My thoughts on ‘Tales From The Yawning Portal’

I received my advance copy of @dndwizards​’s new book Tales from the Yawning Portal not quite a week ago. If you haven’t heard of this book here’s the gist of it:

TftYP is a collection of seven ‘classic’ dungeon adventures from D&D editions past, all updated with fifth edition rules. In this book you get…

  • Against the Giants (AD&D)
  • Dead in Thay (D&D Next)
  • Forge of Fury (D&D 3e)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (AD&D)
  • The Sunless Citadel (D&D 3e)
  • Tomb of Horrors (AD&D)
  • White Plume Mountain (AD&D)

All of the maps and layout have been updated to make them easier on the eyes, while their traps, monsters, structure, and challenges remains largely unchanged. TftYP is a ‘best of’ book, rather than a remake or reboot of these adventures.

If you’re a millennial who got into D&D through things like Acquisitions Inc, The Adventure Zone, or Critical Role, my take on this book is gonna be of interest to you…because this book might be specifically FOR YOU.  

Originally posted by ewzzy

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What is a megadungeon?

A friend asked me what I meant when I described the game to them. 

A megadungeon is an adventure location that spans the entirety of a campaign. It’s huge (obviously) and frequently multi-leveled. Usually there is a town or some other downtime area associated with the campaign that the players can rest and carouse in when not delving. 

The plot of a mega dungeon campaign is frequently player driven and emergent. It leans into the stuff d&d always seems to fall back on- hairbrained schemes and drunken cavorting. Plot still happens. It happens when you open a door that should have stayed closed and it happens when you decide to spend your gold on building a goblin farm and it happens when the sudden influx of cash puts a big old set of cross hairs over your characters head. 

Have you ever wished that a game would stop dragging you by the scruff of your neck towards the plot? Try something less predetermined and go on a dungeon crawl. Your characters will die. And there possessions will auctioned off or bequeathed and all of a sudden a +1 magic sword you found in the 2nd session is an heirloom. Or maybe you die alone in the dark and become nothing more than an entry on a treasure table. 

Other parties will explore the dungeon when you aren’t around. They will find things you missed and they will brag about it in the bar that night and you will want to risk life and limb just to spite them. You will horde the maps you make, or you will share them, or you will share a version of them. Characters reputations will be explored. Going below with 6 people and emerging with 2 will not go unnoticed by the townsfolk and other adventurers. 

Speaking of townsfolk. The money you acquire below the earth will matter to them. They need it to survive, and eventually to thrive. Business’s you patronize will grow and ones you neglect will die. Townspeople will see your life like a sporting event. They will have your trading card and they will cry for you when you die like they knew you. You represent something to them that is as old as humanity- 

The descent into the labyrinth.

Originally posted by vertibirdo

50 Rumors of the Undergarden

1. The Queen with One Eye is dead

2. If you die below the ground you become a demon

3. Don’t eat the mushrooms in silence

4. It’s been 20 years since a mortal soul has passed through the copper gate

5. The elves all drank and fucked themselves to oblivion

6. No one has seen a dwarf in 100 years

7. There’s a beast that will devour cold steel like cake

8. If you meet a goblin they will try to steal your eyes

9. The bones of the dead sprout new life

10. Goblins speak from the perspective of whoever they stand next too

11. The old mayors crypt holds a secret.

12. Don’t barter with your shadow. 

13. Elves trade only in favors, never in gold.

14.Time moves backward underground

15. There is a river of wine in the city of the elves

16. There is no such thing as a wine river

17. There is a magician who experiments with gold and chickens

18. You will be strangled by your own hair

19. Never eat food from a silver bowl

20. Elves make wooden swords that cut like steel

21. Elves have no genitals

22. Elves each have male and female genitals

23. There is a kingdom of slime

24. There is a wall of mouths

25. There are masquerade balls where folk wear moths instead of masks

26. There is singing coming from the well

27. The serpent god is all powerful below

28. The copper door was sealed shut for 20 years

29. The roots of the forest strangled the old gods

30. The elves called the Undergarden “Dagamoor” 

31. The elves had bronze suits of armor powered by demons blood

32. There is no sleep beneath the earth

33. The pleasure baths of the elves will age you backwards

34. The One Eyed Queen rides a manticore in battle

35. There are fairies who will trade information for teeth

36. Goblins burst from the dead like pimples

37. An orb wizard has built its hive in the ruins

38. Never trust a cat below ground

39. Trees are cannibals

40. There is no terror greater than the singing snails

41. The Witch Queen can detach her head and swing it like a flail

42. Pixies will always argue

43. Never look in a strange mirror

44. A mask could save your life

45. Demons fear the One Eye Queen

46. There is no such thing as an elf

47. Blood will wage war if spilled by a goblin

48. Food must touch silver to be edible

49. mark yourself with blue paint to stay safe

50. You’re already dead if you pass the copper door.

“The Deepest Dungeon Of Them All” – For centuries dwarves and wizards carved the Underhalls below Mount Waterdeep, even before the founding of the city against the foothills.  Now only the constant incursions of adventurers keep the evil inhabitants of the Undermountain in check.  (Box and book cover art by Brom for The Ruins of Undermountain box set, TSR, 1991.)

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Entrances and exits to geomorph tile based dungeons can be a rare thing. I’m including a few experimental “Access” tiles in my first hand drawn geomorphs pack. Hopefully they might just fix a few of the issues thrown up by exit-less one-level megadungeons -which can be built in minutes using square geomorph style tiles. I’ll be bringing out the downloadble low priced PDF first (RPGNow/DTRPG) and then releasing a more richly textured version as a pre-printed deck through theGameCrafter. At least that’s the plan. 60+ unique designs, each with a mirror copy (and/or multiples or corridors etc) - the exact number of cards is still in flux. PDF price should be around the $5 mark at launch. I’m bursting to finish this and share it with you all.:)

anonymous asked:

Suggestions for introducing players from plot-heavy games (WoD, Dragonlance stuff) to more emergent (OSRish?) RPG gamestyles? Asking for a friend, of course.

This is a transition I struggle with from time to time as well.

I love old school play with D&D and similar games, but I’m so used to running big plot-heavy set-piece games, and those seem to be the kinds of games my players enjoy, so here’s the best advice I can offer. It might be a little rambling, so be prepared:

1) Give this booklet a read. It’s by Matthew J. Finch and is about old school mentalities vs new school mentalities. It’s primarily about Swords and Wizardry (a really good OSR game), but it’s applicable to a lot of games. Maybe send it to your players to read as well(?), as it might spur some interest into this style of game. 

2) Emphasize scrappier play. My favourite experience with D&D ever was a megadungeon game run by Natalie Bennett. Her ‘Sewers of San Draso’ game was very old school, even though we were using D&D Fifth Edition. In it, we played characters who resided in a city above a sewer system (dungeon), and we were tracking multiple quests inside that dungeon. Each quest paid a certain amount of gold:

  • Kill gator men. 10gp per gatorman head. 
  • Map the sewer system. 10gp for every room mapped.
  • Recover an ancient artifact. 100gp if recovered. 

That might not seem like much, but this is an adventure where we tracked both lodging and lifestyle expenses, and we had to continually pay hirelings, who in turn helped keep us alive in battle. In-game days passed between sessions, so we were always in need of cash. This added a greater motivation to forge our own paths, recover treasure, and complete quests safely: it meant the difference between living and dying when not adventuring. It was very slice of life. 

This added an extra wrinkle of resource management to the game, which felt tense and fun; a VERY different kind of fun than what a more plot heavy game might provide.  

Similarly, another great old school game I play in is Chris F’s on Google+, who runs Adventurer Conquerer King. He balances out a lack of clear plot in his games with story and character development that happens either during play or while the party is away from town. 

In his game, there’s a meta plot to the adventure concerning a cult that’s taken hold of the town outside the dungeon we’re exploring. Every time we’re away, the cult gets up to more activity, and we as a group are left with choices on how to deal with them. Each choice affects how the town perceives us. 

On top of this, our hirelings are fun and interesting characters that the party has become invested in. They create another layer of motivation to quest and adventure: to see these side characters grow and level up alongside us. Their stories have almost become the main story of the campaign, and we (the players) are helping tell them.

3) Balance scrappy play with flavourful items and details. My favourite example of emergent story and world building that’s often satisfying to a plot-heavy game fan is Dark Souls/Bloodborne. So much of the world and story of that game is revealed in item description and environments.

Remember that just because you’re running a game where stories emerge through play (rather than exposition or NPC’s), doesn’t mean you can’t include story elsewhere. 

Give your players something to sink their teeth into with peculiar items and weapons dropped by enemies. Include a lot of trinkets in play that players can collect, each one providing a hint or maybe even an adventure hook that leads them deeper into a dungeon or wilderness area. Use paintings, frescoes, and mosaics in dungeons to tell stories of past cultures, whose treasures may still be nearby. 

You can do a tremendous amount of storytelling without actually relying on plot, and for plot-hungry players this can be a good way to make them more comfortable with your game. With enough storied trinkets and clues, they might begin to guess at or invent a plot to your game. You can take those guesses and build on them in secret. 

If you’re not used to doling out story/plot this way, I highly recommend picking up Vornheim: The Complete City Kit. It is jam packed with items, encounters, locations, and characters designed to provide story hooks in an emergent way. I swear by this book, as it has substantially boosted the amount of old school play in my new school games. 

I hope this helps. Hoping your friend’s players follow the funky flow. 

Originally posted by pearl-likes-pi


So, a long while ago I wrote some stuff about dwarfs and elves being different sexes of the same species, but I came up with something I prefer:

Dwarfs actually reproduce asexually: the process of making a dwarf baby is as simple as assembling enough stone, metal and gem together, carving it into a dwarf, and then during a special ritual giving it the breath of life. No one’s quite sure how this works, but some wizards theorize that dwarfs are actually a species of self-replicating organic golems, while certain theologians point at the dwarven creation myth where their two chief deities created dwarfs in the same manner. Supposedly, all dwarfs carry a little bit of that same divine breath in them, allowing them to give life. These same theologians have long tried to discern what the gender of these two deities was, a question to which dwarfs will generally answer with “They’re neither woman nor man, they’re gods.”

While some dwarfs choose to create their progeny by themselves, most dwarfs choose to cooperate on creating their children with a partner of their choosing, both out of a sense of love and a willingness to save money through pooling their resources together. The dwarfs involved in this process will also provide the breaths of all dwarfs involved in the project, thus making the new dwarf all of their child for all intents and purposes.

Incidentally, you know that traditional plot hook where for some reason the dwarfs are a dying race? Same thing applies here: the dwarfs have mined too deep and thus exhausted most of the earth’s precious ores, which is why so many dwarfs are turning to adventuring these days: by reclaiming the lost treasures of ancient civilizations they hope to slow down the imminent extinction of their people, if only for a while longer.

EDIT: Credit where credit’s due: the idea of dwarfs breeding through creating their children owes very much to a similar concept in James Maliszewski’s Dwimmermount megadungeon, but I refined the concept a bit (including the bit about multiple dwarfs being able to work together on creating a child). Also, even before I read Dwimmermount, me and my friends used to joke about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e’s Dwarfcraft talent being the skill dwarfs use to craft new dwarfs, so this also owes something to my great players.


Vacation sketchbook.

Been putting together some work for a little project I’ve tentatively titled


The basic idea for the project is to have a booklet beginning with a numbered map that corresponds to images that are open to the DM’s interpretation. No words, just pictures. I’m hoping to do a few issues, each corresponding to different levels in a wacky megadungeon. The sketches I have now are mostly of a spirit-filled forest level.

Stay tuned for more!

doopdoop  asked:

What resources are you using for your campaign. Mega dungeons sound fun but the work you need to put in before, during and after sounds daunting. What are you using to make your life easier?

Great question!
Megadungeon require a fair amount of front end labor. Here’s what I’m using to make it easier.

1. Jeff’s Questions

This is a great first step for any campaign. Great starting points for frequently asked questions and excellent world building prompts all wrapped into a cool 20 questions. Jeff’s blog is one of my go to resources for a lot of things, and his book “Broodmother Skyfortress” has a great “greatest hits” section that I will frequently use at the table.

2. Random Generators.

Sometimes it’s best to let fate decide what comes next. I am a huge proponent for randomly generating things that would otherwise stump me at the table. Abulafia and Last Gasp are two excellent resources for a vast expanse of content. Last Gasp can even be integrated into your browser for one click generation.

3. Backlog of Fantasy Nonsense.

I keep a big folder on my computer labeled “undergarden” that has a bunch of images I feel encapsulate the feeling of the game. It’s subdivided into friends, enemies, landscape and items. Anytime I see something that I think might be down there I snag it and change the file name to a number and what I think the picture is of. That way I can roll a die and snag an image right off the old desktop.

4. Vornheim

If you don’t have this book please do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s about running city games, but the city in question plays like a megadungeon and it has a number of useful tables and overall helpful advice. I use it every time I game.

5. Random Dungeon.

This is a crowd sourced dungeon room generator conceived by Zak and turned into an app by Ram. Use it when you run out of room ideas or make a whole dungeon with it!

6. DonJon 

Take all of those randomly generated rooms and put them on a map.

7. The Non Player Character

I use this book to generate NPCs with quirks, goals, flaws and preferences. It also includes a whole system for mechanically based, gamey social interactions. Courtney’s Blog is altogether a good resource for things as well.

8. Party like it’s 999

Another Jeff classic. Trading gold for experience with an element of danger. Arella takes it farther than I’ve seen anyone take it and the results are amazing.

9. OSR wiki

Anything I missed will most likely exist here. It’s a huge back catalogue of something to the tune of 10 years of blogging from a multitude of people. Lose a day there and become rich in knowledge.

Originally posted by headlesssamurai

  • blizzard: medivh's in the legends of the past... idk if he is coming back
  • blizzard:
  • blizzard: [releases Medivh in HotS]
  • blizzard: [releases Karazhan Adventure in Hearthstone]
  • blizzard: [releases trailer for a rebooted Karazhan megadungeon]
  • blizzard:
  • blizzard: B)

Decided to randomly throw together (almost) all the tiles.  So maybe lava next to water doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this is the Elemental Plane of Dungeons, deal with it.

Despite not doing any post-editing on the map, it almost completely avoided any isolated, unreachable rooms.  …Except for the entrance near the upper right corner.  I guess if you come at it from the wrong direction, you get a really short delve.