Thursday, February 20, 2020

Zines! Lapsus Calumni, issue 1

Gods, time flies! Almost a decade ago my wife and daughters bought me an iPad as I was about to head back to Iraq for my second deployment. I had recently been reading some excellent blogs on the web, most notably Christian Walker's Destination Unknown and my imagination had been piqued. Using his style as a guide, I used the included apps to draw up a quick map, a task I found amazingly easy and wrote up a short bit of fiction to go along with the map.

With all the zine love going around, I figured I would share some of my many, many attempts at making a zine, so here you go, the very first one!

Click here to download the PDF.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Adventures in Scaldwater Bay, session 05

Macros (Joe) - human magic-user, character number 2 after Seemorph fell in a hole
Camatori (Tim) - a classic OSE elf, character number 2, Mitrum was slain by gooblers
Thorold "Danger" Hexenmeister (Steve) - human magic-user, character number 2 after he got hit by lightning and then fell in a hole
Get caught up:
Session 01.
Session 02.
Session 03.
Session 04.

SESSION FIVE: In which the new Magic-User goes insane

Recognizing that the DM was not playing around, the players decide they need cannon fodder to survive. After being directed to Chomper's Boat, a sort of inn built in the wreck of a boat on the eastern end of the hamlet, they quickly offer some cutthroats far too much money (3 coin a day!) to join them on an exploration back into the Grotto. They are joined by Mardric, Freaya, Harog, and Rathmax. The party offers to suit a few of them up in their former colleagues' gear (talk about heartless bastards). Now accompanied by some stalwart fighters with amazing armor class for Retainers, they head back to the Grotto, just two hours west of Scaldwater Bay.

Side note: Hirelings are the folks you hire to carry shit, clean your house, etc. Retainers are the foolish redshirts you hire to die instead of you in the dungeon! All my life I have been calleing them hirelings! According to the OSE rules, Retainers are: NPCs that are hired by characters to accompany them on an adventure. (NPCs hired for non-adventuring tasks are treated as hirelings, see Hirelings.) 

They enter the Grotto and enter the fog room again. A tense moment ensues when the party finally encounters the Will 'o Wisps that are trapped in this room. Steve has a tense moment standing face to face before the two shoot out of the dungeon and too freedom! Editor: I would have easily killed at least one Retainer or PC if a fight had began. W'oW are no fucking joke. The party easily scales the pit and climb back up to the far passage.

Up a flight of stairs and they come to an area with small alcoves on each side. Thorold is able to use his smart magics to decipher some of the ancient script:

A king named Adar Ek-Or ruled long ago, with his son Adarum Ag-Or at his side. The son had three brides Mashta, Lasa, and Byzu. Despite the son being beloved by all the kingdom, Mashta took a lover. When confronted by Adarum, Mashta rebuked him and ran to the arms of her lover. Adarum and the lover fought a lengthy fight with the lover eventually slaying Adarum (the text appears to imply the lover cheated, or had no honor). King Adar then slew the loved, and cursed Mashta. In sadness, the king then died of a broken heart.

Thorold decided to become rather bold at this point and ventured forward, turning left and encountering two large stone statues. These statues were crudely carved but stood eight feet tall and looked rather daunting. A large blue gem rested in the middle of their foreheads. He stepped before them and suddenly cracks began to emerge as the statues came to life! "Oh shit," squeaked the magic-user and he bolted down the passage....farther into the unknown! One statue clambered after the foolish magic-bender, while the other accosted the party.

Immediately Mardric suffered a tremendous attack, his head smashed against the dungeon wall by a massive stone hand. Brains oozed out of his ears, nostrils and he fell dead to the floor. The rest of the party braced to combat this new danger.

Meanwhile, deeper into the dungeon and alone, Thorold ran down a passage attempting to open a door he discovered. Locked, he squealed and turn to run farther down the passage, coming to right turn and another locked door. Perhaps finally realizing the path he had set his life down, he froze and waited for death to claim him. Editor: Yeah, we were all a bit shocked by this too. Who the fock runs away from danger by going forward into the depths of the unknown??? 3d6 in order buddy, this is not going to end well.

Back to the main party, the retainers open fire with arrows and one...Freya? I forget now...fires a silver arrow, landing squarely in the blue gem with a natural 20 roll. The magic that held him together is immediately shattered and the statue crumbles into a pile of rubble. Cam and Harog immediately sprint down the dark passage, looking for their foolish friend.

They turn the corner just in time to see the statue lunging for the mage. Fortunately for Thorold, it was not to be the statue's day, rolling a 1 on his attack. The statue completely bumbles the attack, plowing into the corner of the wall, smashing through it, and crashing into the metal door and partially bursting through it. Thorold, thankful to be alive, and without a thought, jumps over the statue and through the half-opened door.
Behind him, Cam and Harog go to work to save their friend. A few great shots and arrows pepper the statue, ending its magical life. The remainder of the party rushes to locate their strange friend, finding him safe in a room. A massive statue of a voluptuous fertility goddess stood near the entryway and two shimmering pools of clear water rested before a large stone sarcophagus. Sturdy shelves along the north and south walls hold dozens of smaller versions of the fertility goddess, ranging from an inch tall to six or seven inches. The group immediately recognize that these would be worth substantial coin back in town and especially to the right collectors.

Thorold fills one of the bottles he carries with the water from a pool. Then, again seemingly caught by a stroke of insanity, he takes a quick drink from the pool....



Wow, this went so far in the other direction from what I expected. I do not think I have ever had a player run into the unknown and distancing themselves from the rest of the party. I was very surprised.

  • I am a little bewildered how I never made the distinction between retainers and hirelings before. Not sure if this is a OSE thing or if it has always been this way. I have always lumped them together under the term 'hirelings'. Oh well, live and learn I guess!
  • I had thought these two statues would prove much more of a danger than they ended up being. I still killed one retainer but I thought they would have expended more of their resources, or even lost more of their retainers. No matter though, the dangers that await them will surely take their toll.
  • I have discovered that my players are using these as a bit of game notes to help them refresh their memory prior to the game. So, if you are one of my players and you read this, PM me for your prize. ;-)
  • I am beginning to think that my inclination to stick with OSE, and use it raw, was a good one. We are all familiar enough with the rules that we rarely have to look up rules. This session we looked up the retainer rules. I actually used the OSE SRD website to quickly do this during the game. I gotta say, I love these rules!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Magic Lab: Torpin's Spiral Portal

At first glance this is nothing more than a small, flat, and grey rock with a spiral etched into the most flat side.  The dull grey color belies it's true purpose: creating magical portals. The infamous mage Torpin 'The Dubious' of Longshanks created this magical item ages ago for a single purpose and once he was done, the stone passed into obscurity. Over time, some of the magic has faded from the stone, resulting in a less than trustworthy portal operation.

When through onto a flat surface this stone will disappear and will create a stone spiral staircase stretching in the direction perpendicular to the surface on which it is thrown. If thrown on a floor, the staircase will stretch downward. If thrown on a wall, the staircase will stretch horizontal to the ground. If thrown against a ceiling, it will create a stairway that reach upwards. Whatever the stone is thrown against must be a substantial solid object with at least ten square feet of surface. Throwing it into water will simply cause it to sink to the bottom and create the stairs under the water (and the ensuing chaos that will cause). The effect will remain in place for d66 minutes, at which point the stairs - and anything on them - will be destroyed. All that will remain is the simple stone, exactly where it was thrown. There will be no indication of the stairs about to close, one moment they will be there, and the next they will cease to exist.

Fiddly bits:
Stairs will reach in the direction they are created for d6x100 feet, any opening the stairs crosses paths with will cause an archway to appear. If a character is near an opening when the stairs begin to collapse, they are allowed a saving throw to leap clear. All other items or creatures, regardless of level or power are simply destroyed. To the right buyer, this stone would easily fetch 500 coin.

Dangerous add on:
Every time this is activated the DM should roll a d6, on a 1, something interesting happens. Instead of opening a simple staircase, the stairs end after two complete turns, coming to an archway that opens to a random plane of existence. This effect will last only half of the normal duration. If opened to a plane, the ruler of that plane may close this stairwell as they wish.

Friday, February 14, 2020

CollaboDungeon number 03!

#CollaboDungeon Number Three!

I took a week off from mapping to spend a little time with the family, but now we are back! Map #3 for collaboration! Now, get to work ladies and germs, flesh this puppy out!

Same plan here. I post a map. You flesh it out. If you contribute, you have full rights to use the map for personal or commercial use (see legalese below). Now, go forth and create!

Legalese: Matt Jackson allows free and unrestricted use, with attribution, of the above images even in commercial usage so long as they contribute to the CollaboDungeon effort by posting their creative work in the comments to this post, or link to them in the comments. "Their creative work" means you make up something for this dungeon. Failing to comply with the sharing of creative work will release Baby Yoda's wrath upon thee.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Zines! Ten Foot Zine, issue 1

Last year I got the itch to write (yet another zine) and I released it to my supporters over on Patreon. It began as a simple module for the purposes of exploration of The Black Hack RPG. I utilized the many excellent random tables found in the book to come up with many of the ideas in this adventure, which accounts for some of it's silliness. My patrons and players really seemed to have enjoyed this one, I had a great time just letting go and writing some silly, fun stuff. Perhaps you will enjoy it as well.

It also has artwork of the amazing Eric Quigley, check out his stuff here:

Download a copy:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Adventures in Scaldwater Bay, session 04

Seemorph (Joe) - an elven ranger, he's got a think for ruins and the talk on the coast was this place had ruins....and lots of treasure
Camatori (Tim) - a classic OSE elf, character number 2 for Tim as Mitrum was slain by gooblers in session 02
H'Qha (Steve) - a half-orc, sent here by others but interested in the possibility that his background is somehow tied to this place

Session 03.
Session 02.
Session 01.

SESSION FOUR: The Doom that came to the Grotto

So we had the full group back together and after a little shopping in town. They made some coin and arranged to rent a house in town for a month.

They returned to the Grotto and entered, immediately turning to the left passage. A statue similar to the one down the right passage had a spear aimed at the door, except this time someone had placed a blindfold around the statue's head. In front of the door were piles of black ash. The metal door had a pattern of recesses on it, 4x4 slots, some of them occupied with octagonal shaped blue or white gems. Unable to determine a pattern, they turned their focus to the statue and immediately knocked it over. This spread the ash piles and exposed eight more of these blue or white gems.

H'Qha decided to investigate, much to the repeated discouragement of his pals. He picked one gem in the door and attempted to remove it....resulting in a powerful shock rocking his slim body. He took 5 points of damage and immediately rethought attempting to unlock the door.

The group moved through the metal door int he main entry room and pushed down the hall. They next came to a large room covered in a thick floating fog that obscured their view. Through the fog they spot a couple of floating lights, most assume these are more of the floating balloons they found earlier in the dungeon. This room has many passages, and the party is eager to explore....

Seemorph maddeningly walks into the room and soon discovers the floor is unstable. He jumps to another square, only to discover that it too is unstable! He makes his saves and finds a square that is not attempting to kill him. He pauses to gather his wits and thank whatever gods he worships.

H'Qha bravely (or stupidly, as he has 1hp at this point) plunges forward, immediately falling his checks and plummets to his death int he darkness below!

Camatori leans down and observes the space below, seeing many thin pillars holding up the floor. Some of these pillars are broken and have become jagged points, perfect for impaling explorers like H'Qha. He drops down to explore and see if H'Qha can be helped, he also spots a paraplegic skeleton crawling towards him, he removes the head of the skeleton and ends the threat. He also notices the partial remains of another explorer in the far corner. Cam moves over and starts to climb up to the first passage on the right.

Seemorph....I guess lonely...decides he wants to be with Cam and moves back to the stable ground near the entrance. Then he bolts for the landing Cam is standing upon. The DM warns him that he will need to make a check, he waves this off and subsequently plummets to his death, right next to H'Qha.

Camatori utters under his breath, "Fuck."
He loots the skeleton, and his two new companions, then heads out of the Grotto of Doom! and heads back to Scaldwater Bay.



Where to begin....
  • This session was I mean I knew I made it deadly, but all of it was easily passable, within reason even! Remember all that 'old school caution' and shit I mentioned last session? Right. Out. The. Fucking. Window. Seriously, they were all so cautious and then in the fog room...maybe they had drank enough beer???....they suddenly went all 5e player on me. Four sessions, three character deaths! 
  • Well, I guess we will regroup this week. Rumor has it we are heading back to the Grotto of Death. This time with an elf and two human magic-users. Yeah, this is not going to end well...

Monday, February 3, 2020

Adventures in Scaldwater Bay, session 03

Seemorph (Joe) - an elven ranger, he's got a think for ruins and the talk on the coast was this place had ruins....and lots of treasure
Camatori(Tim) - a classic OSE elf, character number 2 for Tim as Mitrum was slain by gooblers in session 02
H'Qha (Steve) - a half-orc, sent here by others but interested in the possibility that his background is somehow tied to this place

Click here for game session 02.
Click here for the first game session.


We were one player down this week but the two other decided to continue onward and see if they could figure up what was going on in the grotto. Camatori and Seemorph began to explore the grotto, Camatori focusing on the statue while Seemorph's player was tricked by my dynamic lighting set up and began to search the right alcove for a secret door (see my end notes). Cam had noticed when H'Qha had shoved a goobler on the statues spear, the entire thing wobbled ever so slightly. He determined that the whole statue rested on a pivot and could be turned. When Seemorph's exploration of the alcove ended fruitlessly, he join Cam and together they turned the statue until a loud click was heard and the spear pointed at the left alcove. In a burst of dust, a secret door emerged. Cam spiked the door open, concerned it could close and trap them within. Smart. ;-)

They entered and found a small room with a large brazier burning a blue flame that gave off no heat. Ahead stood a large metal door. To the left and right were identical passages with statues. The right passage appeared more interesting as there was a figure held stuck to the door via two large spears in his chest.

Wandering down the right corridor for a better look they discovered another statue holding a spear, this time pointed at the door to the south. The two quickly deduced that this was some sort of sprung trap. They quickly managed to remove the trap's last victim and the spear stuck in the door subsequently disappeared.

Seemorph immediately searched the remains, which were well rotted and held nothing of value minus a fine looking part of boots and his ruined armor. Seemporph threw the boots on and began dancing around trying to activate the 'magical' boots without any luck.

Cam decided to try to open the door and narrowly  missed being skewered by a spear. Seemorph decided the best option was to destroy the statue. Cam helped, wrapping a rope around the statue's head and pulling from the front while Seemorph wedge himself behind it and pushed with his feet. They were successful in toppling the statue, but it nearly fell atop Cam. Luckily he was able to evade the falling statue with just a slight wound, 1hp. Following that, they were able to open the door.

A small room with wooden shelves, unfortunately the shelves were bare except for a single tome which rested on a stone pillar. The metal covered tome was quite interesting with what appeared to be sheets made from a thin-cut stone and gold colored lettering. The tome was written in a language neither could understand. Also in the room was an object floating in the upper corner, a large 2.5 foot wide white glowing balloon-like object. The round thing bobbled slightly and they quickly deduced this was some sort of large magic light, much like a balloon with a light inside. It was soft to the touch and floated upward when pulled down. Initially the two could not come up with a way to take the light with them and so they left it behind, it was perfectly round with no surface holds and frankly, it was large. Cam also noticed some runes or glyphs carved into the pillar, filled with gold. He quickly dug his dagger in and dug out the gold.

Suddenly they heard a door close back in the main room. The balloon was forgotten as fear struck the two and they prepared to defend themselves against whatever horrors may have entered the room.

Cam inched forward, weapon at the ready with Seemorph behind him, bow at the ready. They saw nothing and heard nothing. Cam inched forward, scanning the room....

...and the skeleton struck from its spot hidden in the corner! A solid hit that struck Cam and reduced him to near unconsciousness. Seemorph luckily was able to get a shot off, striking a second skeleton squarely in the forehead and shattering it's head. Cam rushed forward to avoid the next strike, one that could turn him into a skeleton! Seemorph, despite being slowed by his boots was able to move swiftly and notched another arrow, sending the second skeleton to their grave....again!

Cam was now grievously wounded (he had 1hp left and the party had no healing!) and with one man missing, the duo opted to head out of the dungeon, taking the slim treasures they had found, rest and return another day. Cam went back and grabbed the floating globe, hoping it would fetch a good price in town.



  • This session was wonderful old school gaming. The two players were very cautious and carefully aware that they could be outclassed in this dungeon.
  • I specifically put the cursed boots in the dungeon to tempt players. Tim was very much aware it could be a trick but failed to warn Joe. Joe put them on, then danced around the room. He tried to levitate, nothing. Tried to sneak around, nothing. It was great. Then when it came time to battle the skeleton and I instructed him that he received a -1 to his initiative Tim just began to laugh. He knew what was going on.
  • Knowing that players sometimes go meta and look for clue in the map and the digital tabletop, I will occasionally abuse this on purpose. In the image below you can see from the players' perspective they can see the hatching on the map in all the areas EXCEPT that right alcove (circled red below). Because I know certain players 😉 will meta here and conclude that there is likely a secret door hidden there, I purposefully drew hatching off the left alcove (circled in blue). This is where the actual secret door was. I plan worked perfectly and the player went over and began exploring the right alcove. Cheater. 😋
  • I have made a point of stating I would use the XP method used by Tim so the party is keen to recover anything of value in hopes that it would be worth something in town. I think this has worked out great thus far with Tim even digging the gold from the runes carved into the pillar. We will find out how well that works back in town during the next session.