Sunday, September 25, 2016

Friday Map (10): ...And My Ending is Despair [Megadungeon - 1 of ??]

Hey folks, sorry I'm a couple days late with this map!

Today we have a special one. This is the first level of my new megadungeon with the working title ...And My Ending is Despair. That's vague and threatening and mysterious enough, isn't it? I'm using a sketchy name at this point since I expect my players will come up with a more evocative name for the dungeon as we play through it. You can thank The Bard for the working title. :-)

I am doing something a little different (for me) with this megadungeon: There is no overarching theme or history or mythology behind it, Or even any "purpose" to the dungeon at all. I am quite simply making it all up as I go, one level at a time. That may seem like a boring old hat for some folks, but for me it's a great departure from my standard operating procedure, which is to detail the heck out of everything about the dungeon all in advance so it's easy for me to run at the table.

Now, no doubt I will wind up developing some of that history-er themey-ery (thanks Captain Obvious!) stuff as I create each dungeon level, but how much? I don't know yet. I'm fairly certain that much of the megadungeon's contents and many of its occupants won't make sense when scrutinized under any "realistic" ecological microscope. The only plan I do have is that this megadungeon will have a kitchen-sink-strange-days-in-the-mythic-underworld kind of vibe.

For instance, on this first level, there is an astronaut-temple-section populated by centipedes, giant rats, giant crab spiders and a colony of savage baboons. Then there is the green slime. And a black pudding. Additionally, we find a small fire-themed section with flaming snakes and fire beetles, a larger chaos/death-themed section with fountains of insta-death, a gelatinous cube, fountains of chaos tentacles, skeletons, a gargoyle and a ghoul. I've also included a large section overrun by a goblin gang that worships a crocodile-demon-god. Yes, this level is for 1st level characters. The PCs kinda died and my players kinda crapped their pants playing it. :-) I have no idea if I will continue any of these themes on successive levels. We'll see.

Unfortunately, the subsequent levels of the megadungeon will not appear in quick succession on the blog. I have to work on them first. I'm aiming for one new level every couple of months, with the levels being sprinkled among the regular weekly maps I post here. As an extra special bonus (and the real reason the levels will take time) -- each level will be fully-keyed for use with OD&D-type games. I'm not going to spend a huge amount of time editing the heck out of each level key, so expect some minor typos, stat errors and other goofball silliness and references that don't get weeded out. Consider them starting points for use at your table. :-)

If you made it this far, thanks for paying attention to my long-winded post!

Download Links:
Megadungeon Map, level 1 - .png, hi-res
Megadungeon Map, level 1 - .png, low-res
...And My Ending is Despair, level 1, referee map - .png, low-res
...And My Ending is Despair, level 1, referee key - .pdf (3-column landscape)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Map (9): Iltharn Keep & the Village of Longplank

Within the idyllic rustic countryside of the West Riding of Aldershire, resting along the banks of the lazy Lower Gulstoke River, and nestled in the verdant shadow of Old Iltharn Hill is the quaint village of Longplank. A dark secret festers in the heart of this sleepy village...

Named for the first bridge that was placed down over the Lower Gulstoke three centuries past, Longplank is famous for its robust cherry orchards and the spicy-sour black cherry liqueur known throughout the realms as Longplank Blacktooth. Local legend states that Blacktooth liqueur is aged in wooden barrels fashioned from the original oak planks set down across the Lower Gulstoke.

Longplank is ruled by Baron Aethelfrost Klinghorn, second-cousin once-removed to Count Viskel Rundelwine of the East Riding of Aldershire. From his keep atop Old Iltharn Hill, Aethelfrost plots and schemes to marry his rotund daughter Igwen to the lazy-eyed son of his liege Count Wideaxe Hinkelbeck of West Aldershire, thereby entwining his broodline with the two politically-favored families of East and West Aldershire, the Rundelwines and Hinkelbecks.

Adventurers may find the dozing village interesting for not only does Longplank boast the Perfectly Sighted Cyclops, one of the best taverns this side of the Gulstoke, but also Aethelfrost secretly worships the demon-prince Orcus. Not that anyone knows this other than the village drunk, Blacktoothed Worty, of course. Aethelfrost was converted to demon-worship by Ridinal Trasmus, the spiritual leader of Longplank and pretend-pastor of of the Church of Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel. These two evil cohorts carry on secret sacrifices, rituals and corpse army-raising ceremonies at a hidden cave-temple within Blackhaunt Wood several miles north of the village.

Blacktoothed Worty just happened to drunkenly stumble upon a scene in the dark forest the day before the adventurers turn up...

Image Download Links:
Iltharn Map - .png, hi-res
Iltharn Map - .png, low-res

Oh ... and here's a link to the last tune from the classic 1985 Celtic Frost album To Mega Therion to set the mood. Necromantical Screams. Because metal. Enjoy! :-)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Map (8): Fane of Hisrathi, map 3 of 3

Today's map is the final of a three-map set for the three-level Dungeon of the Fire Lord. This map shows the lowest level, the Fane of Hisrathi.

Herein we find a flaming magma-pit cavern-temple where Hisrathi the evil elemental resides (bottom right on map). Throughout the temple are spiked red-hot iron pillars to which sacrificial victims are chained as offerings to Hisrathi. Also on this level, we find a mine where azers cut crimson kyleth crystals (magicky do-special-stuff crystals) and precious metals to bring to the forges of the flame salamander warrior-smiths that occupy the long angular-shaped chamber near the top left of the map.

Rounding out the level, we have various small quarters and two big chambers for the azers (top left of map) and their boss Utemnaron, nephew of Amaimon, king of azers on the plane of fire. Additionally, there are metal, mineral and crystal storage areas (north of the chasm on the map), and the residences of the highest-ranking members of the Cult of Cleansing Flames (bottom middle-ish of the map), Bayabaset the Burnt Priest, Ignia the Flame Bitch and Vasroth the Impaler.

Of particular giddy referee note is the octagonal-shaped "pinch point" chamber with the four doors: the infamous (in my 3e era Greyhawk game anyway) Brass Gas Room of Doom. Once inside the solid brass chamber, the doors shut fast and a slow-working "knockout" gas-trap activates. Four bronze statues inside the chamber need to be positioned correctly to open any of the doors. A fifth bronze statue in the center of the chamber animates and subdue-attacks the party if the other statues aren't positioned correctly the first time around. It was a great trap encounter since most players hate being captured more than dying. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

Image download links:
Map 3, Fane of Hisrathi - .png, hi-res
Map 3, Fane of Hisrathi - .png, low-res

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Friday Map (7): Sanctum of Cleansing Flames, map 2 of 3

Today's map is the second of a three-map set for the three-level Dungeon of the Fire Lord. This map shows the middle level, the Sanctum of Cleansing Flames. This part of the dungeon contains the main temple of the Cult of Cleansing Flames, as well as the cult's reliquary, dormitories, library, private quarters, and numerous other chambers and caverns.

If you're a truly daring explorer, the great chasm through the middle of the dungeon connects all three levels, but gaining this level from the upper level (Caverns of the Mad Morlock) is usually done using the rough-hewn stairs near the top of the map. The primary inhabitants of this level have constructed a tunnel leading to the surface, which they access via the secret chamber in the bottom right corner of the map. The lower dungeon level (Fane of Hisrathi) is accessed via the staircase in the temple antechamber. The temple is the long capsule-shaped chamber in the top right corner of the map.

The Sanctum dungeon level is primarily populated by cultists, guards, and followers of the Cult of Cleansing Flames. However, Lishixa, the medusa-sorceress, and Reginald, her undead half-ogre lover (she's got creepy taste in men), inhabit the cavern areas along with a savage and drug-addicted pack of Lishixa's morlock slaves. The cultists have an uneasy truce with Lishixa.

Image download links:
Map 2, Sanctum - .png, hi-res
Map 2, Sanctum - .png, low-res

A Wee Bit of History: I used the Cult of Cleansing Flames back in the early days of 3rd edition D&D during a brief campaign set in Greyhawk. The cult is an offshoot of the elemental fire worshippers from the Temple of Elemental Evil. Led by Bayabaset the Burnt Priest (and his "lieutenants" Vasroth the Impaler and Ignia the Flame Bitch), the cultists escaped the destruction of the temple and established their own lair and temple, hidden in the northern reaches of the Lortmil Mountains. For the past few years, the cult has grown steadily, recruiting new followers and bulking its store of magic and arms. Recently, Bayabaset performed a summoning ritual that called forth the evil lord Hisrathi from the elemental plane of fire. Hisrathi is an elemental, but an evil demonic one. The cultists worship him as their true god—one who will oversee a new age once the infidels of the Flanaess are cleansed by his purifying fire!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

S&W WhiteBox House Rules (7): Spellcasting & Sanity

This is the seventh and final post detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with spellcasting and sanity. Cheers!

As a referee, I have been known to get fussy about spellbooks and scrolls. Sometimes players treat the spellbooks and scrolls they find in the hoards of slain evil wizards kind of like how kids collect baseball (or Yu-Gi-Oh!) cards: got it, got it, need it, got it, need it ... toss aside. This bugs me a little bit. So I like using costs for adding spells to spellbooks and rules that make casting spells off of scrolls risky.

I also added sanity rules to handle situations like encountering hideous and otherworldly monsters, reading forbidden books, speaking the names of Old Ones, suffering from fear (whether a spell or magic item), doing blasphemous things, and generally freaking out and going crazy like Pink from The Wall or GG Allin, or going completely bat shit insane like Jim Jones or Elizabeth Báthory.

The end results of which are, of course, taken straight out of the good old AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. :-)


A spellcaster prepares and casts a certain number of spells each day, determined by her experience level. A spellcaster can prepare new spells after 8 hours of rest. It takes 1 hour to prepare all the spells a character can cast each day.

A spell remains prepared in a caster’s mind until it is cast. However, if a spell is not cast by the end of the day, the caster does not get to “double up” on that spell the next day—that spell level “slot” is still occupied by the previous day’s prepared spell. Thus, a spellcaster may stretch her prepared spells over multiple days, weeks or even months, if necessary. For example, if a wizard lost her spellbook and could not prepare new spells, this capability could be a life saver.

A spellcaster may attempt to cast a spell directly off a scroll so long as the spell is identified with Read Magic and the spell is of her proper type—a wizard can only cast arcane spells and a cleric can only cast divine spells. The process of casting a scroll spell is the same as casting a prepared spell, except the caster doesn’t use up one of her spells and she must hold the scroll in-hand while casting the spell. Once a spell is cast off a scroll, the magical writing disappears from the scroll and the spell can never be cast again. Despite the similarities, casting a scroll spell is significantly riskier than casting a prepared spell—the magical writing and incantations are not the caster’s own, and therefore the chance of making a mistake increases dramatically.

Whenever a spellcaster tries to cast a spell off of a scroll, a test is required to see if the character properly translates and channels the spell. To make a Scroll Casting test, roll 2d6 + Intelligence modifier (for wizards) or Wisdom modifier (for clerics) and consult Table 42: Scroll Casting below. If the spell level is a higher level than the character can cast, apply a -1 penalty for each spell level difference. For example, if the spell on the scroll is level 5 and the character can only cast level 2 spells, the test roll suffers a -3 penalty.

Table 42: Scroll Casting
2d6 + Int Mod
2 or less
Eldritch Backfire. The casting attempt backfires and the scroll is consumed in an explosion of searing eldritch fire. The caster suffers 1d6 damage per level of the spell on the scroll (no saving throw allowed).
Failure. The casting attempt fails and the spell is lost from the scroll.
No Effect. The spell does not go off, but remains intact on the scroll. Something during the casting was missed or done incorrectly. The caster may try again next round.
Success. The casting attempt succeeds and the spell is used from the scroll.
12 or more
Eldritch Triumph. The casting attempt succeeds beyond expectation. All spell variables are maximized and saving throws to resist the spell (if allowed) suffer a -1 penalty.

Wizards begin play at 1st level with one or two more spells in their spellbooks than they are able to cast. Players may choose one 1st level spell for their wizard characters (two if the wizard has an Intelligence score of 13 or higher), and randomly determine one other 1st level spell. Additional spells can only be added to a spellbook through game play.

SPELLBOOKS (Warning - Fluff text present!)
A graduate of the Iron Tower of the Manalishi embarks upon her adventuring life with an impressive-looking spellbook; a thick, weighty tome of a hundred or so creamy-yellow vellum pages with a cover of immaculately-stitched and dyed leather, bound with sturdy but delicately-etched polished black iron, and decorated with brilliant silver and gold filigree or other lustrous finery.

However, not all wizards use spellbooks of such traditional “book” form. A village hedge wizard might keep a ramshackle collection of coded sketches, notes and diagrams upon a bundle of fraying parchment sheets as a spellbook. An elven hermit might record his spells on papyri sewn together to form a great, long scroll. A dwarf runecaster’s spellbook may consist of a collection of polished obsidian rune stones meticulously categorized in a crystal and black iron case lined with padded silk.

The physical form of a spellbook isn’t significant to the game rules, a player is free to detail her character’s spellbook as she likes.

The costs associated with a spellbook are stricter in the rules than the form it takes. There are three basic rules regarding spellbooks and their costs:
  1. Starting Cost: A spellbook costs 25 gp and has all of a wizard’s starting spells.
  2. Adding Spells: When a character learns a new spell, she “copies” it into her spellbook. This costs 200 gp per spell x spell level. The time required is 1 hour per spell x spell level. The gold is spent on special materials.
  3. Replacing Spellbooks: Replacing a lost or destroyed spellbook is a time-consuming and costly process. It is far cheaper to create back-up copies of spellbooks than to replace them. However, if necessary, creating a new spellbook costs 1,000 gp per spell x spell level. The time required is 1 week per spell x spell level. The character cannot do anything else during this time.

Whenever a wizard discovers a new spell—most likely on a scroll or spellbook found in a treasure hoard—she may attempt to learn it and copy it into her spellbook. There are three things a character must do to learn and copy a new spell:
  1. Read Magic: The character reads the scroll or spellbook pages with Read Magic to identify the spell. Each spell requires one casting of Read Magic.
  2. Learn Spell Test: The character must succeed on a Learn Spell roll (see Table 27: Learn Spells below). Roll 2d6 modified by Intelligence.
  3. Time and Gold: The character must spend the appropriate time and gold as noted in “Adding Spells” under Spellbook Costs above.

Table 27: Learn Spells
2d6 + Int Mod
2 or less
Eldritch Backfire. The spell is not learned and the scroll is ruined (or the spellbook pages for that spell are ruined).
Failure. The spell is not learned and the spell is lost from the scroll (but not a spellbook).
Learned. The spell is learned and may be copied normally. The spell is considered “harmlessly cast” from the original scroll (but not a spellbook).
Eldritch Success. The spell is learned and the cost to copy it once into a spellbook is halved. The spell is considered “harmlessly cast” from the original scroll (but not a spellbook).
12 or more
Eldritch Triumph. As Eldritch Success, plus the spell remains “uncast” on the original scroll.


Sanity Points (SP) represent a character’s mental resolve and capability to withstand terror, eldritch horrors and insanity. Sanity points most often come into play when a character makes a saving throw to resist the horror of an otherworldly creature, after reading a forbidden tome of unspeakable lore, or to resist a spell that causes fear.

All characters have SP based upon their initial Wisdom scores at 1st level. A character with a Wisdom score of 12 starts the game with 12 SP. Think of sanity points a bit like mental hit points—a character can take only a certain amount of sanity damage until he goes insane and is removed from the game.

Table 38: Sanity
Wis Score/San Pts
Threshold Effect
PC insane and removed from play
PC gains major mental illness
PC gains minor mental illness
PC gains mental immunity
Wis Score/San Pts: The character’s Wisdom score and Sanity Points at 1st level.
ST: Modifier (Wisdom) applies to saving throws against sanity-draining effects.
Threshold: Describes a character’s general mental state based upon his current SP total.
Threshold Effect: This is what happens when a character’s Sanity Threshold drops or rises.

Saving Throws: When a character’s sanity is attacked—whether by a monster's presence or gaze, a spell, a curse, a trap, a magic item, or whatever—the character must make a saving throw modified by Wisdom. Success means the character is fine and suffers no ill effects, unless the attack type specifies otherwise.
Sanity Point Loss: If a character fails the saving throw, he suffers the full effects of the specific attack, and a temporary or permanent loss to his SP total. A temporary loss is typically 1d6 points, restored at a rate of 1 point per day of complete rest (no combat or adventuring activities allowed). A permanent loss is typically 1 or 2 points. Only the most horrific creatures and events cause permanent SP loss.
Sanity Threshold & Mental Illness: When a character has lost SP, his Sanity Threshold may drop—see the table above. If a character’s Sanity Threshold drops to Weak-Willed or less, he goes slightly mad and gains a minor mental illness. If his SP loss is temporary, so is the illness—it goes away when his Sanity Threshold rises to Stable. If the Sanity Threshold becomes Weak-Willed permanently, so is the mental illness. Thereafter, if the character’s Sanity Threshold drops another level—Weak-Willed to Fragile or Fragile to Insane—he gains an additional mental illness, either temporary or permanent.
Determining Mental Illnesses: When a character gains a temporary mental illness, the Referee (or player) rolls 1d10 and consults Table 48: Insanity & Mental Illnesses. The character suffers this type of insanity until his Sanity Threshold rises to stable. If the character suffers a permanent mental illness, roll 1d20 and consult the same table. The referee arbiters any details of the mental illness.
Restoring Lost Sanity Points: In addition to regaining 1 lost SP per day of complete rest, a character’s SP may be restored with any Cure-type spell: instead of restoring hit points, the spell restores sanity points.

Table 48: Insanity & Mental Illnesses
Roll d10 or d20
Type of Insanity
Roll d20
Type of Insanity
Pathological liar
Hallucinatory insanity
Dementia praecox
Homicidal mania
Delusional insanity
Suicidal mania
Note: These disorders are detailed on pages 83-84 of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.