TotSK: Level 3, a little bit of The Lower Tomb (keyed)

A lot to process, still. It will be a mess to run, the two upper rooms especially. I wasn’t thinking ahead regarding how to manage the information, so it’s a confused jumble of data. Also, I’ve waffled some recently on whether this is for Knave or BX, hence the ‘DEX saves’ and descending AC stats.

I’ve already drawn the dungeon segment for the next spread (16). It’s in the center, allowing the keys to have their own distinct, organized space.


Started my four year old into The Tomb of the Serpent King, recording some of it. It’s been ages since I’ve run anything for anyone and up to now the games with my son have been more like dungeon checkers.

I’m surprised to hear in the recording that I can still run a decent game. So there’s hope still!

iEiE; 8 HP, Fast

A backpack with a sword, bow (10 arrows), rope, and a net

Little castles in the wildlands

There must be a zeitgeist because Ben (Questing Beast), echoed by others, is getting at pretty much how I’m also evolving my own participation consumption of the OSR after G+ implodes.

Since Jacob Hurst recommended Inoreader, I’ve enjoyed the blogs more than ever. Lined up neatly in night mode on my phone, I’ve read, reread, and saved more than ever before.

Years ago, I participated in photoblogging. I shared my work, bettered myself as a photographer, and met many friends from around the planet. It finally collated in Flickr (the G+ of that scene), then disseminated when Yahoo bought and broke it. I loved Flickr. I met my wife on Flickr. She, teaching English in China, made a leap to fly home and jump into a relationship. We’ve been together since.

Instagram is alright, though it’s always felt like a homogenized subflickr. People are there, so am I, though somewhat noncommittal. It’s just pictures of my kids.

The point I’m meandering to, is that above all, I miss those idiosyncratic photoblogs. Each one an expression of their author. The blogs of the OSR are like that too, little castles in the wildlands of the untamed internet.

My game, undecided

My wife understands social media, helpfully rolling her eyes when I bestow my great wisdom of its ills. She does because she uses it. She talks to her graph, finds the best deals, where to go, what to do. She plugs questions into it like it was an oracle.

So when I decided that in 2019, I needed to actually get my game off the ground (after an unreasonable hiatus), I posted the following To Facebook on New Years Day, with a link to Zak Smith’s Vice article about why he still loves Dungeons and Dragons in the age of video games:

I love Dungeons and Dragons. I mean LOVE it. With heart. Something I want (need) to do is run more games.

If you’re okay with a rusty, enthusiastic Dungeon Master and earlier, simpler rules: we need to get in touch this year.

And the nerds began to emerge… Mostly fellow nurses, and the odd local old-schooler, whom I’ve gamed with in the past, the only person at the time of posting, I knew would likely play. I was, for a day, genuinely excited.

But then the decision paralysis began to set in. I have my lonely prep…a small black book in which I’ve added some setting notes and transcribed half of The Tomb of the Serpent King. But I am hesitant to use my own thing, worried that it would be just a piecemeal collection of mostly dull disjointed ideas.

Then a hospital transporter, calling me on my vocera to deliver blood asked, “Where are you? Are you there?” Amusing to me as I was well away, in another patient’s room, “Of course I’m there, everywhere you’re not is there.” Shortly thereafter, another transporter handed me the wrong form, saying, “oh sorry, this a future job, you can’t sign something in the future.”

After these exchanges, I walked out to the station, and a colleague asked me about this game I posted, expressing interest, and I rather spontaneously (spurred no doubt by the transporters wry incongruities of place and time) answered that I’ll likely set it in A Red & Pleasant Land. I think I was also appealing to her and others, who will know Dumbledore* but never Nigauble of the Seven Eyes.

But now I’m not so sure. The pull of early fantasy, of Vance and Leiber, of the art of old TSR modules, of the 1e Dungeon Masters Guide, and the homages to that in the OSR, is the setting that courses through me aesthetically. Anything less, with my one possible game, I’m afraid won’t have my passion or that seventh hidden eye that looks in.


* The colleague in question posts relentless Harry Potter memes on Facebook.

What a setup

The game began as the PCs (level 1, half of them never played rpg before) regained consciousness tied up in the glacier to the sound of a prisoner’s throat being slit noisily, as a goblin waved a page in his face. It turned out the goblins were trying to find a literate prisoner among the group and were using this page as a test. Anyone who failed to convincingly read it got their throat cut. Why were they doing this? Because deep inside the glacier the goblin tribe had recently uncovered an ice-encrusted ancient warrior skeleton holding some wicked magic sword, but they couldn’t get to him unless they spent hours hacking away at it. That’s no good! They don’t have that kind of time! Luckily, a clever usurper goblin released a bunch of the shipwrecked prisoners out onto the ice, and the Norse berserkers went off to chase them down and slaughter them on their dogsleds. This gave them to chance to break into the Norseman’s private stash, grab his saved up “Magic Flame Scroll”, and use it to melt the ice, retrieve the magic sword, and seize power! The only problem is, that none of the goblins can read. Thus we need a literate PC. This was really all a way for me to introduce the main plot of the game, in that buried in the hold of the ship were hundreds of “Wanted” posters describing a young woman who has been “kidnapped”. These were the pages the goblins were using as a Reading-Test. In reality she was not just any young woman, but the grandaughter of the Kaiser, who is due at her own royal wedding to the (gouty old) Duke of Grunwald in 5 months time. The problem is that she wasn’t kidnapped – she is pregnant by her foppish courtier, and they have traveled to the Devoured Lands to abort it before the wedding collapses and causes a war. She is of course now wanted by the PCs, random bounty hunters (the reward!), the Kaiser (my reputation!), the Duke (the royal marriage alliance!), the Pope (embarrass the political head of the Empire and gain power!), some Witches (a ritual!) and the Witchunters (the princess is clearly a witch!). Finding out the ins and outs of all of this took quite a few sessions and player deaths, but finally they have entered the Devoured Lands to find her at level 4-6 for most of them.

Play Report: Frostbitten and Mutilated