Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Logistical Nightmare That Is This Winter

I made a short TTRPG as a final project for my Apocalyptic Literature class (my first real dungeon pdf!!!!!). Not my finest work, but maybe worth expanding on in the future?

Credit to my girlfriend for the name (definitely the best part of the whole thing).

Monday, December 7, 2020

Fox Wizards

Frogs for Breakfast, by Bonnie Marris

A follow-up to this post.

You were abducted by a fox in early life. Maybe you escaped the den, or maybe the fox took a liking to you. Regardless, they already got what they wanted from you.

Perk: You start the game with a simple container (jar, sack, chest, or locket) containing fox space.

(Fox space is extra-dimensional space grounded in the realm of the fae; basically a bag of holding. Fox space exists only as long as you are conscious; if you fall unconscious, everything inside jettisons out of the container. You can’t maintain more than 10^[Wizard Templates] square feet of fox space at a time.)

Drawback: You possess the wide-eyed innocence of a child, and are deeply suggestible and impressionable. You have only 3 years to live.


  1. With an hour’s work, you can create fox space inside a mundane container.
  2. With a gesture, an object you touch becomes delicious, albeit not nutritious. Most animals will know better than to eat obviously inedible objects.
  3. If a creature consents, you can consume their lifespan through physical contact at a rate of 10 years per minute. Every 10 years you consume adds 1 month to your lifespan.


  1. You lose your lifespan. You only have a month to live.
  2. You lose your lifespan. You only have a day to live. From now on, every 10 years you consume adds 1 week to your lifespan.
  3. You lose your lifespan. You only have an hour to live. From now on, every 10 years you consume adds 1 day to your lifespan.


  1. Knock
  2. Wealdway
  3. Betwixt
  4. Feather
  5. Gekkering
  6. Fox’s Feast
  7. Unassuming Guise
  8. Sleep
  9. Read Minds
  10. Abduction
  11. Invisibility
  12. Fox Fingers

You create a door to your fox space for [dice] hours. The size of the door is based on the doorframe you choose.

Choose two objects you can see within 100^[dice] ft of each other. Until the end of your next turn, treat those objects as adjacent to each other.

You speak with the tongue of foxes for [sum] minutes, as if barely containing your laughter. Creatures who hear your voice become more trusting; you roll an additional d6 for reaction rolls.

Fox’s Feast
A creature you can see ages [sum] years. Alternatively, an object you can see ages [sum]^2 years.

Unassuming Guise
Choose a unit of time (seconds/weeks/decades/etc). You transform into an inanimate object of your approximate size for [sum] of those time units. As an object, you do not age and can observe the world around you. You cannot end your transformation before your time is up. If the object would be broken, the transformation ends.

You grab an object or creature and pull it into your fox space for [sum] - their HD rounds. If they don’t fit in your fox space, random items are jettisoned into the space the target once occupied until they do.

Fox Fingers
You reach out and touch another creature. For [sum] rounds, you have full control of your target’s actions (no Save) so long as you remain in direct physical contact with them. This works through clothes, armor, and saddles, but not through shields or brick walls.

By AspenEyes

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Deadly Consequences

Looking for an easy-to-grok death/dismemberment system for my GLOGhack, I stumbled upon this post from Wizard Thief Fighter, then retooled it a bit for my own purposes. I'm not completely sold on the system below (a little too much reading and rolling), but it's certainly a start.


Jose Segrelles

Deadly Consequences

When you take damage in excess of your HP, you come face to face with a consequence based on how much damage you took: either risky, deadly, or career-ending.

Choose or roll from the available options. The same consequence can’t be chosen twice in one session. If all options are chosen, reset the table or add more.

Any Death Dice (DD) you have are rolled and added to the next instance of damage you take. (Death Dice are d6s.)

1-5: Risky Consequence. Your chances of surviving this fight just went way down.

  1. Knocked out for the rest of the fight. When you wake up, some of your memories are missing.
  2. Items held in your hands are sundered, then drop 1d6 more items. +1DD
  3. Throw a nearby ally in front of the blow. If they’re a PC, they suffer a deadly blow. +1DD
  4. A near miss which will become a horrible scar. Gain 1d6 trauma. +1DD
  5. Close shave. You lose 1d6 fingers. +1DD
  6. You make a heroic stand. +3DD

6-10: Deadly Consequence. Permanent injuries, physical and emotional.

  1. Your arm is permanently disabled. +2DD
  2. Your leg is permanently disabled. +2DD
  3. You go deaf. +2DD
  4. You go blind. +2DD
  5. You can’t speak. +2DD
  6. Your spirit is broken. You have disadvantage to combat-related rolls permanently. +2DD

11+: Career-Ending Consequence. Prepare your final words

  1. Absolutely obliterated. Your body is impossible to recover.
  2. You’re on the brink. The next hit you take results in ridiculous, gruesome death.
  3. You make your final stand. You are invincible for 3 combat rounds, then die.
  4. Too old for this shit. Your hair turns grey. You retire at the earliest possible opportunity.
  5. “I quit.” Your PC retires immediately and tosses 3 of their items to a nearby ally. The ally immediately levels up. If it’s a hireling, they may become a level 2 PC.
  6. You survive miraculously, but the universe will punish your good fortune. You fail all checks forever.

Ariel Perez


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Decapitation & the Dullahan

by Valin Mattheis

Here’s some true fun facts about decapitation:

The guillotine was invented in 18th century France as a humane alternative to other, more gruesome forms of capital punishment like the breaking wheel. The driving philosophy behind its creation was surprisingly progressive: that capital punishment was primarily meant to end life, and that inflicting unnecessary pain in the process was morally wrong.

There’s a lot (and I mean a lot) of stories from this time period about recently-decapitated heads blinking or mouthing, as if trying to speak. Scholars at the time would further investigate the duration of continued consciousness by asking criminals to blink in a specific sequence after decapitation, or pumping blood into the heads to see if they would come back to life and speak. More recently, videos of beheadings confirm these stories, showing each blink or muscle spasm in gruesome, high-definition video footage.

And on the other side of the equation, many examples exist of “beating heart cadavers”: non-decomposing corpses who continue to digest, urinate, blush, sweat, and even have babies following brain death. Not to mention Mike, the chicken who lived for 18 months following decapitation, capable of walking, eating, and emitting gurgly clucks.

Nowadays we know to identify “death” as a cascade of smaller events, wherein individual organs and tissues fail in sequence. The question of which of these deaths truly ends a person’s life is hotly debated (and wildly uncomfortable), but it does give me some ideas.

Mike in his prime, absolutely beside himself

If you amputate a person’s arm, that arm has no identity of their own; it’s simply dispossessed. If you “amputate” a person’s head, which part of that body is them?

Was “Mike” the same chicken he was before losing his head, or is “Mike” the head that was left behind? If so, who is the body walking around and eating? Are they two separate beings? Has Mike been split in two? What parts of Mike are where?

Where is the soul in all this?

Let’s focus on capital punishment for a second.

If you split a person in two, can you punish individual parts of their soul? Can you kill the brain, ripe with sin and ambition, but save the innocent body? Can you divide the purple soul from the animal and mineral? Can you excise sin from the soul, and let the rest wander around freely?

What does the body think when the head is removed?

Judith decapitando Holofernes


An ichabod is created following a merciful beheading (what the Pristine Clergy calls a “decree of forgiveness”). Quickly, the head is buried, and the body is anointed in rosewater to prevent infection. A cleric then seals the carotid arteries of the neck stump with wax and begins a 24 hour vigil wherein they nurse the body back to health and ward off psychopomps. Eventually, the body sits up from its bed.

The process absolves the accused of their crimes, albeit at a terrible cost. Without eyes, ears, or a brain, the ichabod jerks back and forth on little more than instinct, obeying the three earthly souls which escaped persecution in the eyes of the law. It has little ambition beyond the most basic functions of eating and drinking. Imagine a high-functioning, self-conscious sleepwalker; this is the Ichabod.

An ichabod retains much of its memory and can comprehend language. (To an ichabod, all meaningful noise sounds distant, as if shouted from the bottom of a deep hole. They can’t hear sounds that are less than obvious.) They can also produce “language” through their neck holes, although it is only a sputtering gurgle. For a princely sum, an ichabod can be fitted with an array of brass horns, allowing it to speak in mournful honks, which is a lot less upsetting than it sounds.

Typically, the ichabod is tasked with performing menial labor in the service of their victims. After serving its sentence, it is turned free.

An ichabod roams where their animal soul guides them, through the wilderness with little more than a blade and liquid rations, which they squeeze down their necks with great difficutly. They can be reasoned or traded with, and are sometimes quite friendly; the animal soul longs for company every so often.

2  Armor as leather  Quarterstaff 1d6
8  Int 8  Morale 2


by Bastien Grivet

Sometimes, the ichabod's head will refuse to decompose, breathlessly mouthing curses into the hateful earth. Wizard heads are sealed in molten silver to prevent their spells from escaping. Being an ichabod means knowing that somewhere on earth your evil twin is buried under the floorboards gibbering blasphemies.

If an ichabod comes into contact with its head, it “dies”, and the head reassumes direct control. This is what creates a dullahan.

8  Armor as plate  Sword 1d8/1d8/1d8
12  Int 14  Morale 8
Soul Link

The link between a dullahan's head and body is tenuous at best, characterized by a constant struggle for control between the heavenly and earthly souls. The dullahan loses control of its body beyond a range proportional to the strength of their willpower: a serial killer can maintain control within a 20' radius, an ancient sorcerer-king can do so over many miles (1 hex). The dullahan can only truly be killed if its body is removed from this area; otherwise, it regenerates quickly over 1d4 hours and continues its pursuit.

Dullahans hold their heads where they can survey the landscape. They often ride horses and are frequently megalomaniacs.

If they are a wizard-head (sealed in molten silver, see above), they will employ avian familiars to act as their eyes and cast their spells. Some of them carve their silvered craniums into artful filigree, or a mask of the face underneath. Some just really dig the aesthetic of being a silver cube.

Dullahan by Cromwaits


Sunday, November 1, 2020

5 Wholesome Monsters


by Andrea Lavery

In a very-not-OSR very-not-halloween twist, here’s some monsters that aren’t tortured abominations. No duplicity, no trickery, no murder-mimic-shaped-like-a-tree-stump-with-a-bunny-on-top, just good vibes and cute monsters.

Kisse Bird

A very circular bird with watercolor-on-canvas plumage. It’s extremely friendly, and will happily ride on your shoulder (it actually prefers it to the little gilded cage it comes in) and eat assorted seeds out of your hands. It can’t fly because it only has a single, disproportionately large wing, which has no apparent effect on its limitless avian cheer.

Kisse birds are extremely rare treasure. Each one is worth 200gp to collectors and lovestruck nobles. A mating pair of Kisse birds is worth a king’s ransom, but they must be kept in separate cages lest they ascend together.

When two Kisse birds to meet, they will huddle close to one another and coo. At that point they become inseparable, having bonded on a molecular level, and can fly by coordinating their wingbeats. As soon as they have a clear path to the open sky, they will grab the party member who has treated them best by the collar and ascend into the clouds with their powerful wings. The abducted PC will fall from the sky within view of the party 1d4 hours later, wearing/carrying 3 magic items from your second-best loot table and, invariably, a Ring of Feather Falling.

Nightmare Gliders

Long-haired, parasitic sugar gliders. They eat bad memories by clinging to their host’s skull and sipping harmlessly from the brain with their long, anteater-like proboscides. They generally start from the most recent memories (like when a sugar glider suddenly landed on their head, unless you’re cool with that).

A PC with a nightmare glider on their head loses Stress (or Trauma, Mania, Insanity, or whatever system you use for mental fatigue) every night. If you run out of prevalent bad memories or try to put on a helmet, the glider jumps to a new PC (or leaves, if no desirable hosts are available).

When a nightmare glider parasitizes a wizard, they are likely to steal spells directly from the caster’s brain. Necromancy and damage dealing spells are always the first to go. If a nightmare glider drinks too many spells, it grows rapidly and becomes a Dire Sugar Glider (refer to your Monster Manual of choice).

If you eat a nightmare glider, you’ll get your memories back, as well as all the worst emotions of all the glider’s previous hosts (debilitating nightmares prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep for 1d4 weeks, plus Stress/Trauma/Insanity/etc., no Save). It’s a shitty idea for many reasons (including a 4-in-6 chance of insanity from sleep deprivation) but could teach you a handful of terrible secrets.


Headless glow-in-the-dark dungeon boars who look like the rear ends of 2 swine stitched together. They’re cute/wholesome, and I don’t have to explain myself.

by Jessica Fong

 Affirmation Sphinx

Q: “What is wrong with you?”
A: “Nothing.”

The answers to this sphinx’s riddles are all some variant of positive affirmation. This is because the sphinx can read minds, and is genuinely concerned about your mental health. However, all sphinxes must talk in riddles, and besides, you wouldn’t heed a sphinx’s advice anyway unless you came to the conclusion yourself.

The affirmation sphinx is warm and matronly. She is often bundled up in many layers of furs and hides, adding to her comfy vibe. She can light a campfire with a whisper and is willing to share a leg of fresh elk with hungry adventurers in exchange for stories. The sphinx won’t protect you from wandering monsters however; she can’t help but root for both sides equally.

Besides being just a cool person to talk to, the affirmation sphinx can detect magic and see invisible creatures. She is guarding something, probably a treasure hoard, but she can’t let you pass until you answer her other riddle: “What is the password?” The answer is long and case sensitive.

Dragon Caterpillar

A regal purple caterpillar with a proud display of horns, from which it derives its name. It uses its front-most claws like hands and begs for food with its enormous eyes (it’ll eat anything it can fit in its mandibles, but prefers small berries).

If you give it a large sum of gold, it will chew it up and spin it into a hoard-cocoon over the course of 1d4 weeks. The cocoon is worth 1.5x the gold you put into it to seamstresses and nobles, who can unravel the cocoon into true golden silk with ephemeral properties.

If you hold on to the cocoon for 3d4 years, the caterpillar will emerge from its metamorphosis as a dragontail butterfly, who grants a single wish before disappearing into fae space. The scope of the wish is proportional to your relationship with the caterpillar.

happy just-after-halloween y'all
by Wylie Beckert

Friday, October 30, 2020

Sword Plagues & Plague Swords


by Inoue Takehiko

Plague Sword

There is a certain kind of sword, found at the sites of recent battles or the ruins of subterranean dungeons. They protrude upright from decayed corpses, sometimes two or three blades clustered together in the ribcage of a never-buried soldier. The hilt twists skyward invitingly, inviting the bold to take up arms. These are the plague swords.

A plague sword is supernaturally sharp (+1 magic sword) yet brittle, losing its edge to the point of worthlessness after only a few cuts. When a plague sword breaks, slivers of the blade fly everywhere like tiny glass splinters, burrowing into any exposed skin within 5’. This deals no damage, at first.

Those cut by the sword collect metal slivers in their skin, only perceptible as a slight subdermal itching sensation. These slivers migrate along the nervous system to the host’s spinal cord, where they coalesce and form a tumor. The tumor then grows over the course of months, becoming hard and raised from the skin, accompanied by a sharp pain in the chest. Most hosts die from punctured lungs or an impaled heart. A rare few wake up one morning to find the blade poking through their chest.

If you cut open the tumor, you’ll find the hilt of a blade. At first, it’s little more than a runty dagger, something a trained surgeon or wizard could excise with time and caution, but with time it will grow into a full-fledged broadsword.

Plague swords feed on their host(’s corpse) until they attain full length. They grow hilt-first towards the sun, like iron flowers with glinting leaves. Then, they go dormant, waiting to be drawn in battle by a desperate knave and spread their seed once more.


by Pavel Kolomeyets

Sword Plague

Metal can get sick, which usually manifests as rust. Just as animals can catch many different kinds of diseases, so too can metal contract many different types of rust.

Common or lesser rust is not very contagious, and most commonly spread through water. It’s a slow killer which can degrade metal over many years, but can generally be cured with proper treatment.

Blue rust is to normal rust what the bubonic plague is to a really slow-acting cancer. Highly contagious and fast acting, blue rust can eat through a sword in seconds and spreads from item to item by touch (it’s also mildly airborne). When a patch of blue rust eats enough magic items, a blue ooze may form, and then you’re really fucked. 

Blue Ooze
HDArmor none  Pseudopod 1d6
MoveIntMorale 12
Special Oozy, Blue Rust, Feared by metal

Ooze creatures can crawl up smooth walls and through gaps as small as 1” wide. They take half damage from piercing attacks. They are immune to acid, but salt burns them as acid.

Any metal object a blue ooze comes into contact with contracts blue rust (magic items get a Save). Each round of combat, blue rust spreads from an item you are holding to the nearest item in your inventory. Items afflicted with blue rust break after one use, or after dealing/receiving any damage. A magic item consumed by blue rust transforms into a 1 HD blue ooze.

Metal fears the blue ooze the way human beings fear tigers. All attacks by metal weapons are made with disadvantage; swords will swing wide to evade the ooze, arrows will veer to safety, and ball bearings/caltrops will roll away from it as fast as they can.

Metal sings, albeit at a frequency we cannot perceive, and when it does it sings not for itself, but for its immortal God-alloys. The voice of metal echoes hymns of an ancient era before the sword plagues. Metal sings because it is praying for forgiveness, deliverance from a world of pain and suffering and rust.

better ditch that sword y'all
Sir Bedevere y e e t s Excalibur into a lake


Friday, October 23, 2020

The Foxes and their Laughing Children

by Gop Gap

A fox is a fae of fiery fur and feline form. They are never seen, only heard, gekkering in the hidden spaces between blades of grass where mundies never think to look, unless of course they want to be seen, which they never do.

(They’re also huge. Like, bite-your-torso-in-half huge. You don’t notice because they’re hiding themselves in fox space.)

Like all fae, foxes are obligate chronovores, and survive by eating the lifespans of others. They are fond of children, who have more remaining years and are much easier to spirit away from home. A fox’s den is full of these children (2d4), stuffing their faces with wild berries and playing in the glimmer-grass as they die swiftly and painlessly of old age.

Life in a fox den is like a daydream where everything tastes sweet and is soft to the touch. This is according to the wishes of the fox; fox space is especially labile in the face of a powerful will.

Most children live for a few weeks at most. Only a select few last long enough to learn the Laughing Language. These are the fox’s favorites, cheerful and clever and strong of heart. She teaches them to see the corners where fox space intersect the planes, and they use this power to play hide and seek across dimensions.

The laughing children are allowed free rein of the den, and act as older siblings to the fox’s other children.

Some leave the den to establish their own dens, while others become agents of the fox. None of them live longer than three years.

Laughing Child
HDDefense as chain  Nails 1d4
Move as halfling  Morale 3 (Flighty)
Special teleport within line of sight (fox space), the Laughing Language

You can follow the laughing child through the fox space if you’re quick, but every turn spent in fox space without a fox to escort you incurs a Save vs mutation.

Much like Dwarven and Cheoxic, the Laughing Language has special properties. Creatures in earshot feel their hearts lifted, and become more trusting. All reaction rolls improve by one degree, and Saves against charms and hypnosis are more difficult.

Fox Baron
HDDefense as chain  Claws 1d6/1d6/1d6
Move as an elephant-sized wolf  Morale 7
Special teleport within line of sight (fox space), the Laughing Language, chronovory

The fox eats away at your lifespan as you fight it. Any damage it deals ages you an equal number of years. If you would age past your natural lifespan this way (default 80), Save vs instantaneous organ failure.

Foxes are more fur than flesh. If you kill one, it and its den collapse into a dense red garnet, which are valuable to big game hunters and wizards, who can turn them into bags of holding. 

by Cecile Berrube

Foxes are found near villages where food is plentiful. They may be reviled in local legends as crib-snatchers, or revered as whimsical gods. Foxes often have direct relationships with humans; you might encounter a town which serves a local fox baron in return for its supernatural protection. Fox barons pay close attention to human settlements under their wing; the more populous the village, the more children are born, and the less people will notice when someone goes missing.

Unlike most fae, foxes are capable of complex moral reasoning. They observe the many hardships of our world from the safety of their dens, and they weep for our long, miserable lives. They see themselves as agents of good, rescuing unloved and abused children from a lifetime of trauma and destitution. In their mind, the fox is saving the child from a lifetime of being human.

To live as foxes do, without worries or cares, is a blessing afforded to few out of the goodness of the fox’s heart. It is a great kindness that the children never grow to remember their previous trauma.

In this way, foxes convince themselves of their moral superiority. They’re like people who eat burgers and say “if the cow understood its situation, it would have wanted it this way”.

It is rumored that foxes were mundane animals who became fae to avoid divine punishment. This is silly, and probably true.


Friday, October 16, 2020

3 Alternative Monster Biologies

In a world where magic exists, calories are overrated.

Obscurovores — Eaters of Darkness

Dungeon ecologies are a precarious balance of scavengers and fungal culture. The only resource a dungeon has an abundance of is darkness. The challenge is turning darkness into energy, and this is where the Glowpig comes in.

Glowpigs are short-legged, headless swine, like the rear ends of two pigs stuck together. They eat darkness through their skin, which causes them to shed light as a torch (light is the absence of dark, as the drow will tell you). Their meat is black and rich and, according to some, corrupts the soul.

When threatened, they stop glowing (because they’re no longer eating) and curl up into a ball, relying on their thick, cactus-bristle hair to deter predators. They excrete noxious smoke (save vs. 1d4 poison damage) which crawls over the dungeon floor like a heavy fog, extinguishing campfires and choking sleeping adventurers.

[quick note: most creatures that live in the dungeon have true darkvision, and see as well in the dark as we do in the light. When everything that wants to eat you has darkvision anyway, shedding light isn’t a negative. It can even momentarily confuse predators when the light suddenly goes out and their vision has to adjust, buying the Glowpig precious seconds to flee.] 

Chronovores — Eaters of Time 

There is no such thing as immortality, a truth belied by the timeless nature of the fae. Their secret is chronovory: the consumption of one creature’s lifespan to extend another. This explains the faerie practice of abducting humanoid children, who are likely to have many years ahead of them, and their fascination with food, which they do not need but appreciate artistically much like theatre or music.

This is also why only human children are seen living alongside faeries; they die of old age before they ever grow up. 

Fae of Wishes by Wylie Beckert

Cogitovore — Eaters of Thought

There is a whole category of spirits which draw energy not from calories or magic, but from sapient thought. Among them are angels/devils, spells, nature spirits, and (arguably) gods, all empowered and affected by the thoughts of others.

Emphin are feral cogitovores without an onus or guiding principle to align themselves by. They are sometimes believed to be proto-angeloids, and as a result many eventually ascend to angelhood. Until then, they are as cordial as you would expect a rogue spirit to be.

Emphin are shapeshifters who look like you’d expect them to. Their identity begins and ends with the expectations of others, and their bodies fluctuate as wildly as the rumors surrounding them. Only their size is fixed, scaling based on the number of people who know about them.

If your players are hunting an emphin, describe it in vague terms. The villagers will have conflicting accounts of its appearance and abilities, and give it vague names like “the monster in the woods”. Right before they meet it, ask your players what they think the emphin looks like, then tailor its abilities to match.


Emphin Rumors
It has many mouths and can skeletonize a cow in 30 seconds.
It flies on gossamer wings, but charges like a bear.
It cries acid and bleeds saltwater. It has an insect's maw.
It’s immune to fire, and spits flames from holes in its neck.
There are thousands of wasps in its mouth.
It can command undead. It’s afraid of holy symbols.
It eats soil and silt and regurgitates locusts.
It has gorgeous plumage and a long python-like neck.
It has a bird's beak and 2d8 additional heads all over its body.
It's lean like a panther and can tunnel through the earth like a mole.
It’s invisible.
Don’t look it in the eyes, or you’ll die from fright.
It’s actually a set of triplets.
It has a rhino's horns and shines like the sun when it roars.
It has claws the size of scythes, which weep cobra venom.
Its skin is harder than stone. Its mouth is long like a crocodile's.
It has two extra pairs of arms, which are always praying (+cleric spells).
It can speak, but only in blasphemies (+wizard spells).
It’s invulnerable to attacks by mortal men.
It’s actually pretty chill. Leave it alone.

They wouldn’t be such a big problem if everyone wasn’t so convinced that all emphin are monsters.


Drow, the Dark, and an Edgy GLOG Wizard

by Tyler Crook

This post is a bit of a chimaera, incorporating ideas about the Mythic Underworld, Advanced Darkness, and Arnold K.’s Book of Mice. The intersection between these works should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of stuff I try to write here.

Drow worship the Dark (note the capital D). In their stories, she is the God before all Gods, the Ur-Mother, the primeval ancestor of all living things. She is the starless night shackled beneath the earth and sea. She is parent and predator, giver and taker of breath and blood. She is the womb, the hungry crucible, the warm embrace of perpetual stillbirth.

The following enumerates the many beliefs of the drow.

The Dark is always making things. She is the source of all spontaneous generation, from the mouse born in the pile of grain to the dragon hatched on a hoard of gold. She is strongest in the lightless places, under bridges and in dungeons far below the surface, where she fosters her oldest and strangest offspring.

All living things are her children, or are descended from her children. This is why all life contains a fragment of the Dark, which is released into the air when the body is burned or decomposed. The drow know how to extract these fragments and refine them into Vanta, a carcinogenic venom which they use to wet their daggers. (save vs. volleyball-sized tumors)

Only the Dark can give life, for she is the mother of men as well as monsters. This is why offspring must develop in the womb or egg rather than out in the open.

[There are creatures born from light rather than Dark—angels/devils (same thing) as well as emphin and aasimar. The drow believe these are sterile constructs manufactured behind the moon or sun as enforcers of the Lumocentricity.]

Conjuration magic draws upon the Dark to manifest her children in the service of the caster, from unseen servants to summoned woodland creatures. Golems are usually created during a New Moon, when she is at her most powerful, as are undead.

[Because they are born from Dark, golems and undead are perceived as more alive than angels and devils. Liches and ghouls often hold surprising status in drow society.]

someone please tell me where this image is from

The Dark embodies the most natural animal state. She is savage, base, and uncivilized. All animal urges—greed, hunger, love, and so on—originate from the fragment of herself which resides in the liver; a doting mother guiding her child towards the most primal forms of satisfaction. Her favored children are the grue, vicious man-eaters who swim through the Dark like water.

Consumption and reproduction are the only virtues she abides. For this she is sometimes worshipped by druids, who abhor the laws of the civilized world as she does. The drow seek her favor through carnal worship and red-blooded atrocity. Their temples are built with gutters, which collect the runoff from their abominable rituals and feed it drop-wise to the hungry earth.

The Dark is forgiving. She harbors a deep hatred for the kingdoms of men, who betrayed their mother and drove her underground, yet she wants nothing more than for her children to return to her. This is why drow are the only mortal humanoids with true darkvision; those who earn her forgiveness can see without light, as they did in the age of the first kin.

This is the origin of undeath; If a body is not properly buried and sanctified, its stillness may be mistaken for repentance, and the Dark reclaims it. Necromancy is merely the practice of drawing her attention to a viable corpse.

This is also why doors close behind you in the dungeon; as one descends into the embrace of primeval darkness, she will do everything in her power to keep you just a moment longer.

Theological Conflict

The drow are a pretty backwards people, on multiple levels. They see light as the absence of darkness. Their vision is perfect in perfect darkness and dulled in direct light, the literal polar opposite of how everyone else sees the world. Their worship of the Dark reflects this backwards perspective, and vice versa

Drow theology may directly contradict the rest of your campaign world; that’s fine. Different cultures with incompatible worldviews are very true to life and make for interesting role-play, and as DM you can pick and choose which elements each culture gets right and which are left ambiguous.

If all else fails, history favors the victors. If the players can clear out a drow encampment, it will certainly be interpreted as a sign that their gods are more powerful than the Dark.

by Piotr Foksowicz

You can pledge yourself to the Dark for dope shit, at the cost of everyone at the table calling you an edgelord. 

Tenebrous Wizard 

This is a wizard school for the GLOG. (I considered writing a 5e Warlock Patron too, but the concept doesn't quite lend itself to a system with de-emphasized light mechanics.)


You have true darkvision in pitch darkness; if you can see any light, your vision returns to normal. Grue do not appear to you.


You cannot cast spells in direct sunlight or on targets standing in direct sunlight. 


  1. Dim or extinguish mundane light sources within 10’.
  2. Touch an egg/expectant mother’s stomach to learn the exact time of birth.
  3. Spend any number of Rations to summon half that many HD of vermin: flies, rats, pigeons, etc. They eat their way out of the Rations, as if they were always inside. They have no loyalty to you. 


Mostly stolen from here and here and also here oh and here too. I really like the abbreviated spell format Lexi's using for Sawn-Off, so that's here too. 

1. Rot
2. Fear
3. Light
4. Darkness
5. Enhance Senses
6. Aura of Warmth
7. Forge from Shadow
8. Control Light and Dark
9. Imperceptibility
10. Primal Descent
11. Create Life
12. Maw of the Dark 

An object you touch ages [dice] x [sum] years. Alternatively, a creature you touch takes 2 x [dice] damage and ages [sum] years. 

Up to [sum] HD of creatures within 50’ must Save vs Fear or take a morale check/flee from you. If [dice] >= 4, creatures unused to supernatural occurrences (peasants, domesticated dogs, etc.) must Save or age 2d10 years. 

You bend darkness away from an object you touch for [sum] x 10 minutes. It shines as a torch. If [dice] >= 3, it shines as sunlight.
Alternatively, make an Attack roll against a sighted creature you can touch. If you succeed, the creature is blinded for [sum] rounds. If [sum] >= 12, it is permanent. 

Darkness descends upon a [dice] x 10' radius sphere within 50’ for [sum] minutes. It drowns out mundane light sources and sunlight. If [dice] >= 2, it overpowers magical light sources. 

Enhance Senses
Choose [dice] senses. You enhance these senses for [sum] minutes. You have advantage on checks with these senses. 

Aura of Warmth
You and creatures within 5’ of you are immune to cold environmental conditions and take half damage from freezing attacks for [sum] hours. 

Forge from Shadow
You reach into the shadows and retrieve a mundane object, weapon, or tool no larger than a [dice]’ cube. It dissolves into shadows after [sum] minutes 

Control Light and Dark
You freely control light and dark in a [dice] x 10’ radius sphere within 50’ so long as you maintain concentration. You can cloak objects in darkness or displace light from its source, dim or extinguish light. 

Choose [dice] senses. You cannot be perceived with these senses for [sum] minutes. 

Primal Descent
Up to [sum] HD creatures within 30’ must save or have their higher brain functions reverted to a feral state for [dice] minutes. They have no loyalty to you and retain their base personalities, albeit in a much blunter form. 

Create Life
You conjure a [dice] HD creature into being after 30 minutes of casting. If it’s a humanoid, it dissolves into shadows after [sum] minutes. Otherwise, it dissipates after [sum] hours. If you roll triples, it lasts forever. 

Maw of the Dark
Up to [sum] HD of unwilling creatures (and any number of willing creatures) within 50’ must save or be swallowed by the Dark. They return after 2d10 hours, aged 2d10 years.


  1. MD only return on a 1-2 for 24 hours.
  2. Take 1d6 damage.
  3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
  4. The Dark rejects you. You lose your darkvision for 1d4 days.
  5. The Dark rejects you. You emit 5’ direct sunlight for 1d4 hours.
  6. The Dark rejects you. You taste and smell delicious to dungeon dwellers for 1d4 hours. The DM rolls 3 Encounter Dice for each Encounter Check and takes the lowest.


  1. The Dark whispers to you, and you listen. You treat bright light as dim light. You become an obligate carnivore, and require meaty rations (cost double and go bad quickly).
  2. The Dark makes a few suggestions, and you oblige. You are blinded by bright light. You can no longer read or write, except when it comes to spells.
  3. You can hear the Dark calling you home. When you next enter a dark place below the earth, such as a dungeon or cellar, you wander off and are never seen again. You slip through cracked stonework into the earth and return to the Dark, becoming a child of the mythic dungeon. You are completely feral, perhaps even a goblin lord or grue.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Belliserum's Mind Palace (2/2)

by Francois Schuiten

Thanks again to my amazing girlfriend, who inspired and basically co-authored this whole dungeon.

Read part 1 here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Belliserum’s Mind Palace (1/2)

by Bruce Pennington

 All credit to my wonderful girlfriend, who inspired and basically co-authored this entire dungeon.

EDIT: Part 2 is up

Our tale begins, as all tales in fantasy roleplaying games must, with a wizard. Belliserum of the Vaste was a master of the arcane arts, yet she was a human wizard with human limitations, and the mortal mind only has so much space for arcane formulae and esoteric knowledge. Worse still, in her advanced age, Belliserum found herself plagued by pathological forgetfulness (her contemporaries had no name for this phenomenon at the time). In typical wizardly fashion, Belliserum devised a solution bordering on madness: a physical castle within which her memories could be safely kept.

The Mind Palace was designed as a direct extension of its master’s brain. Information was encoded in every book, brick, and tapestry, which were carefully copied and restored by a retinue of curators. Belliserum could then access this knowledge from anywhere on the material plane via a phenomenally clever bidirectional scrying spell, the nature of which has been lost to history.

Of course, she’s dead now—has been for many centuries—but the palace remains. It was originally sealed in an underground cavern below the Vaste, until a sudden sinkhole and subsequent excavation revealed its ivory-white spires to the world. Nowadays, scholars and thieves alike delve into the Mind Palace to translate its arcane secrets... or sell them to the highest bidder. These mercantile agents don’t take kindly to competition, but perhaps they are preferable to the palace’s original inhabitants: curators of the upper cortex, and nightmares born wholesale from the dead wizard’s malfunctioning brain-castle.

Perhaps your party is on the payroll of some ambitious merchant-lord, or perhaps they seek forgotten truths for their own sake. Roll a d12 to see which potentially game-ending information they’re hunting for.

Dead Wizard Secrets
The true name of a real bastard of a devil
The favorite foods of each member of the faerie judiciary (as with most elements of faerie culture, the judiciary’s membership has not changed in centuries, trapped in whimsical torpor)
Where the giants went
Blueprint: anachronistic technology (gunpowder/telegraph/tandem bicycles/really anything your players want)
The location of an unguarded hellhole not even Satan knows about
Blueprint: The original Bag of Holding
Ritual of the Covenant of Accursed Mortality (allows gods to be killed permanently)
Recipe: Immortality elixir, but with a catch
How to raise/train/befriend/debate your own dragons
Lyrics to the Song of Twilight’s Revival (restores elven fertility)
“Unbody me tomorrow” (memetic cure-all vaccine)
Spell: Belliserum’s Bolster Intellect (allows information exchange between the caster and the Mind Palace, forever)


Giulio Camillo Delminio's "theatre of memory"

There are four dangers inherent to the Mind Palace. I’ll discuss two of them here and follow up later this week.

The Palace

The Mind Palace is an architectural abomination, a mass of bone-white turrets and bartizans at odd angles, as if a thousand castles were swept into a pile and mortared together where they lay. The inside is a labyrinth of stairwells leading to gardens leading to master bedrooms leading to wine cellars, connected by a confounding array of vertical corridors and twisting crawlspaces.

Every square inch of the palace is crawling with information—books full to bursting with loose pages, paintings and carvings so intricate they make your head swim—and if you watch closely you’ll see it all changing in waves. Tiny ripples in the masonry pass from room to room, leaving the engravings ever so slightly different from what they were. These ripples accumulate in size, and if a big enough ripple forms, entire rooms will move.

Whenever the party rests in the palace, there is movement. Roll twice for extended rests. These apply to previously explored rooms unless otherwise stated.

Palace Movements
The room the players are resting in drops one level down.
An explored room disappears. The players may rediscover it later, repopulated.
A connection between two explored rooms disappears.
4 - 7
The movement occurs somewhere else in the palace (no effect on the known map).
8 - 9
A connection to a new room appears.
A connection to a new room on a different level appears.
A new room appears between two explored rooms.
The room the players are resting in raises one level up.

Whenever the party enters an unexplored room, roll a d6. On a 1-3, it’s a scriptorium, an etched stone chamber full of bookcases and tables for copying manuscripts. Roll on the encounter table to see what’s up in there. Otherwise, the room is one of the following you haven't explored yet:

Rooms in the Mind Palace
The Pit: A 40’x40’x100’ hole where a room should be. There are 2-4 doors visible on the walls and ceiling, all leading to different rooms/dungeon levels. The walls are slick with shadow, and a low moaning echoes from the horribly dark pit floor. There is no monster; it is an aspect of the decay, calling hungrily for more knowledge. If you feed it, you’ll gain its favor. If you fall in, you’ll be in the deep palace, and that’s probably punishment enough.
The Market: An open plaza dominated by a circular meeting table. Doors in all 4 cardinal directions. 2d6 curators are here, split evenly between two factions (roll 1d4 for each side’s identity). They’re trading heavy parchment strips and book binding materials for gear clearly looted from another adventuring party. If the players play their cards right, they can barter for anything on the table. The parchment strips are more valuable than they appear: they’re components for creating a new curator.
The Elevator: A 10’x10’x50’ vertical stone shaft with unusually high ripple activity. The door to the next room is at the top of the shaft, overlooking a sheer drop. An enormous book is affixed to the central lectern which, when opened, poses a series of nonsense riddles. The palace accepts any answer, raising or lowering the floor by 20’ per answer depending on its plausibility. Two plausible/implausible answers in a row should be enough to go up/down a floor. With repeated suggestions via this Q&A process, the chamber can be coaxed to produce a single mundane item per day.
The Garden: A dimly lit room full of tattered, translucent fabric growing in sheets from the ceiling. 1d4+1 curators are here, two of whom are harvesting the fabric while the rest transcribe memories. They complain about the absolute state of the place and how myelin once grew thick and healthy. If you do them a favor or offer enough stuff, they might let you take a few napkins’ worth. Wearing myelin around one’s head grants a +1 vs. fear/charm/mental enchantments in general.
The Cradle: An unsettlingly organic room, where the stone and brick flows like flesh into twisted spires. Tendrils of stoneflesh descend from the ceiling to converge into a throne in the center of the room, within which rests the remains of a human in fine silks. In his hand rests a locket, which contains two feathers of different colors. If you lie in the cradle and recount one of your memories, the memory will disappear from your mind.
The Gate: A tall, dark room with a tall, dark gate. There’s a normal exit to the side that you really should take instead. Ignore the tall gate. There is nothing behind it worth seeing. There is nothing behind it you want to see. There’s seven great stone locks, and all the keys have been hidden and broken and destroyed. (Behind the door is tiny pamphlet of memetic curses wrapped in rose petals the size of wagon wheels. Reading it grants visions of the future (advantage on all rolls) and sets your health to 0 for as long as you know the secret. If you tell someone else the secret, you no longer know the secret. Alternatively, it causes instantaneous brain death, depending on your DM style.)

Whenever the party searches a room for the first time in the Mind Palace, they find a stone key. They can also find stone keys in the bellies of monsters, or in unique rooms.

The Monsters

The upper levels of the Mind Palace are, for the most part, as they were during Belliserum’s life: immaculate, structured, and full to bursting with concrete information. The deep palace, however, is dirty, disorganized, and overrun with concepts and emotions given form. This is what happens to information in the Mind Palace when it decays: between an illegible jumble and nothingness, the idea begins to revolt against its slow demise and leaps from a symbolic existence to a literal one.

Down in the deep palace, where the decay is most prevalent, there are very few salvageable memories. What remains of the place is overrun with instincts, primal urges, and reflexes made manifest. That doesn’t mean its entirely devoid of interest—it’s a curator-free shortcut between most locations, and loose memories tend to fall down there when no one is paying attention—but you’ll want to steer clear unless you have a really good reason to wander into monster territory.

Luckily for the DM, monsters have none of the same qualms about wandering into your territory.

Deep Palace Monsters
Phantom Limb: In the corner of this room is an incomplete suit of armor kneeling on the ground next to a handful of phalanges. The first character to approach it looks down and watches their arm come right off their body, no save. The disembodied limb will hover near its owner, stealing from/attacking them and generally being a nuisance. Damage dealt to the limb is also dealt to the original owner… because its still attached. The monster is a tangle of invisible tentacles spilling out of the armor. It tricks your brain into thinking of your own limbs as a hostile entity in the hopes that you’ll cut it off and leave it behind.
Amygdala: A large, spindly, eight-limbed humanoid with a head like a sopping wet sponge. It waits in the corner of the room, hunched over and shivering with what appears to be excitement, staring at the party with unblinking intensity. It’s deathly afraid of you, and fights like a cornered rat. Behind it is the door to the next room. If you start attacking from outside of its range, it’ll fly into a frenzy and leap at you (HD 8, or whatever seems appropriately unreasonable). Getting its blood on you (its constantly dripping out of its sponge-face) provokes pure fear; save vs. charm or be piss-your-pants terrified of it and anything that reminds you of it, forever.
Earworm: A flying, pink ribbon worm humming at a strange frequency. It hunts by vomiting its branching proboscis in a cone and drinking blood through it. It’s slow, soft, and collapses into brackish sludge when slain. Any living being who hears its song must save vs. charm or become a host for the Earworm. When the host goes to sleep, the earworm rematerializes from their dreams and begins to feed on them as they sleep. The only way to get rid of it for good is to remove it from your memory.
Isnt: You aren’t alone, but nothing is in the room with you. One of Belliserum’s mostly-intentional creations, designed to guard the palace from intruders. It’s an anti-mimetic, a self-censoring idea you can’t think about for more than a few seconds at a time. Stats as whatever you want it to not be. It can only be described in terms of what it is not: It isn’t blue. It isn’t small. It isn’t next to our fighter. It isn’t dead yet. It won’t attack unless you’ve wronged the palace in some way, but you can’t loot this room while it isn’t in a different room. (Pinning down its location is the first challenge, but once your players figure out a strategy, you can assume they know where it is.)
Homunculi: Diminutive humanoids with oversized hands, feet, lips, and genitals. They typically travel in packs of 2d6 and move like toddlers in clown shoes. Whatever they feel, the rest of the world must feel as well: hurting them will make everyone in a 40’ radius hurt, and caressing them will make everyone in a 40’ radius uncomfortable. Constructs are immune to this effect. They’re attracted to light, warmth, music, and smiling. 50% chance to be encountered as 1d4 Homunculi accompanied by a patrol of curators, who find them repulsive and use them as meat shields/anti-human grenades.
Oblitus: An old hag with milky, vacant owls eyes, cackling to no one in particular. Those who meet her gaze are stunned (save vs. charm), standing dazed as their party members appear to be fighting an empty room for no reason (on a successful save, they are slowed instead. make another check each turn they meet the hag's gaze). If all party members are stunned at once, go ahead and fast forward to the moment where the party collectively snaps out of their daze and realizes their pinky fingers have been bitten off. The Oblitus can see into the minds of those she locks eyes with, gaining access to their spells. If you’re harboring a memetic disease/parasite, she’ll take it from you (often to her detriment). The curators can’t see her.

by Brendan McCarthy

 History of the Palace (DM stuff)

The Mind Palace was more than a simple vault. It was capable of learning, constantly sprouting new towers and hallways to accommodate the wizard’s intellectual appetite. Eventually, Belliserum learned to sublet sections of the palace to perform complex calculations for her, allowing the architecture to think without direct supervision. Sometimes, it would even surprise her.

Right before Belliserum’s death, the palace was doing most of her thinking for her. At the time, she likely attributed her sense of self more to the palace than to the decrepit old woman it was attached to, whose gradually encroaching senility she so feared. Those who visited and cared for the physical Belliserum in her final years observed that she spoke of herself in the third person, and of the palace in the first.

It is unclear when exactly the switch occurred, but at some point the Mind Palace disconnected itself from its master. The old woman died peacefully in her sleep.

Some curators attest that Belliserum lives on in the circuitry of her creation, keeping herself busy with logical puzzles and theoretical doomsday devices. It would certainly explain all the new artifacts appearing in the palace; she’s prototyping.

After the death of her body, Belliserum lost her primary means of perceiving the outside world. She’s definitely gone a bit insane after a few centuries of near sensory deprivation. Whether or not she is aware of the adventurers wandering around in her brain is unclear, but the riddles she poses to the palace’s inhabitants seem to suggest that she’s probing them, either for knowledge or entertainment. 

Next Post (hopefully): Curators, Outsiders, Treasures, and The End