Monday, April 18, 2011

Actual Dungeon Design

With Issue 2 being the first to feature an actual dungeon level (Level 1 is in layouts/waiting for one more article to complete), I've decided to put to pap... blog a few overview features to remember when designing each level.

In no particular order:

The dungeon is an ecology, not a series of encounters:
That means the dungeon, especially if a group lives there, needs to have everything a habitat would have; sleeping quarters, bathrooms, a place to eat, etc. Obviously these things might be different then "friendly races" standards because of the unique ecology of the race that inhabits it, but it should all be there. Some rooms may be empty, some not particularly thrilling (storage with no secret doors or coins), but all should make sense.
This also means that when stocking a dungeon, stock it to make sense, not always balanced. There may be "tougher" monsters in higher levels, players should know when to run, but only if it makes sense. You could put an 8HD Green Dragon on Level 2 but why wouldn't that dragon take out the inhabitants of that level and take over? So he can't be there. Look to place monsters that make sense within the dungeon you're making, not the "balance of the game."

Each level should stand alone, yet connect to the whole:
I've mentioned this before. Each level should be able to be played as a stand alone dungeon if that were someone's desire. Each level should have a goal, an "end boss" to beat, and a sense of accomplishment once finished. However, there should also be elements that connect each level to the mega-dungeons overall plot, an item here, a few clues there, etc. If run alone, these items, clues would, in essence, never be "solved," but many stand alone dungeons (especially earlier editions) had elements that really only the DM knew about because of reading the Backstory.
Because of this rule, each level should have several "set pieces," areas more exciting then the hallway with a few orcs or the prison cells with the torturer. There should be something that the players talk about after the game is over, whether by architectural design that makes for a memorable (and not just "I stand in front of him and swing my sword) combat round, a fiendish puzzle that was solved with player skill, or a reoccurring NPC that causes nothing but trouble for the PCs and finally gets his later in the dungeon.
Again, because each level stands alone, there should be a reason to be in there besides trying to get to the next level. Each should have a plot hook designed to make the PCs (assuming they're proper heroes) want to explore the dungeon and reach the endgame, instead of bypassing it quickly to get to the next level or just killing/exploring everything to level up.

Each level should allow a party of four to, potentially, level up
When stocking the dungeon, each level should have enough treasure and enemies to let an average party of 4 characters to level up. I chose 4 because, while older dungeons tend to talk about parties 6-8, 4 seems closer to the group size now a days. This is an easy formula to figure out. Take the average XP it takes from all the classes in LL to go from the current level of the dungeon to the next level and multiply by 4. So, for instance, if I was designing level 3, I'd take the difference from level 3 to 4 for each class and average them (about 4107 XP) then multiply that by 4 (16428) and then make sure there's enough monsters and treasure to hit that mark. Note, don't include random enocounters or monsters that are purposely supposed to be avoided. You also may want to add a little bit more, to cover the fact that a party may not find every hidden treasure cache or decide to fight every monster that they wander into. The game self balances with classes that have more powers at lower levels (slower leveling charts) and larger parties (they may not level, but their higher numbers make for ease of play.)
Also, remember when adding monsters to not just account for HD, but also No. Enc. An encounter of a creatures HD is balanced with the average of the No. Enc. A single 1 HD monster is not a balanced fight against a 1st level party (unless it's No. Enc. is 1-1).

Remember the 5 senses
Since we're using the 5 senses system to describe the dungeon, when creating it, think in all 5 senses. What do you hear in the room, what does it smell like, does anything have a unique texture? Remember to think of things a certain race (or class) may know that others don't, certain underground structures for dwarves, flora of fey origins for elves, the skill level of a locksmith to construct a particularly locked door for a thief, etc. Don't just rely on sight based descriptions when designing a room, think of how you, yourself, would perceive an area, with all 5 senses.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Issue 2

 Yes, it's been quiet here, a combination of a bad sinus infection on my end and the fact that we're between writing and publication on the first issue's end meant that there wasn't much to put down here on the blog.

But, finally I've got something to update on; Issue 2!

Now, why am I talking Issue 2 when the first issue isn't finished? Well, if the publication is to stay monthly, we'll need to have articles written in advance so we can begin edits and layouts in a much more time restricted manner then the first issue. If there are (roughly) only 30 days between each release, we can't take our time with the writing/art/edits/etc. So, while most articles on Issue 1 are tackled and are now just being edited, laid out, and drawn for, it's time to get writing on Issue 2.

Below is a work-in-progress table of contents for Issue 2:

Player's Section

God of Neutrality - Like the previous God of Law article, it discusses the Valadian's main church for this god.
Mini-Gazetteer: Ashencor - Detailing the hub town for the Mega-Dungeon
Organizations: The Ashen Blades of Kelias - The first article about one of the famed Fighter's Schools in Valador.
X - Still one article slot open to be used.

DM's Section
Mega-Dungeon Level 1: X - The first level of the Mega-Dungeon, name left out to avoid spoilers
Secret Societies: X - Detailing the background of a DM's-knowledge-only group.

Both sections may be one more article each, depending on length of the previous ones. As a monthly, I obviously don't want to try to put out 128 page supplements especially with a small writing staff working during their free time, but I don't want to due little 16 page things either.

Well, enough about the future, back to some layouts!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Dungeon Grows

Opening up the MegaDungeon itself up to a committee was one of the greatest things I've done in relation to this project. Once my gaming group got a hold of the initial idea and concept that ties the whole thing together they took it to places I probably never would have thought of myself.
Before I knew it, we had the initial ideas of each level planned out and already some of the more fantastical levels are getting brainstormed like crazy. With that done, I can now focus on the two DM articles for issue 1, the Dungeon Overview and Backtstory. The backstory I already knew, though with the added levels and what's in them, I can update the timeline to reflect things that occur there. The overview will be much easier now that we actually know what's in every level.

A little more writing and then that's all she wrote for Issue 1, things are coming together and I like it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Odd Quiet...

We're at this point in which all the old material is going through edits and no new material is being written. As a blog dedicated to the creation process of this publication, there is just not that much fun stuff to talk about. Still, some updates are in order.

Had my first art consultation, as it was, wherein a friend of mine read over a few of the demi-human articles and has begun sketching some drawings. Hopefully they'll be ready to go around layout time. Meanwhile, the articles are going through their first round of edits, big shout out to Chester for fixing all my mistakes. I tend to write fast when inspiration strikes and grammar and spelling don't always agree with first writing.

Meanwhile, I opened up the entire dungeon to my "writing staff" (i.e. group of players) to help throw some ideas out there, as this has turned more into something being made by a group then something being run by me. Once I gave them the basic premise of the whole megadungeon, they were certainly inspired and some great ideas immediately began to show up. Once we get each level codified I'll be able to write up the Dungeon Overview section and get that ready to publish on the DM side of things.

Things are coming together, and I like it! Also, quick shout out to all my fellow DM's, ST's, Ref's, GM's and whathaveyou's! Today is GM's Day, a day to celebrate those tireless bastards that keep games running and our imagination's filled with colorful tales of fancy. I mostly run games, but have been honored enough to be a player in some very entertaining games. I want to give a big thank you to everyone who's been brave enough to step behind the screen and nice enough to invite me to take a seat at their table.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

5 Senses Room Descriptions

Boxed text in adventures are a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, they're classic, which I know doesn't make something good, but it makes it stick in your mind. On the other hand, it's hard to convey a room properly with boxed text for every group out there. Some people may just want to play to kill things, so the players are drifting off as your describe the smell in the air and paintings on the walls. Others are trying to map every detail and anything left out of boxed text will mess them up. Other times, boxed text comes off as ridiculous, as several sentences describe the craggy walls, dripping water, and odd smells and end with "and a huge minotaur stands in the center of the room!" as if that wasn't the important first detail...

Many adventures that do away with box texts (especially more modern ones) give the DM little description of the room save for what can kill a PC or be killed by a PC and expect the map to handle the killing space (what the rest of the room looks like, who cares? As long as I know where I can stand when I hit things with my axe). Others might give a sparse description, but leave out details PCs may want to know about.

For our room descriptions I've come up with something I've tentatively called the "5 Senses" model, where in each location will be described using the 5 senses. Each sense entry won't be boxed text, it will be up to the DM to decide what to reveal and what not to reveal based on what the PCs are doing. Special provisions for the Demi-Humans and their special senses would also be included, such as describing the room by sight if only using infravision or things noticeable about the architecture to a dwarf.

Sight would concern itself mostly with the room size and locations of exits, I feel a good description of dimensions and ways in/out are important for mappers, as well as all the other descriptions most often found in traditional boxed text; unusual features on the walls, the materials/look of the walls themselves, large pools of water, paintings, etc. etc. As mentioned above, it would also include anything that may appear special via infravision, or perhaps an elf would notice that the room is dessigned in an elven style.

Sound would be useful not only for flavor, but the go-to entry for those adventurers smart enough to remember to listen at a door.

Smell and Taste don't often come up in room descriptions but I feel they are something that can really help set the scene. They are strong senses we use in real life that are oft neglected when describing something (be it a novel, dungeon, or even recounting a memory), but when are used often provoke an instant response from those listening to the description. Taste, as you may imagine, wouldn't come up too often, unless the adventurers go about licking the walls, however sometimes odors are so overpowering they have a "taste" to them, as to rooms and places that are overly stuffy, old, dusty, etc.

Touch/Feel is another thing often neglected, but can be important, be it the feel of soft ground under the adventures feet or the cold draft the chills the skin the second the door is open. It can even be used to describe the feel of the walls as adventurers run their hands over it looking for secret doors.

These don't only apply for the room of course, things in the room can get that treatment too, from inhabitants (the look of the monster is that much more memorable when coupled with its smell and sound) to items the adventurers investigate (the rusty squeal of an old suit of armor being moved, the smell of the odd liquid in the beaker on the table).

These won't be written to be read aloud, but rather, they'll be descriptive and thorough, with this system the DM can use as much or as little as he wants, depending on his players. He may stop at just the basic room description by sight for players who want to move along to the killing, or leave out parts the party hasn't discovered yet because they haven't fully walked into a room or the light hasn't hit that one corner with the weird pool of liquid (even though they can still hear and smell it). Also, each detail that only a certain race would sense/know about will be distinctly called out so that the DM's can adjust to what the party consist of.

For now, it's just an interesting concept, I'll put it into practice on the revised write-up of the first level of the dungeon and run it by my group for their thoughts on how well it works or if it's too much or not enough. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Updates

Have begun work on the DM side of Issue 1, hopefully with some other stuff out of the way, the freelance article on the god of law will be showing up soon.

Starting to think about a ToC for Issue 2, have a few ideas, will put into a more concrete idea later. My articles for Issue 1 will be going off to be read by several people to act as editors, you can't edit your own work, it just never works out.

I may have an artist, I wasn't really looking for one, but sometimes things fall into your lap, which is always a good thing.

Finally, I have an idea on a "5 Senses" approach to describing rooms in a dungeon, I'll elaborate more in another post tomorrow when I have the idea better hammered out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Progress Report

Everything for the first issue on the Player's Side of things has been written, save for the God article which should be showing up soon.

On the DM's side of thing, the two articles explaining the rough backstory of the dungeon as well as a overview of what's on each level so DM's can begin building subplots and such is being roughly put together. Later this week I'm having a good friend and fellow gaming conspirator listen to a few of my ideas and act as a sounding board. He always tends to enhance my level of devious plans and provide some of his own that blend in perfectly with my ideas.

With any luck, those should be written soon afterward and I'll start editing and laying out the articles, all the while getting things ready to be written for Issue 2 so we can try to maintain a monthly release.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Regional Overview

The Telstara Region of the Valadian Empire is so named because of the port city of Telstara, the largest and most important city within many miles. Situated on the coast of the Mære Ocean, Telstara is an important trade city with many Imports and Exports leaving its docks nearly every hour of every day.

To the north, the great Ellengæst Peaks rise majestically along the city's horizon. Once pocketed with several dwarven strongholds, they were abandoned as the dwarf populations dwindled in the face of their mysterious curse. Now, many people of the Empire have begun to explore the strongholds, seeking out lost treasures and veins of precious metals. Forge's Claim is the first mining town to grow around such a claim, but are more are sure to follow. These mountains are surrounded by the Hebban Highlands, a hilly region left relatively undeveloped in the west. It is here that several tribes of monstrous races call home and occasionally head out to prey on the good peoples of the Empire.

To the east and west, two great forests stretch on for miles, much of which has been unexplored. The woods grow thick and dark the deeper one travels within and rumors of fae, elves, and far worse keep most people out and dissuade the establishment of any towns on the forests' edge. Lone woodsmen or small groups may establish a few camps along their borders, but the last long term settlement attempted to be established was razed to the ground soon after completion by large group of halflings. It was here the people of the region learned that those halflings left abandoned to the woods have banded together and formed some semblance of a community. Many cursed with halfling births now killed their child quickly, but there are still those that cannot bring themselves to such actions and continue to leave their deformed children along the wood's edge, hoping they'll taken in by those that live in the woods. Thus, the halfling bands continue to grow.

Two great rivers, along with their branches, wind their way though much of the grasslands of the region, providing many nutrients as well as irrigation opportunities to the land. This, along with the temperate climate and ample rainfall coming off the ocean, means there is a great amount of agricultural development around the city. Vast farmlands, dotted by occasional farmhouses, water mills, and barns and stables can be seen for miles around the city itself. While the occasional several storm coming off the ocean and being trapped in the region by the mountains may wreck havoc on the farms, the people are hardy and swiftly rebuild and carry on their lives, making the region very prosperous. Telstara is mostly self sustaining and relies on few imports, meaning it prospers from the taxes of the amount of goods coming out of and into the city that they don't need themselves.

The importance of the city as a trade port meant the Empire commissioned a great road, the Telstara Run, to connect Telstara to the rest of the Empire in the north. This two wagon wide, cobble stone paved road is well maintained and patrolled, making it one of the safest and smoothest roads in the Empire. Fort Renault sits in a hilly region of the road, flanked by treacherous, mountainous terrain to the west and a tangled swath of forest to the east making it highly defensible. From here, riders head out along the road to keep it clear of highwaymen, ravenous beasts, and monstrous creatures. It is also the only viable land route into Telstara for trade caravans, giving the soldiers an opportunity to check traders for illegal cargo as well as impose a tax for passing through the fort, much to the chagrin of traders and the joy of Imperial coffers.

The only other places of note in the region is Ashencor and the Tel'ur'Rath. Ashencor a small village situated on the banks of the Nædre River and nestled in a valley between two hills. Generations ago this was a sacred site, a monastic order built a monastery atop one of the hills that has long since been abandoned. The village continues to live on however, offering a good resting point for those traveling the Run, and sitting in the shadow of the old abandoned monastery. The ruins of an ancient fortress, Tel'ur'Rath sits along the southern edge of the Grénian Forest. Much of it has been explored by Imperial scholars, though their are rumors that there are entrances to areas beneath the ruins not yet discovered. The name comes from a bastardization of the elven words for Old Tower, after the scholars noted much of the architectural design is similar to that of the elves. Those elves who have seen the ruins say that, while their are similarities, the actual design and fading decorative work is not truly elven design but something different.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The ability to wield arcane magic is a powerful one. Unlike those blessed with divine abilities, magic-users gain their power through study, routine, and sheer force of will. Magic is not a mysterious force to them, but instead a tool used to shape and mold the world, like a blacksmith uses a hammer to forge metal. While a magic-user may not fully understand the powers he wields, his ability to wield them show a great amount of tenacity, will, and intelligence.

Arcane magic is often looked up with suspicion and fear, those who study the art often do so in secret. Unlike the guilds dedicated to teaching fighters and delvers or the great temples where clerics train, magic-users do their study in secret. The amount of focus and training involved means that most magic-uers are taught individually, conducting private lessons away from prying eyes. Rumors persist, however, of great cabals or magic-users teaching groups of students in hidden places far from civilization. Common folk speak of these places in secret, in fear of a great army of spell-casters intent on ruling the world through magical power. Most magic-users are not power hungry however, but are instead inquisitive, seeking to discover the deeper meaning to magic and its place in life.

Magic-users are usually not welcome among the common folk. The powers of their abilities and the mystery in which that power comes from is the exact opposite of the religious qualities of divine magic. To most people, magic-users are trafficking with dark creatures, manipulating powers that were not made for them, or simply too powerful to be trusted. Most magic-users avoid civilized places whenever possible and when they must travel there, they do little to reveal their abilities. Even those that travel with other adventurers will hide themselves in plain site, often pretending to be a hireling or guide for the party so not to bring down unjust paranoia and prejudice against the group.

Why They Adventure: Because there is no unified teaching for magic-users, nor, seemingly any limit to their power, much of the secrets of arcane casting has been lost to time. There was a point in history when magic wasn’t so feared and many ruins that dot the landscape are rumored to contain magical secrets. Many magic-users travel among more physically hardy adventurers to seek out these places and new avenues of study. Magic-users are often inquisitive as well, the ability to manipulate magic and power beyond the physical realm requires such a mind and dungeons, with their many secrets and hidden threats often offer a challenge to such minds.

Role-Playing Tips: Magic-users wield a great deal of power, of which few fully understand. Most magic-users seek to understand why however, meaning they are inquisitive and often curious to a fault. Most magic-users are taught that magic is a powerful force and not to be used lightly, indeed, the fact that most magic-users cannot handle the ability the power to cast more then a few spells a day, means most respect the power they have and do not waste it. Magic-users are also feared by most common folk and though they are no match for a caster, especially one among an adventuring party, eventually numbers always win out and a whole town turned against a magic-user can make it a very unpleasant stay. Often other adventurers do not fully trust a magic-user either, either due to growing up among the same tales the common folk have or because of the magic-user’s lack of understanding their abilities, as opposed to the understanding the other classes have on their unique gifts. This mistrust often means that magic-users are withdrawn and quiet, either trying to avoid attention, or dealing with the emotional weight of having a world against them.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Fighters are the masters of armed combat, trained in the use of nearly every type of weapon and armor produced by humans. Pushed to the limits physically, drilled in a variety of tactics, and taught the quickest way to kill, these are highly specialized warriors and no mere city guard or militia.

Fighters are taught in a variety of private run guilds as well as local sponsored war colleges, each very exclusive clubs that only the most skilled, hardened, and most importantly wealthy are admitted. Trained for years about the intricacies of a large variety of weapons and armor as well as put through a variety of physical tests and strengthening exercises. Many drop out before training is over, those that graduated are strong of mind, body, and spirit. Fighters take great pride in the guilds and war colleges they come from and often incorporate the colors and symbols of their guild or college into their arms and armor to show which school bred such a fine warrior.

Fighters are often welcome in towns and treated like celebrities. Where as those who cast magic are either seen with holy reverence or fear and delvers are often seen as nothing better then desecraters and tomb robbers, fighters are often heralded and treated as heroes, especially if they offer protection to the town. This worship combine with a fighter’s physical abilities sometimes creates a sense of superiority in a fighter and they treat many commoners as lesser beings barely worth notice. Fighters who let this ego get out of control may become a terror in their own right and the town they once welcomed them soon fear the monster they helped create.

Why They Adventure: Fighters most often adventure for riches, fame, honor, or most likely a combination of all three. Few can afford their training outright and take up adventuring to help pay off their loans while bringing glory to their guild’s name by performing heroic deeds. A fighter is much too well trained to be a simple city watchman or would grow too bored being a caravan guard. Their abilities can only be properly tested in the face of danger that adventuring brings.

Role-Playing Tips: Fighters never forget they are the best trained in the area of martial combat nor do they forget that they are physical specimens far beyond others, including other adventurers. Fighters are often worshiped as larger-then-life heroes by common folk and most fighters will take the adoration to their heads and act larger-then-life, especially when trying to impress nonadventures. Weapon training and combat tactics were drilled into a fighter’s head for years and few see a reason to try to settle anything without use of such things. Fighters often have little other hobbies or topics of conversation as well, which can sometimes grate on other more rounded adventuring types. Fighters from different guilds or colleges can’t help but compete with one another, usually on a friendly level, but competition can heat up quickly among those that know little outside of combat.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Delvers are often what the common folk think of when they think of an adventurer. While a cleric may dedicate time at a temple converting people to his faith or a dwarf may travel village to village protecting them from bandits, a delver is trained and is skilled primarily in one thing; to explore lost dungeons, monster infested caverns, and ancient ruins. To a delver these are the ultimate test of their wits.

Delvers are trained in a variety of guilds scattered through out civilized land. These guilds are often funded by historians looking for more information about the past, archivists trying to share and preserve history, or simply private collectors looking to add old artifacts to their collection that no one else owns. The investors to the guilds often get first pick of those items a delver finds of historical value, and delvers who try to strike out on their own after their training soon find themselves on the run from those the invested time and money without compensation. Because of this, many delvers will collect things that most other adventurers would consider junk. Guilds train delvers who to properly navigate the winding halls and crumbling corridors of a dungeon, avoiding traps laid out by those that built the place or those recently moved in, spotting hidden passages and buried secrets, and defending themselves against those that have taken up the dungeon as a lair. Delvers are of one of two personalities, or of rare occurrence both, those that share the inquisitive nature of their patrons, always curious as to what’s behind that next door or what bits of past they can discover and those that need a near constant danger in their life, looking to satisfy their craving for adrenaline and the rush of near death.

Delvers are viewed with trepidation by the common folk, they don’t usually offer the type of aid that a fighter or cleric or dwarf could nor are they as feared or misunderstood as elves, magic-users, or halflings. Most people believe that they skills a delver learns to get into and out of dungeons both in secret and with a handful of stuff could be equally applied to any home or shop and some delvers do indeed use their skills like that. However, most delvers see little challenge in taking something from a farmer’s home or from a noble’s pocket. Others feel what a delver does is disrespectful and desecrating. While many adventurers journey into ancient ruins or hidden dungeons, most do so to root out evil or threats to civilization while a delver usually does so to take something back out with him that didn’t necessarily belong to those evils that inhabit it. Even delvers who do so for noble purposes, to help learn about ages long past or discover clues about civilizations that had come before that could provide help to those that exist now, still can run into trouble from those who believe the past should lay undisturbed lest you rouse those that rest there.

Why They Adventure: Delvers are trained to adventure, it is their sole means of both sustenance and entertainment. A delvers skills apply directly to the exploration of hidden places and they would have little use of them elsewhere, or atleast not enough use to justify the training they went through. Delvers don’t often adventure for the same reasons as many other classes, a delver’s pursuit is usually material, while most others do so to protect against evil or to discover hidden knowledge. Delvers will not shy away from those other pursuits and their are many noble delvers who wish to help people and many inquisitive ones that wish to learn ancient secrets, but both do so on top of acquiring anything of value they find. Most delvers will travel with other adventurers for protection and preservation, even if it means splitting up the things they find down there.

Role-Playing Tips: It takes a unique type of personality to be a delver. More so then any other class, delvers understand how cheap life is among adventurers, a swift death can await behind any door, or come from the door itself. Yet delvers not only train for those situations, most can’t wait to meet those situations head on. Delvers often live for the moment, not too concerned with the future and only concerned with the past in how it may help them past an obstacle the currently faces them. Delvers are usually bold, boisterous, and aren’t known to shy away in the back of a group when standing out in front and waving their arms gets much more attention. Many a farmer’s son or daughter has fallen for the charms of a delver and their nomadic lifestyle, or angry fathers, means delvers make for strong memories instead of a reliant companion. The delver’s outspoken behavior and dangerous living often endears him to dwarves and garners him the disdain of elves. In dangerous situations and their chosen environment, they are not suicidal, indeed, escaping with one’s life is the ultimate challenge, but, they are not cowardly, as that means they won’t get to see what’s behind the next door.

Rule Changes: Delvers retain all the features of the Thief class as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Delvers speak Common only. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Clerics are both divine emissaries and holy warriors, looking to spread the word of their faith and seek out anathema to that faith and smite it, in particular the undead. To all religions and faiths, undead are a mockery of the gift of life, and must be vanquished whenever possible. To that end, all clerics are trained in weaponry best suited to combat these mockeries as well as the possessing the ability to focus their faith in a holy light that can banish or even destroy the undead.

Legends claim that at one time the clerics were but an Order of one faith, who’s name is lost to history. Their intense training, combat prowess, and array of divine spells began to win over the people of the land, and causing the other faiths to grow jealous. To that end, many other religions lured away clerics and their teachers to covert to their faith and teach to their faithful. Today, nearly every faith has cleric training, all culled from the same roots, accounting for the similarities in abilities and martial skill among all clerics.

In most civilized places, clerics are welcome with open arms. Divine magic, especially of the healing kind, is looked upon in wonderment and awe, instead of the fear and mistrust of arcane magic stylings. Cleric abilities granted by the gods, one of the few observable signs of their power, is revered and honored. However, some question the true roots of a cleric’s power, citing the lack of other divine manifestations as well as the disturbing similarities of abilities dispersed among the many faiths. Those people theorize that the power does not come from the divine, but something far more sinister, in a bid to cause complacency among the populace.

Why They Adventure: Clerics adventure mostly for one reason. To seek out those that are a perversion to their faith and destroy them. This holds particularly true to the undead and those that use the undead, a common foe among all clerics. Besides that, clerics adventure to help spread their faith, as adventurers often travel the length and breadth of the world and this allows the cleric a chance to introduce settlements throughout the land to the miracles of his religion. Many faiths do not sponsor a cleric after his training is complete and the fortune found in adventuring can help keep a cleric on his tasks. Other faiths send clerics out seeking old artifacts and relics lost in crumbling ruins that hold import to their religion as well.

Role-Playing Tips: Don’t forget that a cleric is, above all, dedicated to his faith. He should never hesitate to speak the tenets of his religion or call upon his gods whenever possible. Nor will a cleric not take an opportunity to attempt to convert others to his faith. Training as a cleric takes years of dedication and an unshakable faith, clerics should pray or institute other traditions of their religion during rests and at night and may even hum hymns or quote passage from holy scriptures. Incorporating their faith into all they do should be second nature to a cleric.

Rule Changes: Clerics retain all the features as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Clerics speak Common and the Alignment Language of their deity.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Humans are the dominant species of the realm, their vast Valadian Empire stretches far and wide throughout the land, laying claim to all that they can see. Humans are creatures of quick wits, strong minds, and deep emotions. Unlike the distant elves or stoic dwarves, humans are not afraid to allow their emotions to guide them, using them to endure and persevere where the otherwise frail and short lived race would surely perish. Because of this, they have quickly dominated the lands around them, continuing to expand their borders while the other races dwindle into nothingness.

Physical Description: Humans of the Valadian Empire are primarily olive skinned, with dark hair and dark eyes. They average around 5’5" for males and 5’2" for females, weighing an average of 155 lbs. and 115 lbs. for males and females respectively. Due to the vast reach of the Valadian Empire, there are many physical variations among humans, especially as one moves further north and south. The further north one travels, humans begin to lose color in their skin, hair, and eyes, with rare strains of pale skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed humans existing in further norther reaches of the empire. The further north one goes the taller and broader humans become as well, to help survive in the harsh frigid reaches. Skin color begins to darken as one travels do the sun baked southern lands, and humans are often much more leaner, though increased muscle means they do not always weigh less then the average citizen. Humans live an average of 70 years.

Why They Adventure: Humans are nothing if not curious creatures, a mentality that leads many on the path of adventure. The sense of discover, the rush of combat, and the fame brought on by protecting the weak is a lifestyle desired by young humans. However, the physical demands, inherent danger, and social stigma that comes with such a life means few ever become those heroes they fantasize about.

Role-Playing Tips: Humans are the easiest race to role play, as they are essentially the same as the players. Though they exist within a fantastical setting, the human condition changes little, and thus, playing a human is no different then putting one’s own mindset into the game.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Halflings are not a true race, but rather an unfortunate phenomenon that has visited the humans generations. A halfling is born of human parents, a sickly, deformed, thing that is looked upon as curse. Those couples that bear a halfling baby are said to have angered the gods or committed a sin they had yet to repent for. While some compassionate parents will raise the child, despite its ill omen, most put their child out into the woods to die from exposure. Many halflings suffer this fate, yet some survive. Those that did wait, just outside human settlements, for more of their kind to be cast aside so that they can take them in and raise them to adulthood, for halflings are born sterile and can never produce anymore of their kind.

Halflings are usually not welcome within human communities, some may tolerate their presence, while most will drive them out of town, or worse. Some may be hired by nobles to act as entertainment or picked up by troubadours to become an oddity in their act, but most are looked upon as a walking curse. Because of this, halflings tend to be self reliant, and while they may work with others, they trust very few besides themselves.

Physical Description: Halflings vary greatly in their look, though all are much smaller then humans and most are smaller still then dwarves averaging under four feet tall and weighing less the 90 lbs. All halflings are born with some number of physical deformities, which can be as subtle as an unnatural skin color to as terrifying as having claws instead of hands or vestigial wings or atrophied limbs. No two halflings are ever exactly the same and those with more extreme deformities stay far away from human lands (if they survive for more then a few years). Halflings have no uniform age range, many die young due to complications because of their physical anomalies while some have been reported to be alive for hundreds of years.

Why They Adventure: Most halflings adventure because they have no other means to support themselves. While many are content to live off the land outside civilized regions, a halfling still has a human sense of curiosity and desire to be part of a group (even if he believes he is fully self reliant). While some can find work in more tolerating towns, most find adventuring the only option left for them. Adventuring parties are far more tolerating then most, they’ve been exposed to things that would drive a normal man mad, a halfling that is willing to fight by their side is never taken for granted. Also, traveling with an adventuring party may allow a halfling to enter towns and other civilized areas as a group of adventurers can certainly prove intimidating for those wishing harm to a halfling (though few adventuring parties can handle an entire town mob, so they should not be so quick to test this theory).

Role-Playing Tips: A halfling should play up the fact that he relies on only himself. After all, humans think him a curse, elves find him disgusting, and while dwarves don’t seem to mind him, he’s pretty sure they’re snickering at him behind his back. A halfling has had to struggle to survive as long as he did and will always have to continue to do so, this often makes halflings gruff and without mirth. A halfling’s physical deformity is always a hindrance, never a boon, it is often painful or causes problems doing things others may take for granted, be mindful to always remind the rest of the party just what a halfling has to struggle with everyday.
The rest of the party should remember the stigma of the halfling as well, they were raised to see them as curses. For all intents and purposes, the halfling should not be alive. Even though adventurers are much more accepting of others then most (after facing the horrors they’ve faced, anyone fighting by their side is welcome, no matter how they appear), it is hard to shake off generations of belief.

Rule Changes: Halflings retain all the features as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Halflings speak Common and one Monster Language of their choice.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Elves are not from this land, they had migrated here generations ago (by human standards) from the Land of the Fae. Home of such creatures as sprites and pixies, the elves claim this land is “beyond the horizon,” though whether that means it is simply beyond the reach of the Valadian Empire or it exists on a whole different plane of existence is unknown and the elves are not sharing. Elves live in the unsettled wilderness of the land, among the vast forests yet to be cleared by human expansion. How they live is a mystery, no non-fae has ever entered elven lands and lived to tell what they saw.

Elves retain much of their fae origins, they are immortal, no elf has ever succumbed to old age. Because of this, they are able to think in long terms, allowing plans and actions to play out over hundreds of years, something beyond the scope of shorter lived races (even those that live longer lives, such as the dwarves). They are not nearly overcome by emotion as other intelligent species, often coming across as cold and distant. They are not totally devoid of emotion, they just do not let short term events affect those emotions like other races do. Elves have an alien mindset, their sense of morality for creatures with finite lifespans is next to nothing, and most elves look upon the short lived races the same way a human would look upon an ant.

Physical Description: Elves are tall and lithe, with both males and females averaging over 6’6" yet weighing barely over 125 lbs. They have long, pointed ears and their skin is a smooth white, like porcelain. Elven hair ranges from stark white to a variety of shades of soft yellows (with rare light blues sometimes seen as well) and their eyes are often a similar light color. Elven eyes seem to twinkle in the softer glows of moonlight and fire at night, as if reflecting the stars above, even when they are not outdoors.

Why They Adventure: An elf that is adventuring with a party is often doing so for himself or his people, not for the sense of glory or to protect those in need. Their reasoning is not always explained to those in his party, but his prowess in both magic and martial abilities means few adventurers bother asking as long as he brings his skills to bear. Even those elves that do share their reasoning with the rest of the party may not always be telling the truth, but instead simply coming up with a reason to get the others to stop asking him questions.

Role-Playing Tips: Elves are not simply humans with pointy ears and faux haughty British accents. An elven player should really play up the alien mindset and sense of superiority elves have over “lesser creatures” (read: anything not fae). Elves have no problem using others to get what they want and are very dismissive of life (save for their own and those of other fae). While an elf may have no problem sacrificing an entire human village to facilitate a plan, they obviously find the adventurers they travel with useful and therefore are not so quick to sacrifice them. Adventurers are a rare breed and not to be so trivially wasted.

Elves tend to speak little, only when their is important information to get across. When an elf must debase itself to speak the Common tongue it is often quick and to the point, with no flourish, embellishment, or tact. They find little need to waste breath on idle chatter, which means they maintain a constant disdain for dwarves, who don’t have the common decency to shut up.

In combat, elves look to end things quickly and efficiently, just because they are immortal does not mean the cannot be killed. With the knowledge that death can only come from an outside source and not the passage of time, elves try to avoid it as much as possible (atleast until they get bored of living) and therefore look to end things quickly and not take needless risks.

Rule Changes: Elves retain all the features as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Elves speak Common and Elven only. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The dwarves are dying, each year more leave the world then are brought into it. For the past one hundred years more and more dwarven children are stillborn and more dwarven females find themselves barren and unable to conceive. The vast dwarven clanholds dug deep into the mountains have begun to fall silent, whole clans have disappeared, lost to time. The dwarves, ever stubborn and proud face this new threat like they do any other, through stoic silence and glorious battle.

If a dwarf cannot be remembered by the offspring he leaves in the world then he will be remembered by deed. Dwarves now wander the world, looking to right wrongs and save the helpless. For a dwarf, to die in glorious battle, his name forever linked to bravery, honor, and unmitigated violence against his foe, is the only way to die. Dwarves are now eternal wanderers, never settling in one place very long and often joining up with adventuring parties to face evils. Most communities welcome dwarves (save for the local alehouses and taverns that have to keep up with their voracious appetite for food and alcohol), knowing that they will root out any ills and danger that the community faces, as long as it is worthy enough of the dwarves attention that is. A vast goblin horde poised to attack is far more glorious then a problem with giant rats after all.

Physical Description: Dwarves average four feet in height, with squat, broad bodies and a thick mass, often averaging 150 lbs for males and 130 for females. Dwarves have a vareity of hair and eye color depending on the clan they originally hailed from and its location. All tend to have skin of earthen tones, usually tan or dirt brown. Male dwarves grow thick facial hair, a sign of pride among their people. It is often a sign of extreme sadness and mourning for a dwarf to shave his beard. Females of the species grow beards as well however they are never as full as a male’s and most will shave it after marriage as a sign of being betrothed (a dwarven female made widow will grow back her beard when ready to take a new mate, and no male would dare approach a female with a shaved face with the offer of courtship). Dwarves live an average of 350 years, though most will never live to see old age.

Why They Adventure: For Dwarves, adventuring is their only way of life. The danger and honor from rooting out threats to the innocent and discovering and vanquishing ancient evils is the only way a dwarf will ever be remembered in their minds. There are very few dwarven settlements any more, instead the dwarves wander the world, adventuring until they finally face the threat that will put them in the annal of history.

Role-Playing Tips: Glory and Honor by combat, protecting those that cannot protect themselves, and being remembered for heroic deeds, these are the things a dwarf lives by. Negotiations with those of evil intent, taking prisoners, and showing mercy to those that would not do the same to you are unthinkable actions to any dwarf. This does not mean a dwarf is a ruthless killer however, he believes in honorable combat, facing a foe head on so they know who it is that brought them down. Dwarves will always protect the innocent and show a great deal of common courtesy and manners, except when a dwarf has too much to drink (which is often, a dwarf has a heard time saying know to good food and good ale).

Dwarves are antsy for action, not wanting to waste time that could be spent rooting out evil. While they understand studying a foe is necessarily, they’d much rather be studying what’s left of it after it has met the end of a sharp axe. Dwarves are not stupid however, they will not blindly rush into rooms or face clearly superior numbers. A dwarf wishes to be remembered by his deeds, and a poison needle trap or being hacked to bits by a dozen kobolds is not the type of memory he wants to pass on.

Remember to play up the stoic nature of dwarves, they are not emotional beings in most situations, though they are known to let loose in combat. A dwarf in combat shouldn’t be standing still swinging his axe, he should be charging opponents, taunting them as he cuts them down and smearing their blood on his armor to unnerve the opponents allies. A dwarf will only retreat if he knows the battle is lost, and many times that is not the same time as his allies. Between combat, a dwarf should talk about potential glory that could gained in upcoming encounters and often grows bored with discussions about why a particular statue is where it is. One thing a dwarf is not, is quiet, be it in battle, after having one too many drinks, or when swearing oaths and speaking of past deeds. A dwarf should never walk around silence, a trait that annoys the elves and many humans to no end.

Rule Changes: Dwarves retain all the features as presented in Labyrinth Lord with the follow exception: Languages: Dwarves speak Common and Dwarven only.

Keeping Things On the Blog

While Obsidian Portal is great to keep things organized for gaming purposes, I think actual article stuff needs to go here. It's a convenient source and allows others to see, comment, and point out errors on things written, like a design and development blog should be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back From Vacation!

In hindsight, I suppose I should have said I was going on vacation... live and learn.

Progress continues however, languages are over and done with and I'm turning to doing parts of the DM section of the Monthly, getting all my thoughts down for a synopsis and level by level summary so DMs have a good feel for what's to come.

Meanwhile, the God of Law section is taking shape from my "freelancers" while a few other ideas are on the drawing board for future issues so we can try to keep to a monthly release date.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Languages of Valador: Monster Languages

Monster Languages

The Valadian Empire considers any race that is not dwarf or elf as a "monster," decreeing they should be eliminated on sight. Though some places may be more accepting of halflings, or a shopkeeper may have a goblin slave, they are still always considered nothing more then monsters. However, many of these "monsters" have cultures and societies of their own and with them, a development of language. While most Valadians and their allies would have no use for learning such languages, many adventurers study and learn these tongues, as they are more likely to run into such creatures out in the wilderness and dark places they explore.

Fey: Fey is the basis of the Elven tongue, so much so that those that speak Elven can often understand the basic concept of something spoken in Fey. However, while the elves codified and shorten the language to more effectively communicate with the shorter lived races, Fey have had no need for that. Fey remains a lyrical, floating, long language, beings that live forever have no need to speak in clipped phrases and sentences. Ask a fey how it is feeling and it may be an hour before she finishes her answer, explaining each nuance in her feelings, allowing each word to resonant and carry on the wind. Fey are also ever changing, like nature herself, they are always changing and their words change with them. Words change in tone and strength, flow and length, making the language hard to pin down accurately. Unlike the pure Chaos tongue, however, words generally maintain the same ideal, meaning that when one learns the root of a word, they cause usually adapt to any changes after hearing it a few times. Still, the length of the language and its massive vocabulary so depending on pitch, tone, and cadence makes Fey one of the least learned languages, often requires decades to master even the simplest structure.

Goblin: While goblins are scattered into numerous tribes throughout Valador and their languages has hundreds of dialects, it does come from a common root. Goblin has a distinctive rhyming quality, with many of their words ending in vowel sounds and a short range of consonant, mostly hard sounds. Many words in Goblin also features swallowed sounds and clicks of the tongue and emphasis is given to certain words and commands by repeating a word twice. Goblins have a very simple vocabulary and because of this, they often steal words from other languages to identify things they don't often come into contact with. These words tend to still take on a Goblin sound however as goblins often inject vowels to separate syllables in their borrowed words, particularly "u" sounds. While dialects vary, it is often in terms of borrowed words, making each dialect easy to figure out if one knows the root and what other races exist around them. Goblin is one of the most often learned "monster tongues" because of the simplicity and large number of goblins found in Valador.

Gnoll: The Gnoll tongue is, unsurprisingly, mixed with a many canine traits; yips, howls, growls, even posture, showing of teeth and rising of hair factor into the gnoll language. Gnolls, being a slaver and raider race, have a lot of words used to describe people and items taken from others, words based on their worth, usefulness, and selling price. Conversely, gnolls have few words for working and creating things themselves. Art, as a whole, is a foreign concept to gnolls and they have few descriptive words in their vocabulary besides base emotions and primal urges. Gnoll is a particularly hard language to learn, for it is much like learning the language of a wolf or dog. While figuring out the intent of a word is simple, the need to be expressive in body and fur dynamics as well as vocal sounds makes it difficult to discern the actual words. Gnoll is only learned on a very simplistic level by those races that bother to try it, as some concepts, phrases, and words are simply impossible do to without a thick coat of fur. Most of the Valadian Empire and their allies would rather kill a gnoll then trying to talk to it anyway.

Orc: Orc is a deep, harsh, guttural language, punctuated with growls and fierce delivery. Much of their words relate to killing, death, and the glory of bloodshed. While this is not unexpected given the orc's nature, what does surprise scholars is how much the language resembles early human tongue. Not quite Valadian and not exactly what was used by humans before, Orc certainly shares some common ancestry with these languages. For many scholars this poses a question if orcs also share a common ancestry with humans, something hard to determine with a lack of written or coherent oral history of the orcs. However, the similarities makes this an one of the easier tongues to learn by many humans. Along with Goblin, this is the most common of the "monster tongues" learned by adventurers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Project Update

So, MegaDungeon Monthly is in full swing, and things are coming together for Issue 1 as I speak. I don't have an ETA on it yet, I'm going to wait until we not only have all the articles for it done, but also several more in order to be prepared for a monthly release schedule.

Here, however, is the proposed ToC of the first issue:
Player's Section:
Classes in Valador: Looking at the Labyrinth Lord classes and how they fit into the world of Valador (Finished)
Languages of Valador: Giving a brief overview of the potential starter languages the PCs have (2/3 Finished)
Faiths of Valador, The Church of Law: Name subject to change, being written by my good friend Sean
Valador, The Telstara Region: A brief overview (and wilderness map) of the area surrounding the megadungeon

DM's Section:
Campaign Background: What happened in the past to make the dungeon what it is in the present
Campaign Overview: A synopsis of the levels and what's to expect.

As you can see, Issue 1 is sorta a preview issue, getting people ready to play without providing the actual dungeon to play in. Issue 2 would see the first level of the dungeon as well as several more player focused articles to help bring Valador to life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Faiths of Valador: The Three Alignment Gods

The Valadian Empire's official religion is built around three primary deities, higher powers representing Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. It is the only recognized religion in the Empire and as it expands, it looks to abolish or absorb other religions into their own. In terms of other information... well I don't have it yet.

In a show of true cooperative world building, the full look at these gods and the religious practice built around them is actually being left up to some of my players. It shall eventually be turned into an article for our first published work. It's just exciting to see others working on this as well and I just wanted to share that.