Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"This feels like an old school dungeon" plus GMing prep & notes [5e Dwimmermount]

Our first session of Dwimmermount kicked off with some final touches of character creation. We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how all of the characters knew one another and what they were doing in Muntburg, the town that is closest to the megadungeon.

cast of characters
Tsetsig is a cleric of Tenon from the island of Thule. He has travelled to the far off city of Adamas for . . . personal reasons. Tsetsig takes exception to his people being called barbarians because he knows that in truth, all current "civilizations" are in fact barbaric shadows of the once great Thulian empire. Tsetsig wishes to explore Dwimmermount to find evidence of his people's rise to greatness against the Eld, and in doing so lay out a template for how they can rise again and restore the Pax Thulia. It doesn't matter to him if the evidence is real, as long as it can be made to support his goal. He is not naive. He is supremely practical and recognizes that convincing lies are often more effective than confusing truths. Tsetsig has recently escaped from years of prison in Adamas. His body is weakened, but his strength of will has grown great.

Ilona Qoyor Enq is a noble from far off Thule, a cousin to Tsetsig, and a fierce warrior. She had a troubled life back home, and lost favor and positioning with her family due to her emotional conflicts around a bitter family rival. Rather than see her political position compromised further, she ventured to Adamas to rescue her cousin from prison, and now has become interested in the legend of Dwimmermount for she has heard stories that there are miraculous machines that can grant people magical powers without the need for study or training.

Horatius is a former soldier in the Adamas militia, but after mustering out has turned to mercenary work. When Ilona first arrived in Adamas she sought out Horatius for help in freeing her cousin from prison. While Horatius has a reputation for capable fighting amongst those he's worked for, he's not famous. Because he's a local, Horatius is very familiar with how the militia of Adamas would respond to the jailbreak, and because he's a merc he knows a few people who always need underhanded work done and he acted as a liaison for Ilona's inquiries. He has little interest in Dwimmermount beyond getting rich.

Gaius Marius Septimus is another local to Adamas who frequently works as a street busker or stage magician, but secretly his sleight of hand tricks are genuinely performed with arcane magic. While it is not illegal to use magic, sorcerers are not incredibly popular outside of academic and noble circles. Horatius hired Marius for help in falsifying prison records after Tsetsig's jailbreak and in the process of the job discovered Tsetsig's interest in exploring Dwimmermount. With rumors that people have been spotted coming and going from the mountain, Marius looked upon this as an opportunity to explore for hidden and locked away magics.

Brüghaht the dwarf was sharing a cell with Tsetsig when he broke out of prison, and managed to prove himself by neutralizing guards during their escape. Brüghaht feels a little indebted to Tsetsig for the opportunity to break free. In prison for burgling, Brüghaht is an outcast dwarf who refused to pay back the debt to his father for his "birth." He is interested in all of this talk of Dwimmermount since it is considered a holy place by all dwarves, even outcasts.

the story so far
It has been two days since the jailbreak, and our party is hiding out in Muntburg for it lies north of Adamas and is not along any significant travel routes so this would be the last place anybody would look for them. They had spent a day in Muntburg just resting and had time to explore the market grounds. Horatius started up a conversation with a local goblin mercenary, Brakk, but nobody was hired to escort the party in their trek. Tsetsig was supremely confident that they were over-equipped for the journey. Before they left Muntburg, the captain of the guard posted a notice that orcs had been seen on the trails leading up Dwimmermount and the castle would reward 10 gold pieces for every head brought back.

They ventured up the mountain and after several hours reached the red doors that served as the main route in and out of the ancient dungeon. The doors opened quite easily and they found evidence that someone had been here before them right away in the scuffed dust along the steps. Dwarf-sized footprints. Tsetsig cast a light spell upon Horatius' shield and they strode into the first chamber.

In the main entry they found six statues, five of which all depicted the same face. Testsig recognized the statues as vandalized depictions of the gods almost immediately. Before Brüghaht could check any of the doors for traps, Horatius opened a door leading west and saw a small fire at the end of the hall. The orcs that were lounging there did not seem friendly. As the hallway became choked with orcs, Ilona realized they couldn't all see properly and lit a torch.

The orcs fell, one by one, until only one remained. His courage quavered and he ran, deeper into the dungeon. Ilona was determined not to let him escape and chased him into darkness, with Marius and Horatius close behind, but Ilona managed to strike the final blow. The party then went about exploring the adjoining rooms, chopping off orc heads, and dividing the meager treasure at their post.

Ilona explored the dark room and discovered that it was an ancient theatre. The secret passage behind the rotting curtain stuck out like an apple amongst potatoes. She opened the passage and saw light coming from another door at the other end, and while creeping up to it her cousin managed to make a hilarious racket of noise, alerting the orcs on the other side. Another battle ensued, and while many orcs fell several also fled deeper into the dungeon...
this is where we ended

In the photo above you can see where the orc in the rear is running away (upper right) and the "thief" mini is where a tied up dwarf is sitting on the ground (lower left and 'outside' of the room).
You can also see my map technique, I'll draw the rooms on a piece of graph paper but once combat happens I have a larger grid that I draw on and tape together. It works pretty well and can easily be moved around the table which makes it less time consuming than constantly adjusting a battlemap.

the aftermath

One player expressed his amazement that "this feels like an old school dungeon" and another wrote to me, saying "Maybe it was just the exhilaration of running at the monsters rather than away from them, but that was the most fun I've had playing Dungeons & Dragons in many years." I have to admit that I hoped it would feel that way but I was worried that my expectations wouldn't live up to the actual playing of the game. Instead, it was a lot of fun. I had planned the game out as a dungeoncrawl, but I don't know how much of the game's impact came from the module and how much of it came from my use of the monstrous inhabitants and straining available light sources. Going forward, I'm excited that this game is going to be fun.

Even though we spent half the session tweaking characters and faffing about in town buying equipment and learning rumors, there was still plenty of character interaction as well as tactical reformation in the heat of battle. While we're all still picking up the 5th edition rules, the battles were pretty chaotic and messy events that overall ended quickly - except when nobody was hitting anybody.

When I was prepping the adventure I printed off pages from the Dungeon Tracker which came with my pdf version - I don't remember if this was a kickstarter exclusive or if anybody can get it, but its proved itself a useful tool and I may run every future dungeoncrawl like this.

This picture is deliberately blurry so my players can't see any details, but you can make out that I wrote notes at the bottom of the second page: these are for the notable NPCs in this level with little descriptions of what they want and what they'll do to get it.

You can also see some color coding in the map page above, and while you can't see it, I have page numbers for quick reference of the Monster Manual written along the right-hand side of the map page.

In retrospect, the players didn't get very far into the dungeon but it felt like a series of hectic and stumbling fights.

Here you can see some of my color coding. The blue indicates an access point that ascends or leads outside (an orange access point would indicate descending to a lower level), and the pink highlighting of room numbers indicates a light source. This is also, literally, the only rooms that got explored or seen.

I gave the orcs in the guard post a firepit where they were roasting rats, and the orcs in the other two rooms simply have ensconced torches embedded along the walls. Orcs have darkvision but I assume they would just naturally see better with light, and they didn't have a tactical reason to extinguish light sources until some humans barged in and started slaughtering their friends.

some final notes
One of the minor details in Dwimmermount explains that there are 13 zodiac signs. I had the players roll randomly for the month they were born and I haven't done anything with this yet, but I'm thinking each birthsign will have a minor effect, akin to birthsigns in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

I think the treasure in Dwimmermount is excessive and so I'm cutting the value of most treasure. I'm taking the value of treasure and dividing it by 10, and then roll dice that can't exceed double the amount. For example, in the original module the first group of orcs had 1000 gold pieces. Divided by 10 is 100, so I roll 1d100 twice and that's how many gold pieces there are. They found 98 gp!

I am giving experience points based on three metrics: exploration, discovery, and encounters.
Exploration = 5 xp for every room explored, multiplied by the square of the level of the room; each PC gets this reward even if only one character explores a room (ie. exploring a room on the second level nets 20 xp for everyone, exploring a room on the third level nets 45 xp, fourth level = 80 xp, fifth level = 125 xp, etc.).
Discovery = solving mysteries or puzzles in Dwimmermount will net 25 xp for simple mysteries, 50 xp for more complex puzzles, and 100 xp for surpassing deadly traps or scenarios; individual PCs can receive this reward for completing the task but as a rule all characters present receive the reward
Encounters = each monster or NPC has an XP value for being defeated; this XP is divided evenly amongst every PC present (if a monster or NPC is made an ally then the XP award is doubled)

Now, the module also doesn't make much of a distinction of what kinds of coins there are. References are made to Thulian and Termaxian coins, but most of the entries are generic. I've decided that Thulian coins are slightly bigger and are worth more, but the characters won't notice this unless the players actively take an interest in the coins they're finding. I've also decided that silver coins, when they appear in the text, will also be gold coins instead because I see the Termaxian Empire as having collected silver for magical items. In some hidden chambers there might be some silver, but otherwise it's just not present.

The limitations of the poor layout are starkly apparent while running the game. I found myself checking three sections of the book just to clarify the details of a single room. The paragraphs-long faction overview section could have been divided up at the beginning of the chapters where each faction is most prominent and pertinent, and the graph they included for showing the relationships between factions is difficult to read, could have used a simple diagram instead. The details about Dwimmermount's construction fill an earlier chapter that could have been trimmed down and then redistributed into the later chapters. For example, information about the entrance to Dwimmermount is on page 74 in the "Overview of the Dungeon" chapter and the details of the dungeon begin on page 117 where the only mention of the red door entrance is that they are present before the first room.

A lot of my preparations worked out really well however, and I haven't GMed a dungeoncrawl in years so I was pleased with how everything fell into place. Next week I may take more pictures of the actual session so you can see the deluge of miniatures that are on the map at once.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

prepping new games & learning new rules

The game I joined on Saturday had a small amount of upheaval and now I find myself GMing a game of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons in the aftermath of a Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure. The players have written lots of interesting hooks into their characters and I think I have some good adventure ideas set down. Prep for this game was unusually simple once I decided that it wouldn't be a traditional dungeoncrawl. Instead I wrote a single hook for each character and next Saturday will be the real test where I drop the hooks and see how many of the players have their characters bite.

During prep I made a list of all of the creatures in the 5e Monster Manual that could potentially be playable character races. You could consider this a shortlist for revamping Monster Mythology, but I'm using this as a list of potential NPC races:
Aarokocra p.12
Bugbear p.33
Bullywug p.35
Cambion p.36
Centaur p.38
Cyclops p.45
Duergar p.122
Empyrean p.130
Ettin p.132
Gargoyle p.140
Gith p.158
Gnoll p.162
Goblin p.166
Harpy p.181
Hobgoblin p.186
Kenku p.194
Kobold p.195
Kuo-Toa p.199
Lizardfolk p.204
Medusa p.214
Mind Flayer p.222
Minotaur p.223
Myconid p.230
Nothic p.236
Ogre p.237
Oni p.239
Orc p.246
Pixie p.253
Rakshasa p.257
Sahuagin p.263
Salamander p.266
Satyr p.267
Slaad p.274
Sphinx p.280
Sprite p.283
Thri-Kreen p.288
Troglodyte p.290
Troll p.291
Umber Hulk p.292
Xorn p.304
Yeti p.305
Yuan-ti p.308
I even made a rando generator for this list

The Sunday game, in contrast, is going to embark upon a traditional dungeoncrawl using the Dwimmermount megadungeon and, coincidentally, 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. I've been reading the book and taking notes for the last few weeks so I think I'm familiar enough with the upper levels of the dungeon that I shouldn't have any problems - I'll share more about the extensive prepping I did in a future post.

For now, the most surprising thing for me is reading the spells in 5e D&D. The way cantrips work is so much simpler now, but also more powerful. You don't need to worry about light if you have a single magic-user in your party. The cleric has become a much more valuable utility class considering how powerful the create water and purify food spells have become. Just from reading the new rules I would be interested in running a 5e game where the PCs can only be fighters and rogues.

Joesky Tax
Did you know green slime has been nerfed from 'monster' to 'hazard' in 5th edition?
Here is my version of Green Slime as a monster in 5e D&D


Green slimes always move towards the closest creature they can detect.

Armor Class: 8
Hit Points: 22 (3d8+9)
Speed: 10 ft., climb 10 ft.

STR 15 (+2), DEX 6 (-2), CON 14 (+2), INT 1 (-5), WIS 6 (-2), CHA 1 (-5)

Damage Resistances: acid, cold, fire
Damage Immunities: lightning, slashing
Condition Immunities: blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses: tremorsense 30 ft., passive perception 11
Languages: -
Challenge: 2 (450 xp)

Amorphous. The slime can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Spider Climb. The slime can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Slimed. When moving, green slime can enter other creatures' spaces. Whenever the slime enters a creature's space, the creature must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw.
On a successful save, the creature can choose to move back 5 feet or to the side of the slime. A creature that chooses not to be pushed back suffers the consequences of a failed saving throw.
On a failed save, the slime enter the creature's space and makes contact with the creature's body. The creature takes 10 (3d6) acid damage and is slimed (see below). Creatures that are slimed can move and act, but take 10 (3d6) acid damage at the start of each of the slime's turns until they are no longer slimed.
At the start of your turn, you must make a saving throw - follow the rules for making death saving throws, however taking damage or being reduced to 0 hit points will not cause you to fail a slimed saving throw. Failing three of these slimed saving throws turns your character into another green slime, which either adds it's mass (and 22 hit points) to any existing green slime in your space or acts as an independent and new green slime.
Succeeding at these slimed saving throws does not throw off the slime, it merely delays the inevitable.
While you are slimed, the green slime can be scraped off, but whatever implement used to scrape it off takes 10 (3d6) acid damage when it comes into contact with the slime (assume wood is a fragile material and metal is a resilient material, page 247 of the DMG).

Disease. Any magical effect that would cure a subject of disease, including lesser restoration or purify food and drink, when cast upon green slime will instantly destroy it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ratkin for 5e

(Skaven with the serial numbers filed off, and a playable race for 5e)
(inspired entirely by Skaven from Warhammer Fantasy)

Warrens carved beneath sprawling municipalities, wickedly sharpened blades scavenged from centuries of corpses, the squeaks and scrabbling echoes of a language born of rodents, the musty and fetid scent of a black market hidden within the sewers, and the overflowing contempt of those who think they are better than the dwellers in the underdark - the ratfolk have always lived side by side with humanity, but only as cities grow have they become more noticeable, and harder to ignore.

Ratkin are small, rodent-like humanoids; native to subterranean areas under cities and in dry regions. Typical ratkin average between four and five feet in height and weigh roughly 100 pounds. Most have brown fur, although this can vary greatly. Black fur is looked upon as the sign of true strength, and in most cities a ratkin of black fur that is born on the night of a new moon is often taken by the Cult of Thanskachak to be raised as an assassin in service to all ratkin. It is not uncommon for lighter colored ratkin to dye their fur black. Albino ratkin are rare and considered a good omen. Albino, and white-furred, ratkin almost exclusively become clerics, sorcerers, and rulers over other ratkin.

Ratkin have large fangs in the upper jaw structure, their eyes are commonly red, they all have over-grown claws, and a naked tail growing to almost a meter in length. With scrawning arms and legs, and lackly greatly in terms of strenght, ratkin are naturally faster, more agile, and natural diggers. Due to their cowardly nature, ratkin will most likely run then engage in direct conflict. Only when cornered will a ratkin fight with a reckless abandon.

Ratkin are hoarders by nature, and as a whole are masters of commerce, though some are shrewd merchants who carefully navigate the shifting alliances of black markets and bazaars, many ratkin love their stockpiles of interesting items far more than money, and would rather trade for more such prizes to add to their hoards over mere coins. It's common to see a successful crew of ratkin traders rolling out of town with an even larger bundle than they entered with, the whole mess piled precariously high on a cart drawn by giant rats.

They often wear robes to stay cool in the desert or conceal their forms in cities, as they know other humanoids find their rodent features distasteful. In the cities ratkin cling to the shadows and rarely venture out during the daytime, and in the bigger metropolitan areas there is always a secret ratkin marketplace which is literally underground. Ratkin have a strong attraction to shiny jewelry, especially copper, bronze, and gold, and many decorate their ears and tails with small rings made of such metals.

Ratkin thrive within the sewers underneath most human cities and larger towns, where they tend to maintain black markets for the seedier sides of humanity. Larger population centers house entire secondary communities of ratkin living side by side with humans. Many civil engineers have found extra tunnels and passageways added to their handiwork months, and sometimes only days, after finishing construction. Whatever wealth doesn't come to ratkin through trade arrives from scavenging or thievery. They dislike daylight, so many enterprising ratkin forge alliances with humans or halflings to handle larger or more legitimate trade negotiations above ground. Humans and halflings are always welcomed in ratkin warrens, but other races are given a cold shoulder or asked to prove their friendship, if not outright denied entry.

Ratkin are extremely communal, and live in large families where the mother is almost always the head of household. Ratkin share both a high birth rate and infant mortality rate, a typical litter can range anywhere between 6 to 18 infants, roughly half of whom will die during infancy. Women amongst the ratkin think of childbirth and motherhood as a solemn duty, to be unable to bear children is the worst fate to befall a female ratkin. Most ratkin are lucky to survive birth and childhood, and the rest are lucky to know who their father is. Any ratkin who can accumulate vast wealth is often given a kind of governorship over other ratkin, and while trade is important for ratkin survival they don't regard it as a very honorable profession. Warriors are valued over all, and the ratkin who protect their tunnels are always honored with free food and celebratory greetings.

It is rumored that the ratkin have tunneled passageways between every major city on the continent, and have ways of traversing these burrows faster than non-ratkin would be able to. Each ratkin community is autonomous and doesn't answer to any other ratkin leader elsewhere, or refuses to. It would be common to see ratkin traveling either on their own or in small packs. The ratkin population is constantly growing, only to decrease drastically during times of starvation. However, in times of plenty, when a ratkin warren grows overcrowded and the surrounding city won't support a larger community, young ratkin instinctively begin to fight against their elders rather than seek out new places in which to live. These ratkin revolutions are often bloody but brief as new and younger ratkin dethrone the established elder ratkin. As such, ratkin society cannot be trusted to remain stable, but it can be relied upon to be present.

Ratkin are often driven by a desire to seek out new opportunities for trade, both for themselves and for their warrens. Ratkin adventurers may seek potential markets for their clan's goods, keep an eye out for sources of new commodities, or just wander about in hopes of unearthing enough treasure to fund less dangerous business ventures. Ratkin battles are often decided by cunning traps, ambushes, or sabotage of enemy positions.

"The Thirteen" is a misnomer since Ratkin have fourteen gods they venerate. The Horned Mother is the first ratkin, and she is never openly worshipped, nor are shrines or temples ever dedicated to her, but every ratkin will speak her name in reverence and those that blaspheme the Horned Mother are often brutally killed. The thirteen other gods are her children, and the most prominent to be offered prayers or servitude and often referred to as "the Siblings" having been birthed by the Horned Mother.

The thirteen gods the ratkin worship are:
  • Thanskachak, the god of darkness and silence, prayers are often offered to Thanskachak during funerals (there are never priests for Thanskachak, ratkin who honor him become assassins)
  • Arrassi, the goddess of gems and trade, Arrassi's symbol appears wherever a ratkin is trying to buy a thing or has a thing for sale and due to this many non-ratkin erroneously believe that Arrassi's symbol means "marketplace" (priests of Arrassi are the most common and specialize in the domain of Trickery)
  • Vasdra, the goddess of legends and lore, any ratkin who tells a story or shares knowledge is honoring Vasdra (priests of Vasdra run their temples like libraries and specialize in the domain of Knowledge)
  • Gnawdrak, the god of death and curses, no ratkin openly worships Gnawdrak but his name is invoked when fighting non-ratkin
  • Durhakk, the god of storms and winter, ratkin who brave long overland adventures or spend time in harsh climates worship Durhakk (clerics of Durhakk specialize in the domain of Tempests)
  • Thrahisk, the god of mischief and sleep, often depicted as a slothful drunk who plays pranks, there are many stories and folk tales that involve Thrahisk tricking non-ratkin, especially deities (priests of Thrahisk specialize in the domain of Life, most non-ratkin interact with these clerics)
  • Malkzarr, the god of warfare and strength, the only god depicted as having black fur, Malkzarr is not often worshiped openly but his name is always invoked before a fight occurs (priests of Malkzarr specialize in the domain of War)
  • Skrer, the goddess of sunlight and moonlight, worshiped by few ratkin but present in any community where ratkin need to venture above the ground (priests of Skrer specialize in the domain of Light)

  • Khaktabak, the god of justice and time, whenever ratkin must punish one of their own Khaktabak is invoked
  • Varski, the god of travel and art, ratkin who are learning their way in a city or journey between kingdoms or travel by boat offer prayers to Varski (priests are always wandering mendicants)
  • Chatiskikk, the god/goddess of magic, sometimes depicted as a hermaphrodite and sometimes as being sexless Chatiskikk has a presence in every ratkin community even if only superficially (there are no priests of Chatiskikk, but ratkin who become wizards or sorcerers venerate him/her)
    Morsarr, the goddess of gardening and childbirth, always invoked by ratkin who become farmers and expectant mothers (clerics of Morsarr specialize in the domain of Nature)
  • Ichikittar, the god of beauty and poison, a vain and selfish deity whose name is often used as an insult (there are no priests of Ichikittar)

    Male Names: Azock, Belig, Bilik, Buchak, Cro, Curz, Garuk, Glarek, Gorbuck, Gorzun, Irksiz, Kutx, Lizkaz, Mroxk, Murz, Nagrat, Naszuss, Nirkz, Nitz, Niz, Orz, Puzz, Rirag, Shurz, Skeetz, Sorzek, Vedex, Yurt, Yurz
    Female Names: Blorg, Bresh, Crone, Dozz, Fralen, Girch, Haalesh, Hirta, Kalba, Kirat, Kourkr, Molal, Mori, Murz, Olg, Pru, Rir, Rurdu, Ur, Xaort, Zas, Zuul
    Family Names: Azhak, Azaraz, Bazassik, Burmatz, Gaznagar, Gezarr, Prazth, Razel, Tzartar, Vozer

    Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
    Age: Ratkin age at the same rate as humans.
    Size: Ratkin are shorter than most humans but are still considered Medium sized.
    Speed: Ratkin have a walking speed of 25.
    Darkvision: Ratkin have superior vision at night and underground. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
    Ratkin Senses: You have proficiency in the Perception skill.
    Languages: You can speak Common and Ratkin. If there is a written Ratkin language in your region then you can read it as well. The Ratkin language has as many dialects and variations as Common might, and the two often mimic each other in regions where both are spoken. As a rule of thumb, if the humans of an area speak a variation of Common that counts as a separate language then the ratkin of that area also have their own separate version of Ratkin.
    Swarming: Ratkin are adept at swarming over foes during combat. When Ratkin fight alongside an ally, they can Help their ally as a bonus action.
    Ratkin Tenacity: Ratkin gain advantage on any rolls to resist poison or disease.

    Base Height: 4'
    Height Modifier: +2d8
    Base Weight: 100 lb.
    Weight Modifier: x (3d8) lb.

    the Wikipedia page for Skaven (Warhammer)
    the Warhammer Wikia for Skaven
    Children of the Horned Rat - Skaven sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy
    an OGL book about "ratmen" (circa 3e/d20)
    a Skaven name generator - I used this for the deity and family names
  • Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    review of Dwimmermount, and notes for adapting it to 5e D&D

    Dwimmermount is a megadungeon designed by James Maliszewski, who is the author of the (now seemingly abandoned) Grognardia blog.

    I funded Dwimmermount on kickstarter, but when it came to his silence after his production delays and apparent disappearance from the internet I became one of James' harshest critics. At the time of his silence I genuinely worried that he had passed away and when it was revealed that he had retreated from interacting or communicating with anybody I was upset. Now, in the wake of Dwimmermount's release, I have read many reviews online and I have discovered that most reviewers seem to be unable to separate Maliszewski's mistakes with the content of his megadungeon. There is also some speculation about how much of the dungeon is actually his, and how much of it was written by Alexander Macris or Tavis Allison. I think a lot of people just simply still have sour grapes for James' disappearance. While some of his ideas have also been criticized for being simplistic, James Maliszewski once had the most popular OSR blog for some time before the problems with his Dwimmermount project arose.

    At this point, criticizing James for things that happened over two years ago is a cheap shot. It's uncalled for, it's unnecessary, and it's insulting. He handed his project off to others who were ready to carry the torch for him, and the project was finished into what is now a huge 400-plus page volume. It's a colossal piece of work, and regardless of who wrote the finishing touches for the printed book it wouldn't have been possible without James' vision and inspiration.

    I have greatly enjoyed reading through my copy of the book. The world of Dwimmermount is called Telluria, and the lore and history of the setting are tied inextricably with the history for the megadungeon. There are many oddities to the dungeon that appealed to me, and every level is designed consistently with the history that is provided. What James Maliszewski has done is write an adventure that mimics discovering everything there is to know about a fantasy setting. I suspect that the real joy of playing this adventure is in uncovering the history of this world, and anybody who tries to file the serial numbers off and place Dwimmermount within their own campaign will be stuck doing a lot of work. In tone and theme, Dwimmermount is Silmarillion-as-dungeoncrawl.

    However, the book is badly organized. I'm sure there was some form of logic that caused the chapters to be arranged the way they were, but looking up information is difficult and keeping track of everything is nightmarish. There is no index, and many details are left vague. If I want to know who the leader of the gnolls is, or where the orcs make camp, or how these two groups feel about one another, then I am stuck looking in three different places that I can only look up from the contents if I've memorized what sections of the book that information is in. If I want to know where the different pieces of Dwimmermount's secret history can be found I'm also out of luck, as the book says "It is up to the Judge to read the lore in the referenced section and decide how best to describe it to his players." There are several passages with that same kind of "make it up as you go along" style of advice that you don't expect to find in a 400-page adventure where many things are meticulously described in exacting detail.

    It's absorbing but at the same time frustrating to read. It excels at providing a cryptic Appendix N style atmosphere, but it falls flat when presenting how to approach the adventures locked within. The book is, overall, a mixture of good and bad. However, the pdf is priced at only $10 and I find that, frankly, amazing. When many publishers and authors try to sell their work (which has considerably less personal investment from the author) for almost the same cost as the print book, it's refreshing to see that Autarch wants to try and put this adventure into your hands at a reasonable price. Even if you never plan on GMing a Tellurian megadungeon, if you have the $10 to spare then you should pick it up and give it a read. You may find you can at least use something from it, or best case scenario it will inspire you to try playing in James' world.

    Last weekend I was offered the opportunity to GM a 5th edition D&D game and since it would require a lot less work to adapt Dwimmermount to 5e, I decided to hold off on continuing with adapting Dwimmermount to my weird science-fantasy setting. Now I just need to apply Dwimmermount to 5th edition rules, which seems pretty easy to do and I'm basing that assessment off of comparing and contrasting some NPC stats between the Labyrinth Lord and ACKS versions of Dwimmermount.

    1) Raise Dead, Resurrection, etc.
    A lot of effort is spent describing how dwarves and elves can't receive healing from raise dead or resurrection spells, but then the main "villain" of Dwimmermount is a man who believed he could achieve immortality by making himself a god and resurrection spells have always been a strange (and hypocritical) thing to have in a campaign where the "bad guys" are trying to evade death.
    For this game, raise dead, resurrection, and spells of that nature simply do not exist on Telluria.

    2) Races
    Dwarves and Gnomes are exclusively male. Dwarves reproduce by "carving" sons and Gnomes are produced from "mistakes" made during the carving process.
    Players who want to play a...
    Dwarf: use the Mountain Dwarf subrace exclusively.
    Elf: use the High Elf subrace exclusively.
    Halfling: there are no halflings on Telluria!
    Dragonborn: no mechanical changes, but Dragonborn are magically created by a dragon whose Ancestry they match. A Dragonborn character can start with proficiency in one Int-based skill of their choice, or one additional language, due to their early childhood education from the dragon who made them.
    Gnome: starting languages are Common and Dwarvish. The Gnomish language doesn't exist.
    Half-Elf: there are no half-elves on Telluria!
    Half-orc: there are no half-orcs on Telluria!
    Tiefling: no mechanical changes, but Tieflings gain advantage on any skill checks involving knowledge about planar travel or demons.

    3) Languages of Telluria
    Common: there are many variations of Common but all humans around Montburg and Dwimmermount speak the same dialect.
    Low Thulian: largely unwritten, non-standard form of Thulian spoken by the lower classes and conquered subject peoples of the Thulian Empire.
    High Thulian: elegant, highly-inflected language with a rich vocabulary and literature, High Thulian was the language of the literary class during the Thulian Empire. It is spoken by aristocrats and scholars in the City-States, and preserved in the liturgy of the Great Church.
    Ancient Thulian: The ancestor of High Thulian, Ancient Thulian has a relatively small vocabulary but an exceptionally complex grammar. Spoken by the first Thulian barbarians who conquered the Eld, it is today the preserve of sages and the Great Church, whose earliest holy books are scribed in it.
    Bestial: The various beast-men (gnolls, orcs, lizard-men, etc.) all share this rough dialect of the Common language descended from the barracks argot of Thulian soldiers.
    Elven: Sages who have closely studied elven have found it bears faint similarities in grammar and vocabulary with Ancient Thulian and Dwarven. The elves claim this is because Ephemerals learned to speak from their betters.
    Dwarven: The workman-like language of curt words with a highly regular, efficient grammar spoken by the dwarves. Some of its vocabulary has a faint similarity to Ancient Thulian and Elven, although dwarves maintain this is because the superiority of their language was mimicked by the other races.
    Goblin: The fast and guttural language of the goblins bears no resemblance to any other language on Telluria, including bestial. Goblin’s strange, transpositional grammar is difficult for even sages to learn, although the dumbest goblin masters it easily.
    Precursor: Sages theorize that there may be a precursor language underlying the similarities of Ancient Thulian, Dwarven, and Elven, perhaps the tongue spoken by the Great Ancients. If so, no one knows how to speak it.

    4) Classes of Dwimmermount
    Barbarians: The island of Thule is still inhabited by humans descended from the seat of the ancient Thulian Empire, but they have fallen back into barbarism and insular clan hierarchies. Nonhuman barbarians would come from isolated pockets of civilization which have lost touch with the rest of the world in the aftermath of the Thulian Empire's decline.
    Bards: no changes
    Clerics: Clerics either worship one of the deities of the Great Church or a demon prince (Orcus is the only one listed below). At present, no known divine spells exceed the 5th level of power, and no living Cleric has ever exceeded 14th level of ability.
    The Great Church was a religious institution of the Thulian Empire, formed from an amalgamation of the nine most influential faiths among the Thulians. Eight of the original deities honored by the Great Church are shown on the table below. The ninth “deity” was called Anyastos, who was, according to orthodox interpretation, not a deity at all, but rather an abstract concept (The Divine) representative of the power above and beyond all the other gods. Anyastos had no priesthood or temples of his own, instead being revered by all of the Church’s constituent faiths. Of course, there
    have always been tales of secret societies and esoteric orders devoted to him. Later, Turms Termax identified himself with The Divine and his worship eventually supplanted that of Anyastos within the Great Church.
    Chaotic clerics possess the ability to cast divine spells, although they serve neither Law nor the deities of the Thulian Great Church. Such men and women have – knowingly or unknowingly - thrown in their lot with the various demon lords and princes of the Great Void.
    Clerics of the Knowledge Domain worship Asana (Lawful) or Tenen (Lawful)
    Clerics of the Life Domain worship Caint (Lawful Good) or Donn (Lawful)
    Clerics of the Light Domain worship Typhon (Lawful Evil)
    Clerics of the Nature Domain worship Anesidora (Lawful Good)
    Clerics of the Tempest Domain worship Tenen (Lawful) or Donn (Lawful)
    Clerics of the Trickery Domain worship Orcus (Chaotic Evil) or Tyche (Lawful)
    Clerics of the War Domain worship Mavors (Lawful Evil)
    Druids: At present, no known divine spells exceed the 5th level of power, and no living Druid has ever exceeded 14th level of ability.
    Fighters: no changes
    Monks: these are rare in the region around Dwimmermount.
    Paladins: fighters in the service of Law. Unlike clerics, paladins serve no known god. Indeed, they generally consider all gods to be, at best, merely powerful otherworldly beings and, at worst, demons masquerading as divinities. Paladins serve only Law, and some have surmised that “Law” is simply another manifestation of the abstract Thulian deity, Anyastos.
    Rangers: no changes
    Rogues: no changes
    Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards: At present, no known arcane spells exceed the 6th level of power, and no living magic-user has ever exceeded 14th level of ability.

    5) Backgrounds of Dwimmermount
    Courtney Campbell has written a few backgrounds that I would add to this setting:
    Brewer / Drunk

    6) Skills and stuff
    In the Dwimmermount adventure there are many calls for skill rolls involving knowledge of Ancient Lore, Eld Lore, Thulian Lore, and Termaxian Lore. In my mind, it seems unnecessary to have four separate skills for the history of one location. Each type of lore will fall under History and the base default will be directly related to how long ago each period lasted. Termaxian Lore defaults to DC 10, Thulian Lore defaults to DC 15, Eld Lore falls under DC 20, and Ancient Lore is DC 25.

    DC 15 is my default for most Int-based skills, but characters from other worlds have severe penalties to History (+15 DC) and Religion (+10 DC) rolls. These penalties lessen as the characters learn more about Telluria. Every 10 hours spent studying each subject, or every level gained after arriving on Telluria, reduces the DC by -1. Learning something unique about Dwimmermount will also help lower these penalties.

    And then there's Azoth!

    Azoth does a lot of weird and random stuff that I'm just going to ignore most of. Raw azoth will still inflict damage, and if it's improperly handled refined azoth will trigger spell effects that can potentially become permanent.

    All of the uses of azoth for constructing magical devices (as well as creating new races or the alchemical processes for creating undead) remain intact.