lake that forms the centre of trade for these disparate peoples. Standing stones and posts indicate the frontiers of their lands. While inhabited, it is not a long journey to enter the wilderness once again.

10. Bastion of the Ancients: An iron grey rectangular structure sits nestled amongst the slopes and trees. The remains of smaller buildings stand on and around this bastion, and concealed entrances lead inside to a Metal Catacomb.

11. Flowering Shrubland: The tall trees give way here to colourful bushes and shrubs who thrive in the damp and sandy soil in this area. Gatherers praise the area for the useful herbs and ingredients that can be found here, and under the old kings of the lowlands the area is protected from settlement. While the law is not enforceable, the soft earth makes long-term living and agriculture difficult. As such, it is a haven for animals and plant life. Others gather from this place, forest folk who appreciate the humans staying to the plains.

12. Rust Clefts: A dead foundry sits at the centre of hollows and lengths of hewn hill. The area is like the carcass of a ginormous monster, rotten with rust and overgrown with red brambles. Monsters and bandits are common amongst the clefts, and it is often one of the places where budding adventurers travel to, whether in search of treasure or a bounty.

13. Iron barrows: Hills both natural and artificial are dotted with openings. They contain remains of a past people seemingly obsessed with the Metal Ancients, many wearing bronze masks. Called the Bronze Faces by outlanders, they are avoided for strange undead wander here. Of late a new group has arrived in the area. Calling themselves “clay kin”, they enter the barrows without worry.

14. Waterfall Valley: Here the highland valley falls away in a series of cascading waterfalls. The slopes and cliffs form an unofficial border between the outlanders and plains villages. Atop these slopes is a place known as the Temple of the Abandoned, a crumbling stone structure where statues of past nations are taken to. Folk tales tell of how these past empires fell to their gods’ wrath, and as such people would rather take the difficult journey transporting the statues rather than destroy them and risk drawing their attention. Some statues still listen to prayers of those who ask.

15. Glasteel Pit: A wide pit carved into through earth and buried structures. This mine was busy until several months ago, when grells moved in and drove the miners out. With the recent troubles in the villages, they are still there. Some miners speak of a huge blue door, buried in rock and impenetrable to their tools. They reckon there is treasure behind it, if only they would open it. Lengths of cliffs stand between here and the highland valley, dotted with caves used by bandits and outlaws now that the mine is closed.

16. Foraging Caves: Free of metal or ancient structures, these caves are a haven for fauna and flora of all kinds. Some small villages make good use of the caves for food and resources. However, the Militia have been clumsily exploring the caves in search of treasure, destroying, or disturbing many of the animals who live there. The hills are also the home of the Granite Scholar, who lives away from the villages with agents acting as their front in the villages.

17. Sanctuary of the Coil: A serpentine war machine lies here entombed by earth. Called “The Coiled Dragon” by a band of small reptilians who live nearby, many openings allow travel through corridors and inner workings. Numerous spaces have been turned into shrines and temples, with areas with still functioning machinery given high reverence.

18. Upper River Valley: The river crashes down from the highland valley and slows to a wider and more ponderous flow here. The slopes and rocky hills give way to fields and grassland, or light forest to the north. A walled village stands in defiance of the Militia, refusing to pay their taxes.

19. Green Hollow: Irrigated fields line the river here, tended by numerous farmsteads that dot the land around the three major villages. Green Hollow, with its mighty buildings telling of past glories, stands as the central hub. The Militia have their stronghold in this region.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A magical source of inspiration

 One thing I'm trying to get better at is developing ideas, rather than simply throwing together a bunch of notes and leave them somewhere "to finish later". While some can be used for later inspiration, I find that some end up becoming mental baggage that feel like they need to be developed to free up the space. So, to free up some physical and mental space, here are some notes that may end up becoming a very loose hex crawl at some point (in the vein of The Evils of Illmire).

Using liches libram awesome oracle I created a setting and took notes. The last day or so I've been working on it, mostly throwing a bunch of ideas onto a page through blitzed brainstorming. My mind kept wanting to go science fantasy in a Caves of Qud style, but I attempted to keep the notes a bit more generic. Is that for the better or worse? I don't know, I reckoned generic makes it easier to adapt and less niche, but who knows.

Where is this place?

 Who lives here?

Who are the faction leaders?

What great beast or danger dwells here?

What legendary loot is there to be found?

So, what is this place?
  • Where sandy plains meet forest are numerous ruins of a past empire. Here roam bands of reiving humans and minotaurs who seek glory and plunder in the name of their dragon-god. These reavers also tell tales of a great slumbering fire giant who awakens every few years to eat and fight. Within one of these ruins is a crypt created by imperial mages for esoteric arcane purposes. A wizard, eager to unearth their secrets, stumbled into the crypt and left changed. Now known as the Metal-Mad Mage, he follows some secret agenda, in part advanced by machines of liquid metal. Their presence has awakened an ancient "Aspect of Death" who craves to devour the Metal-Mad Mage's essence.
  • If I were to go more science fantasy, they'd be a lot more robots, cybernetics, the works, but I understanding it's a bit more niche and ideally I wanted to create something more people could use.

I had about 19 hexes very briefly written out. Part of why I wrote this out was to refresh myself away from an increasingly jumbled list. A couple of ideas have come to mind, perhaps I'll make a series of blog posts for this hex map. And maybe draw some more cards for inspiration.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Nefolia Caves: sub-level key

While working on the creature and magic item entries for the Nefolia Caves, it struck me that I had not included the 1st draft key for the sub level. This secret area links areas 21 and 25. So I thought I'd throw a post with it quickly. Now to continue on the monsters and items.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Nefolia Caves: map & key

I showed a very draft version of this map some two posts ago. The map redrawn, I thought I'd share something closer to finish rather than the WIPs until now.
It's come a long way since a bunch of boxes in a flowchart and I'm pretty happy with it, as simple and rough around the edges it might be. I'm sharing the current key and map as is, with the idea to make a neater and edited PDF in the future.
Just struck me there's no extended monster or magic item files. I'll compile them and either add them here or in another post.

The dungeon is intended to be used alongside the Caverns of Thracia. My thought was that the place was a smaller village near the palace complex, perhaps a home of workers and others who supported the luxuries of the palace and underground gardens. As such the "Dark One Cultists" are intended to be part of the cultists in the caverns, and statues (which I feel there are a lot of in the Caverns) come up in several areas, either as enemies or decoration.

The dungeon is, and always will be, free to borrow, use, modify, or otherwise throw around the internet.


(The key is copied from excel and rather crude. A future PDF version will have more effort put into it, apologies if this one is a bit naff.)


Expanded key:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Dungeon diagnosis - Branches

I returned to my megadungeon for a bit, determined to clean up the starting area I had been working on to work out why I wasn't liking it. I'd flowcharted it before, but I decided to flirt with madness once again and made a cleaner version.

Dotted lines are secret passages, double lines with no arrows are blocked or collapsed corridors.

On a print out version, I'd circled an area and wrote "boring, basically a straight corridor". This is referring to an area where, while there are plenty of doors and rooms, they are only 1 room deep and all lead back to the same path. As I added areas and connections to the flowchart, I discovered this issue was a lot more widespread than I'd initially thought. For all the rooms and connections, there are a lot of branches, dead ends of exploration. Plus there's a lot of squiggly corridors that I feel can be compressed or turned into rooms.

A rethink and a rework is in order. I might even try making a fresh flowchart, making a well looping area then placing my current key over the top of it, rather than try to endless tweak the current one.

1st Draft of the "Starter Dungeon"

 About a week ago I posted a tangle of a map that needed to be edited down. I also set myself a soft deadline of Sunday to get a 1st draft key done. By and large, I stuck to it, and have 95% of a 1st draft (some stat blocks are missing, and a couple of magic items need more than a keyword of detail).

The mess of a map I was working on was also massively cut down. I wanted a small map, but I was sketching more and more rooms which could be a dungeon, but not this dungeon. I wanted something quick and compact to work on, so a lot was cut until I had below.

As the 1st draft was being written, some areas were being cut up into smaller areas or details added. For example, the north-north west cave walls are dotted with small rooms. I was going to take a photo of the notes, but pencil on grey doesn't show well.

As for the key, there are 30 areas keyed, plus a small 14 room sub level not shown on the above map. It's not exactly revolutionary, but its a key. 

There's enough that I'd be comfortable running it. There are 2 main factions vying for control (and a couple of small groups poking around), enough treasure to get a B/X group to level 2, and some magic items and secrets for the curious. Next step, do some editing and some playtesting.