Saturday, November 21, 2015

Beneath the City of Forgotten Souls: A Sword & Sorcery Solo Play Campaign

Balathar detested the Secret Sultan. It was dirty. It was cramped. The floor was always damp and sticky. The patrons were rude, and prone to pick pocketing.

But he needed muscle, and this was the place to get it. Balathar scowled as he pushed his way through the crowded tavern to the back.

A man wearing a wide-brimmed, saffron colored hat caught his eye. He was a Karthan, and he was sitting in the far corner, wrapped in shadows, puffing on a hookah. The Karthan had dark, rugged skin, and his eyes exuded melancholy. He seemed out of place in the crowded tavern. Balathar struck up a conversation with him, and soon decided he would make a suitable adventuring companion.

Balathar looked the Karthan in the eye. "How would you like to put that sword to use, and earn some gold?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"An excursion to the ancient ruins. They are deadly. But there are many riches to be won. I myself seek eldritch relics. Rumors say that  many such relics lie hidden deep beneath the city, in the crypts and labyrinths of the ancient ones."

"Aye, I'll do it. I'm hard up for gold, and have little to lose. They call me Gar. And, I know a man who is fit to accompany us." Gar held up his hand and motioned across the room, to a tall, slender barbarian wrapped in a dark blue cloak. "Dagnar, join us!"

Beneath the City of Forgotten Souls

Dear readers, welcome to Beneath the City of Forgotten Souls. In this series of posts, I will be documenting my OSR Sword & Sorcery solo play campaign. This campaign will allow me to refine my judging style, and to test game mechanics, rules sets, and modules. It will also let me work out my creative writing chops, as I report on the results of each play session.

Campaign Background

This campaign began when I started messing around with Kabuki Kaiser's "Ruins of the Undercity." I wanted to run a completely bonkers, old school style campaign using the Ruins supplement, with a megadungeon at its core. I decided the campaign would be set in the world of "Tales From the Fallen Empire," in a city of my own creation, called The City of Forgotten Souls.

Campaign Rules

For a ruleset, I am sticking with Labyrinth Lord, plus "The Complete BX Adventurer" supplement. I may switch to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, once the campaign is well established.

To reinforce the Sword & Sorcery vibe, all PC's will be human. Human races and corresponding background professions will be pulled from "Tales From the Fallen Empire." PC's in the campaign may be any of the following classes:

  • Fighter
  • Thief
  • Acrobat (BX Adventurer)
  • Barbarian (BX Adventurer)
  • Bard (BX Adventurer)
  • Beastmaster (BX Adventurer)
  • Bounty Hunter (BX Adventurer)
  • Mountebank (BX Adventurer)
  • Mystic (BX Adventurer)
  • Scout (BX Adventurer)
  • Summoner (BX Adventurer)
  • Witch (BX Adventurer)
  • Assassin (Advanced Edition Companion)
  • Monk (Advanced Edition Companion)

I'm happy to report that I've already run through my first dungeon crawl. Not only is the game progressing nicely, but it's already moving in an unexpected direction. I will post game updates here regularly, so be on the lookout for epic adventure from Beneath the City of  Forgotten Souls!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Guide to the Dodecaverse

Since childhood, I have enjoyed designing my own worlds. I believe that fantasy worlds should never be generic. If a world deploys typical fantasy tropes, it should use them in novel ways.

The Dodecaverse is a work in progress. I invented it to serve as a container for several distinctive worlds. My goal is to provide adventurers with a means of travelling between unique worlds, via portals and eldritch magic, while avoiding the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" approach to world building .

In the chart below, I've revised my list of planes from the previous Dodecaverse post, and provided a bit of detail on each plane. I hope my humble efforts will inspire you to create vast, monstrous universes of your own!

  1. M'rth. As a kid I used to love ICE's MERP modules. So, I thought it would be fun to reskin them and plug them into a much darker alternate universe.  In M'rth, you won't meet friendly halflings, helpful wizards, or noble heroes. M'rth is a world ruled by violence and corruption, full of Darklings, Goblings, Gurks, and other unsavory races.
  2. Kxaara. Kxaara is my Weird, Asian-inspired, Sword & Sorcery setting.
  3. Atlantica/Europa. Renaissance America and Europe, with a focus on adventures in the New World.
  4. Babylonia. Ancient Mesopotamia.
  5. Gaia. Bronze-age Earth with a heavy dose of Greek mythology.
  6. Albion. Dark Ages Britain (no relation to Dark Albion, which I've never read).
  7. Hyperborea. The setting from "Asonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea."
  8. Urt. The setting from "Tales From the Fallen Empire."
  9. Luna. Surreal land ruled by  the logic of fairy tales and dreams. Voivodja, from "A Red & Pleasant Land," belongs here.
  10. Olympia. Home of the Lawful gods.
  11. Tartaros. Home of the Chaotic gods.
  12. Unknown. This plane exists in case I need to send PC's to some other, random plane on the fly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Dodecaverse: A Tool for Lazy DM's

Honestly, I'm not a fan of planes as they are presented in classic Dungeons and Dragons. When it comes to planes, I don't need Gygaxian naturalism or a systemic cosmology. I just need an easy way to send my PC's to different worlds on a whim!

Enter the Dodecaverse, a universe with 12 planes that is conveniently shaped like a 12-sided die. This makes it easy to determine which plane an alien being is from, or where a planar mishap sends PC's. Just roll a d12 and consult the table below, or expand your campaign with a unique Dodecaverse of your own.

Roll d12 to determine a random plane:

  1. Gaia
  2. Hyperborea
  3. Albion
  4. M'rth
  5. Kxaara
  6. Europa
  7. Urk
  8. Babylonia
  9. Luna
  10. Hades
  11. Tartaros
  12. (Unknown)
* No doubt, there are other, less stable planes of existence, full of unspeakable terrors and secrets. These we will not discuss, for such regions are beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Free d30 Table: What Do the Magic Mushrooms Do?

It's always a good idea to put magic mushrooms in your dungeon. I firmly believe that temptation and bad decisions lead to enjoyable role-playing opportunities. In that spirit, and because nothing says OSR like a ridiculous random table, here's a d30 table on the effects of magic mushrooms. PC's beware: these aren't your hippy uncle's magic mushrooms!

*If you don't have a d30, I recommend using the free Crawler's Companion app from Purple Sorcerer, available at

Click here to download the hand-crafted PDF from Google Drive

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Prince Arok Speaks: Rules for Alignment

Wherein Prince Arok, Dark Lord of Chaos, pontificates on the proper use of alignment in Sword & Sorcery campaigns.

"Verily I say unto thee:

1. All ordinary mortals are Neutral. They require Balance to live. No mortal is ever Lawful.

2. Certain deities, along with their demonic servitors, seek to increase the amount of novelty and diversity in the Multiverse. These are called Chaotic.

3. Certain deities, along with their servitors, seek to increase the amount of order and stability in the Multiverse. These are known as Lawful.

4, Certain deities, along with their servitors, seek to maintain the Balance between Chaos and Law within the Multiverse. These are called Neutral.

5. When Chaos and Law exist in balance, the Multiverse brings forth numerous living beings, and these living beings are able to grow and evolve.

6. If either Chaos or Law grow too powerful, life will cease to exist.

7. All magic is chaotic, and tends to warp those who use it. This is how some who begin life as mortals become creatures of Chaos.

8. Only those monsters that have been warped by magic, or are clearly magical, are Chaotic. Nonmagical creatures, no matter how deadly, are Neutral.

9. It is in the nature of the gods of Chaos and Law, to ever seek to destroy the Balance; nevertheless, should we succeed, it will destroy us along with the entire Multiverse."