On Megadungeon #3

Finally, after two months of dealing with the horrible RPGnow print on demand, I present:

Megadungeon #3 in print and .pdf!

What is Megadungeon #3?

  • The classic old school renaissance megadungeon Numenhalla, the god halls! getting into print, one area at a time. 
  • This 58 page issue delves into the ancient Crypts of Hierax, crawling with the ancient dead.
  • Art from noted gaming luminaries, Luka Rejec (Cover), with the super-art wonder-powers of Todd Mcgowan, Ian Chagan, Sean McCoy, Evlyn Monroe, and Kent Miller! This baby can fit so many illustrations in it!
  • Writing by noted gamer Chris H. chronicling the wild days of the early gaming revolution, talking about Jason K's Dust setting!
  • The Cannite dungeon faction is introduced. Religious jackal-man anthropophages, they gain the memories of the dead by eating their corpses. 
  • Three new monsters, including Devil Dogs who are two-headed bipedal canine nightmares. They will drink your whisky, piss on your couch, fuck your girlfriend, eat out of your fridge, and then break the door on their way out! 
  • Eight more megadungeon non-player characters and two more dragons for characters to meet, including the sultry Demetria Obra, the betrayed Transikar, and Mavis Hobart, the malign caretakers of the Crypts of Hierax
  • Four megadungeons zones, mapped and keyed: The Organ Mine, The Crystal Wizard Crypt, The Witches Crypt, and the Non-Euclidean Intersections.
  • Articles on Hierax, the enigmatic god of death, interesting crypt looting tables, and secrets to restocking dungeons.
I had a nightmare last night that I ran out of money and I couldn't make it as an independent creator. 

Help vanquish nightmares brave hero! Purchase Megadungeon #3 in Print and .pdf now!
Upgrade even further to Lord and support me on Patreon and follow me on Twitch

There won't be a Summer issue of Megadungeon due to the cost to produce them. The next Megadungeon will be released in the fall. If you'd like to prevent this from happening again, support me on Patreon or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On Classic Gaming the Second Week of July, 2018

What a busy week. Those of you who join me for my chill Twitch streams know that I've been hard a work on an exciting project (explaining the dearth of posts so far this week) but rest assured, I've got plenty of stuff in store. This week's a doozy and time is moving pretty fast, so lets get right into business!

New releases

Faux Pas is out!

Disclosure, I'm a big fan of Nick's and he's been my friend for years. This is his first release that he's charged for. It has an audio recording of the module along with it. That's exciting.

"The first symptom is a popping sound from the belly. It can
happen at anytime, and the afflicted never feel it coming.
They’ll be having a friendly chat one moment, then pop, and
now they’re trying to kill people.
Thus begins Faux Pas, the first in a series of adventures from HOCUS publishing. . . .Faux Pas features the art of Anxy P., and layout from no less a figure than Christian Kessler (of Fever Swamp fame). I also got a lot of help throughout the process from Jarrett Crader (editor of numerous LotFP publications), and OSR luminary Evey Lockhart.
Faux Pas, A system neutral adventure. The players discover a town beset by a mysterious illness with symptoms worse than death. It breeds violence, madness, and mutation. It turns people into things that are no longer themselves.
The Inquisitor General has been warned. He’s on his way here. When he arrives he’ll burn every building to the ground and torture everyone living until they confess to the devil worship that obviously brought this evil into the world.
Will the players discover what’s really going on, and how to stop it, before the Inquisitor arrives? Or will they just loot the place and run away?"

Also, there's a couple of Kickstarters tearing things up.

NGR, Neoclassical Geek Revival has been tearing up some lists. Asking for about 600$, it's currently sitting at nearly 12,000$. It's got some pretty big draws. As well as being a classic retro-clone, it also collects all of Zzarchov's many very high-quality adventures together in a book for print. You can also have your choice of illustrated versions of the game from Alex Mayo, Chris Huth, and Dyson Logos. Really, it seems like a great deal, for a collection of good stuff, and giving work to a great group of people.

Then there's woodfall, a small setting that can be dropped in your setting. It's got a neat aesthetic and the little graphic of "Your setting" with a hole in it, with woodfall fitting right in.

Goblinoid games is also running a fully funded version of a new Advanced Labyrinth Lord guide. With the existences of Basic/Expert for sale, as well as B/X Essentials, I have the ruleset I like.

Hot takes of the week

Gavin Norman made a huge announcement of a new partnership with Quality Beast! I'm pretty sure it means higher quality and faster releases from Necrotic Gnome. I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.

Patrick conducts another interview with one of the most creative minds in classic gaming. Ben L. talks about early proto-childhood gaming and how the memory affected his creativity today.

This Lamentations/Basic D&D conversion of Dark Sun rules has been making the rounds, and it's pretty impressive.

Drama at the Ennies, isn't there always? Did the wrong people get nominated? Is the Old School Renaissance a Voting Bloc? Rule changes about judges are coming. A publisher hires a bodyguard for Gencon. Big money is on the line for the winners. It looks like we're finally big enough, we're getting a taste of that civilization movin' in from out east.

This post is Patreon supported, and I'm almost halfway to covering rent!. support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On Classic Gaming for the first week of July

Happy explosion day! I pity the dogs.

New Releases

On monday, the exciting B/X Essentials Monsters dropped. Back in the golden days, it was suggested to cut apart your books and organize them by section so that basic and expert weren't split apart. However, in spite of the brilliant design, this never happened. Now we have Gavin Norman stepping in and giving us a real companion to the creature catalogue! It's all of the basic/expert monsters in one document!

That said, it's currently .pdf only, until the odious and publisher unfriendly process of getting the print version to people finally finishes. It's terrible and I feel for anyone trying to provide print copies from any onebookshelf user. That said, it is coming (even if it's weeks out).

I'm very much looking forward to the combined addition as well as some of the expansion books.

That's not all, the new release from Glenn Seal has finally dropped; The Midderlands Expanded is out. I've just recently gotten it and haven't had time to dig too deeply. At first glance it's filled with page after page after page of evocative description and setting information. The original midderlands covers the center of this twisted version of the british isles, and this covers some of the surrounding area. I can't wait for my hardcovers to arrive! I'm not a fan of the green art, but the line art is excellent and right up my alley.

It comes with a pile of bonus material and I'm loving digging through it. Glenn is turning out good work here, I may post a more detailed review if there's some interest.

There's so much terrible stuff out there. It's important to remember, that this isn't a critique, it's a highlighting of exciting things that have released and happened this week. If I reviewed something, would I say what I don't like about it? Yeah. I'm just glad there are so many people putting their best out there, even if it's bad.

Like, really bad. Laughably terrible.

Braver men than I. Moving on.

Patrick, author of so many wonderful products, notably Deep Carbon Observatory and Veins in the Earth finally got the chance to interview Bryce Lynch, the most prolific reviewer of gaming products, with over 1,500 posts and upwards of 2000+ reviews. Needless to say it's a pretty wonderful discussion. Check it out here: Patrick Interviews Bryce.


The biggest news of the week are the ENnie-Award Nominations and the resulting twitter drama about who meets the right qualifications to be the type of person who should be nominated for an award. Unsurprisingly, classic gaming is all up and down the list of nominees. Is it weird that Gnome Stew has like a repeating nomination? I've read the blog, and well, it isn't in my top five list of blogs. Is it really that beloved?

Remember. The ENnies are popularity contest, and classic gaming is paradoxically nearly the sole source of innovation in tabletop gaming. Since classic gaming has all the cool people, let's go win that popularity contest!

In all seriousness, there's a lot of new talent on that list, and a bunch of exciting stuff to check out.

The other thing is Blogger and Comrade Beloch has engaged in a mission to improve our community. From organizing reviewers to posting public domain art to putting people in touch with each other, it's a real grassroots movement!
Do you want to make a meaningful contribution to the OSR? Something that will stand out from yet another blogger writing about yet another house rule that nobody will ever use? Something that will make the community better? 
According to yesterday's thread, here's how you can do that, sorted from least to most effort. Here's a link to the list.
Here's a request for people to help with "Blogs on Tape";  It's good and exciting stuff. But now it's the weekend. There's Drawing Dungeons, today and Dungeons and Dragons after work. Hope you have a great weekend, and we will see you on Monday!

This post is Patreon supported, and I really want to be able to pay my rent next month. Almost there. support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On the Terrible Tragedy of Adventures

Since I've begun my journey of self-employment, I've been investigating things out of a desire to stave off the pendulum of entropy. What keeps my bank account from degrading?

So this leads to some investigating into what sells and why. I've been producing these art-heavy designed modules in the form of Megadungeon. We're somewhere around 200 rooms in 3 issues? So that's easily 40 or 50 hours of play. The art is helpful and necessary, providing tools for the Dungeon Master to run the module quickly, enabling his own personal skill at running games. But it's not narrative. It's an adventure environment with lots of useable tools and widgets.

But the problem is, people aren't interested in modules to run. Gabor Lux says:
"People know and it is blatantly obvious that most of the adventures out there which are being published are not being thought to be played or run. They are reading materials. . . A lot of people just read it as sort of a fiction and maybe as a source of indirect inspiration to get the examples and ideas." He continues, "That's where a lot of adventures fail, . . . is that they are not written with games in mind but with reading material in mind. They are bits and pieces and cannon. You can never even run them because it's a railroad and it would fall apart in your hands, but people buy it for their shelves or for daydreaming about being gamers."
This isn't difficult to tell. It's part of the insight I had while writing the Gygax module comparison. The modules are written so that the twists are hidden. That way the reader experiences surprise when it's revealed. As a tool, do I want such an important detail deep in the text?

And that's it really. I was eating with family and friends, and one said "I didn't enjoy it when I played D&D in the army." I perked up and immediately drilled down. "Why?" He said, "All they do is go from one fight to the next."

It's easy right? You're busy, no time to prep. Everyone wants to play, just follow though the dungeon, read the text and fight the fights. There. You played D&D.


There's no way all the adventures that are sold are played. I play D&D a couple of times a week and have campaigns that run 50-80 sessions with people I've known for years, but most people don't. You'd have to play a lot to get through all that. Dragon Queen and Tiamat took upwords of 50 weeks. Long past the publication date of the next two 5e releases.

Joseph Manola says on his blogAgainst the Wicked City:

 "Bryce often points out that the vast majority of adventure modules are written in a way which makes them almost useless for their supposed purpose of 'running a game in real-time at the table'. This is so obvious, and so trivially demonstrable, that its continued persistence strongly indicates that this is in fact not what most adventure modules are being used to do, and probably not even what most of their purchasers want them to do, even though it's exactly what most of their authors assert they are actually for.
"RPG books written like novels proliferate not only because many people have no idea how to write useable adventure modules, but because that's precisely how they will be read by a large segment of their target audience. For such readers, reading the book, and imagining what the experience of playing it at the table might be like, takes the place of actually playing the game.

Bryce the erudite reviewer at 10 foot pole who searches the sewers for diamonds says:
"No one wants the wrong thing. I would say that it's easy to go with the flow. Adventurer's League, show up on Wednesday night and play. WOTC pushes an adventure to the DM every week, almost no prep. And if you try and run something NOT Adventurers League, or D&D, or the most current version of D&D, then you face additional hurdles. I'm not sure that 'Apathy' is the right word, but a lot (a majority?) of folks are happy enough. I'm guessing that just enough of their sessions have just enough fun to keep them strung along, as they chase the high. It takes effort to seek out something different. It takes effort to get out of your comfort zone. When I'm at my best I want every thing in every day to always be awesome, and everything else isn't worth my time."
It's a little bit like enlightenment. One commenter on a thread said, "Surely lengthy published adventures/campaigns have to be broadly railroad by design, however well disguised that is." Because he's never seen blue, it's not possible for blue to exist. Can you describe color to a blind man?

The problem with this is, Megadungeon, and other things that are designed as tools to be used at the table are both a lot more work then a linear series of fights and not nearly as fun or interesting to read. Great, gripping, narrative literature it ain't. It's a tool to hold in your hand so you can run a game.

The list of platinum items on DriveThruRPG isn't filled with art objects. The majority of the platinum sellers are some core books, but there's a lot of items from Raging Swan Press and other small-press blog post like releases. 2$ for guildhall urban dressing. 4$ for "What's this Exotic Mount Like, Anyway". All of these type of aids lacking covers, and almost art free, and contain about 1,000-3,000 words of content. That's what's selling.*

But because it's designed as a tool for play, and isn't as enjoyable to read, it's less appealing to the majority of people who buy modules. And really, if that's what they want, we should give it to them, right?**

*I am not casting any aspersions on Raging Swan Press. Bully on Craig for finding success.
** Obviously not, it is a labor of love, but I'm going to have to slow down the pace because it takes each issue quite a while to earn back the art costs from producing it.

Do you like Megadungeon? If you support me or tip me it will help me continue to produce it! Also, there's HD ready maps for Virtual Table Tops available on the Patreon!

Hack & Slash 

On the Horror of the Critical hit

It needs to be common knowledge.

Critical misses and failures mean that the fighters and other combat focused characters suffer the most, turning them into the least consistent combatants. 

Why? A "critical miss" roll of 1 comes up a flat 5% of the time. Fighters make the most attacks. They will also then make the most critical failures. So the people who are best at fighting are those that critically fail at it most often. 

In nearly every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the strength of fighters comes from their combat ability. Turning them into the least effective combatant quickly neutralizes their main trait and contributions. 

This is just a basic design consideration many Dungeon Masters may not consider. I come not only bearing knowledge of a problem, but also a solution. 

Any class that relies on fighting, for example, any class that gets an 'extra attack' does not fumble on a 1, but instead must roll again, fumbling only if the second roll comes up 1. This causes fighters to critically miss .25% of the time and other classes to critically miss 5% of the time. 

No muss, no fuss, and you're not twisting the balance of power towards spellcasters.

I provide insights like this for a meager living. It'd be great if you support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On the Life and Death of Elisabeth Sladen

There was a towering man of obsidian, his face covered in black so dark you couldn't see where it ended and the suit began.

But the lighting was dim. The golden man told the obsidian man that when the time came, they let their people end, rather than be ruled by him. In the light, it was difficult to separate costume from actor. British, many of them unsurprisingly trained in the shakespearean manner, used their entire body as if they were on stage.

It cast a raw immediacy on the performance. The dimly lit cheap-foam background faded into the background, as the golden man sonorously intoned, "So now you are King, as was your wish. I salute you from the dead. Hail, Eldrad, King of nothing."
Oh the ragof Eldrad. The Doctor and Sarah stood meekly in the corner. "Is this my reward?!" he screeched, storming menacingly around the room, his figure looming over them. "I CREATED this world It is mine, mine by right!". He moved in the suit, his training making it look as if a mountain shook in anger.

The Doctor gives that childish smile to sarah, beloved companion, and quips about someone having done their work for them. Sarah coquettishly says "I wouldn't want to live down here, and I wouldn't want him as a leader."

Like a player that just gave a dungeon master a terrible idea, and suddenly finds himself the recipient of the dungeon master's rampant glee at his new love; Eldrad grins and looks at Sarah, "Yes, I shall be King. The Earth people. . . . I shall rule them! I shall be their god!"

A chase ensues, and the Doctors flawless plan is 'hide and trip him with my scarf into a bottomless pit.' I wonder if this is the kind of plan seven year old's come up with because they watch Dr. Who, or if all small children have such pure beliefs in good intentions.

Sarah leaves the Doctor almost immediately after. When I was a child, I had difficulties due to some personal afflictions that turned out not to be character flaws and poor willpower but an illness that improves with medication. Sitting on the cold brass floor of the TARDIS, handing the doctor one fisher price sci-fi power tool after another, she cried out "I'm sick of being cold and wet! I'm sick of being shot at, terrorized by bug-eyed monsters" I empathized with her. He was on an adventure, and being on an adventure is hard.

It is, right? We are all on an adventure right now, and someday it ends. I identified with her stress and fear. The Doctor continued as if he did not hear her. He was implacable. Nothing she could say or cry would ever move his stoic indifference. And Sarah said, You know what? Fuck this. I'm out.

That's the worst she could do to hurt the man who couldn't listen. That was the harshest thing she could think to do, was to say, I have to deny my true nature to you, because your indifference to my suffering is too much. The most extreme response becomes the only response. You have to get out. Don't you? For yourself, I think you do.

Rewatching it now, it's clear. Sarah is a young child throwing a tantrum. The Doctor is not a romantic interest (unless perhaps you have a serious Electra complex). He is an indifferent parent. An abusive parent.

But he does love Sarah.

He, of course, unaware of anything she has said, gets a call and has to go home. He can't take her to Gallifrey of course! She returns to the room, carrying a tennis racket and a suitcase in her right hand, and a jacket along with a potted plant in her left. A stuffy lies on the floor.

He then experiences a sharp pang of compunction over how he will break the news to her. He says, without turning to face her, "You're a good girl, sarah." And she yells back, no! It's too late now for any of that. I've got to go! It's because they always apologize. And they really do love you.

When he hears what she said, his face lights up and he turns around. "How did you know?" She flinched. He said, "I can't take you with me, you've got to go."

Her voice cracking she says, "Oh, come on. I can't miss Gallifrey." She can't figure out if he's doing this to hurt her. "Oh, you're playing one of your jokes on me, trying to get me to stay." I don't think he's playing jokes. Even though the subtext is heavy above, it's not that the Doctor is a missing stair or represents an abusive parent. He's a representation of the nature of the universe which generally gives a field completely empty of fucks about how we feel.

He tells her she's home. South Croydon. Hillview road. She awkwardly smiles, standing on the street, accompanied by a pink owl and potted plant. She looks around and sees she's not on Hillview road. She's not even in South Croydon.

So, Sarah is an undefined child. Elisabeth herself even said so, saying "Sarah Jane used to be a bit of a cardboard cut-out" So after raising her daughters, Elisabeth went back to Doctor Who. When her character meets him, years later, she doesn't recognize him. Instead of the doe-eyed ingenue, she's now a tough-as-nails investigator.

When it's time to go, and his identity has been revealed, she confronts him. First thanking him for taking him with her, and then implying that she's single because no one ever measured up. It seems like being taken about and having life-threatening adventures as a child might affect your relationships in your life. That damage done, it leaves Sarah, or Elisabeth Sladen, to fill the role of protector, her own life and happiness denied her, because of her time spent too close to the truths of the universe.

She tells him good-bye, and he makes light, saying "Aww, it's not goodbye.", She says, tears in her eyes, as she looks at him. "Just say it this time, please." and she walks away overwhelmed with the closure she's finally received. He leaves her K-9, their synthetic dog assistant. She's confused, because K-9 had been destroyed. She asks him how he's here. He tells her, he's new, he replaced the damaged and destroyed K-9, that he's a new, upgraded model. She says, finally with closure instead of pain, "He does that."

She returned and played the role for children, this time not as a careless adventurer, but as one who guided children, protecting them as they explored the unknown, with her faithful robotic dog companion.

You know, I had a dog named K-9 growing up. A dalmation. Beautiful dog, happy, impulsive. Dumb as a box of rocks, but wonderful. She would, while we were walking in the woods, run ahead as fast as she could on the shaded asphalt streets that twisted through the wild forest paths, realize we weren't there, and then turn around and bolt back to us, always impatient, always exhausted.

She took the role, not just on the show, but in life, as Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane who became a hero to children, Sarah Jane who survived the Doctor and surpassed him, Sarah Jane who survived the doctor twice, it made it all more devastating when she was struck by cancer in February of 2011 and died several months later. She is missed.

Support and tips mean I don't get evicted. Your support very concretely affects my survival!

Hack & Slash 
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