While I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be here at are phantasia in the last month or so I have had the opportunity to explore some of the work of others who have. I’ve discovered some really cools stuff recently that I’d like to take a minute to share.
1. Role Play Craft
First up is a blog that I’ve been following for some time. Patrick Wesley has been doing some really fine work over at Role Play Craft offering original content for rpgs in the form of interesting NPC ideas, adventure hooks, complete adventures and campaign settings.
I’ve found Patrick’s work to be engrossing and highly original. Take for instance the campaign setting of Ghartha which he has recently fleshed out over a series of four posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Ghartha is a subterranean “tomb world” that hearkens back to the old Swords and Sorcery pulps of authors like Robert E. Howard. From the intro:
This world setting is one that exists completely underground, in large chambers or claustrophobic tunnels. It draws inspiration from the previously mentioned authors… as well as medieval mysticism and general themes of occultism. It’s a dangerous place, with societies huddled around glowing noxious vents for life support. Rampant religiosity is the engine of civilization, with many of the city-states ruled by classes of priests who leverage their positions with hidden knowledge and wisdom. Sacrificial rites are not uncommon, and are for the most part seen as necessary to appease those that dwell beyond the light of the vents, in the untouched darkness of the deep world.
Patrick has done an exemplary job in filling out the details of this setting, its city states, temples and cults (including my personal favorite, a cult dedicated to a worm described as “a corpulent mass of pale flesh that eats away at the core of the world,” sucking away all of its secrets). There are ample lost civilizations filled with forgotten technology, magic and lore, old gods, new gods, hideous troglodytes and much more. This is an ideal setting to use as a backdrop for a Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics type campaign.
In addition a while back Patrick wrote up a very fine little adventure called Wine for Idelberry (Part 1, Part 2) which is a non-linear site-based adventure centering around the exploration of a set of ruins on the borderlands of civilization. The ruins are said to contain an extremely rare and fine vintage which the Lord of the realm would pay good coin to obtain. Yet the ruins have remained deserted for a reason. A curse hangs like a shroud upon the area and each night the dead within rise to reenact the horrifying tale of their final moments in life. Beyond the dungeon a goblin camp and several memorable NPCs within the local town of Oak Hill provide enough adventure hooks to keep a party occupied for multiple game sessions. I plan on using this adventure in my own hex crawl campaign, which is about the highest praise I can offer.
2. The Swordfish Islands
Those following my blog will know that I’ve been thinking about hex crawls quite a bit of late. So I was intrigued when a google search accidentally led me to The Swordfish Islands, a blog about a system-neutral hex-crawl. It appears as if the blog initially began as a place for a DM to post notes about the campaign setting and in which the party could keep campaign journals and such. However a few months after launching the group decided to provide more structure to the blog and have been regularly posting original content, including magical items, creature lairs and new guilds and factions.
What really caught my eye however was a recent post in which one of the blog’s authors, Jacob Hurst, offered his own take on Dungeon Design. This is a topic which I talked about at length at the end of last year, offering my own take on what a useful layout might consist in. To summarize, my view is that a useful dungeon format ought to include enough information about the locale, its features, its contents and its occupants to run an encounter without heavily relying upon improvisation, but must in addition present that information in the most economic and accessible way possible. I’ve got to say that I was impressed by how well Jacob’s format manages to accomplish this. He manages to pack in quite a bit of information into a highly condensed and easy to reference key.
Moreover, he offers a wonderful example of this model at work in the form of a very playable 2 page pdf of a Dire Boar Den. The artwork and cartography of this pdf are of a professional quality. The pdf alone is reason enough to visit the blog.
3. I’ll See It When I Believe It
Sadly Michael Prescott does not update his blog often, but when he does oh what treasures he brings! This year Michael began releasing his own unique version of one page dungeons (or as he calls them, adventure locations), which, frankly in my opinion, blow away most of the other one page dungeons I’ve seen. Thus far Michael has released 5 high quality adventure locales, my favorite of which is his latest Tannoch Rest-Of-Kings. Though he’s only allotted himself a single page to map and detail the locale Michael still manages to deliver a unique adventure full of memorable NPCs, cool original magic items, and interesting encounter locations. In fact, I’d say that Michael’s format has set the bar for me in any future one page dungeon contests I enter. I think its definitely worth your time to stop over at his blog and pick up these 5 free adventure locales.