Dragon by Dragon – June 1981 (50)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how long ago, in human terms, 1981 was. Of course, 35 years is a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms, but for a 44-year old man, it’s significant. Having a brain that absorbed the early ’80s one day at a time, it just doesn’t seem old, sometimes like it was just yesterday.

Enough of that. Dragon #50 came out 35 years ago this month, and here’s what the 5th anniversary issue has to offer.

We begin, of course, with the cover by Carl Lundgren. Very nice piece of work, and certainly appropriate for the issue, depicting as it does a dragon hovering over its hoard of treasure (or it it the dragon’s hoard?)

As I so often do, I’ll start with an advertisement for a new “family board game” by TSR …

I’m picturing those old game covers or ads from the 1960’s that show a smiling family playing a board game. Little Susie having to tell mom she’s “The Duke of New York – A-number-one!” I just watched the movie a couple days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind.

It should come as no surprise that they have a page for the game at Boardgamegeek.com.

The game was written by “Zeb” Cook, who also wrote the Expert D&D set.

Now that I’ve dispensed with TSR’s homage to Snake Plissken, let’s get to the first article in this anniversary spectacular – Gregory Rihn‘s “Self defense for dragons”. The article purports to give “everyone’s favorite foe a fighting chance”. The article posits that dragons, as they were written in 1981, were too easy to defeat by a large, well-organized party, especially given the treasure to be gained by defeating them. This would prove to be an important article to later editions of the game, for it expands the dragon’s attacks quite a bit, adding 2 wing buffets, 2 wing claws, a foot stomp and tail lash. In essence, it gives the dragons enough attacks to hit all the attackers likely to be surrounding it in a fight. He goes on to give a couple ideas for good dragon tactics.

This is followed up by Lewis Pulsipher‘s “True Dragons: Revamping the monster from head to claw”. It appears that the theme of this issue is that dragon’s just ain’t good enough. Pulsipher gives a long table with many more age categories and a few additional powers, including shapechanging (I like this one), causing terror and some special powers. One of them – two heads – I’m planning on adding to Blood & Treasure. It also has random tables of spells known, a random table of breath weapons, with the old standards as well as a few new ones – radiation, stoning, windstorm, hallucinogen, negate magic and polymorph. All goodies! Here’s Pulsipher’s take on radiation:

Those failing to roll a d20 lower than their constitution become unconscious and will die of a wasting “disease” in 1-4 days. The “disease” is cured by Cure disease and Remove curse. Effects of the disease are only slowly repaired by the body after the cure. A victim might look ravaged five years after his cure if he was near death, and this may affect his charisma.

Radiation as a curse. I dig it.

Overall, I think I like Pulsipher’s take better, using special powers instead of additional attacks to get the job done. Both would go into beefing up dragons in later editions.

Colleen A. Bishop hits on baby dragons with “Hatching is only the beginning …”, which covers little dragons from egg to birth. It’s a long article, with lots of tables. Maybe worth a look if you’re planning on having a baby dragon in the party for a while.

Robert Plamondon gets us off the dragon train and introduces some folks called the Kzinti. I don’t suppose they need much introduction to the folks who read this blog. They’re tough customers here, with 4+4 HD and two attacks per round. A small group could really bedevil a party, and they’re Lawful Evil to boot. The article covers their arrival on D&D campaign worlds, their religion, social organization, magic, psionics, etc. Very thorough for a monster entry, but no info on them as a playable race.

For those interested in the history of the hobby, David F. Nalle‘s reviews of some old time ‘zines may be of interest. He covers Abyss by Dave Nalle, Alarums & Excursions (such a great name) by Lee Gold, The Beholder by Mike G. Stoner, The Lords of Chaos by Nicolai Shapero, Morningstar by Phillip McGregor, Pandemonium by Robert Sacks, Quick Quincy Gazette by Howard Mahler, The Stormlord by Andreas Sarker, Trollcrusher, The Wild Hunt by Mark Swanson and Zeppelin.

Pulsipher has another article, a very long one with way more math than needed to deal with gaze attacks in D&D. Personally, I let people close their eyes entirely (and open themselves to all sorts of trouble), or try to avoid the monster’s gaze and suffer a penalty to hit, etc.

Larry DiTillio’s article on the glyphs in his campaign world didn’t do much for me.

The Chapel of Silence by Mollie Plants is a prize winning dungeon at IDDC II. It’s a relatively small dungeon, but looks like a good one. It begins with all the adventurers having a strange dream, and goes from there – maybe a well-worn idea now, but clever back in the day.

Back to rules articles, “The Ups and Downs of Riding High” by Roger E. Moore covers flying mounts. Its a pretty thorough look at all the potential flying mounts in AD&D at the time, and covers their diet (most are carnivores), advantages, disadvantages and how much weight they can carry. It’s a useful article to keep in your pocket, in case somebody starts flying around on a dragon and you need some ideas on how to spice up the experience.

This advert caught my eye …

At first, I assumed it was the old computer classic, but it’s something entirely different.

The Dragon’s Bestiary presents the Giant Vampire Frog by Alan Fomorin. How do you not love these guys?

Here’s proof that Mark Herro was nobody’s dummy …

“Home computers may be the most important new consumer appliance to come along in decades. Any device that can control household lights and appliances, edit and type letters and reports, selectively monitor United Press International and the New York Stock Exchange, and play some great games besides, may be almost indispensable in the years to come.”

Word up!

This issue had a couple cartoons of note. First, an argument that persists to this day …

And an old take on Batman vs. Superman … or Batman and Superman vs. something else

And as always, we finish with a bit of Wormy, as we begin to move into the wargaming story line …

Have fun on the internet, and for God’s sake, be kind to one another!

Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile …

Before we get to the random table, I’d like to announce that Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition is now up for sale at Lulu.com as a PDF (the book will follow). This is basic role-playing without the magic – imagine if the original fantasy game had been based on the medieval war game rules without the fantasy supplement included.

Races are exchanged for Social Ranks, classes are Armsman, Scholar and Villein, and to make up for all the space normally taken up by spells, fantasy monsters and magic items, I included some simple rules for mass combat, sieges, jousting and archery tournaments. The rules are still pretty short, so the book only costs $6.99 – not too bad. Click on the title to check it out at Lulu.

I should get NOD 26 up for sale tonight as a PDF. When I get my review copies, the books will follow. More on that later.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program …

What I Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile (Roll d20)

1. A yawning abyss – it is cold, and light flute music can be heard from within it

2. A giant, leering eye

3. A rope loop – pull it to set off all the traps on this level of the dungeon

4. A wooden box – holds …
A. The ashen remains of a vampire
B. Mummy bandages
C. Incense cubes – varying scents, one casts a cloudkill spell
D. Candle stubs – one holds a key to an important room in this dungeon
E. Chicken bones
F. Shuriken, one is a +1 shuriken
G. 1 week of iron rations
H. A vial of holy water
I. A collection of glass eyes
J. Silver pince-nez

5. An iron strong box – holds …
A. Copper coins – ancient and verdigrised
B. Silver coins – all pierced and defaced
C. Gold coins – the edges have been sharpened
D. Silk handkerchiefs (5)
E. A velvet glove (allows a single vampiric touch then decays into dust)
F. Shards of delicious peanut brittle

6. Goop – smells terrible, stains skin and clothes muddy purple – treat as stinking cloud

7. Green slime – actually forms a layer under the entire floor, and will bubble up through the cracks at an inopportune time

8. Last will and testament of a high level adventurer

9. Map of a lower level (incomplete)

10. Intense light (save vs. blindness)

11. Nothing – but causes a steel cage to materialize around the adventurers

12. Nothing – but removing it causes the dungeon illusion the adventurers have been in to disappear, revealing they are in an alien laboratory (break out Star Frontiers!)

13. An oil slick (Texas tea!) – begins pouring up and soon covers most of this level of the dungeon (same effect as grease spell)

14. An intelligent +2 dagger with a note – the dagger will obey so long as its wielder commits to assassinating a local dignitary or royal within 1 week; turns into a -2 cursed dagger if this is not done

15. A long, narrow shaft to a pocket dungeon level or just a lower level of the dungeon

16. A grasping hand on a long arm (treat as a ghoul or wight)

17. A silver spike driven into the ground – it was driven into a vampire’s heart, which will regenerate if the silver spike is removed

18. A carved stone that tells the dungeon’s history (or fills in gaps in the characters’ knowledge)

19. Black tentacles (per the spell) erupt from the floor

20. A portal back to the dungeon entrance (works once, afterwards, it just sends people to random rooms on deeper levels)

Mountains of Chaos – Golems and Lizards

This is the Frazetta painting that inspired the Klarkash Mountains (found HERE)

Hey folks – the art is ordered, the supplemental articles are being written (very excited about the pen & paper football game – I’ve run 31 seasons so far), and I think I’m on track for a February release. Hopefully, I’ll get another Bloody Basic released as well – I think the Fairy Tale edition. We’ll see on that one. In the meantime, a few more locales from the Klarkash Mountains. Part of the fun in this hex crawl is that it takes place above and below ground. Underground encounters are put in a box, while the surface encounters are not. The first bit is an excerpt about movement through the mountains.

Movement through the mountains is complicated. Many valleys are dead ends, and frequent landslides make dead ends of passes that were once passable. Whenever a mountain hex is entered, the Treasure Keeper should roll 1d4 to determine how many exits the hex currently has, and then roll 1d12 to determine how the hex can be exited. Assume that the characters can always leave the way they came, even if the roll on the table does not indicate that they can:

1 North – surface
2 North – subterranean
3 Northeast – surface
4 Northeast – subterranean
5 Southeast – surface
6 Southeast – subterranean
7 South – surface
8 South – subterranean
9 Southwest – surface
10 Southwest – subterranean
11 Northwest – surface
12 Northwest – subterranean

A subterranean exit must be discovered by searching (treat as searching the hex for a secret door, with one check per day). If the hex contains a subterranean encounter, the exit will always involve dealing with this encounter.

A key tunnel in this hex is being held up almost entirely by a stout iron golem. The iron golem is blocking the tunnel. If it moves (which it will if attacked) the tunnel collapses after 1d6 minutes. A total of 1d10x200 feet of the tunnel will collapse when the iron golem moves.

The remnants of a deep staircase can be found in this hex. After descending about 300 feet, one begins to detect warmth and sulfuric fumes. The stairs keep on descending until the reach the center of Nod, wherein Hell is located.

1d20 fire lizards are crawling over and through a series of basalt tunnels. The tunnels are hot to the touch, and the air is excessively dry and acrid. Crystal growths explode from the sides, ceiling and floors of the tunnels at random (1 in 6 chance per round, 1 in 6 chance of a growth hitting an adventurer for 1d6 points of normal damage + 1d6 points of fire damage, Reflex save to halve damage). The crystal growths glow a deep orange, and they are lousy with the raw energy of fire magic. A person holding a piece of this crystal can double the effects of the next three fire spells he or she casts.

The mountains here are composed of green stone, slightly glossy, with valleys filled with purple grasses and large mud flats fed by scalding mud geysers. The land is lovely and dangerous, and home to a large village of fierce yeomen clustered around the green tower of Katya the Magnificent, a magician who specializes in teleportation and other modes of magical transportation. Her tower is a sort of beacon on both the Astral and Ethereal Planes, and serves as an anchorage for the weird vessels that ply those dimensions, depositing interesting visitors and their strange cargoes in the little town.

The townspeople do some farming and herding, but most are engaged in the tourist and mercantile trades. The town has three grand inns and several taverns.

The green tower is about 300 feet tall, and composed of the same stone that dominates the landscape, with floral carvings around the windows and doors. The interior is crowded with visitors, servants and guards. The servants are swathed in layers of white silks, which hides the fact that they are animated skeletons. The guards are living iron statues made to look like gothic knights. Katya’s personal guard is composed of the succubus Hamzhara, bound to her service by Katya’s possession of her true name, and her three alu-demon daughters, Lividia, Xaspera, Inflamidine. Katya permits them some demonic fun to keep them docile, but otherwise keeps them on a short leash.

The ghost of Merwin Peters, former trader, sits on a stump in this hex on moonless nights. The ghost is headless, and does little more than point to the west, perhaps indicating where his head has been carried away. The ghost has a set of keys on a chain around his neck – perhaps they would open a treasure chest if the ghost could tell adventurers where to look.

Mountains of Chaos – the Giant’s Vault

A few more locales. I’m commissioning art today, so I think I’m on schedule to get NOD 25 out at the end of this month.

In the elder days, the giants constructed a vast dungeon beneath the mountains here to hide the hammer first used to construct the lightning bolts hurled by Jove. The hammer broke, but it contains massive residual energies useful for forging lesser magic items. The dungeon is guarded by all manner of giant creatures (all large or huge), and it is sized accordingly. The halls are patrolled by ten purple worms with amethyst faces embedded in their heads. The faces can communicate with one another and control the monsters, making them all the more dangerous to intruders.


Nimbus is a great mountain fastness, a concentric castle of light grey marble painted white, with five towers and a central keep flying the green banner of the Countess D’Aurzi, a pleasingly plump woman with perhaps the shrewdest mind in Umbriago, and an iron stomach that allows her to drink ogres under the table. She is attended by three consorts, her chosen knights Melus, Urgis, and Amarionnus (her favorite, but the stupidest and thus not worthy of ruling by her side).

Surrounding the castle there is a village of tall, narrow houses composed of grey brick with red doors. Brass nails are pounded into the doors for good luck, and hung with strings of beads. The houses are set on gravel streets radiating out from the castle and separated by triangular pastures on which the city’s fine cattle are grazed. Wooden posts, strangely carved in demonic shapes, look over the cattle. The people fear these totems, which preceded the founding of the city, and never look directly at them without spitting on the ground and tossing a copper coin.
The people walk to their fields, which are watered by underground springs and frequent rains. The city boasts a few artisans and merchants, a mercenary company that is always hiring for the summer campaign season in the north, and a shrine to Eurynome, the titaness of pastures and the matron goddess of the city-state. Three female druids oversee the shrine and tend to the spiritual needs of the people. The trio always includes a crone, a matron and a maiden. The crone tends to the countess and the city government with her wise council, the matron to the needs of the common people, and the maiden to the needs of the herds and fields.

Besides the city’s cattle, there is also timber in the mountains, fertile fields in the surrounding valleys (each protected by a fortified tower keep controlled by one of the county’s knights and topped with a beacon fire to alert the city to danger) and fur-trapping. The fur trade is where the real money is, with traders leading caravans down to the sea in [5627] once per month to trade with merchant galleys from other city-states.

In all, the city-state of Nimbus boasts a population of 600, and the domain around it 5,400 people in four manors, three of them controlled by the aforementioned knights. The fourth is overseen by a huntsman in the employ of the three druids of Eurynome. The city watch consists of six men-at-arms, and the county’s army consists of about 40 men-at-arms, 30 armed with Lucerne hammers and short swords, the others with longbows.

Kessel is the hard-drinking, hard-working red city of the deep mountains. Long isolated from the rest of Umbriago, the strain of orc blood runs deeper here than elsewhere, and the peoples are only barely governable by Duchess Maladi. The people of Kessel are miners and quarrymen (basalt, olivine and peridots), farmers and herdsmen (mountain wheat, stunted pears, cattle), some lumberjacks in the mountains, fisherwomen in the rivers, and a small band of artisans, especially gemners and smiths.

The bourgeois of the town dress in rough finery, the men in arming coats, the women in virago sleeves. The commoners dress in tunics and stockings. The city-state has 400 citizens, the hinterlands 3,600 peasants on four manors, two of them baronial (Baroness Lemba and Baron Morix, siblings with a deep, abiding rivalry that borders on hatred) and one dedicated to the Poor Brothers of Pluto’s Trident, Pluto being a patron of miners, and the patron deity of Kessel.

Duchess Maladi is casually cruel and bombastic, and feared by her people. She has high cheek bones, ruddy skin, and deep eyes of black flecked with gold. Maladi is always well dressed, with leather corset and full skirt and sleeves of crushed damask silk. She carries a silver horseman’s mace as a symbol of office (the face stained with blood, as she uses it to personally execute traitors) and a brace of daggers hidden on her person. Half-orcs and orcs would call her handsome.

The buildings of Kessel are made of red brick with slate roofs. The walls are made of basalt. The city is situated at the end of a broad, long valley, backing up to a dormant volcano. It is also protected by the two rushing rivers. Each river is spanned by a bridge with fortified gatehouses controlling access to the valley and, thus, the city and its fields. An army of 30 men-at-arms (pikemen and crossbowmen on mountain ponies) can be raised to supplement the four permanent guardsmen who man the gatehouses on the bridges.

A monastery is perched on the seashore here, an imposing, windowless structure of basalt blocks, an unsightly pile indeed. The building is home to the Brotherhood of the Evil Eye, a band of goblinoid monks dedicated to Azathoth, the Lord of Entropy and Chaos. They are brutal in their discipline, and many who join the monastery do not make it out alive. Those who survive become a potent force for chaos. The leader of the monastery is a smallish goblin called Zozzo, his lieutenants being Zum and Karx. Under them are 17 first level monks. All of the brothers cover their entire bodies with tattoos or brands of eyes. In addition, they carry silver flutes in honor of their chaotic god.

The Mountains of Chaos – Introduction

The next hex crawl for NOD is set in the Klarkash Mountains, which divide the Venatia hex crawl from the lands of Nomo, Guelph and Irem (which probably doesn’t mean much, so lets say the part of the world inspired by Greece, Rome and the Fertile Crescent).

What follows are some excerpts of the hex crawl – enjoy!

Ghae is a fading city-state of deep sea locathah. The city has the pattern of a starfish, with great towers at its six points and hundreds of domes holding homes, palaces, temples, armories, workshops and the like. The city was once home to over 15,000 locathah, but only 12,500 remain, as the mithral mines they once worked have been depleted.

The deep locathah resemble anglerfish, and though they are fearsome to look upon, they are not evil. The city’s autocrat, Phlaq, wears phosphorescent shell armor as a sign of his authority. He carries a mithral scepter that looks like it was made by surface elves, and it was – it was lost at some point by Vinrix, the missing Emperor of Nomo.

The army of Ghae is 1,000 strong. The locathah wear no armor. They carry spears and often ride mechanical dunkleosteus, powered by vril. These armored mounts are slowly dying, so they are now rarely used. The soldiers are poorly paid and only barely loyal. They have turned to banditry to supplement their incomes, driving some merchants away to the west, where they hope to find welcome in other deep sea cities.

A sea titan by the name of Glaudia is drowsing in the sun here, floating on his back in the sea, which remains placid around her. Three giant leeches have attached themselves to her and are supping on his ichor. The titan isn’t particularly bothered by this, but awakening her will throw her into a rage.

High in the mountains here there is a cave shrouded in magical darkness. Beyond the entrance, light works, and reveals a staircase stained with blood. The staircase leads down to a great cavern in which there is a bell composed of lead and engraved with images of fallen angels holding burning torches. When struck, the bell sends out blacklight (per the spell) in a 100-ft radius, strikes all within 60 feet with black lightning (also per the spell) and summons forth all monsters within 10 hexes to war in the name of unholy Chaos.

The walls of the river canyon here are studded with twelve spheres of force. Each one contains a rabid zombie, scratching at the sphere and trying to attack anything that comes within sight. Around their necks are long iron chains from which are suspended large iron keys. In the middle of the river, near the spheres, there is a small promontory that bears a great, iron door. The door is two feet thick and cannot be opened, for it is really a sort of elevator platform that lowers into the promontory when activated. The door/platform has twelve keyholes … so you can see where this is going.

If the spheres of force are deactivated, the zombies are released. When the zombies are released, they grow to giant size (the iron chains now fit their necks more snuggly) and attack.

GIANT ZOMBIE, Huge Undead: HD 8; AC 11; ATK 1 slam (2d6); MV 20; F8 R11 W9; AL Neutral (N); XP 400; Special—Move or attack, weapon resistance (blunt weapons).

If the platform is activated, it lowers itself slowly at first, and then quite quickly, about 300 feet into the earth. A door at the bottom of this shaft opens into the underworld.

A stone circle is hidden in the mountains here, on a meadow of daisies and purple cone flowers. The stones are jagged and white, and bear deep claw marks that form weird patterns. The circle has a diameter of 60 feet.

Under a full moon, the stones glow in the moonlight. The ground within the circle becomes first spongy and then ethereal, dropping people into a cavern below (20 ft. fall). Within this cavern, dimly lit by the moonlight filtering through the ethereal ground, there is a fountain of healing waters surrounded by a dozen statues of skull-faced nymphs. The healing bath is permitted only to Chaotic (Evil) creatures; others are attacked by silver rays from the eyes of the statues that curse them (per the bestow curse) spell.

More to come …

An (Un-) Common Dungeon

A little experiment tonight – I’m going to work up the skeleton of an adventure using the “random file” function at Wikimedia Commons. Now, you can’t do anything with some of these random files, so I’m going to take every single one in turn, but I’ll do my best with most of them to fit them into the scheme of the thing.

Every good dungeon needs an entrance. My first image is actually a cheat – I’m using the picture of the day, the Temple of the God Wind in a Mayan ruin.

There’s the entrance to our adventure site – a ruined temple. Even though “God Wind” sounds like it has something to do with divine flatulence, we’ll assume we’re talking about a wind deity. Let’s work out some wandering monsters:

1. Wind Priests – half-naked blokes with censors of poisoned gas (sleep gas; they’re immune) and light maces

2. Small Air Elemental

3. Fusillade of poisoned darts (save vs. paralysis)

4. Giant Constrictor (wandered into the place from the jungle)

5. Pirates (exploring the ruin; their ship is anchored off the coast)

6. Albino Apes (just because they have a place in any ruined temple)

Since I’m thinking more in terms of a short adventure than a mega-dungeon, it’s nice to have some monster or NPC sitting on top of the food chain. Not only is he/she/it the ultimate challenge of the place, knowing their identity in advance let’s you weave their presence throughout the place.

My random file – Barack Obama. I’d love to expand on this, but I like to keep politics out of this site, so I’ll try again. The next file is EZ Tondo – some sort of German store I suppose. The image doesn’t help, but how about an exiled Teutonic Knight who dabbled in black magic and has now taken up residence in the bowels of this pagan temple, adopting the identity of Tondo, Son of the God Wind, and cowing the locals into serving him.

Tondo will be a 4th level fighter and 6th level anti-cleric (dual-classing, dontcha know), and always accompanied by four of the aforementioned wind priests (2 HD each).

Now we need a reason for the adventurers to delve in the place, beyond simple loot. I get “Cathagenian ruins in Tunisia”, which brings Hannibal to mind, of course, and elephants, and thus a figurine of wondrous power, a pretty spiffy relic to delve for.

Just within the entrance, we need some wondrous challenge to whet the players’ appetites. I randomly get an image of an altar in a church. Our first great challenge, then, is a trapped altar dedicated to the God Wind. Maybe it looks like a pipe organ. You have to play the proper tune to open the doors into the dungeon, with each mistake summoning a monster or bolt of lightning or gust of razor-wind – something like that. The notes are secreted within a bas-relief of a gaggle of sylphs with open mouths, as though singing or shrieking, the mouths being at different heights and thus corresponding to musical notes. No, the ancient Mayans did not use this sort of musical notation, but since the players probably are not ancient Mayans, the concept works for them.

We need a good (or evil) guardian of the first level – a monster or trap who keeps people from getting to the lower level, where the MacGuffin and Big Bad Guy are hiding. I get this …

Honestly, I have no idea. But it does give me some inspiration – I’m picturing a person grabbed by legs and arms and pulled in a most inconvenient way. But how?

Perhaps a well lined with hundreds of manacles embedded in the walls. The way to descend would be to either climb down a rope or climb down using the manacles as hand- and footholds. Naturally, the things are animated, and at some point attempt to clamp down on people’s wrists and ankles (Reflex save to avoid). Maybe they then pull the person, or maybe they just hold them while some winged goblins fly up from the darkness and attack. Either way, it would make for an interesting and challenging combat.


We need a mystery on the lower level to keep the player’s guessing. I now get the image of a statue holding a sword and a torch or oil lamp of some kind. This we’ll place in a circular room at the meeting of four passages. The passages lead to outer portions of the lower level – your basic rooms with monsters and traps and scant treasure. By lighting the statue’s lamp, though, and rotating it so that the light falls on bare walls in the rotunda, it also reveals extra-dimensional passages to four sub-levels, each dangerous. Once one walks through one of these openings, they see a wall behind them, so escaping from the sub-levels will be one of the challenges of the dungeon. One of the sub-levels hides a tiger’s eye gemstone that, when affixed to one of the the statue’s eye sockets (the empty one), animates it. It retains its perch and fights like a devil, but if defeated, the pedestal it stands on fades away, revealing a spiral stair that leads to the inner sanctum of Tondo.

So, six images gives us the framework for a (hopefully) entertaining dungeon. We would now need to draw up the levels and sub-levels and stock the chambers with monsters, traps and treasure. Remember, random isn’t just good in a game, it’s also good for creating a game – random inspirations to set your little grey cells to firing and creating things even you could never have known were lurking in you campaign world.

The Glooms – Dungeons and Mines

7.91 Adalark’s Tomb: A tall cenotaph of black marble stands 20 feet tall here. On the top there is a sculpture of a giant serpent, mouth open and fangs bared.

The serpent is the entrance to a small tomb complex located about forty feet below the ground. One cannot fit in the serpent’s mouth, of course, but by reaching deep into its mouth (unfortunately impossible for halflings or gnomes) and touching a stone lodged therein, a person is teleported beneath the ground.

[A] The entry chamber into the tomb is a square room with black marble walls and a 30 foot high ceiling. Against one wall there is a copper plaque bearing the following inscription: “Adalark | Called Great | Was Great | He cannot blame lesser thieves for following in his steps.”

There is a terracotta statue here of a weeping woman looking at the plaque, on hand reaching toward it. Approaching any of the walls in the room causes a sub-section (10’ wide by 10’ tall) of that wall to move backward – apparently one cannot step closer than five feet toward a wall. The walls extend back ten feet, at which point a metal portcullis descends from the ceiling, locking them in. The walls then slowly begin to crawl back to their original position to crush the intruder. The section of the wall with the plaque does the same as the others.

If all four walls are forced back at the same time, the wall with the plaque disappears completely and reveals a second chamber, and the other three traps do not spring.

[B] The trapped chamber opens here onto a balcony overlooking a square room about 10 feet below. In the room below there is gathered the treasure of Adalark the master thief, which consists of three gold ingots (3 lb each), a brass icon of a winged woman (worth 1,000 gp), a cape of deep red velvet (100 gp), six silver shields (250 gp each), thirty pairs of chartreuse gloves (they were Adalark’s trademark), a suit of halfling-sized platemail and 8,000 gp. The interior of the platemail is coated with platinum (2,000 gp worth).

Extending from the balcony there is a wall of force that does not allow one access to the treasures below. The treasure chamber is actually an optical trick called “Pepper’s Ghost”. The treasure is actually located in a room beneath the balcony. A large pane of glass slanted across the open area reflects the treasure, which is illuminated from below using a continual light spell. The most likely way of dropping into the treasure chamber is to use dispel magic to remove the wall of force. Any who then drop into the chamber without being very careful may drop through the glass into a pool of acid below (inflicts 3d6 points of damage from the fall and 1d6 points of damage each round from the acid).

14.87 Boring Wreck: A large earth borer made of steel with brass highlights has been abandoned here by the Master’s synthoids after the drill bit broke. The Master was already on to other projects and never reclaimed it. Eight were-weasels have now adopted it as a lair, and keep 60 cp, 170 gp, fifteen wolf skins (worth 8 gp each) and a small pearl worth 3 gp hidden inside.

20.92 Iromir Mine: Iromir is a natural alloy of iron and mithral. A very deep mine here, run by kobolds (who took it from a clan of svirfneblin), produced a good amount of the material, which the drow favor for their weapons and armor when they cannot find pure mithral. The shipments recently stopped. When a band of orog from the village in [32.98] appeared to investigate, they discovered the mine (it has seven levels) crawling with kobold zombies. There are now fifty orogs camped outside the mine and making some shallow forays into the place.

Image is copyright Wizards of the Coast.

The Wonders of the Mountain

Here’s a nice piece of prose by George MacDonald from his story The Princess and the Curdie.

“All this outside the mountain! But the inside, who shall tell what lies there? Caverns of awfullest solitude, their walls miles thick, sparkling with ores of gold or silver, copper or iron, tin or mercury, studded perhaps with precious stones – perhaps a brook, with eyeless fish in it, running, running ceaselessly, cold and babbling, through banks crusted with carbuncles and golden topazes, or over a gravel of which some of the stones arc rubies and emeralds, perhaps diamonds and sapphires – who can tell? – and whoever can’t tell is free to think – all waiting to flash, waiting for millions of ages – ever since the earth flew off from the sun, a great blot of fire, and began to cool.

Then there are caverns full of water, numbingly cold, fiercely hot – hotter than any boiling water. From some of these the water cannot get out, and from others it runs in channels as the blood in the body: little veins bring it down from the ice above into the great caverns of the mountain’s heart, whence the arteries let it out again, gushing in pipes and clefts and ducts of all shapes and kinds, through and through its bulk, until it springs newborn to the light, and rushes down the Mountainside in torrents, and down the valleys in rivers – down, down, rejoicing, to the mighty lungs of the world, that is the sea, where it is tossed in storms and cyclones, heaved up in billows, twisted in waterspouts, dashed to mist upon rocks, beaten by millions of tails, and breathed by millions of gills, whence at last, melted into vapour by the sun, it is lifted up pure into the air, and borne by the servant winds back to the mountaintops and the snow, the solid ice, and the molten stream.”

Image by Charles Folkard via Golden Age Comic Book Stories.