Caverns of Slime

The posts collected on this page are all related to my Caverns of Slime adventure.

A PDF of the adventure is available. If you want a more editable document, check out the wiki.

2013-05-15 Treasure Hunting In Niflheim

The party had just finished The Eternal Boundary and had found a treasure map that would lead them into The Gray Waste. I prepared a very linear adventure that you can see on the on the right. I decided that the map represented an incomplete list of dangers to be overcome:

  • near the roots of Yggrasil sleeps the dragon Níðhöggr...
  • in the woods the “children” of Hekate roam freely, the trolls of Niflheim (I’m claiming that Hel and Hekate are the same)
  • there are big, flightless birds in the swamps with big hands instead of wings and they are called Diakka...
  • there is a plain where nightmares ride, the mighty horses of black riders...
  • the larval petitioners live in the sea of fog...
  • the island of the black trees is the realm of a ghoul-witch

I also had a number of NPCs in mind:

  • Njal, a priest and a drinker and a melancholy man who would act as a guide, if they wanted to pursue their connections with priestess Anja of the Freya temple
  • Raud, another priest and a gloomy, apathetic victim of Hades, who can provide them with information about Hades and who’ll offer to lead them to Hopelessness and through its gate to Hades (but this is a false lead since this gate will lead to the upper layer called Oinos where the Blood War rages)
  • Lissandra “gate-seeker” will contact them if they brag about the portal they know; she is described in Uncaged: Faces of Sigil; she can lead them to Alluvias Ruskin (in the same book) who will sell them “the holy axe with the wooden root-grip of wisdom” which will be required to travel to Niflheim via Yggdrasil

This was the first challenge: figure out whom to trust and discover through questions that Raud would lead them to the wrong layer on Hades since Oinos ≠ Niflheim. This was also the opportunity for them to learn about the apathy of Hades. One player expertly decided to spend 100gp on books with jokes, fart machines and other ludicrous things to drive away apathy and despair.

They don’t contact Njal but they do talk to Raud and end up going with Lissandra. They made such a good impression on her, in fact, that she decides to tell them about a merchant called Kherion Mallibrun (described in the section about Death of Innocence in the Planes of Conflic box). In return, he wants them to protect him from Hekate’s trolls.

This was the second challenge: take along a guide and avoid fighting rock pythons and giant squirrels on the branches of Yggdrasil.

The dragon is easy: the third challenge is simply to be quiet. The cleric is prepared and casts silence. No problem.

The woods and trolls present the fourth challenge: unbeknownst to the players, I had decided that the forest houses both wolves and trolls. Even though the party was silenced, the wolves had picked up their scent and the trolls were following the wolves. One player who plays a character that can fly decided to take a listen and fly overhead. He soon discovers the wolves and using the fillings of a little rocket full of itching powder they disable the wolves’ scent ability and the flying character distracts and enrages the trolls until they break off the chase.

In the village, they see that the merchant is selling colorful textiles and the fifth challenge is finding a guide to the island. They discover that there is a hunter of nightmares who will lead them in exchange for the funny articles one of the characters had bought. This part was all improvised but it worked well.

He warns them of the giant, flightless birds. Luckily they are slow. The party buys horses for the three characters in plate armor and can thus outrun the the sixth challenge, the Diakka birds.

I had thought that the nightmares would be the next challenge but at the table I suddenly felt strange using the nightmares as predators. As I had seen one of the players get really excited about the prospect of catching and taming a nightmare, I decided that the seventh challenge would be the temptation of catching a nightmare. The party would have to start a fight. And they didn’t...

The eight challenge had not been listed on the “treasure map”: flying yeth hounds. The party moved away from their baying (it’s effect only works within 100 ft.) and decided to avoid the dogs. It worked.

At the edge of the sea of fog, they left their guide who, when asked, said that all they had to do was ignore the larva. And they did. No talking, no eye contact, no listening. Again, the party used silence to bypass the ninth challenge. It worked.

Finally, they reached the witch, the tenth challenge. I decided to use witches from the Shark Den section of the Caverns of Slime, Vialashta and Kurmatesha, the four lesser witches, the tengu horn, and my own treasure I had rolled up. As you can see, I had prepared a different night hag in my notes (including a 65% magic resistance)... Oh well. There was a lot of talking, bluffing and haggling involved, a short discussion on the merits of both Odin and Hekate, but in the end, the orc witch has charmed the talking character and disappeared into the tent and the fight was on.

The party consisted of a cleric 5, a fighter 4, an elf 2, and some henchmen: two giant apes, a cleric 4, a fighter 2, and a magic-user 1.

The enemies:

  • Vialashta, the one-eyed crow priestess of the orcs (HD 9; AC 8; Atk 1 orcish hammer (1d6); MV 9; curse at will, roll d6: 1. slowed, 2. blind, 3. stupid like an ox, 4. weak as a baby, 5. contract the plague, 6. crippling pain; save vs. spells to avoid)
  • her four witches (HD 5; AC 8; Atk 1 cudgel (1d6); MV 9; curse 3×/day as above)
  • Kurmatesha, the orc witch (HD 9; AC 9; Atk 1 staff (1d6); MV 9; spells as per her spellbook below); she has the horn of the mountain cedar which summons twelve tengu once per day: crow-headed, flying swordsmen (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 two handed glass swords (2d6); MV 9 fly); if attacked she will polymorph into a shadow wolf (HD 9; AC 7; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 12; howl of pain (anybody touching the ground within 60 ft. must save vs. petrification or be stunned for a round and save vs. death or suffer 1d6 damage from bleeding ears)
  • the hanging tree (HD 15; AC 3; Atk 8 branches and roots (1d6 each); MV 0); the branches of the hanging tree are loaded with twitching corpses: twelve armless ghouls are hanging up there, unable to free themselves (HD 2; AC 9; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 12)

Kurmatesha is reduced to less than 10 hit-points in two rounds. She, in turn, blows the horn and summons the tengus, then polymorphs into a shadow wolf. The party then kills her and have a quick chat with the tengu. They want the horn (and their freedom), but one character is close enough to the horn to blow it again, at which point I decide that the tengu are all dispelled.

The second half of the battle is a running battle as the witches are standing under the hanging tree, cursing all that approach. With a desperate rush, a character delivers the arrow that has silence cast on it to the witches. The witches start releasing ghouls but they are being turned as fast as they are being released. Finally, when the crow witch Vialashta is finally held using magic, the remaining lesser witches flee into the sea of fog.

The witch tells them that the hanging tree is guarding the treasure and since they stocked up on oil and hadn’t used any of it, I decided that burning a 15 HD tree required 15 flasks of oil—and having bought 20 flasks of oil without having to use them against the trolls, that was no problem at all...

  • 20’000 gold pieces
  • 10 gems worth 1980 gold pieces (1000, 10, 50, 10, 10, 500, 100, 100, 50, 100)
  • two pieces of jewelry (”the crown and sceptre of the Ulfides”)
  • a halfling chain +1 and a small shield +1 (”the magic armor of a halfling hero with the heraldry of the Oxwrestler clan”)
  • the horn of the mountain cedar (I already fear that this item might be too powerful!)


Comments on 2013-05-15 Treasure Hunting In Niflheim

What does the horn of the mountain cedar do?

– Harald 2013-05-15 11:40 UTC

@ Alex Nice game :) What a memorable treasure trove.

@ Harald “summons twelve tengu once per day: crow-headed, flying swordsmen (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 two handed glass swords (2d6); MV 9 fly)”

Ynas Midgard 2013-05-15 15:43 UTC

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2012-12-22 More Monsters

Recently I started extracting the monsters from my Caverns of Slime adventure and posting it on this blog. The idea is that this way, people might spot something they like without having to go through the thirty or fourty pages of the adventure. It also makes it easier to leave a comment on a particular element.

When I wrote Caverns of Slime, I decided that all of the magic-users in the adventure would have a complete spell book with new names for all the spells. I hoped that referees would then pick the effects from obvious matches in their rule book or improvise something interesting. That’s how I handle it. Does this work for you? Would you have preferred me to use the standard spell names and list new spells at the end as appears to be the standard approach these days?

  • ghoul: HD 3; AC 6; Atk 2 claws and 1 bite (1d6 each); MV 9; victims need to save vs. paralysis or be paralysed; these ghouls prefer to eat their helpless victims during combat; in subsequent rounds roll a d6 and loose 1. eye, 2. arm, 3. other arm, 4. liver, 5. heart, 6. brain; mutilated corpses rise as ghouls within the hour and grow terrible claws if an arm or two was lost
  • bulbous demon: HD 13; AC 6; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 3; victims need to save vs. paralysis or suffer the same fate as a ghoul victim; can only be hit by magic weapons
  • lemur: HD 1; AC 6; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 3
  • psychic lampreys: HD 5; AC 5; Atk 1 bite (2d6) and 1 psi storm (save vs. paralysis or faint for 1d6 rounds); MV 3 fly
  • spider warrior: HD 5; AC 3; Atk 2 weapons and bite (1d8, 1d8, 1d6); MV 9 climbing
  • Kilistrexta, arachnid queen: HD 12; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 6 climbing
  • giant spider, intelligent: HD 6; AC 3; Atk 2 claws and bite (1d6 each); MV 9 climbing; save vs. poison when bitten or fall unconscious as your internal organs are slowly digested; terminal damage after one hour; these are effectively spider barbarians, cruel and angry, always trying to rob and steal from their city dwelling relatives; they respect violence
  • giant ant: HD 4; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (2d6), acid spray (3d6); MV 9
  • great mother of the ants: HD 15; AC 4; Atk 1 bite (3d6), MV 3; pheromone powers: all giant ants will know when their queen needs help; the acid vapours in the queen’s cave require a save vs. poison every round to act
  • gargantuan centipede queen: HD 12; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (3d6), MV 6; save vs. poison or die in excruciating pain within three rounds
  • Atraxaka, arachnomatrix, is willing to trade in spells and information: no stats given but I’d base her on the arachnid queen: HD 13; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 6 climbing

Spells of the arachnomatrix (level 13):

1st level2nd level3rd level4th level
the friendship of lesser mindshunting and webbingthe tongues of strangersjumping through space on the strands of our forefathers
power of mimicrytriangulation of know objectselectric powers of destructionsubjugation of reason
communion with animalsconquest of gravitypowers of flightarachnophobia of the highest degree
telestrangulation using strands of webbingdetection of magical energiessilken words of binding
5th level6th level7th level
travel to the shadow landscommunicating with the ancient earth spiritsmysteries of astral chords and travel to foreign worlds
contacting the spider lords of the beyond(unassigned)

Atraxaka also knows how to build a rod of electric destruction (shoots lightning bolts for 3d6 at will with a 5% chance to hit somebody near the intended victim unless the wielder has four arms to aim it with).


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2012-12-20 Monsters

A while ago, I worked on Caverns of Slime for Fight On! #14. I recently made it available as a free PDF. (I should add a license to it: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike for the text!) Here are some of its monsters I wrote up.

This list also contains two instances of rituals. I describe them as follows: “Rituals are the ceremonies and prayers that take many minutes to perform, usually powered by demon lords and devils.” The first monster can be summoned by a ritual that player characters can be taught by “a winged pig man with four legs and wielding a blood falchion.” The last monster, on the other hand, performs a handful of rituals that player characters can learn through observation.

Bel, Slayer of Men, a summoned demon: HD 10; AC 2; Atk 1 flaming whip (no damage but on a hit it grants +4 on the hit with the sword in the same round and on a 20 it disarms the opponent), 1 flaming sword (3d6); MV 9; flaming aura deals an extra 1d6 to everybody nearby; immune to non-magic weapons; immune to fire); this may be the same ritual that the mage-wraith in the Warrens of the Troglodytes had learned

Merquishti, a giant intelligent spider hungry for meat – and conversation: HD 8; AC 4; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 15; when bitten, save vs. poison or fall comatose for 24h; can set up area web traps); it speaks the language of giant spiders, a dialect of subsurface elves and the common tongue of all demons; if asked about gold, the spider will know that a knight’s golden armor was carried down this way by devil worshipers a “very long time” ago; if asked about the destination, the spider will mention a city of evil half-spiders preying on the caverns and tunnels below; when the conversation ends, the spider considers capturing a party member by triggering a web trap (save vs. wands or be trapped in a web; the web prevents spellcasting; trapped victims need to deal 20 points of damage using a dagger or a similar small blade; free allies can aid trapped victims using larger blades

Earth Elementals surface, eager to take back any gems the party may have “stolen” from the deep earth: HD 6; AC 0; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 9; immune against fire and electricity; can melt into the surrounding rocks in one round

Nixies enjoying a bath, apparently ignorant of any males approaching: HD 3; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (1d6); charm man 3×/day, kiss of water breathing for charmed men at will

Stone Polyps are growing on the stone walls, immobile, with their arms limp and soft; as soon as a warm creature passes nearby, however, they activate: HD 6; AC 0; Atk 1 bite (2d6), 8 tentacles (save vs. petrification of fall unconscious and be dragged towards the mouth); MV 3

Shroom Lord is growing his own circle of psychotic colors: HD 15; AC 5; Atk 1 smash (2d6), 1 lick (poison); MV 9; licked victims must save vs. poison or be charmed

The shroom lord can be observed for days as it sings its telepathic praise to the Gibbering Fungus God. A very patient person interested in mushroom magic can learn the following rituals through simple observation:

  1. the care of magic mushrooms requires an appropriate dark and humid cave, spores, a rotting corpse and a lot of spit; when cared for, these will grow up to three feet in height within four days; the mushroom will keep for a single day only
  2. the summoning of the Gibbering Fungus God requires a deep hole in the ground and a fresh magic mushroom; partake of the mushroom and sing the psychic psalm of the greatest mycelian panopticon (learning it requires some form of ESP even though anybody may notice that psychic energies emanate from the shroom lord as it sings to its flock); the fungus god will materialize in the form of a huge toad head within half an hour; licking it will grant servants visions of the future; on a failed save vs. poison these visions are confusing and wrong, otherwise they act as powerful and lurid divination magic (the divination magic will only work for those people that ate of magic mushrooms grown with their own spit)
  3. the circle of psychotic colors requires a circle of at least six magic mushrooms; each mushroom must be sacrificed a small animal such as a cat; the animal corpse is absorbed by the magic mushroom and a few hours later these mushrooms can be activated with a touch—save vs. poison or roll a d6:
    1. close your eyes for just a second and fall asleep immediately
    2. chase an erotic fantasy and run away
    3. bad trip paralyzes you with fear
    4. drop weapons, bend over and barf
    5. close your eyes and enjoy the visions
    6. everybody else seems slow and stupid, take two actions

Another monster, related to the circle of psychotic colors: any enemies that fell asleep because of the spores will die over night and rise as a spore zombie.

Spore Zombie: HD 2; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (1d6); when smashed, anybody in melee must roll a d6 as described above


Comments on 2012-12-20 Monsters

In a fight, I imagine the shroom lord to jump from mushroom to mushroom like a magic hare, grow to the size of a rhino, manifest swirling colors, huge eyes with spiral patterns, ethereal hands growing from his back and caressing you as he attempts to grab your head and stick his long tongue through your visor and lick your eyeballs. As he jumps and moves, he triggers at least one magic mushroom every round. Those who fight him in melee might trigger more. Perhaps two characters can fight him without triggering magic mushrooms? I imagine neutralize poison to prevent the magic mushroom effect.

In an adventure I imagine that befriending the shroom lord can help you navigate a tricky poisonous forest and he might arrange for myconid guards. He might also have planted his circle of mushrooms on top of a hoard of fairy gold, or a magic land barge, or a cyanogenic Titan Anemone that will poison and enchant the land for five miles in every direction if allowed to grow.

AlexSchroeder 2014-08-12 07:42 UTC

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2012-12-01 Commando Mission

This post contains a reusable element from my Caverns of Slime adventure. I wanted to offer a structure for a “commando mission” that can be played through in a short session. My sessions typically last for a bit less than three hours, unfortunately. The mission is to disable a fortified dam guarded by “goons”—damned creatures fused with an exoskeleton that keeps them alive but controlled by the operator of the dam, forced to guard the structure that keeps them enslaved.

There are three elements to the mission: getting into the structure, destroying a key element, getting out. The challenges on the way out also contain a little “riddle”: the referee quickly reads lists a list of locations and asks the players to reverse this list in order to succeed in their escape. It’s better than a typical Riddle Game and somewhat grounded in the imagined world. Do you agree? Unfair?

What do you think of the drowning rules I’ve been using? “victims save vs. death every round or drown unless water breathing” I felt that in a high level adventure, save or die challenges can be more prevalent because raising the dead is easily available. What about this line of thinking: ok or misguided?

This is what I wrote:

getting into the dam

  • a frontal assault using captured panzer ships (these can be captured in different section—think ironclad warships): defensive fire slowly destroys the ship but cannot prevent a beach head in a protected corner; breaching the sealed outer gates takes ten rounds; appropriate spells reduce the time required by one round each; on rounds 2, 5 and 8 a three legged stalker arrives to stop the intruders (HD 8; AC 0; Atk 2 blaster (6d6 each; save vs. wands for half); MV 21)
  • an aerial assault using captured air sharks or kite catapults (either of these can be captured in a different section, the orcs ride air sharks and the ghouls use catapults and kits to launch attacks on ships): soon the searchlights will have discovered the flying attackers (unless invisible) and blasters start tracing defensive patterns into the air (and blasting chunks out of the ceiling hundreds of feet above); the approach takes five rounds; save vs. wands every round or be hit for 6d6 damage; after the second hit, fall and take damage as appropriate (shot down in the 2nd round: 4d6, 3rd round: 3d6, 4th round: 2d6; last round: 1d6); finding and breaching a sealed outer gate still takes ten rounds (see first entry)
  • an underwater approach using magic or a submarine (this adventure does not have a submarine, perhaps your players have extraplanar help): finding and breaching a sealed outer gate still takes ten rounds (see first entry), but no stalkers will arive to defend the gate; instead, the noise attracts two giant ancient eels (HD 8; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (3d6); MV 15 swim; will grab a victim on a 20 and swim away the next round; while grabbed, victims save vs. death every round or drown unless water breathing; drowning victims in metal armor cannot swim and continue to down unless they have a way to return to the surface)
  • an infiltration using captured exoskeletons: getting into the exoskeletons is easy; they automatically adapt to different body plans; after two minutes needles and tubes insert themselves into the pilot; removing a pilot will now do 5d6 damage; use open lock by anybody else present for half damage; after fusing with the exoskeleton, save vs. spells every time you act against central command; infiltration is otherwise unproblematic when inside an exoskeleton; wearing an exoskeleton also has benefits (AC 3, Atk 1 slam +3 (1d6+3) due to Str 18; MV 6)

inside the dam

  • jamming the generator: once inside, heading deeper and deeper, following the humming of the turbines, you’ll end up in the generator hall; let characters with blunt weapons roll damage every round; a total of 20 points of damage halts some cog wheels; a total of 30 points results in sparks flying and strong vibrations; a total of 40 points results in dramatic power failure, red alert in the entire dam fortress, red emergency lights; a total of 50 points results in loss of control over the main axle, turbines turning loose and ripping through the walls and a major flooding in a few moments; think about the Titanic sinking


  • taking over the control room: once inside, heading higher and higher up will lead the party into the control room; there are 12 goons (HD 5; AC 3, Atk 1 slam +3 (1d6+3) due to Str 18; MV 6) and their master, Leverage of Fear, an eight-armed monstrosity of steel and a few human elements (HD 12; AC 2; Atk 6 blades (1d6 each); MV 9; two shields it can use as a last defense to block a mortal blow, shattering the shield and ignoring the damage dealt); see above if the party decides to parlay

Leverage of Fear is an eight-armed monstrosity of steel and a few organic elements of human descent. It hates what needs to be done but does it anyway—maintaining the dam, picking up survivors and turning them into goons by forcing them into an exoskeleton and waiting until they are fused and therefore dependent on a working dam. It can usually be found in the dam’s control room.

getting out

Once the power supply is disrupted, an emergency response kicks in designed to fight disruption and restore power. Players need to succeed at two tasks in order to save any friends and they need to succeed at four tasks in order to prevent restoration of power. If the players don’t succeed in either goal after six challenges, they fail: they will have to make a daring escape on a speed boat downriver and flee into the Tentacle Caves in order avoid death or imprisonment in hell (improvise a cell and guardians in the Prison of Dis).

  1. 3d6 goons (HD 5; AC 3; Atk 1 slam +3 (1d6+3); MV 6; in combat the poor creature locked inside will be begging for forgiveness and cry for help even as it fights) have been alerted to the party’s presence by imperceptible sensors embedded into the walls and ceilings of the building
  2. 2d6 goons have activated a tunnel digger juggernaut (HD 12; AC 1; Atk blades (1d6 against all); MV 6; the rotating blades attack all creatures in its path with a single attack roll; it cannot attack flanking creatures)
  3. the party has been deceived into a low lying dead end; as they realize their mistake, a torrent of water starts flooding the room; if the party can deal 30 points of damage to the gate locking them in using blunt weapons or magic, they succeed; if the water keeps rising: during the fourth and fifth round anybody wanting to deal damage must save vs. death or gasp for air in panic; if the party fails, they may escape via small air ducts and end up loosing a lot of time trying to find higher ground
  4. the party is lost as the water rises; quickly ask them to reverse the following sequence: down the steep steel stair, past the gallery overlooking the turbines, down past the parked tunnel digging juggernauts, through the gate with the red and white stripes and then down the concrete stairs into the bedrock; don’t let them take notes and don’t let them discuss their answer for too long, but be generous when comparing their answers with the list
  5. a sentient iron golem snake as big as a train is giving chase; make sure every player is faster than the golem or make sure that the party can lock three doors behind them using magic; if the party fails they can fight (HD 12; AC 2; Atk 1 bite (3d6); MV 6; immune to magic; anybody hit must save vs. death or be overrun and suffer an additional 2d6 the next round) or they can make a desperate escape using emergency floats down waste tunnels and end up in the Tentacle Caves (see below)
  6. the tunnels are flooded with poisonous gas; save vs. poison or loose consciousness for half an hour (no waking using ordinary means); soon after four mechanical hounds will show up (HD 4; AC 2; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 12); again, the party can make a desperate escape using emergency floats down waste tunnels and end up in the Tentacle Caves

If the party flees into the Tentacle Caves, they will have to face a group of 1d6 stone polyps (HD 6; AC 0; Atk 1 bite (2d6), 8 tentacles (save vs. petrification of fall unconscious and be dragged towards the mouth); MV 3). Remember that this location is the complication arising from having failed at the previous challenge. That’s why there is not a lot of treasure or information to be found in these caves. Allow a thoroughly beaten party to emerge without a fight if they sacrifice important equipment and significant treasure.

(To be fair, there’s not much treasure to be found on this mission anyway. Maybe there should be?)


Comments on 2012-12-01 Commando Mission

The only change I would make is change “tunnel digging juggernaut” to “tunnel diggernaut.”

Chris Robert 2012-12-02 08:29 UTC

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2012-11-29 Temptation of Imps

This post contains a reusable element from my Caverns of Slime adventure.

At one point, the characters are traveling in hell. Imps are watching. The party is in trouble: they need help fighting a powerful enemy, the need help an ally, they need to find a guide, something. The idea is to present the players with a choice and long term consequences: let the players decide how easily the characters is corrupted, or let the player decide how much their character is willing to suffer in order to avoid dealing with the devil – any decision is fine as long as it’s the result of a struggle, a result of being confronted with temptation.

Here’s what the section in the adventure says:

Whenever player characters cannot make up their mind or whenever they are in danger, have imps and devils come up and offer to help – for a price. They will enter a pact with player characters. Once the details have been hashed out, a pact requires a simple act to seal it. When a pact is broken by a player character, the character will suffer a curse.

1I will lead you to somebody who can help.In return, you will fight for me when I summon you.To seal this pact, you will wear this amulet with the copulating monkeys. Atempting to take it off will strangulate you.If you don’t give your utmost to win the fight, these monkeys will animate and grow and do their utmost to wreck your neighbours, your family and your friends.
2I will lead you to somebody who will help.In return, you will wear this hell sigil in your face for a year and a day, invisible to all except for those that can detect evil.To seal this pact, I brand you with this painful hell iron.If you fail to do this for me, you will have sown the seed of evil in the hearts those near you, triggering an alignment change, if appropriate.
3I will summon somebody who can help you.In return, you will forswear fighting all demons and devils for a year and a day.We will drink each other’s blood in order to seal this pact.Should you break this pact, your muscles will wither and shrink. You will loose 4 Strength.
4I will summon somebody who will help you.In return, you will donate one tenth of any treasure found (not just your share of the treasure!) to evil deeds for a year and a day.To seal this pact, you shall wear this ring of mine.If the pact is not kept, this ring will poison you and you shall die. You can never take it off, obviously.
5I will help you.In return, you will suffer for seven long weeks in hell when you die. You cannot be resurrected in that time.To seal this pact, I will take a lock of your hair and keep it safe.Even if you are rescued before you served your time, I shall keep your mind locked up. Your body will be but an ordinary, 0-level mortal until your time is up.
6I will solve this issue for you.In return, your soul belongs to me and you can never be resurrected.To seal this pact, I shall cut off your hand and replace it with this bejeweled gauntlet.Anybody attempting to rescue you will have to face treachery and greed every step of the way.

The above table only makes sense if there is temptation. The party must want the help being offered. Some ideas:

  • how to bypass the Styx whale guarding the harbor exit (Betran)
  • how to gain access to a panzer ship (Belchion)

(These two items only make sense in the context of the adventure, obviously. In your own campaign, you need to determine what might tempt your players and their characters.)

Also note that the devils will have tried to prevent the simple removal of curses and the simple circumvention of poisoning. They can be outwitted, but it shouldn’t be easy. Make players work for a release from the curse!


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2012-11-28 Mapping using Inkscape

I recently decided to “publish” my high level module Caverns of Slime. To the right, you can see the various stages my map went through. And you can see that the entire process started out with map. The map was the backbone of all subsequent activities.

It all started with the first map at the top. Things that made it from the very first draft to the very end:

  1. the ring like structure with a water flow leading to the Ooze Lord in the center
  2. the lab of one of my former player characters, Gar
  3. Shroom Lord (I wanted some continuity with the level above)
  4. orcs on landsharks throwing bottles of green slime
  5. Prison of Dis
  6. Aranea city
  7. Eternal Swamps
  8. ghouls

Things that got lost:

  1. were rats (boring unless transformed in interesting ways)
  2. poison flowers (what’s interesting about poison flowers? the Eternal Swamps ended up being not so evil...)
  3. sauro-eels (but giant eels remained)
  4. “sulfur levels of clockhouse wheels” – a kind of evil Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus (the evil fusion of men and machine reappeared in the Fortress Dam of Ix)
  5. refugees of the fungus forest (the level above didn’t seem to have any refugees)
  6. rock giant with moss (I feel that giants don’t fit thematically)
  7. dread mages of the shroom kings (which kings? what’s interesting about dread?)

Also note how I abandoned my detailed isometric map in step two. As I drew it, I kept dreading the moment where I’d have to key it and I kept thinking that at higher levels, the party would be flying, teleporting, gating, or pass walling anyway.

As for the final map: I just drew it all using Inkscape. I wanted to write more about it, but in the end, all I did was draw lines, using a lot of Ctrl+L to simplify the paths and then editing the nodes using F2 to make it look better. Every section was on a different layer so that I could lock the rest. The most important decision was to work on paper for the longest time.


Comments on 2012-11-28 Mapping using Inkscape

I do most of my maps in Inkscape, sometimes by first sketching them out, but often just playing about with it.

Simon Forster 2012-11-28 11:46 UTC

So you’re saying that you don’t doodle on paper before you turn to Inkscape? I only remember a few maps that I did in Inkscape directly: those were maps I did for Fight On! where the author of the adventure had already provided the doodle—such as this one:

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-28 13:50 UTC

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2012-11-26 Caverns of Slime

A long time ago, I wrote Caverns of Slime for Fight On! #14. Lior Wehrli pushed me to be more experimental with dreams and visions. Thank you! At the time, some brave souls drew very nice pictures to go along with this dungeon level. Thank you very much, Ndege Diamond and Kelvin Green. As it seems that Fight On is on a de facto hiatus, I’m going to make the Caverns of Slime “public”. Thus, if you’re interested in dungeon level 13 of the Fight On! megadungeon Darkness Beneath, there you go. 🙂

When I asked for an editor on the forum, Chris Roberts volunteered. English not being my first language, I felt that getting an editor is very important. Having acted as an editor myself (Stonehell, Theorems & Thaumaturgy), I know how boring it can be and how much discipline it requires. So, thank you very much for volunteering!

As the editing process got underway, we moved from the wiki to Open Office, and that’s why the PDF version differs from web version. The PDF is available as well, of course. There is a ton of advice on how to do layout out there, but I also have finite patience and skill. I guess I’ll keep returning to the PDF every now and then. Something about the ease of editing makes me want to stick to the wiki when updating the adventure. Perhaps all I will need to do, however, is make sure the PDF looks good as I add another picture or two. Having more pictures is always a good thing.

The wiki version is more radical in its approach to emphasis: it uses a lot more bold to draw the referee’s attention to what I felt was important. For the PDF, this was toned down. If you, gentle reader, have an opinion on the generous use of bold, please leave a comment.

When I wrote Caverns of Slime, I tried to follow my own advice on how to design a high level dungeon. Unfortunately, I only got to play test parts of it. If you ever use it or parts of it, leave a comment. I’d love to hear how it went—and maybe we could make changes to the dungeon and keep making it better and better.

The same is true for more art: If you ever draw something from the big list, I’d love to add it! At the time I suggested the following items to Calithena—perhaps the list will help you decide whether the Caverns of Slime is something you’d be interested in running.

  • traveling on the river Styx with giant eels in the water and/or up to 60 ghouls marching on the shore; possibly with a catapult and launching ghouls with kites; possibly with a bulbous demon in a pompous cart surrounded by lemurs and two psychic lampreys
  • an underground lake with bubbles popping and floating eyes rising from the water
  • a beholder rising from an underground lake, the air filled with floating eyes
  • a raft with froglings on an underground lake
  • orcs on air sharks throwing flasks of green slime
  • a panzer ship in Jules Verne steampunk style operated by a crew of forty headless zombies and defended by forty hungry ghoul archers the captain of a panzer ship guarded by two brass golems
  • a huge reception hall with a stair zig-zagging up five floors at the far end; 300 zombies standing between you and the next door at the top of the stairs
  • a round hole in a brass wall with a huge toothy ether whale silently trying to push through a wall of flesh into the room the mother brain the size of a small house in a liquid behind a blue glass wall, a mind flayer in the same room
  • a constant mass of meat and bones and mud pours through a planar gate and drives the turbines and cog wheels of the blood engines; there are several melancholy zombies watching over the mess
  • out of the mist rises a white, filigree sponge pyramid, a fractal construction without a clear separation of rooms or corridors, no furniture, no tools, no people
  • swan ships (can throw hundreds of yards of animated silk up into the air, like fluttering wings; this will break a fall and allow the boat to sail over waterfalls)
  • an eight-armed monstrosity of steel and a few organic elements of human descent
  • a big cavern; on the ceiling, you see a glowing city with light bubbles and hanging bridges and gray webbing holding everything together
  • canals with steep walls, and along the walls, thousands of barred windows; cages are hanging from chains, carried by cranes, flocks of imps cling to every handhold and dance around big braziers
  • a whale sorcerer
  • a siren chained to the wall behind a writhing mass of white-yellow tentacles with scythe-tips and two baleful eyes (a vampire octopus rising from the water)
  • one-eyed crow priestess of the orcs and her four orc witches are bargaining with a hanging tree; its branches are loaded with twitching corpses: armless ghouls are hanging up there, unable to free themselves
  • a black tent illuminated with a hundred candles; the altar is full of dried blood, many curse scrolls and skulls are hanging in the darkness above; here lives an orc witch
  • a room with a floor hundred of feet below; in between is a mess of stairs, passages, hanging vats, huge distilling machineries and vats, hundred of vats with half formed creatures churning, trying to climb out, and dissolving again
  • a dwarven cave carved into stone; marble columns covered in golden flowers, alcoves housing statues of armed angels, at the very center of the complex under a soaring cupola, illuminated by magic from above is the dwarven slime sorcerer himself, writing in his research notebook and protected by an iron protector golem

(The pieces that I have are marked up using strike out in the list above.)


Comments on 2012-11-26 Caverns of Slime

I also sent a message to ant on the forum for this awesome piece.

– Alex

I will also release FO material I’ve finished if circumstances remain the same. I have the entire Dark Troll Citadel ready to be keyed; I don’t think it should be omitted from the mega-dungeon.

Lee B 2012-11-26 18:10 UTC

If all the authors did it, we could publish Fight On! #14 while Calithena recuperates. :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-27

So is it dead in the water then?

AndreasDavour 2012-11-26 19:52 UTC

I don’t know, really. From the outside, it looks as if Calithena is still around, but other priorities have taken over. I think it’s quite understandable and our misfortune is that Fight On! doesn’t have a dedicated team that can take over. A single person effort also has a single point of failure. It would seem to me that we’d need a handful of people to help out or take over.

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-26 23:00 UTC

Calithena seems to be back! Excellent news indeed. 👌 :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-30 21:27 UTC

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2012-08-24 Ursomancy

Fight On! #13 will hopefully contain a dungeon level of mine. Hopefully it will get published soon. In the mean time, I’ve started to work on a new adventure called Susrael the Great. One of things you can learn is Bear Magic.


Yes, the fabled magic of bears!

1st circle 2nd circle
astonishing growth of ursine hair grants AC 6 for two turns terrible staying power of mountain bears grants 1/3 of your max hit points for two turns
3rd circle 4th circle
glowing eyes of ursine hell grants laser beams for two turns: one target per round must save vs. wands or take 1d6 damage (this is a free action) treacherous abuse of ursine brotherhood forces an unwilling summoned armored polar bear soldier to join for a fight: HD 6; AC 5; 2 steel claws 1d6 bite 2d6; MV 9; ML 12
5th circle 6th circle
ursine bloodlust adds 1d6 to each claw and bite attack for two turns flying bar of bears summons 1d6+2 confused and angry flying bears: HD 8; AC 6; 2 claws 1d6 bite 2d6; MV 12 fly; ML 12

Laser Bears!


Comments on 2012-08-24 Ursomancy

Bears that shoot laser beams out of their eyes? Awesome!

Question, though: what is a bar of bears? I thought a group of bears was a sloth of bears (a sleuth of bears is apparently a variation).

– Adrian 2012-08-24 16:46 UTC

“Confused and angry” is of operative relevance here …

Harald 2012-08-24 16:49 UTC


-C 2012-08-24 19:40 UTC

Adrian, I must confess I didn’t know the collective noun for bears! Too bad sleuth lacks the alliteration.

AlexSchroeder 2012-08-24 22:40 UTC

Reading Harald’s comment again, I now imagine Planet of the Bears, 1d6+2 coal miners hanging out at the local pub drinking met—a lot of it—and suddenly they’re pulled into a fight with hairless monkeys and find themselves in the possession of ninja flight powers.

AlexSchroeder 2012-08-25 10:00 UTC

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2012-02-09 How To Write A Module

initial sketches for this dungeon level

I’ve written a dungeon level for the Fight On! megadungeon. It’s for level 13. Maybe it’ll be in issue #13. I tried to adhere to a number of principles that would hopefully produce a better product.

As far as I’m concerned, high level play suggests the following deviation from the usual:

There is no map with exact distances. In fact, like the other dungeon levels at a similar depths, my entry feels like a little underworld wilderness.

I assume that many party members will be able to fly or dimension door or have flying mounts or flying carpets. Thus, there are several vertical drops that would make life very difficult for a low-level party.

Since I don’t have a traditional map, encounters are presented as simple lists of locations and creatures. You can treat these as a wandering monster table, except that every entry in the list comes with monster stats and an environment and a little extra info. Personally, I prefer to get a little more information than just a monster name and their numbers appearing.

In order to further aid improvisation every location starts with a sentence or two setting the mood, a list of impressions (sounds, sights), a list of names to use—little things that I’d appreciate as a referee.

Enemies will have access to magic. I still remember hating spellcasters and devils and demons as a kid because picking the right spells and all that was tricky to do in the heat of combat. This is why important foes will often have two or three at will magic abilities. It’s simply easier to manage.

Since I was going to publish in Fight On! magazine without the Open Gaming License, I decided to not copy any stats from monster manuals or existing rule books. I made up the stats of all the monsters. I’m sure this will result in strange discrepancies. I used the following rules of thumb: mooks 1 HD, squad leaders 3 HD, local leaders 5 HD, important people 7-9HD, boss enemies 12-15 HD, some monsters that you can fight but that you’re better off avoiding 17+ HD. AC 9 for no armor, AC 7 for tough hides, AC 5 for chain and equivalent, AC 0-3 for superbly armored enemies. Damage is usually 1d6, 2d6 for magical two handed weapons or large creatures with a huge jaw, 3d6 for the strongest natural enemies.

In order to reflect the changing dynamics of high-level play, there are a lot of save-or-die effects. At this point, hit-points aren’t so important anymore. Save vs. paralysis or be dragged under water; when under water, save vs. death every round or drown. This is what makes fighting the monsters dangerous, and this is why there are a lot of monsters with few hit dice down on level 13 of this dungeon.

A while ago, I had written a blog post called Quality Dungeons. I wanted to apply some of the lessons I had learned from reading 200+ One Page Dungeons.

Every location has an interesting non-player character or two. There are factions at war. You can make allies. (In fact, all the dungeon levels I can think of for the Fight On! megadungeon had this. I love it.)

I tried to loosely tie all the locations together. If you’re using the entire level, that’s cool and there’s a lot of interaction. At the same time, it’s possible to reuse every single location outside of the dungeon in your own games. It’s modular because I like to reuse other people’s stuff.

I use bold to highlight monsters and important names in the descriptions such that it’s easy to skim.

I tried to keep it short. Unfortunately, it’s still nearly 30 pages long. I asked Claudia for editing suggestions but she says she likes it all and she wouldn’t change it. We’ll see whether I managed to condense it down to the most awesome per word I can deliver! It was certainly my goal.

A little trick I used: I forced myself to write many things as bullet point lists. Every encounter is one item, one paragraph. In addition to that, I don’t use periods in my list items; I use semicolons to structure it; this forces me to keep a certain flow while writing; I realize it’s not a great way to write a blog post, however. 🙂

I also tried to provide foes to fight, non-player characters to talk to, befriend, learn from and barter with. These last elements supports my wife’s favorite play style: discovering new things. You can exchange spells with magic users, there are rituals to learn (in campaigns, that is how I explain all the magic that is unexplained by the spells provided by the rule book) and there are things to learn about the environment.

There are opportunities for long term change. I’m not just talking about loosing limbs (although that may happen as well), I’m talking about divine effects following you around if a god notices your actions, infernal pacts you can make, that kind of thing.

There are also safe zones (although when I ran a play test the players burned down one of the safe zones) for players to rest and recover without needing to return to the surface. I just like to imagine that trips to the underworld are long and arduous, much like Jule Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

I also tried to provide some links to the other dungeon levels in this megadungeon, but perhaps that is the one aspect where I could have tried to do better and add more tie-ins. To my chagrin I must confess that I haven’t read all of them in as much detail as I would have liked.

Another thing that I have failed to do for now is to calculate how much experience points I would want the party to gain on this level and distribute appropriate treasure hoards. Maybe I should do that now that I’m done and do it. Assuming that a fighter needs about 120’000 to move from level 13 to 14, that would mean that I’d need about 120’000×4×3 (providing triple treasure since they’ll probably miss a lot as well). I’m not sure... At the same time, I feel that once you’ve reached name level and beyond, the actual numbers don’t really mean that much anyway. I could be wrong. All I know is that I probably haven’t distributed 1.5 million gold pieces on this dungeon. Should I?


Comments on 2012-02-09 How To Write A Module

Sorry for the spoilers, but: IT WAS SPIDERS! Of COURSE we BURNED THEM DOWN!

– Harald 2012-02-09 11:13 UTC

Maybe I was under the influence of A Deepness in the Sky when I wrote that part.

I also like the Aranea a lot.

AlexSchroeder 2012-02-09 13:23 UTC

Update: 2012-11-17 How To Build A Dungeon.

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-17 18:54 UTC

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