Megadungeon Design: Overland Mapping

If you read the multitude of blogs out there Campaigns rarely last for more than a year or two before either the players get bored or the GM gets burnout. My last attempt at a Megadungeon was to convert Dungeon Crawl Classic #51 Castle Whiterock and that lasted for two levels before the group disbanded due to some moving away, others not able to schedule game time in due to real life commitments. This hasn’t stopped me from wanting to run an epic megadungeon game which is why I’ve been slowly coming up with a fantasy setting that takes place completely underground.

Planning my Megadungeon

If my Megadungeon is endless then I should make some kind of “overland” map to get an idea of where the players may be heading so I know what lies ahead (or below). I first got the idea of using a Transit Style map for a quick abstract guide back in 2010 with Profantasy Softwares May 2010 Annual “Abstract Maps”. I was pretty pleased with myself until I realised that Gary Gygax had done almost the same thing in 1978 (two years before I discovered D&D) with Dungeon Module D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth.

Dungeon Module D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth.
London Transit Map

Gygax came up with an easy system, much like a transit map, of showing the players where they were in relation to where they have been, albeit in an abstract form. This frees up the GM from having to make miles of rooms and corridors that will never get explored. Each “transit line” would represent the main route, whether it is a long winding cavern, a massively wide corridor, or a tiny one yard wide passage. Along the indicated route you have marker points that represent either encounter points, Burrows (Residential Towns), or large campaign size dungeon. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing between point A and point B. It just means the players will not be mapping and exploring those points at this time.

Now on a transit map, which now has a pretty standardised look worldwide thanks to Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground Map, each rail line as a designated colour. However I’m not making a rail system I’m designing a Megadungeon! So I propose to make an elevation colour meter to give a sense of what level the routes are. I may make an isometric map once I get enough points created

A very quick mock up of how the line colour represents that it is on a different level.
The beginning of the Campaign Region map (work in progress)
This map is the players map and shows only areas that will be known to them. Hidden is the extensive version but I don’t want them seeing those yet.

As you can see from the maps above the region map will represent eight levels. Now the colour of which it intersects with a Burrow can indicate how many levels it has. Take Silkdown. It has a Level 1 and 2 major route. So it would be safe to say that it has at least two levels, although this is not always the case. Following the Level 2 route from Silkdown it suddenly raises from level 2 to level 6. This could indicate an elevator, stairs, shaft, or a sloped raise from 2-6 without any exits between the other levels. I will be including some dashed and dotted routes to indicate lesser used to secret routes.

I’ve kept a hexagon grid system on the regional map so that I might scale in to more detailed areas (see image below) I will also be able to link up other regional maps in the future to this one thus increasing the size of the dungeon. Whatever scale I end up with will be in some way able to scale perfectly with my 7″ modular tiles so I can make some modular dungeon on the quick and slot them in.

Just an example of how I might use the regional map grid to scale in more detailed areas. Actual scale is still being worked on.

Encounter Areas

Encounter areas can be anything from a point of interest, to something special about the passage, to a small series of rooms, to a full blown dungeon area. Again this is a concept utilized by Gary Gygax in 1978. I like this idea as it allows the players to travel farther afield without having to map out the entire four day journey which would bore even the most OCD of gaming mappers.

D3: Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax, TSR, 1978

Another way of showing depth and scope, other than 3D modeling everything or isomorphic mapping, is to use a 2D side view. About ten years ago this became quite the craze kicked off by Stonewerks’s and Dyson. It became so popular that Profantasy even made a mapping anual for vertical dungeons in 2011. My first introduction to a vertical dungeon map was in 1981 with the vertical map in the D&D Basic book. I stared at this picture constantly and tried my hand at drawing my own.

1981 D&D Basic Rulebook
Stonewerks Vertical Geomorphs.
Dyson’s Vertical Morphology

Honorable Mentions

I should point out that there is Node Based mapping for megadungeons.

Melan on the Darkshire .net has a useful linear approach to mapping.

The Angry GM uses an encounter overlay based map, but different then the transit style. It certainly has its merits but I don’t think this would work for my own particular style.

I’m finding out that there are many ways to create an “overland dungeon” map, There isn’t a right or wrong way. Had I the skill or the time to learn I’d quite like to make a big old 3D render, but that isn’t practical. So for now I will stick with the abstract transit style map and use some vertical dungeons for a quick overview of larger areas that don’t need to be fully explored. No adventuring party walks into a small town and immediately starts to survey the entire place. They go to the inn and the shops and the rest of it is just decoration.

I hope you found this an interesting read, if you have any suggestions please make a comment!

Inspirational Links

Dungeon Fantastic
Greyhawks Underdark
Raging Swan
Dyson Logos
Angry GM

In search of adventure!

As mentioned in a previous post (read it here) I’ve been playing a weekly game of Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS using Roll20 to get together as we are dealing with the lockdown here in the UK. It has been an amazing experience mostly because I’ve not actually played GURPS as a player in so many years. It is also nice to have new players and seeing the widely different play styles. Alex, who plays Grobar the Holy Warrior, is a fountain of knowledge and experience on GURPS. I don’t play regularly enough these days and I can certainly say I’ve forgotten more than I knew about the rules over the last fifthteen years. Alex has been a real boon to the party as he makes tactical and rule options for our characters, but in a helpful way not in a rules lawyer kind of way. Ricardo’s character Saskar doesn’t hit as hard as Grobar or Zelenka but his DX is higher and is able to get those rapid strikes “TO THE FACE” (as he shouts) with moderate accuracy. He is also our source of comedy and keeps us laughing with his rapid fire memes on the discord channel. Filipe was playing Roland the mage but commitments has taken him out of the game for what we hope is only a short time. All brought together through Gus, our GM, whos descriptions of our scene draws life to the game. I haven’t had this much fun in years!

getting ready for some online gaming!

Paragons of the Six Divines

Gus told me to design my own religion for the game so I came up with the “Paragons of the Six Divines”. It is a holy order of six immortals who where said to once be mortals themselves, found immortality and through cultivation and their own pure deeds ascended to godhood. As such they don’t appeal to the common man who need gods of agriculture, the forge, war, and other aspects of the mortal realms. The Paragons of the Six Divines are a symbol of what man can achieve through selfless acts of kindness, sacrifice, honor, and truthfulness. What many find unattainable or unwilling to endure. Their order is best known for their charitable institutions; hospitals, schools, and orphanages. These can be found throughout the lands and open to anyone, something that has caused friction with some local customs or laws. However most kingdoms have not only grown accustomed to their services but heavily rely on them which affords the order some grace. Most monks, nuns, and clerics of the Six were residents of the orphanages and grew up within the faith.

Paragons of the Six Divines

Honor – To do what is morally right. Represented by the God Conlaoch

Courage – strength in the face of pain or grief. Represented by the Goddess Parthenia

Magnanimity – generosity. Represented by the goddess Rione

Patience – acceptance of problems and suffering. Represented by the God Vivasat

Justice – just behaviour or treatment. Represented by the God Bran

Truthfulness– the fact of being realistic or true to life; realism. Represented by the Goddess Erosi

Paragons of the Six Divines are extremely popular with orders chivalry. Those that can become living representations of the six can ascend to Sainthood and become Demi-Gods. They are highly respected but few have what it takes to follow their strict regime. Because of this the God Vivasat is the most popular out of the six although each deity has an equal standing in the pantheon. Anyone is welcome to worship although they are more popular with Humans, Elves, some Dwarves, and a few Gnomes. 

Setting the scene

This is where I bore everyone about the back story and adventures of my character. We started out at 150 points rather than the standard 250 points. This is about four sessions worth of info so I certainly understand the TLDR people.

Zelenka Dagian (meaning Fresh Dawn) is a Half-Ogre who’s human mother died giving birth to an ugly half-breed. She died at one of the charity hospitals of Paragons of the Six Divines. Zelenka’s childhood was not without strife, despite being members of the Six the monks were very cruel to Zelenka and many of the other children were encouraged to leave him alone and if they were mean to him the monks would look the other way. They would also “punish his inherent wickedness” at the smallest infraction of the rules. Many would expect such a child to grow up as wickedly as he was treated, and that might have been the case if it wasn’t for the Abbot Svoboda of the monastery and Kateřina Dvořák the Cleric of the county. They taught Zelenka to read the true meaning of the scriptures, how the care for others through sacrifice, being patient and accepting, how truth starts within oneself and in doing so brings honor and justice to the world.

The bishop himself, Casimir Sedlák, was well pleased with Zelenka’s progress, “Although a bit dim he would make a proud member of our Holy Order” The bishop fully intended for Zelenka to be added to the ranks of Holy Warriors. At sixteen Zelenka was already six foot and a naturally built warrior. Instead of a cleric’s staff he was taught the polearm by sergeant Borek Mazal, now retired but famed for his Poleaxe squad “Deliverance of Mercy” or just “Mercy” for short. At the battle of Passhead Valley Sgt. Mazal commanded 20 pikeman and held off a hoard of 70 goblins long enough for the village to be evacuated. In reality it was thirty but the story keeps growing.

Zelenka had no interest in causing harm to others if he could avoid it and wanted nothing more than to stay in the cloister on a sunny day with a book or scroll, or to work in the hospital tending the sick and wounded. The Bishop persisted that his place was with the warriors and so his training in arms and armour continued. When Zelenka finished his studies at the age of twenty it became apparent to everyone, including the Bishop, that Zelenka had an aptitude for not only healing but a strong connection with the Paragons of the Six Divines (I increased his Power Investiture) compared to the other deacons. Although gentle, honest, and true to his studies Zelenka didn’t have the mental capabilities as the other deacons (IQ 11 instead of 14-15) but was nonetheless ordained a Cleric of the Six.

Upon receiving his new status he was given a gift from his mentors. A fine silver plated, dwarven made Bec de corbin (thus reducing the penalty of not being able to parry after an attack), and a suit of leather armor.

Two months after being ordained Zelenka received a dream message about a monk of the Six who always kept himself in a deep cowl and never showed his face. Zelenka was tasked with finding his resting place and bringing the monks remains back to the monastery. After spending weeks in study he finally found enough clues that Zelenka was positive of the monks locations. He appealed to his superiors to get him funding to retrieve the remains but he was denied. Zelenka wrote to the Bishop himself but was dismissed as “An overactive imagination induced by the stress passing the seminary and now lack of direction and focus.” Zelenka was then tasked with hospital duty for the next several weeks to focus on those with real needs.

After one long day of healing Zelenka returned to his straw pallet, exhausted and fatigued. Rolling on his side and about to blow out his candle he spies a letter on the floor. In his exhaustion he did not see it upon entering his room. Curiosity got his groaning body out of bed and opened the letter. It was from an unnamed benefactor who was not only going to fund his expedition but was able to get him a signed letter from the Bishop allowing him to proceed with his quest! ” goddess Rione be praised”

Long story short he met Rowan the Mage and Saskar the Knight (Horseman from the North) and hired them to accompany him on the week long journey into wild country. Once a price was agreed upon Zelenka purchased the needed supplies and a pack donkey to carry it all. The trip out was uneventful, but did give the three newbie heroes time to get to know each other. Their weariness of a six foot, eight inch tall Half-Ogre soon gave way to his honest and kind nature.

They reached the area and scouted it out. The visions led Zelenka to believe they needed to go into the mines but it was getting late and they decided to scout out the ruined town nearby first and make camp. That night they were ambushed by the Undead, two of us being prone and Saskar on watch. Long story short we got our buttocks handed to us with everyone taking damage and Rowan being knocked unconscious. I failed to heal anyone in the party but myself, so as a Cleric I realise the fault was not with me, not with the dice, but obviously my companions were not pure at heart so my Gods refused to heal them. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

We rested for a day do to our injuries and fortified our little encampment as best we could. Once we are healed up with take to the mines. We agreed to take donkey with us as we didn’t want to leave him to be victim to the undead in the ruined town. Heading into the mine we notice that there are rooms, crypts, a chapel all carved out as well. Showing that this was once a very thriving mining town! I ask that we go to the Chapel first and I see a altar to the Paragons of the Six Divines with two suits of plate armor on either side of it. When we step in the suits come alive and take an attack stance then start to move toward us!

Zelenka shows no fear, for these are certainly constructs to protect against the unfaithful! Taking his holy symbol he fearlessly (yes I made my roll) walks to the animated armor and recites his prayers. The suits at that point stop all hostilities and collapse in a heap. One of the suits chest plate and lower legs will just fit Zelenka, but the arms, shoulders and upper legs are too small. Zelenka takes one of the shields from the holy armor and straps it to his back. He feels he should learn the shield sometime in the future (or if I can get my ST to 18 I can use the Bec de corbin with one hand!). Zelenka spends some time at the altar praying before heading to the crypts.

We head into the crypts and disturb some kind of creature that is unknown to any of us. Zelenka casts Sense Evil while Saskar and Rowan prepare for battle. The creature is truly evil and severely damages Saskar! Zelenka uses Turning to keep the monster at bay while Rowan and Saskar dispatch it!

Foul undead creature!
Zelenka casts Banish! Get behind me foul creature!

Down it’s putrid hole in the ground filled with rubbish and rot Zelenka uncovers a Vellum Scroll in an older dialect. There is some kind of prophecy written on it. When Zelenka reads some of it an ArchAngel appears before Zelenka (and Zelenka only, maybe he is dilusional? Nah.) and tells him of the prophecy and charges Zelenka with a holy mission! During his trance like state the head of Donkey comes flying into the room. and we are beset on by a Minotaur and a Giant!

We chose our tactics better than our first battle with the Skeletons and dispatched the pair although we took considerable damage. Saskar, who took a liking to donkey, kills the Giant in a revenge fueled rage.

R.I.P. Donkey

We didn’t get enough time to lick our wounds as the commotion brings in a stranger to investigate the noise. Enter Grobar the Holy Warrior on a quest to put the undead where they belong! Back in the ground. What better way of doing that than his very effective Combat Shovel (DF Adventures page 102)! After some time to size each other up we decide its in our best interests to align ourselves and clear out this undead and monster infestation. It doesn’t take long either before we are set upon by more skeletons!

Grobar looks a bit like this but skinny

Pushing forward through the skeletons we are ambushed by evil dwarves with crossbows. They really beat the crap out of us. However we were able to rally ourselves at the last minute, Rowan gets knocked unconscious again, Grobar scrambles up the cliff face to take out the Dwarven crossbowmen and Zelenka grabs Saskar and throws him like a sack of rice up over the cliff face. The pair of them easily dispatch the crossbowman (crossbowdwarves?) and the evil cleric dwarf gets away by escaping down a deep pit.

What do you get when you have a Knight, a Holy Warrior, a Wizard, and a Cleric? Four characters who step on every trap!

Mind you I’m writing this weeks after all the events of several gaming sessions and I can’t seem to find many posts with battle pics for the next part. However we find the tomb of the Hooded Monk and the sanctity of his tomb is AMAZING for my cleric! We get attacked by Drow and Drider but with Zelenka able to regain his fatigue almost instantly they were not as serious of a threat as I think they would have been away from the are of high sanctity! Thank goodness for Contingency Casting (DFA20) as well!

Ricardo captures Zelenka’s battle prowess in these memes LOL!
Zelenka fails his fright checks! Earth Elementals are scary!
More fun memes from Ricardo!

Our next threat is an Earth Elemental and Zelenka freezes in combat! It is up to the rest of the group to dispatch the rocky creature! Its at this point that Rowan leaves the group as Filipe has real world obligations to attend to. We hope to see him back soon!

Dynamic lighting now used!
More comedy by Ricardo. Fork in the Road!

Gus starts experimenting with dynamic lighting and it certainly adds a new element to the game! Because of my nightvision 3 I can see farther than the other players and it was very immersive having them ask, “What do your elf eyes see Legolas?” Well more damn Skeletons that is for sure.

Dark dungeon with skeletons! Loving it!

During this battle our rolls were spot on, some of us still took damage but Zelenka was able to dispatch three of them! Not single handedly of course. Saskar and Grobar soften them up. Sometimes going last isn’t a bad thing! “One of the skeletons drop an unholy mace. We left it where it laid, mostly because when Saskar tried to lift it he could not budge it. Not nasty enough to lift the unholy mjolnir!

We’re so tactical we weaponized tardiness

Thank the divine there was only one and he didn’t cut anyone!

Our next victim, um I mean opponent is a Bleeder. We were honestly extremely lucky with the dice! It didn’t inflict any damage to us otherwise we might have been in some trouble! Also there was only one and not a Bleeder horde!

Bone Golem are nasty!

Our last session and final creature was a Bone Golem! That thing messed us up for sure! Zelenka failed his fright check, and his Willpower rolls and was out of action for four full rounds! During that time Grobar and Saskar inflicted considerable damage on the beast but both ended up getting stabbed and injected with venom. Grobar was knocked out and Saskar could barely stand. Finally the sight of his dying companions snapped Zelenka out of his shock and he used Contingency “Awaken” Both make their HT rolls and are up and ready for more! With that we dispatched the Golem and collapse into a weary heap to rest and heal.

Zelenka was late again to the battle but to quote Ricardo again

We’re so tactical we weaponized tardiness

Alex gets into the spirit of posting memes on discord!He titles this one “Saskar vs. Bone Golem”! LOL

Session 5: Found! and a startling discovery.

Kenskue and Leroy are playing around with the Bronze discs on the statue when Sethroy (who just followed the carnage) sneaks up on them.  Kenskue and Leroy quickly fill Sethroy on what has happened and they go down to see the giant snake hoping to use it against the lizardmen some how.  The snake is still sleeping and a quick recon is done of its layer.  The party debate endlessly on how to rouse the snake and get it to go into the grand hall with the other Lizard men (who have been silent for about 20 minutes now) and finally decide to chuck rocks at it (yeah that’s what I thought too).  After two rocks, and one for good measure, the snake starts to come out of its sleep and slithers towards the entrance to its lair.  Leroy draws everyone in with One with Shadows.  At about this time 4 lizard men come up the tunnel, two spear men with large shields and two spear men with long spears following behind them.  When they come upon the Snake they shake their spears and bang them on shields sending it back into it’s cave.  Being even more cautious they pass our heroes then stop almost right besides them it is also at this point that the party hears rhythmic chanting coming from the grand hall.  The two shield bearers take up a defensive position and the other two start to move back to a pair of double doors.  The party definitely do not want those doors open so they spring to attack. The Lizard men are taken by surprise with all of them failing reaction rolls. Sethroy steps and attacks the nearest Shield bearer and stabs him twice with his poisoned blades (Monster Drool).  The fit Lizard Man goes down but is not dead having suffered over 18 points of damage (including one failed HT vs. Poison).  Kensuke lays on combination of kicks and punches on one of the spear men (who is currently facing away from him) and knocks his scaly hide to the ground.  Leroy in an amazing acrobatic jump leaps to the far side of the fray getting off two attacks only one on a Spear man and the other on the shield bearer inflicting grievous wounds but killing neither.   Suffice to say having the initiative the next round the best the lizard men accomplish is blocking Sethroy’s attacks before falling before the might of these master killers.  The party regroup by the double doors and become one with shadows.

Having taken out four more the party fail their overconfidence roll and are very sure that they can take out the remaining 20-25 fully armed lizard men.  Besides Bob MUST be saved, oh and Aloysius says Leroy.  Kensuke all out concentrates on the door for 30 seconds as the chanting and some shuffling continues behind the door.  He then unleashes a mighty power blow at the doors.  The force of the blow slams the doors open and they rush in to attack.  The apprentice shaman fails his reaction roll and stops chanting for a second at the sound of the doors and three demons rushing out, the more experienced shaman continues his chanting.  Kensuke spots a large banquet table to the right and jumps over to it while Leroy super jumps.  Yet again the tow leaping monkeys leave Sethroy alone, facing bowmen. Seeing no alternative and being quite confident in his abilities Sethroy charges forward and causes a lot of damage with one hit… against a shield.

Another surprise attack over and its their turn.  Leroy light steps off of one of the bowmen completing his jump landing right next to the two chanting Lizards.  (seriously, he critically rolled his Acrobatics, and was two points off of a crit with Light Walk.  I need new dice).  Sethroy is not so sure of himself as the shield wall looks quite formidable.  He takes a step back and does an all out defensive stance.  Kensuke starts to concentrate next to the table.  Now the lizardmen get a grip on themselves.  the two Warchiefs in the back turn towards Leroy and advance with their great axes but wait just out of range either to assess the situation or not disturb the chanting we don’t know.  The shield wall has no such problems moving into a pincer formation around Sethroy.  Due to the amount of movement need for the maneuver only half the archers shoot  their composite bows with barbed heads.  Sethroy tries to block using his large cave bear cloak (giving him a an additional DR 2)  The three arrows penetrate both the cloak and his leather armor inflicting horrendous impaling damage knocking him unconscious and dieing. Kensuke unleashes his power blow on the table (and failing miserably) but still manages to push it enough that in knocks into the edge of the shield wall knocking down a shield bearer and an archer and causing the others to move out of the way.  Leroy does an all out attack and striking each of the Shamans twice, one parried once and took the second hit, the same for the other.  However the final blow on each of them was enough to take their lives (or at least knock them out due to the shock).  The War chiefs strike at Leroy but he does an Acrobatic dodge with lightstep landing right on a War chiefs head (strait out of a Wuxia film!).  The other Lizardmen try to reform their shield wall while Kensuke does a baseball player slide and kick on the archer under the table and using the rest of his attacks to flip the  table up on it’s side.  The archers are unwilling to shoot at Leroy while he is standing on their Chief, but that does not stop one from taking a stab at him with his spear (a roll of 16 fails) the Chief tries moving  to shake off Leroy but he stays on.  Leroy leaps off and over the table while the Kensuke continues his attacks on the two Lizard men getting up from prone only to be knocked right back down again.  Meanwhile as Sethroy sinks into oblivion he gets an image of the Obelisk with it’s pulsating violet light and a painfully sweat voice that tells him it does not have to end.  Accepting life over death the fighting stops for a moment as the pile of cloak starts jerking around with the sounds of cracking and sickly sucking noises and an eerie moan.  Just as a Lizard man is about to stab the pile of cloak Sethroy leaps up with his tentacled hands wrapping them around the lizard man and sucking the life force out of it, healing himself in the process. For the lizard men that is enough.  Without the Shamans they have no means to control the spirits that already reside in their home (water elemental for one) not to mention such indestructible flying demons!  the remaining members of the tribe flee through an eastern passage.  Sethroy makes his blood lust roll and resists giving chase.

It takes an additional 20 minutes to find Aloysius, Bob the Hamster and most of their gear, although one of Aloysius’ mules was slaughtered.  They rush out of the place with the chest which holds the book to their salvation.  Returning to the slave wagon they load up their spoils and head to the Orc Barracks to check on the freed slaves (I’m shocked they remembered them) where they rest until night fall as Sethroy is useless in the day time.  His eyes are completely black now taking in all the light, his skin is now like porcelain, his ears more pointed and he can suck the life force through his tentacled hands.  Only Kensuke and Aloysius realizes that he resembles a Dark One with his new hands.  In fact Kensuke and Leroy notice their own fingers are more double jointed then they ever where before.  What ever happened to Sethroy seems to have sped his transformation up faster than the other two.

Making their way back by night (with one leading the horse) they do not encounter any problems until the third day when an Orc challenges the party as they pass near his campsite.  The Orcs name is Genku and a student of the Northern Crane and Ox style.  Kensuke responds to his challenge and the two square off.  Genku Leap attacks at Kensuke, but Kensuke dodges and returns with three kicks to the chest.  The entire fight takes around 12 seconds but during that time a flurry of blows where given and parried by both parties.  It was only when Genku switched from Karate to Judo that the tide went against him.  Getting even closer Kensuke reverses the grab into an arm lock and does two consecutive strikes on Genku’s throat knocking him out.  Kensuke grabs him by the hair tells him to go back to school and slams his head into the ground.

Aloysius and Leroy tend to Genku’s wounds and get him to come around after 45 minutes of administering to his wounds.  Genku travels back to town with them to get more professional care.  Once back Theodore the acolyte tells them their is a ritual that can speed up or slow the transformation but to cure it they will also need a special chalice which Aloysius and he will research.   The preparations will take four days for the ritual.  During that time they have Aloysius sell off the dragon bits and set up the manufacture of leather dragon hide armor.  Kensuke commissions a Giant Spider Silk outfit and they trade some dragon parts for a stock of health potions (finally) Aloysius also starts designing  wrist crossbows for Sethroy.  After the ritual is over everyone is brought to their previous stage of transformation with Sethroy regaining his fingers but loosing the life force power.  Kensuke and Leroy can now operate again during the day but Sethroy still has a bit of darkvison left.  Curiously Leroy who has had the most exposure to the Obelisk is the least affected by the curse, followed by Kensuke and then Sethroy for whom the ritual almost didn’t work for if it wasn’t for some really good rolls.

The group is now going to try to hire some henchmen for the journey ahead and are quite freaked out that they may be turning into Elder Things!


…meanwhile Sethroy hears things

Session 4: Lost and Found

With Aloysius the only one that can read the tome to remove the curse our heroes spend a lot of time trying to figure out where the kidnappers went in the swamp.  As all of them are combat experts or masters none of them has a practical adventuring skill.  No tracking, nothing to find secret doors, just sneak, sneak, bash, bash.  It takes some time but then they think they are on the right path.  Sethroy (the assassin) decides to stay and finish carving up the dragon and wait in case Aloysius just left for a bathroom break (a.k.a. player not available to play)

Using their highly advanced stealth skills the two are able to move through the swamp without making a noise (despite the penalties an evil GM placed on them).  They come upon a cliff face with several caves.  Using their increasing Dark Vision (thanks to the curse) Leroy and Kensuke see a pair of lizard men with spear and shield by one of the cave entrances.  They easily sneak up on the guards and dispatch them using a combination of stealth and super jump and their martial skills.  They move into the cave and find what might be a secret entrance/exit guarded by three lizard men.  Unseen they leave them be.  Continuing on they come into a large sleeping chamber.  There are at least 15-20 sleeping non-combatant lizard folk in the room.  Leroy manages to kill at least 8 before one of them kicks in its death throws waking the others.  The slaughter was gruesome but the ‘heroes’ managed it with only a few scratches.  Leroy pulls in the shadows with “One With Shadows” ability and he and Kensuke hide in a rubble pile waiting to see what happens.

Unsurprisingly the noise brings in five Lizard Men from a south passage.  They see the whole sale slaughter and run back the way they came.  Then one of the three Guards from the secret entrance comes from the north passage and immediately runs back they way it came.  Within a minute more lizard men come from the south.  There are warriors and non-combatants.  The warriors start poking around the room but stay away from a door from the South (which our two sneaks are hiding near) and a reed wall partition to the west.  Not just a few but all the searchers stay away from the two areas, this is not lost on the two martial experts. The non-combatants start nervously clearing the bodies away while the warriors keep guard.  When the last two are leaving Leroy drops his shadowy cloak and attacks the two remaining Lizard folk by surprise, Kensuke joins in.  Their deaths are quick and the two super jump back into the rubble and pull the shadows to cloak their existence. The Lizard group return,either to find out what happened to the last two or to remove more bodies it is unknown but their reaction is obviously one of panic and absolute fear.  They all run off leaving the rest of the bodies.  Not too much longer two lizard warriors from the north arrive.  They are alert and search the area staying away from the reed curtain wall and the door to the south.  At the best opportune time the two strike and kill the two warriors in just two rounds.

Feeling safe they take a look behind the reed curtain and see a large room with a fountain.  On a dais in the middle of the fountain is a statue with some circular holes in it.  Kensuke finds some brass discs in the water about the same size and reaches in to look at one.  As he does the water rushes upwards and forms a water elemental.  The two get blasted by jets of water being pushed back through the reed wall getting a few bumps and bruises.  This is clearly the reason why the Lizard Men erected the reed curtain and why they never went into the area, even to look for the killers of their tribe.  If that is so what must be in the door to the south?  The water Elemental clearly only wants to protect the statue, the pool and the brass discs and does not continue its attack.  So naturally our heroes rush back into the fight! I can not recall the entire battle (as it was 2 weeks ago) however they do end up dispatching the elemental taking a bit of damage and making a lot of noise.  Surprisingly the Lizardmen have not returned to the area.

The two check out the door to the south only to find it blocked by the rubble they had earlier been hiding in.  Kensuke Power punches the door and after three punches he puts his fist right through the door allowing them to look in.  Only because of their dark vision can they see the evil looking altar in the back of the room.  Apparently there was a reason to keep the door blocked!  The two stealthy adventurers agree and leave it alone and decide they can wait no longer and start to sneak down the other southern route to find  Aloysius.

Getting a few more critical rolls on their sneak (I must get new dice) they easily get a sneak attack on two Lizard men scouts who’s death screams echo through the underground complex.  Continuing to take it slow and steady they come to a fork in the route and investigate the area going north only to find a giant constrictor curled up and sleeping.  They wisely leave it for the moment and check the corridor that continued south that opens up into a grand hall with a full rank and file of nervous looking lizard men in a shield wall with spears, slingers and archers behind and what looks like a couple of Shamans, a War Chief and his elite warriors.  They are obviously scared about the demons that have been wakened up in their home.

Thus ends Session 4

Session 3: Raid on the Slavers Stronghold

As with all Sunday Sessions this one was shorter.

Kensuke and Leroy continued to sneak through the camp.  With it being one in the morning the camp has only the Goblin watch on the towers.  The swamp is dangerous in the night and the twenty foot palisade does give a sense of security.  Who would expect a master Ninja and Martial Artist to come super jumping on top using stealth and complex moves to take out the inhabitants?

They climb halfway down the palisade on the inside and jump down.  Making several stealth rolls they sneak through the sleeping stronghold.  The first building has a large double door that is locked.  Not wanting to alert the goblin watch they leave it and continue to sneak through camp.  Kensuke and Leroy come upon a rotting building with five sleeping individuals inside.  Kensuke takes watch while Leroy sneaks in and uses his ninja skills to kill the occupants in their sleep.  Suffering a -4 on stealth while silently attacking Leroy places a knee on chest, hand over mouth and slides his short ninja swords under the chin and through the head.  Much to the disdain of the GM Leroy doesn’t even come close to failing a roll.  This continues on to the next room as Leroy kills the Ogre smith and four more Goblins.

The find a large round house and a very well kept, reenforced building.  They decide to check out the the round house and find about 20 sleeping Goblins.  Leroy knows his luck would not hold out in there so they prop the door shut and investigate the other building.  They find they are unable to open the door and there is no lock to pick, feeling that the book they need to return to normal must be in the buiding Kensuke concentrates with a power punch and places a fist sized hole through to door.  Now knowing they made too much noise Leroy rushes in to the building to find it very quite.  Kensuke stays back at the entrance to monitor the Round House.  Without warning a dart flys at Leroy hitting him.  There is an old Goblin with a blowgun.  Before he can reload Leroy attacks but the quick little Goblin dodges or parries all of his attacks.  Sensing Leroy may need help he jumps to attack only to have a few more Goblins charge out of a side door.  Obviously no one told the Goblins not to fight a Martial Arts master in close combat and Kensuke grabs one goblin and using his throwing art skill he uses one Goblin as a weapon against the other.  Leroy on the other hand is finding out that this old Goblin knows a thing or two about combat.  After a few rounds all three Goblins are dispatched.  Kensuke runs out to check the Round House while Leroy runs in to see if the book is in the next room.

The Goblins in the round house are trying to get out so Kensuke grabs a barrel of oil from the smithy and starts the hut on fire.  Meanwhile the Goblin watch start to fire Crossbows at the heroes.  Leroy runs into the main room to find what can only be described as a human sized demon with claws the size of long knives and a mouth full of sharp needle like teeth.  Behind the demon is the Witch and she commands the demon to kill.  Doing what comes naturally to such find upstanding heroes Leroy runs away screaming.  Kensuke is just finishing up the barbeque  when Leroy runs out of the room with the Demon chasing after.  Not one to wait he Super Jumps into the fray and the pair of the spar off with the supernatural entity.  The fight lasts a few rounds before the creature is sent back to its own plane of existence.  The two run back in to confront the witch or get the book and leave.  When they arrive there is no one about.  Using perception they locate a secret door but too late!  The witch has left through a side door!

Long story short they catch up to the witch and dispatch her very easily as she never had the time to start another ritual to summon a demon.  They take the book they need, dispatch the Goblins on the towers, with Sethroy’s help who had just finally arrived, (not without taking some serious damage) and head back to where Aloysius is only to discover he has been kidnapped.

Session 2: In Search of the Swamp Witch

With all three players available this time we did the wrap up from the previous session with the characters returning to town to get their reward for killing the Cave Bear.  The Leroy the Ninja was almost blind in the daylight having acquired Darkvision from the cursed stone.  After collecting their reward they headed back to the inn where they unloaded some wares and put Leroy down to rest.  Sethroy the Assassin went about selling the gem stones and got mixed reactions due to his newly acquired Feral Aura.  The jeweler gave him a better deal in fear of this Human with an inner rabid animal, and the weapons dealer gave him half the going rate because he didn’t like the look of him.  Meanwhile Kensuke the Martial Artist was walking behind Sethroy completely covered, with hood (like a sith) due to his physical appearance as his skin had not just gone albino, but slightly translucent as well.  He borrowed the obsidian knife from Sethroy and left to go shave has he had not done so for almost a year.

Sethroy then goes to the Enchanter to see about making a special cloak out of the Cave Bears unusual pelt and to see if this curse could get lifted.  After charging them slightly more than what they just brought back from the tunnels the Enchanter gives Sethroy a quick inspection and tells him to go back to the Inn and he will refer the case to a colleague of his.

That day Leroy introduces Bob his galactic space hamster.  Bob has much to say on almost everything but since only Leroy speaks galactic space hamster he will have to interpret.   The next day men from the city watch arrive to escort the three to Patriarch Ranz Mentzer the ruler of Cillamar.  The Patriarch was once a high priest in the Theocracy of the Lance and is a very pious man.  After interviewing them the Patriarch says he feels slightly responsible for their condition.  After all if he had had the men to go after the Cave Bear this would never have happened to the player characters.  The Patriarch will not abide evil in any forms, nor will he allow the possession by evil forces.  To battle this evil he has assigned Theodore the Acolyte and Aloysius the Artificer-Scholar.  After a week and a few days of research not only is the crystalline Cave Bear Cloak finished but Theodore found some information about a Swamp Witch to the south Kyleth the Witch Queen is known to be in possession of the Ars Maieficus, a wicked tome of forbidden knowledge sure to detail the cure to the crystal’s curse.

The following day the three head off with Sethroy on horseback, Kensuke and Leroy on foot and Aloysius will be accompanying with two ponies, one laded down with boxes.  The first three days of travel are peaceful but on the fourth day the party is attacked by bandits.  I mean who wouldn’t attack some one who is obvious a minor lord with his expensive cloak, 2 retainers (only one that has weapons) on foot and an old man with two ponies laden down with what is obviously treasure.  The party refuse to pay the ‘toll’ and Leroy rolls a 4 on perception! He easily spots the three bowman hidden in the brush.  The following battle takes about eight seconds as Sethroy and Leroy throw knives at the bowmen and Kensuke powerleaps to the man in the road and paralyses his legs and arms with pressure points.  Leroy then Power jumps to the bowman who is still recovering from the surprise of the knife in his chest and in three quick strikes (even after penalties) there is an explosion of bits of flesh, bone and blood has his Ninja-To slices through the unarmored bowmen. By now Sethroy finally gets to the third bowman (dodging a shot on the way) and dispatches him cleanly.  The three tell the bandit on the road to go back to his farm and lead an honest life or they will be back to punish him.

That night everyone has strange dreams of something evil chasing them towards the obelisk.  When they wake up they have gone through another transformation.  The rest of them have gone albino and dark vision and Leroy has gained Feral Aura. The group now has a dilemma as they can no longer see properly during the day.  Not to fear says Aloysius as he pulls out a weird head contraption with leather straps, brass tubes and rose quartz enchanted lenses.  I can see fairly well with my Nocturnal Occulus!  The party camps for the rest of the day.  Aloysius shows the group his hand held repeating catapult, although it really should be mounted on a tripod as it is very unbalanced, and not very accurate but works well to pepper an area with small stones.

That night the group move slowly (as the horse and ponies can’t see that well) and enter the swamp.  Their feral aura works in their favor as most of the wild animals stay away (it was at this point the GM remembers the horse and ponies should have reacted to it and decides it’s better not to mention his mistake to the players).  After a day in the swamp the party find a series of foot bridges going between ‘islands’ in the swamp.  Following it brings them quickly to a scene of carnage as Orcs lay scattered around their barred wagons.  Something very large hit these Orcs.  Kensuke does not believe in Orcs and insists they are just really ugly humans with bad dental hygiene.   Aloysius swears as he realises that the orcs are using Blight Weapons!  He describes the evil process used to create them to the characters and the characters decide to leave them behind.  The characters conclude that the wagons are meant to either hold prisoners or slaves due to the shackles on the inside and the iron bars.

After a short time following the bridge network the players see a group of Orcs huddled on an island, they are certainly afraid of something but there is no light for them to see.  The characters call out to the Orcs from a distance and the Orcs reply in thier own language and shake their Falchions in the air.  The group spend several minutes trying to decide what to do with the Orcs when just then the GM has had enough and shouts.  Only one player jumped (sadly) so he was not able to react when a large Dragon falls from the sky behind the Orcs and starts attacking them relentlessly.  The Horse and Ponies should have bolted but the GM forgot about them again.  Leroy and Kensuke Power Jump into the fray doing an Eiffel Tower on the way while Sethroy runs up and Aloysius starts setting up his repeating catapult.

It is obvious that the Dragon is behaving strangely and seems to be sick.  Kensuke unleashes a barrage of attacks on the Dragons neck while Leroy pummels it with his tonfa’s.  The crushing attacks appear to be doing minimal damage to the dragon.  By the time Sethroy arrives the dragon had not managed to land a single blow on the heroes.  Leroy has now focused the attacks on the dragons Eyes (missing most of the time) and Sethroy attacks with a swing and a lunge.  the first weapon to actually puncture the dragon and Sethroy is rewarded by a splash of acid on his hands causing a bit of pain.  Now the dragon is extremely enraged and bites Leroy however the GM rolls a 2 for damage and Leroy’s Ninja armor soaks up the damage and the dragon looses a tooth.  A few more rounds and the players dispatch the dragon and the creature seems to have some form of necrotizing fasciitis.  Some of the scales are in good nick and Sethroy and Aloysius start to plunder the creature while Kensuke and Leroy scout out the area using a map they found on one of the Orcs corpses.

40 minutes later they come on an Orc Stronghold made of Wood with a 20 foot high Wooden Palisade.  The Towers have Goblin Guards which Kensuke says are just ugly midgets. [I should point out by now Kensuke agrees that Orcs had existed but all the ones he has seen are now dead so they are extinct, just like dragons. <sigh>]  Using their Super Jump, a DX check, and a stealth roll at -2 the two Super Jump to the top of the palisade wall and climb down.  Inside they find two slave pits with Humans, some Elves, 3 dwarves and 2 gnomes.  Here we end the adventure as we ran out of time.

After 40 minutes

The Sinister Secret of Whiterock

As you can tell from my infrequent posts over the last few years I have not had much time to play GURPS and most of my friends have had even less time.  Well now I have a group of three that play, more or less, every other week.  However I still have not had a lot of time to make any original adventures so I’ve been doing something I have not done since the 80’s, I’m using purchased adventures!  Now converting adventures can be almost as time consuming as making one from scratch but it will still save me some time in the long run.

I’ve decided to go with Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics with a splash of some original AD&D modules for good measure.  Our first adventure was The Sinister Secret of Whiterock #51.5. I found this adventure to be the perfect starter for our games.  It took six hours to run through the entire thing and it gave the party time to remember how to play (including myself).

Converting Challenges

As with anything GURPS 4e the one place that it will fall short is the lack of diverse book of Monsters.  Now they do have a lot of monsters but it is spread out through several books and not all of them are suitable for every adventure.  This is not normally a problem with my regular Fantasy games, but for Dungeon Fantasy it is a large problem for me.  I use DF when I don’t have a ton of spare time to design, this includes NPC’s and Monsters.  I replaced Owlbears with Cave Bears and had to design my own Sih’hel.

Thankfully the rest of the monsters where quite standard, Giant insects and mammals and a few skeletons.

Now the traps threw me for a bit as I don’t normally have traps in my standard fantasy games, however with a bit of reading I found the area that explained them.  When I get the time I will make a list like Grimstooth Traps for GURPS.

Playing Challenges

I have to admit that I forgot a good portion of the rules and I did not run the game as seamless as I should have.  The first few combats were a challenge and I did not do so well when the players did unexpected actions.  The players pretty much walked in unprepared.  No healing potions, no torches, no bandages.  For a Ninja, Assassin, and a Martial Artist they found out what happens when you don’t follow the 7 P’s ( Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performances).

Overview of the Session

One player could not make it (the Ninja), So we start the game in an Inn (what? you where expecting something original?) when the players hear rumors of a Cave Bear in the area and the inn keepers son went missing while gathering herbs and firewood.  The innkeeper offers the players some gold and a weeks worth of boarding (excluding food and drink) if they would find his son.  The players except as they are extremely low on cash and I have not offered any other options.

Not expecting much they just head out without supplies (silly adventures) and discover some standing stones while following the cave bear tracks (which they only found because they critically rolled Per, none of them had tracking).  They accidentally find the entrance (grace of GM).  Thankfully the Assassin had Night Vision 4. All the combats go well but the martial artist is slowly whittled down throughout the game and relies heavily on defensive maneuvers and techniques towards the end.  The Assassin fairs no better and during the final confrontation the two end up running back up the dungeon and ambushing and retreating the entire way up.   After dealing with the Sih’hel sorceress  the two delvers limp back down to the black crystal obelisk to find any treasure.  What they do find is the Ninja player who is unconscious and tied to an alter.  They find some health potions (grace of GM) and end up spending over 24 hours in the place recovering and getting their loot together.  The don’t realize until they reach the light of day that the black obelisk has transformed their features giving them pale white skin, dark vision 1, and a feral aura (-1 reaction rolls).  Now how will they deal with this curse?

Microsoft OneNote and GURPS

OneNote and GURPS

Microsoft OneNote is an amazing program that can be used effectively as a campaign manager.  There are other programs out there like EverNote, Realmscape and a few others but as I already have OneNote and use if for University I just stick to what I know.

OneNote acts just like a spiral notebook that you can keep adding pages and tabs to.  You may screen capture, use OCR, and links within OneNote and to pages on the internet for easy reference.  You can get Apps for both android and iPhone/iPad which I have used for my Android tablet and my iPhone.  The photo above shows a desktop picture overlaid with my iPhone screen cap.  I tend to place my maps into OneNote then number them in OneNote and link the numbers to the descriptions in another tab.  It works really well except the links won’t work in the Apps.  I almost wish I would have waited for the Windows 8 tablet from ASUS instead of getting my Android.

I will be using this extensively in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Games.