Blog Recommendation: From the Sorcerer’s Skull

I planned to write this post months and months ago, however universities came along and tackled me, held me down and beat me with knowledge and group projects. On the plus side I now have a totally awesome summer job (nuclear chemistry, including monitoring radiation levels reaching the west coast from Japan), an undergraduate thesis position for next year (NMR studies on protein-small molecule interactions), a working knowledge of polymer chemistry, some useful tidbits about analytical chemistry and some interesting tidbits about physical chemistry and some really useful lab experience.

However, I did not set pen to paper (or bits to memory) to bore you about my academic studies! I came to recommend unto you a most awesome blog: From The Sorcerer’s Skull.

The single best thing about this blog is the amazing setting known as The City and its Strange New
. It is really hard to describe what the city is, and no one post really describes it very well as it has mutated and evolved since the first post on it. I think I shall describe it as thus: Take a large amount of well aged noir, the good stuff with lots of hard shadows and harder men and blend that into a homogeneous mixture with a slight excess of pulp action. Add just a touch of steampunk, the origional politically motivated stuff, not the off-brand ‘aesthetics only’  lite dreck. Now mix this all heavily with traditional D&D tropes as a binder to give it structure, and ice with mythology and nonfiction as desired. Add nuggets of horror and sprinkle liberally with weird fiction. Enjoy. Here are some early example posts: Weird Weapons, Weird War; This post shows the much more modern technological level of The City and a lot of the weird adventure. Dungeon, American Style: City Lost, Canyon Grand has an interesting take on the Grand Canyon, which in the world of the City is filled with monsters. Oh, did I forget to mention that The City’s geography mirrors our own in many ways? Except sprinkled with the fantastic, and often is closer to how people several hundred years ago thought the world was like, not how it actually is. For this reason I strongly suspect that the world of The City is hollow, though I don’t think this has been stated yet.

There are also other sections of the blog: An old setting from before The City, Warlord Wednesdays which talk about an old comic (I will admit to skipping those ones), and a number of other posts on various and interesting topics. Which brings us to the next most impressive part after Trey’s creativity: The sheer number of posts he churns out. I mean, often over 25 posts per month! Almost one a day! It is nuts. I can sometimes manage one a week, but Trey? Trey is a machine! A creative, good post writing machine!

My final point is less tangible: Trey seems like a nice guy. When I posted about my friend who was having some trouble, he and a couple of other readers went and offered her best wishes, and I know he posted at least once after that. From what I can tell she is doing a fair bit better now, though things are still very rocky, and I really appreciate him doing that. Anyway, why are you still here? From The Sorcerer’s Skull is about a thosand times better then my blog! Go read that!

And until next time, Stay Geeky!


DJ Elemental

I’ve been thinking of my old modern dungeon crawling idea more, and have thrown together a couple of DJs for an XCrawl like event. I found that the information on the DJs in the xcrawl book was a touch bland, with a couple of very interesting DJs, but most of them rather bland. I find that this is one of the most interesting ideas of XCrawl as the DJ designs the dungeon. I think that every DJ will have some sort of trademarks and themes they like to place in the dungeon, to let the fans watching instantly recognize them. This will also help make each crawl feel a bit different, so that the players don’t encounter dungeon after dungeon of 10×10 rooms.

The first idea I had was DJ Elemental. Elemental themed dungeons are not a new idea, I mean, look at the Temple of Elemental Evil, so it struck me that someone in the dungeon crawling league must enjoy elemental themed dungeons. They would have a very distinctive visual element, allow lots of dramatic special effects, and have a number of very obvious monsters. So without further ado: DJ ELEMENTAL!


To Combat or Not to Combat

Alright, I will confess it: I have a strange and returning urge to run a dungeon crawl. I’m tired of running Call of Cthuhlhu’s free for adventures and trying to remember a large cast of NPCs motivations and personalities, scare my players. More and more I just want to draw a big map, place a bunch of loot and monsters on it and tell them ‘go’.

I find this really odd: I’m only about as old as 2nd edition, and started gaming heavily in 2002 with Living Greyhawk, so I’ve not got any rose-coloured memories of early D&D.

Additionally I was often frustrated in my Living Greyhawk days with pure-combat adventures. Adventures where one went to point A, killed monster B and got treasure C. Isn’t that the definition of a dungeon crawl? 4e combat is more fun, but I still find that it gets boring if more then 1 hour out of 4 is spent on it. Older edition combats went much faster, but I found them more crufty and arbitrary, and rather boring in the options available.

So this leaves me wondering why on earth I want to run or play in a dungeon crawl? Is it some buried desire in all gamers? Or something I picked up from reading old editions & Dragon magazines and hearing my father’s stories growing up?

Or is me desire to organize things just manifesting in an excuse to make meticulous notes? To play in such a game so I have an excuse to make a map and keep track of every copper and such? To play in a really freeform game where I can make money by looting a dungeon down to it’s bare stone walls, using some of my treasure to set up a furniture warehouse where I can sell doors and tables and whatnot? (All of which I could keep track of in meticulous detail)?

I don’t know: If  you look through my blog several of my settings basically attempt to ‘explain’ dungeons, possibly because this itch stays in my head and gets more and more romanticized. Possibly because since I have so few readers I never get comments on the settings and keep moving on without fleshing them out since I don’t get any feedback to urge me to write more. I do think I might like this more as a PBF/PBP game, since it wouldn’t be as concentrated, letting me sit down and dungeon crawl a bit each day instead of for days on end.

So…Am I crazy? Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?

Sargasso of Dungeons

There is a place in the multiverse that steals bits from other dimensions. A building here, a castle there, a cave system from other there.  These all get mashed together in  lightless universe, and covered with the dirt of a thousand worlds to form a system of underground rooms, buildings and passages. A giant dungeon with no rhyme or reason, populated with the stolen creatures of a thousand worlds. Food is scares, giving rise to new ecological niches as creatures from different worlds learn to devour one another. Fungus flourishes on the  abundant moisture stolen from a thousand seas, and filtered through huge amounts of dirt and rock until it is pure. Some evolve to subsist solely on the radiation that suffuses this realm, possibly the same force that draws parts of other realms to it.

All this combines to make a weird realm, filled with dead ends, nonsense passages, a cacophony of architectural styles and a deadly array of creatures. As one travels from the edges to the centre of this realm things grow more deadly, as only the strongest creatures have survived over the millenia, whereas the outer edges are new arrivals, still adapting to their underground existence.

I got this idea while reading The Dungeon Alphabet, one of my DM’s purchases. It is ok, though not as good as it was made out to be, but I was reading it thinking of how stupid any dungeon made using it would be. There would be no REASON for there to be an alter in the middle of the dungeon, and you could have two totally different architectural styles right next to one another. At the same time I’d like a game where I can make maps galore, use excel to track the value of every item, loot every random mundane item and whatnot. I’m not a big combat person, but I like exploring and discovering and that is an element that is lost in most games today, with battlemaps and detailed plots and time limits on adventures. I think that is part of why I like The Long Stairs, since things found in that setting don’t have to make sense.

In this setting I can use any monster, treasure, anything, just stick them together. On one area you are in an old mouldering tower, the next a natural caver, and the third a Greek temple, and so on. You could have giant areas where entire cultures live, and lost civilizations. If you want to get really wacky the radiation of this realm prevents anything from starving to death, but always leaves you hungry, thus why so many monsters will kill and eat you. I’ve wanted to run a game with all the cool monsters and treasure and whatnot from Dragon magazine and all the D&D books I have, but I never get to as they don’t thematically fit, or they never get to high enough level.
I’m considering picking a game and drawing up a map, going to or rpol or such and just starting, any number of players, you don’t have to work with the party and if you die, you die. I’m bad enough at keeping my game going though that I suspect it wouldn’t work. Anyway, what do you think? Too muchkiny? Am I over thinking things?

Oh and I know I said I’d write about the book I read last time, but I didn’t strike while the iron was hot and haven’t been quite as inspired. Soon, soon I say. No one guessed who it was anyway so not many of you can care.

Until next time, Stay Geeky


Edit 1 year later: I was looking up this post as I might run a game of this finally, and noticed I had spelled Sargasso wrong in the title. Opps.

Keep on the Shadowfell Maps

Ok, just a fast post: I have the original Keep on the Shadowfell with poster maps. However its a touch too big to scan them. I found a copy of the forest map, however the others are corrupted & distorted. I need a decently clean copy to use in my online game and can’t find one anywhere.

I’ve found about a zillion copies of the inside of the keep: (My players keep out!) but none of the outdoor maps, probably because the outdoor maps came with the original, but NOT the indoor ones. So I rather need a map of the dig site and don’t have one. I’m going to bribe you all with the collected maps I’ve found in exchange for helping me find a copy ok?

Oh yeah, my players? Stay out of the links please and thank you.

EDIT: I was never able to find the map so I made a cleaned up copy myself. It is not great but it worked for the duration of the encounter. This post is now bringing in more hits to my blog then everything else combined, so evidently a lot of people are looking for these maps. I’m somewhat embarrassed that my laziest post is getting me the most hits, but glad others are benefiting from my work. If you find a map I have not linked please leave a comment: I’d like to make this as useful a resource for people as I can. I’m thinking I should like together all the resources for KotS I’ve found at some point given how popular this has been.

Edit 2: I have since found what I think is the best version of the map of the keep. It is listed as one of the best maps on the Cartographers’ Guild forums. Enjoy!

To make it more clear: This is the map I need, but hopefully not quite so messed up with its colours.
Heck if someone could help me clean that up a bit I’ll use it!

Oh found it…without a grid. If someone can help me add a grid I will be very very grateful. Also seems a bit low-res for my needs.
If someone could help me add a grid I’d be very very grateful!


Maps from here on are what I found looking for the map in the above two links, thought I’d share.

New versions of the outdoor maps.

Edit: There was a link with all of them, but it appears to be dead and not in The Wayback Machine. It pointed to if anyone can find a copy. I believe the individual posts below contain all the same content however.

The Keep Maps 1–5
Level 1 Maps 6–8
Level 1 Maps 9–11
Level 2 Maps 12–17
Caverns 9–11

Don’t like this version as much but its got the dunjinni files…and no outdoors.

I even found a photo of MY copy of the map.

I had some more maps the the keep here, but even after I found the new ENWorld link they appear to be gone. The current link on Enworld is if anyone has a copy of the maps that were once their.

I found copies of the posters, but they are REALLLLYYYY bad scans (Note: I’ve paid money for these maps AND its now a free adventure, so I feel ok linking to this)

Some nice maps of Winterhaven and surroundings

This guy tells you how to BUILD each encounter in 3D

A different style of map for the keep itself

Finally: Not the best looking, but usable

Edit 2 (Goes with edit 2 above): I’m embarrassed that this post gets so much attention as I have spent the least time on it of any blog post and it contains pretty much no original content. On the other hand if people find it useful I’ve done something good. Anyway, I updated a link to point at the thread more directly. I also found an amazing link that is the best version I have seen by far and will be adding it. Finally I fixed some spelling & grammar I noticed. Anyway, Until next time: Stay Geeky!

Edit N, 2015-7-28: I’ve updated the links as a lot of them had broken when people updated forum software. Some I couldn’t save, but most should be useful. Not that I imagine many people are wanting to run the introductory adventure for 4th edition anymore, now that Pathfinder and 5th edition have displaced it.