Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Music Monday: Ugelmann

This weekend I went to Krakow to see Converge and Kylesa. It was areally good show, and we got to be at the front of the stage when Kylesa played, Julia even managed to get Laura Pleasant's pick.

However this post will be a about the first supporting act - Kvelertak (Norwegian for "stranglehold").

Imagine how AC/DC would sound, if they were from Norway and that's really it. They are a fun mixture of punk, hard rock and black metal, covered in a sauce of viking themed lyrics sang in a clattering language. They can put on a really good show and instantly won the full appreciation of the audience.

Here's how they sound (and look):

What I really found interesting is, that for a reason unknown (at least to me), they have an owl thing going on. There is an owl on every piece of their merch, as well as on the Baizley designed cover of their debut album.

The owl theme goes so far, that at some point of the show, their vocalist put a rubber owl mask on his head. It was really weird, but also kinda cool.

Since there is no photo, just try to imagine the dude from the vid wearing this.

I like owls and I like the folklore surrounding those birds. So here is what I brew up on the train:


A man with a head of an owl. I see him as a norse rendition/commentary on the minotaur myth.
He lives deep in the forest, perhaps in a natural cave or rock labyrinth. The sages and tale spinners from villages on the borders of the forest say that he was once a powerful warrior-wizard who was cursed by the gods of nature. Others claim he is a man who was elevated by the Mother Goddess to be her husband...

It is uncertain wether he is a positive or evil entity. Some legends say that he is an immortal protector of the forest, other picture him as a mischevious being who follows his duty only because of a powerful curse. Whatever the truth is, some bits of information are present in all tales of the Ugelmann.

A random sighting of the Ugelmann is an omen of near death (of the person or a close relative). Ugelmann's curse or blessing is that upon laying eyes on any humanoid, he sees how it will die.
It is widely believed that he posses great knowledge and that some seek him out to gain insight into the future. Anyone who seeks out the Ugelmann can ask him one question, but will be asked for a favor in return. This favor is an oath and anyone failing to fulfill it will be killed by the Ugelmann.

It is often believed that Ugelmann observes people living on the forest borders, this is why many mothers prompt their misbehaving children, by saying: "Be good, or the Ugelmann will take you!".

Monday, August 2, 2010

Music Monday: Mutant Future Inspirations #1

I am behind with posting my second SAGE request, but since I wasn't the only one writing it and I'm kinda tired and decided to leave it for tomorrow.

Instead, I give you the first of my planned series on my MF campaign inspirations.

Since it's Music Monday (the alliteration day) here are some videos that are both visually and sonically responsible for how I play MF.

Let's start with something weird and perhaps unexpected for those familiar with my previous music references. If you can't stand synthesizers or electronic music, I recommend muting the vid (but do watch it).

Here's something completely different, though the video is also animated. I once heard or read that "Queens of the Stone Age owe as much to Black Sabbath as to Beach Boys". I agree. And that's exactly why they are here. I chose this particular song, because to me, a MF adventure should have the dynamics of a drug trip. It should be really weird and full of surprises while possessing some twisted inner logic. Some fear and joy should also be added into the mixture.

A good MF adventure should have at least one pair of tentacles (or at least tendrils) in it. As an aesthetic statement. It should also be a bit like a b-class horror movie.

This is a very obscure, yet very good band called Fiend Without a Face (after a 50's s-f flick). It's a side project of Mastodon's guitarist - Brent Hinds. They play a very weird mix of surf, psychobilly and grind? They put out only one record, which has been out of stock for a long long time, but I think it's downloadable somewhere off their myspace. Definitely worth checking out!

Speaking of Mastodon...

As I said before, I really like to build my MF sessions on both - the retro-stupid fun and post apocalyptic horror. Here's a band that really helps me achieve the second thing. I really like Grails, they're like Pink Floyd, just less radio friendly and more intelligent.

Finally, this list would be incomplete without this brilliant vid.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SAGE #1: The Horror, The Horror

This is the first of my two Secret Arneson Exchange Gifts. You can find the second one here.

I was asked for: "I d love for someone to write me some cool horrific scene. Though more the subtle and disturbing horror (think Ringu) than simply gore."

And I thought, cool! I also thought, why just write a scene? Why not give everyone some tips and tricks on how to build tension and scare the shit out of players?

There seem to be several methods of scaring, that I have read about and used throughout my career as a DM. I will try to describe 3 of them. Each will be illustrated with an in-game example, or a scene.

1. Level and Point technique.

This is a very simple and useful technique and is often used in movies. It's based on gradually introducing plot elements that raise the level of fear and tension in players.

One example of such method of building levels of fear would be locking the players in an dark chamber/house/mansion/dungeon. In the middle there is a single burning candle with a letter/note which reads:

"When the candle burns out you're all gonna die".

This is a sort of a fear perpetum mobile. At first the players will feel safe and explore the possibilities open to them, but as the candle gradually burns down their efforts will become more hectic and chaotic.

When the DM decides the level of fear is high enough, he can use the Point Technique by introducing a sudden event that will instantly and unexpectedly bring the fear level to the maximum. Ex (assuming the players are in a chamber):

DM: "Suddenly, the door's open. A gust of wind blows the candle out!... You are now in complete darkness."

Get it?

Here's a more narration based implementation of the Level/Point method.

Layer one (mild, should spread over several hours): The players watch morning news and hear about strange and brutal murders happening in town. Later one of them reads a cover-story in some local newspaper on the same topic. They see flayers about a missing person, etc.

Layer two (more on point, but still vague and long): Players leave a bar where some drunk guy told them a story of a strange wolf that killed his friend many years ago. He seems to have seen it again a year ago in the mountains.

Layer three (short, intense):

DM: " You are walking home and it's cold. You start to miss the warmth and cosines of the bar. Suddenly you, you feel a horrible smell... A smell of something... Animal... Inhuman....

Point (DM plays a cassette with a wolfs' howl): A howl comes from the ally you've just passed!

Please note: once you decide to introduce another layer and turn it up a notch, it's very difficult to keep up the tension. One method I recommend is using a second point. For example: After the players fight the werewolf or whatever it was in the previous illustration, the tension will naturally fall. Let the players feel victorious for a second, make them think it was the end. And than strike. In the above example, after the players defeated the monster, this should follow:

DM: "You are breathing heavily, looking from one to the other. You're alive, you won. it's all over... Suddenly you hear a howl, than another and another joining in... Whatever you killed, it wasn't alone!

2. DM Acting

If you really want to scare your players, it's important to learn to act well. And I don't mean acting out Torgo.

What I understand under the term, is using the words and voice together when narrating. It's not just about what you say, it's about how you say it.

Try to use your voice like an instrument, learn to use it's dynamics to your advantage. Whisper and make the players move closer to hear you and shout when something sudden happens. If you want to make the players feel the pressure speak fast and leave them little time to decide. Finally, use rhetorical questions and play with them.

For example, the players are escaping a horrible monster through some dungeon.

DM (fast): Suddenly the tunnel splits in two, right or left?
P1: Right!
P2: Left?
DM (rising his voice): The grunts behind your are getting louder! You turn back, and you can almost see the beast's shadow around the corner!
P1: Right!
P2: No, Left!
DM (shouting): It's there! It's right around the corner, you can see it's shadow and the outline of it's tentacled head!!!
DM (softly with an ominous smile): Are you sure?..

3. Breaking the 4th wall.

This is the method which is already present in the previous example. But really, this is just an augmentation of the two previous methods, since it doesn't work on it's own.

The point is, to do something unexpected. As you might have noticed, throughout this post I was talking about scaring the players, not their characters. This is because I believe that any true attempt at scaring and building horror, must appeal to the players themselves and not their characters.

Even the most basic type of fear present in RPGs - the fear of dying, is not really role playing the PC's emotions, it's the player's fear losing the character. So why not go further and simply scare the players themselves? That's what breaking the 4th wall is all about.

Here is a real life example from the game of Cthulhu, that I DMed a few year ago.

The players were investigating a strange murder case in the Cracow of the 20's. We played at night, with candles. In game they just broke into some apartment. Inside there was a single candle burning. With a note. As they read the note (exactly as in point 1), I put all the candles in the room out. Except for one.

The atmosphere got really creepy and I started speaking in a hushed voice. The candle flickered as they went through the room looking for clues. When I felt they were about to do something to release the tension, I screamed that the door opened and blew out the last candle.

In the silence that followed, whispering, I started to describe the horrible stench they felt coming into the room. When one of them was about to speak, I suddenly reached across the table and touched his cheek, shouting that something just moved next to him!

It was a rampage, the guy got up throwing the chair back, shouting about how he tries to get out of the room, the other one followed and freaked out when I grabbed his arm.

After that one scene, they had to stop and smoke a couple of cigarettes. We finished the game that night. With all lights on.

Discalimer: The point and level examples aren't mine. I did use them in game as described, but they are taken from an article written by Michal Marszalik and published in Magia i Miecz, in 2000. It was the main inspiration behind this post.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Beloved Rogue*

So there is this thing about thieves. Some OSR people think they are completely disposable, others will defend the rogue or 'specialist' with their lives.

In my opinion this feud seems to be a bit on the stupid side. Thieves are fun and they bring more variety to the game since they allow players to do something else than only fight, cast spells or cast spells while fighting.

The usual objection to the use of thieves is their Find Traps skill. Many seem to think that it tends to kill the "player's wits over character's skill" vibe often associated with old school game-play. I think it's a largely artificial problem that can be easily overridden by modifying the player's attempts at finding traps depending on the description of their actions.

The point is I like thieves (though I'd rather call them rogues). Period.

What I'm really getting at is that I also like bards.

In my 3ed days (and earlier) I often played bard characters and really enjoyed it. I also remember that I was shocked when long time ago, while reading Zak's blog, I found this:

"(...)but the idea of a D&D class defined by the fact that it plays music seems fundamentally dumb to me. Just be a thief/fighter multiclass and be over it. You can have whatever job you want when you're not killing monsters."

For a long time I couldn't understand why someone would hold such a bizarre opinion, since for me - playing a bard was always fun. It allowed me, as a player, to cast illusions, stand my ground when fighting, and on top of it all, charm NPCs into my bidding.

On the other hand, I always hated the portrayal of bards being trained at colleges and being part of specialized organizations. Seriously what a load of bullshit. My bard characters would always represent the oral tradition archetype, be it a Norse Skald, a Celtic Bard, or a Greek Aoidos.

Only recently, triggered by a cheap pulp novella I was reading on the train, did I realize why I really like the bard. The truth is, that it's not the class that I really like. It's the idea of poetry/music/art having magical powers that allow the artist to actively alter reality. It's the humanity old myth of the artist (in this case a musician) as a creator, that really inspired me to pick up the bard class in the first place. Interestingly enough, it's not really present in the class itself.

This is because the bard class is mostly based on the Magic User/Wizard mechanic. The "bardic" element is usually specified by the ability to use, what 3ed dubbed, Bardic Music, which has never been done well and in the 3rd and 4th was just dumb. The class itself doesn't really introduce a new minigame, or a new set of opportunities. It just emphasizes the role playing element of the game. And you don't really need a new class for that.

This is why I decided to abandon the bard and stick with the rogue. In fact any class can be "the bard" if it's built around an idea to role play it as one. The fierce Skald from the north might be a figther, while a Celtic Bard might mechanically be a druid. It's all fine with me.

The before mentioned novella helped me to stick with this decision, as it features Francois Villon as a background character. Now, I am well acquainted with his poetry and it's socio-cultural context, but I have never really investigated the biography of the poet himself.

Turns out, little is known about his life. But what little information survived is enough to illustrate my point. The point is, that the greatest poet of 15th century France was a backstabbing, dagger slinging and gold stealing rogue. So why can't the player characters be (mechanically) rogues with (role-played) love for some dirty verse?

*The title references this. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mutant Past

This is a writeup of a session that happened over 3 months ago! I wanted to do it for a long time now, but been unable due to my laziness/schedule. Still, it was so much fun that, even after so long, it still feels like it happened just a week ago.

It started with me and Julia trying to convince our friend Adam to play some D&D with us, since we knew he has played RPGs in the past. He said that he would like to, but is afraid that he's gonna kill it, since he always had problems with immersing into the game world. I told him that random jokes and bursting into laughter is nothing bad, but he wasn't quite convinced.

That is when I devised a master plan to lure him into gaming with us.

Since I was already pretty stoked about playing some Mutant Future I decided to kill two pigeons with one rock (or whatever that idiom is in English) and use the gonzo atmosphere of the game to convince Adam. Knowing what he likes, I showed him one illustration form MF handbook (the 50's astronaut sheriff riding a giant spider-chicken from page 23) and said: " Hey dude, look at this! Maybe that's what you'd like to play?"

He obviously laughed and said it's an awesome idea, but he was still kinda nervous about it. I told him not to worry, that we're gonna have loads of fun. Finally when an opportunity appeared, we met at my house.

We started in a most peculiar way. By rolling a joint (another step in my plan to make us feel relaxed and comfortable) and deciding when to order pizza, since the time pepperoni hits the gaming table is crucial to the whole evening. Order it too early, or too late and the game might be delayed/interrupted/suddenly ended by the heaviness caused by the cheese. We settled to eat and smoke in the break between making characters and playing.

And so character creation begun, while the joint lay on the table like a loaded Chekov's gun.

It soon became clear that we won't really need it. Choosing races and rolling mutations was enough to bring us to our knees and laughing to tears.

Adam quickly picked a synthetic android (though I tried to tempt him into making a robot on custom rules), but Julia couldn't decide whether to make a mutant plant or an animal. I decided that they can create two characters each and pick the one they like better, keeping the other as a back up since I still felt a bit uneasy with new monsters and not knowing how fast they can kill the party (a party of only 2 mind you).

Julia ended up with a nameless palm tree (thanks Jeff):

Str: 14 Dex: 17 Con: 16 Int: 14 Wil: 12 Cha: 10
Hp: 49 AC: 7

• Aprehinsile Tendrils (Dex 10)
• Radioactive Emissions (150ft./10d6)
• Pituitary Deformation
• Density Alteration
• Meta Concert
• Echo-location
• Unique Sense (smell water for 1 mile)

Pretty badass, isn't it? Her second character was no less awesome. It's a wolf, with wings and Vampiric Field, Killing Sphere and Control Weather mutations!

Adam was less successful with his rolls (and yes, I made him roll for mutations, cause it's funnier that way). He set out to create an assassin android, but this is what he ended up with:

Mr. Apple, Synthetic Android

Str: 14 Dex: 15 Con: 13 Int: 13 Wil: 11 Cha: 6
Hp: 50 AC: 7

• Chameleon Epidermis
• Optic Emission (3d6)
• Aberrant Form (large legs, twice the speed)

In other conditions, this would be a great character, but compared to Julia's doom bringing dendro-carnivores, his was kinda weak. I was trying to cheer him up by telling him he's rolling mutations that are in line with his original idea of an assassin, but than he rolled those damn funny large legs. He ended up drawing a huge all-star sneaker as his character pic.

His other character was also quite on the other side. It's a duck that spits napalm!

After we finished filling out character sheets and buying useless equipment (like a dog for an android, about which we forgot instantly), we took the aforementioned break. We ordered pizza, chilled for a couple of minutes and smoked that damn joint... This was a mistake.

You see, I especially made it extra light, so that it would just loosen us up and not send us flying under the ceiling. But the moment we started playing and eating pizza, all hell broke loose. In a good sense. Though I was the DM, I felt like watching Mutant Big Lebowski (and not because of drugs).

My players simply blew me away. The dialogues between the Palm Tree and Mr. Apple (aka the cowardly assassin android) were just pure gold. Every several minutes we would all roll on the floor laughing, because of something we would say. It was also the first time in my life I was afraid someone might choke to death on pizza.

Still, I feel that drugs had nothing to do with it. Mutant Future is just a great game and after the game we agreed we didn't need any superficial help in having ultimate fun.

I won't reveal much of what happened during the session, as I used some great stuff from this blog and my players might go back there. Let me just say, they were running away from giant anthropomorphic ants.

What I can say though, is that they solved a mystery of who's killing people in a small mutant western town, run by Roby - a sheriff that's a blend of those two guys.

Everything played out great. There were moments of genuine tension when the players where investigating an abandoned, supposedly haunted house. And some comedy relief when they found out that the strange creatures living underneath the house are actually cowardly Cockroachoids who will sell them the information they need for a nice load of shit.

In the end, both Julia and Adam were screaming for more and that's what is a measure of a good game. I think that, with the exams out of our way, I will try to go for a full on session in a bit darker tone. Still, for retro-stupid gaming, MF is probably unbeatable!

Session Quotes:

Me: " You see ...."

2 minutes later

Me: " You are walking down an old, squeaking staircase, it's pitch black and you can't see..."
Julia: "For fuck sake man!"

close to the end of the game

Julia: "Hey man, what happened to your dog?"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Lame Entry

After making bold statements about my posting plans, it was obvious that I had to fail, . Somehow I didn't realize how tired I will be at the end of the exam session. Still, I have prevailed and so did Julia. We pretty much owned everything.

To celebrate I cut my hair, changing it from something like this, to something that can be most closely described as half mohawk.

I was surprised to find that it enraged my father to the point of telling me that if I want to continue living in my family house, I will have to pay rent. And that's just ridiculous.

So I am on the verge of finding a stable job and moving out. And being fucking poor...

Still, I am in high spirits. I feel that, paradoxically, this is a healthy turn of events.

I am also planning on finally keeping this blog up to date, though some minor fallbacks will surely occur due to my present situation.

Next post: Mutant Future!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sailing stones gather no moss

I'm back! Though the exams aren't over yet and there is still some work ahead of me, I decided to come back to my blog and give it a bit of a makeover.

The other reason for this and the upcoming entries is that I accumulated a lot of ideas over the past month and I don't want to loose them. Thus, I'll gradually try to improve my posting rate over the next two weeks.

Here is a quick one, that came to me while I was customizing my template.

I've found the new title photo on Julia's tumblr. It pictures the phenomena known as Sailing Stones. Here's what wikipedia has to say on the subject:

"a geological phenomenon where rocks move in long tracks along a smooth valley floor without human or animal intervention. They have been recorded and studied in several places around the Death Valley, where the number and length of travel grooves are notable. The force behind their movement is not understood and is the subject of research."
Awesome?! Hell yes, but it get's even creepier:

"Speed is an unknown variable. Since these stones are rarely transported and nobody has witnessed the movement, the speeds at which the rocks travel are not known."

That's right, nobody has ever witnessed it, even though there were many attempts to observe or record the stones movements.

For me it sounds like:

The Secret of the Sailing Stones

Long time ago, a powerful being of unknown origin ripped the veil of time and space, entering the material plane. Scholars still argue about the origin of the being and it's impact on the world. Some say it was a god, others claim it was a demon and few claim it was neither. Though the dilemma has long been labeled as impossible to solve, it is agreed that those long gone events were the source of an ancient legend, that a Great Evil has been turned into stone and than shattered into a million pieces, so that it could never regain it's power.

To this day, magicians and foolish merchants embark into the Clay Desert to collect blocks of black stone-metal. The stones are said to move in mysterious ways drawing strange shapes on the surface of the desert. Many have died in search of the moving Death Stones (as they are often called) and it is said that some men have been found crushed in their sleep by stones that moved overnight, while others, blinded with greed, chased a single stone for days using up supplies left for the journey back.

In common speech the material from the stones is known as Death Metal. It is rumored that it can produce blades that can cut through steel as if it was flesh. However, few such weapons exist as it is widely believed that Death Metal is cursed and any weapon made out of it will eventually betray it's wielder and get him killed. Stories about slabs of the material disappearing over night, or weapons moving on their own only strengthen the fear and prejudice against anyone in possession of such artifact. It is a common saying that "No man can wield death itself and live".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Music Monday: The Heart Of The Sun

Finals, essays and my father's broken collar bone are still kicking my ass. I So I'm gonna just share some inspirational music with you.

And a modern rendition:

Now back to academics...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Monday: Power Octet?

Ever since I hit it with my axe stated airing I was wondering: how long one does one encounter last at their table? Zak answered it the other day:

"On the other hand, a combat round is about a half-hour real-time of moving and deciding and rolling (twice that when Frankie is playing)"

Yup, just as I've suspected. Even if you are an octopus DM, it's simply impossible to have fast combat when playing with a lot of people. It made me think about my experiences with various group sizes. I came up with this analogy. It's stupid, but illustrates the problem well.

Gaming groups are like music groups.

Yeah, you saw it coming, didn't you? However, if you have any music playing xp, then you know it's true.

If you're in a band, it means you have to go to band practice regularly, same with a stable gaming group. Needles to say, everyone should be excited and stoked about sitting in a small, stinking practice room, otherwise the "band" won't last long. The Golden Rule of Everything also holds. You don't want dicks in your band, just like you don't want them at your gaming table.

If we take this analogy further, we'll arrive at the notion of the DM as a producer. He is the guy who should pull the strings and set up the playing environment in such way, as to get the best out of each person in the room.

Just like there are many types of producers, there are many types of DM's. Some like to partake in the creative process, give hints, or even play instruments. Others step back as soon as the shit starts rolling. They let the musicians do whatever they want, while they take care of the technical/logistic side of things (we call it sandboxing).

However, weather we are talking about a bunch of musicians or just some friends sitting at a gaming table, in the end it all boils down the dynamics of the group/band. Every single person should know their place and let others do their own thing, while still having fun and expressing themselves in their own voice.

So here's how I think the dynamics of a gaming group might change depending on the number of people involved. Please note, I don't count the DM.


Going solo might be the hardest of all possible configurations. The spotlight is on only one person and either she has balls of steel and cool ideas, or everything crumbles into oblivion.

What's more important, this type of gaming seems more intimate than the others. Both, the person running the game and the participant, should trust each other and feel comfortable with what they're doing. Especially since the player is forced to act, for if he doesn't participate no one else will propel the game.


On one hand this configuration is easier than the previous one, since the DM doesn't have to hire any "session musicians" to help out the players. It also takes the responsibility of being the only player.

On the other hand, DMing for two people doesn't differ much from running a game for one person. Most of the problems are still very similar and game balance is still an important issue, especially when running it old school.

However, one thing that may become present in a duo game (and is completely absent from a solo game) is the ego factor. For example, an experienced player my push a newcomer from the spotlight. Still, from my recent experiences I can say, that a pair of good friends at the table can be a recipe for a very successful game.

Power Trio

This is probably my go to line up. Both musically and in D&D. It offers versatility and enough space for everyone to make themselves comfortable. One person can play many roles without limiting the choices for others. The one thing I noticed is that there seems to be the least problems with ego in this configuration. Even if someone gets out of control, the two remaining players team up to put him back into his place.

Quartet, Quintet

Pretty much the same as a power trio. The only problem specific to such a line up occurs, when two, or more players occupying the same slot in the group start competing. The problem is that it's hard to provide two traps next to each other in order to keep two thieves entertained etc. Such situation has to be simply talked over, many solutions are at hand.

Sextet, Septet, Octet...

The problem is that the more people are at the table, the more likely is there to be an ego conflict. The DM has to divide his attention between all the PC's equally and this may often lead to people actively "marking" their willfulness to act by shouting, waving, hurling dice etc. It's very amusing, how mentally stable individuals can transform in a group.

The other problem is that fights (and here we go back to the Zak's quote) become super slow. The strategic element usually is exaggerated and people tend to get bored while waiting for their turn to roll. Additionally game balance is once again compromised (and I don't mean it in a 3ed sense). The problem is that a party made up of seven first level characters has huge "firepower", but can't take much damage. And rerolling characters for 4 people can really kill the whole session.

The bright side is that the case of several people sharing a class isn't a problem anymore. Why? Because almost everybody in the party has a double!

Big group gaming isn't for me apparently. And yet, there are people who can pull it off. I salute you.

I have heard rumors that in the old days before the empire, there used to be parties of 12 people? Seriously? What was the largest group you've ever played in?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Imagination Dealer

As you already know, Frank Frazetta died yesterday. He passed away leaving behind a huge body of work, that will outlive most of us and continue to inspire generations to come.

Frazetta, like no other visual artist, awakened my childhood imagination and influenced my approach to the RPG hobby (even though I didn't know it was him at the time, back then I was only familiar with his Conan covers). Although his paintings are full of epic themes and pulp adventure, I think it's important to take some time and look closely at some of his works. Because the fundamental question is:

How the hell did he paint that moss?!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Monday: It gives me the Shiver

I feel quite bad for not updating this blog as often as I'd like, but since the end of the academic year is closing in, I don't really have much choice.

I will try to catch up with writing up my recent Mutant Future games, but I will only do it as a break from writing papers on academic subjects, so the posting rate might be very slow.

Moving on to a more pleasant subject.

This weak I decided to share a very obscure band and record, namely the San Francisco's Shiver.

Very little is known about the band or it's members. All I could find, is that the band was "brought together" by an Austin born drummer, who moved to San Francisco. Apparently they had a strong street cred and played for both - the Haight street hippie fairs and Hell's Angels biker parties.

Although the names of the band members are nowhere to be found, this little fun fact somehow survived the test of time:
"At one point they even had a singer with an iron hook for a hand, which he could use as a slide for his guitar, or for more violent purposes."
How cool is that?

This obscure band managed to produce only one album - a live, 1972 street show performance, that was recorded onto a 2-track and than pressed vinyl! Without any studio mastering or overdubbing!

Thanks to such primitive treatment, the record sounds super raw and has a punk intensity, without losing it's psychedelic dimension.

Here's a clip with the opening track, however it's quality is much worse than of the record, so I highly recommend looking it up on the net.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This isn't the post you're looking for. Move along.

Yesterday, when I was adding your comments, some of the already existing ones disappeared. They came back today, but it made me think that the whole comment moderation is utterly useless.

The blockade is off, but play nicely... or daddy will have to punish you!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Monday: Scary Monster (A Super Creep)

I really like David Bowie, but he gives me the creeps. Maybe it's in the differently colored eyes, his ageless androgyny, his aloofness? For some reason, he always seemed like a being from a different plane of existence (planet?), who came among us for reasons inconceivable by our primitive brains.

And what's with those alter egos? Perhaps Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke were just means of concealing the fact that David Bowie himself is just "an alter ego" for something more than just David Robert Jones?
Still, the past decade or two, seem to pose he is a human after all. The last couple albums are by no means a match for his canonical works. Time seems to have finally caught up with him, but even as his looks start matching his age, a strange grin of satisfaction becomes more and more visible.
What I am aiming at is that David Bowie is a perfect elf. Or at least he suits my vision of elves perfectly.They are beautiful, intelligent and talented in magic, yet they seem to be cold, unemphatic, inhuman. They are respected as much as feared. They can produce wonderful works of art for which many would, and indeed - do kill, even though those objects seem deprived of passion and are rumored to push their human owners into depression and bipolar states.

Bowie's career seems to form an arch parallel with the history of elves in my game world. From the unknown and obscure beginnings, through the rise to power and a plunge into decadence. As you might remember, my elves lost their immortality and age, here are some pics illustrating the process.

Finally, rumors circulate about The Sons Of The Silent Age. A powerful organization of elves, who haven't abandoned the cause of The Supreme Being.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I hit it with his axe

In this post, Zak Smith asked us not to judge I hit it with my axe until episode 5 airs.

It just did.

And I liked it. I liked all episodes except for the first one.

I think that the biggest strength of Zak's show the fact, that it's a documentation of D&D is played. While any session report is a (more or less literary) retelling of the game, so in fact - a re-narration of a past narration, the show is a straight up account of how actual game play looks.

And I must admit that, the first time I watched it, I was amazed at how similar his and mine games are. It was very uplifting to see, that even with all his insight and superb writing skills, he still plays the game in the same way.

Finally, I think that the DIY, chaotic way the show is put together only adds to it's appeal and adds to the feeling of observing real game play, instead of watching some prearranged, polished tv theater.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Music Monday: The Green Manalishi

It's one of my favorite Melvins tunes. It has awesome dynamics and tension, feels kinda claustrophobic and dusty, yet remains catchy. And most of all - it fits in perfectly with the rest of the album (The Maggot, 1999).

Yeah. So apparently it's a cover of a song by Fleetwood Mac. It even has a nice, psyched story behind it.

Peter Green claims that he wrote the song after experiencing a drug-induced dream, in which he was visited by a green dog. He understood that the dog represented money and the devil.
"It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time. It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did. When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song."

Still, to me, the only Green Manalishi is the Melvins one. And, as much as I like Green's story, for me the song brings more otherworldly and dark imagery.

Perhaps it's just the green in the title, but in my head this song got irreplaceably bound with this page from Mike Mignola's Hellboy (click to enlarge):

It's a whole pulp adventure right here!

A new sect becomes popular among the nobles. It leader is a traveler from distant land, known as the Green Manalishi. He claims to have unlocked the secrets of an ancient civilization. When a heir to one of the biggest fortunes in the state starts suffering from an unknown desease, the Green Manalishi is called.

He claims he has to take the boy on a pilgrimage to a secluded abode in the Horn Mountains. "Only through this holy journey will the boy conquer his illness" he says and the two set out.

After several months, the boy is found in front of his father's mansion. Dirty, dressed like a beggar, changed.

"We tried to talk to him sire, but he keeps repeating one thing over and over again" says the chief of the guards to the boy's father.

"What is it?!"

"The God! The God with the Two Pronged Crown is here!"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter NEStalgia

I dunno how you are spending Easter, but I will be eating loads of fat, traditional food and listening to my grandfather lying to me about how he helped conquer communism.

I can't even play D&D because Julia went away to do the same thing as I am, just at different geographical coordinates.

So how to keep boredom at bay!?

Answer #1:

Yes! The ultimate gaming console of all, the one and almighty NES!

I must confess I have never seen it live, not to mention owning one. However I am very well acquainted with it's "polish equivalent" the infamous Pegasus Family Computer:

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this wonderful and obscure device:

In the early 1990s, the Pegasus system gained massive popularity in Poland, probably due to the fact that until late 1990s there was no official distributor of Nintendo products in Poland. The Pegasus consoles were mass-marketed by most of the major and smaller electronic stores, where buyers even received warranty cards for the product. Numerous VHS rentals offered an option to rent or exchange Pegasus cartridges, as well as entire systems. Pegasus and its revisions received a wide coverage in Polish video game press. This, along with the system's surprisingly high reliability led to a false claim that Pegasus was an "official" video game system manufactured by a "major" company, and as such was considered by many to be an official Nitendo product. To meet its growing popularity a number of obviously pirated NES games were reviewed on regular basis by, Top Secret a major Polish video games magazine. Pegasus was even officially advertised in press and on TV Nintendo took legal actions against system's importer and distributor, right after officially establishing sales of licensed Nintendo products on Polish market in 1996.
So basically it's a NES but with an eye patch and a hook for a hand. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I never owned one. Thus I had to relay on my friends, which, from today's perspective, might have been even more fun.

Right now you're probably asking yourselves: "why the fuck are you taking us on that sentimental journey!?"

The answer is simple: because I am bored and I found this site. It's basically a portal which let's you play all the 8 bit classics (even old gameboy and dos games) in your browser window. How awesome is that? And those aren't some crappy flash conversions, it's the real thing!

Answer #2:

Listen to the Advantage

The Advantage (yes, they're named after this) is a band founded by Spencer Seim, an awesome dude who usually plays syncopated, angular guitar riffs in Hella (here he plays drums). As you might might have noticed by now, they play covers of old NES tunes and they're pretty good at it.

Apparently there are more bands playing this type of stuff. Perhaps it's due to hipster and nerd culture mingling together over the last decade. There is even some Japanese heavy metal band which plays solely Final Fantasy tunes, but I never checked them out (for obvious reasons).

But let's not go so far. The Advantage is much more than just a band covering Nintendo music. They are really skilled and have a unique approach to interpreting those seemingly simple melodies. I recommend checking their second album - "Elf Titled". It might be hard to buy, but should be easily downloadable from the net.

How's that for Old School!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Transparency Question

Evaluating my playing style and the way I tend to DM has brought my attention to one topic, that was not covered in my last post.

Let's call it The Question (or Problem) of Transparency.

The issue is quite simple and I'm sure that many of you already suspect what I have in mind. It's the question of how transparent should the gaming system be to the players? In other words: should the GM conceal the game mechanics, or should he expose the game structure and exploit it?

Before I provide some examples, I'd just like to say that I am not concerned with the very old argument of "storytelling games" (like WoD and Cthulhu) vs. "rolling games" (D&D, WFRP). This quarrel has and still is taken too seriously in Poland and to me it is based around stereotypes and completely artificial divisions.

Ah, yes! So what I am concerned with is: how transparent (concealed) should the game mechanics be at a D&D table?

I must say this question came to my head only recently, mostly because of this post and due to some confusion at my own kitchen table.

Sow how do the two models actually differ?

1. An example for the concealed mechanics DMing would look like this:

DM: A troll walks out from the cave, it looks like this and...
DM: Ok, ok, roll your dice.
P: 18
DM: You score a hit, roll damage.

2. This is how the same situation would look, if the DM decided to expose mechanics:

DM: A troll walks out from the cave, it looks like this and...
DM: He's AC is 17
P: WHAT?! In that case you all see Turg grab his axe and prepare to charge, but after a brief moment of hesitation lowers his weapon and pretends like nothing happened.

I must confess that I used to think that method one is better (perhaps because of my WFRP background, since there are no target numbers and all players roll against their % abilities). It might have been due to being constantly exposed to the more dice means less atmosphere rant?

Whatever the cause might be, I'm starting to think that it's all bull shit and that in fact (as is said in the Year of the Dungeon post linked earlier) the exposed mechanics approach is more fair to the players. Especially to less experienced ones, like mine.

I might describe a monster all day and they will be scared (at least afraid of loosing their PCs), but will still attack it. The exposure of the beasts AC (once the players decide to kill it) doesn't reduce the strength of my description. In fact, if anything, it might force the players to rethink their strategy, or (if the fight is inevitable) make them really fear for their favorite characters.

A good example of using this device to DM's convinience has been posted by Zak in the early days of his blog. Here.

However, I see one case in which the exposed mechanics don't really cut it (at leas for me).

It's the traps!

Somehow, I can't see this conversation taking place:

DM: bla bla bla (describing a trapped floor segment).
Player: I see. I'm trying to block the floor tile with a piece of wood so it can't be pressed... (and so on.). What are my chances of disarming it if I do all that?
DM: about 30 %.
P: Ok. forget it. Guys, we have to find another way.

Yeeeaaah... Not very believable is it? My intuitions are, that with some traps, you've can never be sure whether you disarmed it properly until you try and walk on that fucking rigged floor tile.

I think it forces thief wielding players to role play and describe disarming attempts more thoroughly (in order to get some positive modifiers) And to me, makes playing a thief more thrilling.

Summing up: Exposing is oldschool and good, but let's keep those sappers in uncertainty.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Entschuldigen aber ich konnte leider nicht rechtzeitig kommen, weil ich keine Uhr habe*

I'm really ashamed about my posting rate. But as you will find out today, it's not the only thing I'm ashamed about.

This is the second part of the post promised a week ago.

The last Session Recap might seem like an interesting game, but it was not. And for some time now, I am asking myself the same question. Why?

I know that there are those sessions. The ones that don't work out because many, at first glimpse, insignificant things happen. I had them and I'm sure all of you had them. (Right?!)

In fact, many such "unfavorable occurrences" took place that day. Katja came tired straight from lectures, we ordered Vietnamese food and got stuffed with it before playing (again! quoth the Raven: nevermore!), finally Julia was sleepy throughout the game. Perhaps the air pressure was low? The fuck if I know.

One thing remains sure. All those things shouldn't have prevented us from having much more fun than we actually did. And for that, I blame myself. Cause I am the DM.

It follows from my strong belief that the DM, as the privileged participant of the game, is the Protector of Fun. He's not solely responsible for everyone having fun - that's a collective effort. However, I do feel that the DM is in a way the person who, due to his privilaged position, is able to max out the amount of fun at the table.

I feel that I have neglected this responsibility. That is why over the course of last few weeks I came up with a number of things that I think are lacking/faults of my DMing style:

  • The first issue that came to my mind is the fact, that we are playing in English. Somehow I felt compelled to run the game in English, since I knew it's the first language for both of my players and Julia would feel less vulnerable playing in English. Now I'm having second thoughts. Even though I consider myself to be a fluent speaker (after all I do study Philosophy in English) I feel that my vocabulary might be lacking in terms of providing rich descriptions and creating atmosphere.
  • The second issue are the aforementioned descriptions. I do feel I need to prepare and remember about them. The language barrier is not an excuse. I feel that the lack of detail has made the game 2 dimensional and boring.
  • This might be partially the fault of me being dependent on the materials scavenged from the net (especially the one page dungeons). Instead of using them as a guideline and making them my own or simply plundering for ideas, I just fell back on them. This has led to my initial setting losing flavor and reinforcing the bad D&D tropes. This has happened partially due to the fact that being unfamiliar with retro clones I was unsure of how to balance the game. Luckily this is no longer the case.
  • The last issue is the one which really lies in the heart of this whole clusterfuck. I didn't prepare enough. That's it. There are many reasons for it, but there is no excuse.

So yeah. How do I straighten myself up? Well I came with a number of ideas.

First of all: PREPARE! This also means exercising in the way Zak has described in his comment for this entry.

The second thing is: make up more of my own shit. I do need to get around to writing a good dungeon and generally exercising my creativity more. The pornstars blog is a great example of how you can reconstruct used up stereotypes and create something interesting and fresh.

Thirdly: play more. I had quite a long break from gaming and I do want to play a lot now. That is why I am fiddling around with running a game of Mutant Futures (a thing I wanted to do since I discovered Jeff's sessions) as well as running some solo sessions for Julia.

Well, we'll see how it goes.

*this is the sentence that my German teacher in jr. high made me say every time I came late to the lesson.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Session Recap #3

It seems like it's high time to post something about actual game play. I've been putting off the writing of this post for some time now, mostly because I still don't know how to constructively re-approach the last session.

Because of this this post will be divided into two parts - a short session recap, followed by my thoughts on my DMing. Here's the actual game bit:

Session Recap #3
The session started with the PCs descending beneath the city of Adamask. As it turned out, the passage discovered in the Iron Sword's cellar lead to the sewers/remains of a much older settlement.

Since the whole session was primarily composed of just wandering around, I'll try to provide the key events in the form of bullet points.
  • Shortly after descending into the sewers, the girls made their way into a passage filled with webs and spider eggs. Although they got ambushed by 4 giant spiders, they managed to survive (and torch the eggs) and press deeper into the spiders' lair, just to encounter a gargantuan (and I mean it in the literary sense) black widow, which proved to be a formidable foe. Though dangerous, the fight was short. The players lured the spider into the narrowest passage so that it wasn't able to turn around. There rest was simple - while Kai and Winston were facing the beast, Juchi performed numerous back stabs. In the spiders lair the players found a helmet shining a blue light and a passage leading into a forgotten gem cutters workshop.
  • Later they encountered a small group of juvenile delinquents who took them into their hideout. The thieves' lair proved to be populated by three more grown men. After some crude role playing from both my and the party's side, a fight broke out. It was short and messy, with two of the thieves decapitated while crying for mercy. The group of street youths decided to not interfere, so when the fight was over, they offered their services to the party (they tried to deceive them and get them killed, but in the end just ditched them on the surface).
  • For some reason the girls thought that their main goal is finding out where the rats are coming from. I must say that I found this quite amusing and probably will dedicate the whole post to this issue. Anyway, I did put some were rats on the map so eventually, that's where the girls got. It turned out that within the sewers a group of wererats built a shrine for worshiping some weird god. Inside there was only one rat priest with several rodents, all of which were quickly disposed of due to the extra muscle provided by the street gang.
  • After destroying the shrine the players ascended back to the inn in order to finally get some proper sleep. One of them woke up at night hearing screeching noises coming from the ground floor. Soon all three were awake and going down to inspect the main chamber. Down stairs they found two wererats (in the shrine there were signs of 3 inhabitants) dragging the unconscious tavern boy, who began changing into one of them (due to an earlier leg bite)! Needles to say, the ratmen and the half turned boy were dead in no time and the innkeeper, who got woken up by the fight, was crying over the boys body...
Also, this exchange took place:

Julia: looking quite tired from across the table "Can we go to the tavern now and get some spells and rest?"
Katja: "But we rested in the gem cutters workshop!"
Julia: Yawns, " We did? Then why am I so sleepy?", puts head on the table.

art by Lucas Hardi

It is your destiny!

I promise to keep this short. James Maliszewski claims that Episode IV is the best part of the trilogy*, because:

A friend of mine once said that Star Wars is the only one of the series that didn't take place within the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars is the only one of the series that simply tells a story rather than telling a story about Star Wars. To varying degrees, all of the sequels and prequels exist, at least in part, to tell us more about the characters, places, and events of the original film.

And I agree. However, I must note that this assessment doesn't state anything new, it simply follows from the fact that Star Wars is the first film in the series ( which btw. wasn't planned until the movie turned out to be a huge success). As such it had to be a stand alone work of art, constructed around a closed story arc and with no lose ends sticking out.

James also writes:

Certainly there were lots of details established in the first film, but most of those details existed primarily to advance the story it was telling rather than to flesh out the setting of the story. It's the only film of the series that's like that, which probably explains why, even after years of interminable "expansions" to the original through movies, TV shows, comic books, novels, and other media, it still retains a freshness and vibrancy that the others lack.
I disagree!!! While it might be argued that, indeed the other two movies are a kind of an appendix to the first one, it's still The Empire Strikes Back, which holds the lead as (in my opinion at least) the best movie.

Why? Because it's probably the episode that has the most dramatic tension, as well as plot and character development. In fact, compared to the other two movies. it could be seen as not only being numerically and chronologically in the center, but also as the true culmination of the saga.

And I'm not even mentioning the multitude of cultural tropes and motifs which make that movie (and the whole trilogy) one of the most postmodern works in history of cinema.

Blah blah blah

Here is the real reason for this post.

*to me there will always be only 3 Star Wars movies

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

11 best doom/drone albums to play while playing

I wanted to write this post for some time. A few days ago Zak reminded me of it, so here it is (in no particular order).

11 best doom/drone albums to play while playing:

Witch, Witch
This is the side project of J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. If you don't like his first band, don't worry Witch sounds nothing alike. This record has a very strong 70's/stoner vibe and is filled with melodic songs about seers and occult.

Sunn O))), Monoliths and Dimensions
This is the newest release from what might be the most famous doom band. Their whole discography is superb and it's difficult to choose one album. Monumental, atmospheric and mad. A must.

Electric Wizard, Dopethrone

Another classic doom band. This album is often listed as genre defining. To me it sounds like the perfect Warhammer game - witch hunters, satanism and the wizzaaaard...

Eagle Twin, The Unkindness of Crows
A recently formed duo consisting of experimental metal veterans. Features nice Tibetan/Mongolian throat singing and very clever compositions. Saw them live supporting Sunn O))) - they kicked ass.

Boris, Amplifier Worship

To me it's the best band to ever emerge from Japan. One of the last truly original bands in the world. Their discography is huge and spans over many genres, styles and moods. This album is a fine specimen of awesome dooming and droning.

Fun Fact: one of the vinyl editions had a
Green jewel box with a gummy worm in the spine; at time of release, there were rumors that said worm had hallucinogenic properties akin to those of LSD when eaten; these rumors have been denied by Southern Lord, the band, and people who actually ate their worm

Sunn O))) & Boris, Altar

A one of a kind collaboration. Just look at the fucking cover. Sounds like crawling in search of an old hag living in a labyrinth of earth, tangled roots and worms. Side note: be sure to get the B side - SatanOscillateMyMetallicSonatas.

Melvins, Bootlicker

This album is probably the calmest in their discography. Although it can be called "laid back", I feel it has a strange tension present throughout it's length. I'd recommend it for building suspense by contrast with other records from this list.

Boris, Akuma No Uta

Another album from the best power trio out there. It's a fine mixture of slow and fast riffing, full of 70's feel. In my opinion - one of the best metal albums ever. Have I mentioned they have the best female guitarist of all time?

Earth, The Bees Made Honey In Lion's Skull

This is the latest effort from the doom/drone precursors. Heavy, but delicate and laid back. For me it's a very relaxing record. Good for calmer moments and as a break from more brutal stuff.

The Sword, Gods of the Earth

Both Sword albums are really great. Their awesome riffs and tons of old school hooks make me feel like I'm 15 again. An ideal illustration to the original Conan stories (in fact, some songs are referencing Howard's works).

Eight Hands For Kali, Himalayan Necromantia

If you ever wondered how the call of Cthulhu really sounds like - this is the answer. Space, madness, a dark ritual with cries of dying people in the background. This sounds - how I felt when I first played DOOM.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lame Entry

It's been a while since I posted anything. In fact last month wasn't exactly a flurry of posts. There are many reasons for this, one would be me being sick, the other one - me taking a break from the blogosphere.

The time away from my blogger dashboard made me realize something important. The OSR (or whatever you want to call it) really is too big for one person to grasp. I know this is no news to any of you, however, after a week of not reading blogs, I realized I can't keep up with the few I'm following. I know amongst the entries I "missed" are some really good ones, ones that will really make my creative juices flow. However there are also many, that I will dig through simply out of duty. I'm not even mentioning how much time it will take me to read all of them (including the links etc.).

Don't get me wrong! I'm not trying to be condescending or negative. I'm not very happy with how this blog looks and often have second thoughts about it's usefulness to anyone. There are many posts that now seem unnecessary and in fact even the best blogs have many posts I could live without.

After all, I started it as a kind of scrapbook, hoping it will motivate me and help me order my loose ideas, as well as improve my writing in English. But now I find myself spending more time reading other blogs than thinking about their content or writing my own entries. I became less creative and started being responsive. In fact, sometimes I want to write a post in response to someone's entry, but the pace of discussion moves so fast, that I feel my opinion becomes completely redundant.

It all comes down to the fact that I want to keep this blog and I want it to be good. Mostly for my own enjoyment. Unluckily I've fallen into the trap of ever adding one more blog to my read list and now I can't navigate through them.

That is why I decided to narrow down the amount of blogs I'm reading.

Once again, it's not because any of those blogs suck. On the contrary, some of you take so much of my attention that I stop imagining my own things.

I really hope you all understand and keep blogging.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A challange for artistically handicaped

It's good to have friends who aren't artistically retarded because, even though I draw like a 4 year old, I can always ask someone to draw something awesome.

So last week my friend Adam felt inspired by demonpig. I found his interpretation extremely amusing and asked him to make a drawing of a creepy wizard.

So here it is. I give you: Membrious the Mad!

I still can't decide which one is better... I fucking love the green light (which in my opinion is the creepiest kind of light possible) and the wooden leg is just a stroke of genius!

So.. now it's time for A CHALLENGE!!!

The only rule is: It has to be one comment long.




art by Adam Banaszek

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A dungeon from my head

It is a happy day. Why? Because today I got my medical results and I don't have brain cancer, tumors, diabetes, or any kind of neural damage! Yay! I've also felt good for the longer part of the week and there is no sign of my problems returning.

So what was it? I dunno. Truth to be told, no one knows. The most probable hypothesis claims that it was an inflammation of the Membranous Labyrinth.

Now go to this link and look at it! Isn't it awesome? We carry a nice dungeon in our heads (actually two of them. dungeons, not heads).

In honor of our labyrinths, here's a little something to celebrate my well being. Enjoy.

Membrious Parasitic Dungeon

This micro dungeon is the home of Membrious the Mad, a magician of old times who seeking solitude and peaceful environment for his mystical inquiries and strange experiments, moved to live in a pocket dimension.

Membrious arranged his artificial plane in a very peculiar manner. He formed it from usual construction materials - stone, metal and wood, but decided to fill a large portion of the dungeon with a live symbiotic organism that would filter the air and water.

Needles to say, as many powerful (and mad) magicians, Membrious was extremely paranoid about his security. That's why he decided not to anchor his solitude to any particular place in the actual world. Instead he created a magical mechanism, which allowed him to randomly connect his dimension to one of the already existing dungeons.

This means, that every time the mechanism was activated, it "moved" the dungeon entrance (which looks like a normal, iron reinforced, wooden door) into another dungeon from the list of dungeons known to Membrious at the time of creating this apparatus. Unluckily, the mechanism is now malfunctioning and changes the placement of the entrance at random.

The map and descriptions:

1. This is the entrance. After stepping in, the visitors will enter a long spiral corridor. The walls are made of old, copper colored metal, kind of like a big metal tube. The strange thing about it is that no matter which side the players move - in or out, the corridor will always seem to lead down. The DM should place some kind of a pit trap near the entrance.

At the end of the corridor, just before the door, the PC's will encounter a camp of hobgoblins... They are discussing their plans and if the players won't kill them at first sight, they will explain that they entered the unknown door from their dungeon, but now the exit leads to a different place. Moreover, their leader took 3 of their companions and went to investigate the strange place. They are confused and presume he is dead, if the players show some initiative, the hobgoblins will be willing to join forces.

2. The main door. They are made of coppery metal and have a gargoyle face on the surface. They aren't locked.

3. The mechanism. The walls of this whole room are filled with strange instruments and containers. Looks kind of like this. It is also the home of Membrious' clockwork golem.

He was created to keep maintenance of the mechanism, but now the lifeless body of armor lies on the floor covered with some king of plant growth. If the players remove the growth and menage to heat up his body, or put a electrical discharge to it, the golem will awake and demand explanations. He's perception is quite limited and so is his intellect. The players might gain his assistance at restoring the mechanism to its proper state, by (for example) claiming that one of them is Master Membrious, or came to see him. On the other hand if the players bring him back to life and don't come up with something creative, the golem will attack should they try to descend further into the complex.

4. A small corridor leads past a small bathroom and into the hall. The toilet sink restores 1d4 hp after washing hands. On the other hand, the toilet might scare the players by demand "feeding" in the hoarse whisper of an old woman.

5. This is the main hall. All the wall surface of this tall room is filled with book shelves and cupboards containing strange and bizarre objects. The only exception is east wall in the passage to area 7, where a large painting, similar to this one hangs. Some of the PC's may feel like they caught a glimpse of movement within the painting. Perhaps the girl smiled as they were passing by, or winked when one of them was turning his head away? The room is lit by an elaborate organic structure hanging from the celling, supporting several glowing globes. If the players manage to obscure the light, or turn it down in any manner, they will be able to see the true image of the girl in the picture. Should the room be completely dark, she will leave the canvas.

6. Kitchen and dinning room. The players might easily mistake it for an alchemists lab. Cooking utensils, skinning devices, strange glass containers and so on are scattered all over the place. There is a high chance, that any food the players find is poisoned or has hallucinogenic effects. Similarly, any containers with liquids have equal chances of being either heeling/boosting or narcotics/poison. There is a large hole (crawl space sized in the wall) with an acidic substance constantly flowing out and into an elaborate basin.

7. Those are the workroom (on the right) and the bedroom (left) of Membroius. They are mostly filled by many strange memorabilia, some examples:
  • a vampire's coffin
  • a jar with mind flayer's head that will try to communicate telepathically with the players
  • an enchanted lute with a spirit of a bard trapped inside - he will speak only after a skilled musician plays the instrument
In the bedroom lies a concealed entrance to a secret escape tunnel (8) which leads to the main hall (the exit is hidden behind a book shelf).

The workroom, apart from a huge desk with many secrets compartments, contains a weird chair that looks something like this. It's the place from which the mechanism is operated. To change the "location" of the dungeon, one has to place a copper pin ended with a HUGE ruby in one of the holes in the copper tablet map, that is fixed to the wall over the desk. At the moment of entering the dungeon the pin is inserted in one of those places, however until the mechanism is repaired it won't work.

The chair is occupied by the body of Membroius. The remains of the once famous mage look as if something sucked all the water out of his body... The players might notice a thin cable-like thing lying on the floor, connecting the body with a hole in the nearby wall. If they fail their spot checks, the mages carcass will attack them when they are near (for example, when they are searching the desk). He is now controlled by the symbiotic organism, that provides air, energy and water to the dungeon. This organism mutated for unknown reasons and became hostile. Treat him like a powerful construct, that has some of the abilities of the mage he used to be.

9. and 10. those are two "pipes" big enough to crawl in. Pipe number 9 looks like a polished copper pipe with constant flow of an acidic liquid. Pipe number 10 is made of stone and is covered with polyp like tissue, that moves and gives a small breeze. Both lead into space 11.

11. This is the chamber in which the dungeon's "parasite" dwells. The floor is covered with an organic tissue which serves as the organism's digestive surface. It is covered with acidic mucus that is meant to melt any organic mater before it is fully ingested. The half melted remains of the hobgoblin leader and his companions can be found on the floor (perhaps he had a fine magical axe, that is now lying in the acidic fluid). Needles to say, the players standing in the substance will suffer damage to their gear and eventually to themselves. Any contact with naked flesh will cause serious burns.

The parasite itself is somewhat similar to a roper or anything else that is tentacly and scary. I leave the details to any DM. One thing is sure, it is vulnerable to fire. Perhaps he is resistant to non magical weapons? Or maybe he is fully resistant to magic and that is why Membrious got killed? WHat will happen when the organism is dead? Will the lights go out and the vampire/monster/girl from the painting wreck havoc?

I leave this and many other matters (like treasure, stats and touch-ups) to the rest of you.