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.

Who are you? Part I: Classes Down Below

Continuing on with my Gygaxian Dungeon Crawling setting: Who are you?

I am not quite happy with this post, it feels bland to me, but I have spent so much time fiddling with it I just want it up so I can move on.

The first group of players would all be human obviously, however as the players meet other groups and form alliances new race options would open up. This would be a good way to add material to the campaign without the problem of new races suddenly appearing and everyone pretending they where there all along. Lessons learned from returned scrolls or mentors met could open up new classes or feats.

So how do the different classes fit into this setting?

Barbarians: I can’t see the military using berserkers, however allies made in the dungeons would fit into this very well. So to access the class the players have to ally with a barbarian tribe.

Bard: Again, I can’t see the military sending in these right off, however music has been used to inspire soldiers since the time of the ancient Greeks, so I could see them jumping on this once introduced to it. Again, something that the players will have to ‘unlock’. Now once they are introduced I could see some cool modern takes on them with military pipers and such. Heck, how awesome would it be for a bard to be screaming out AC/DC to inspire the troops?

A  cleric hauling a wounded solider off the battlefield, his reflection  showing wings

I see a cleric

Clerics: While the obvious route would be to make them the military Chaplains that brings real world religion into it,and what to do about different religions, and does a Baptist get different domains then a Catholic, and what about Islam, Judaism and the thousand other religions?
I remembered this poster  that just screams cleric to me. So I talked to a former US military cleric & gamer and he supported the idea  He is giving them the full PHB style write-up so I’m not going into it heavily here.
Essentially when a medic truly believes he or she is doing the right thing they can tape into the odd reality of The Below and gains the powers of the cleric.

Druid: I could see Druids, Bards and Barbarians coming from the same tribe. For the modern take I see hippies or environmentalists along those lines.

Fighter are the easiest. These are soldiers plain and simple. They use weapons to hurt things. If there are guns then they may use them or melee weapons. Which actually makes sense in twisting passages from what I have heard -Especially some of the really tight corridors popular in older dungeons, though probably less so in the wider corridors of 3rd edition and the massive rooms of 4th. Now I’m not a military or gun enthusiast so if someone wants to provide me with some information on this I’d be grateful. I’ve heard from some people that guns are better in pretty much all situations if properly used, citing SWAT as an example, whereas I’ve heard from others the opposite: I think it is a half-decent explanation, especially when you consider that we’ve established that firearms are less powerful Down Below.
Now in 4e fighters have a specific role as melee characters that tie up opponents and protect them from getting to the squishies. This works very well with the idea that the soldiers are guarding scientists.

Monks: I don’t like Monks, and I have no idea why someone would pick martial arts over weapons when fighting a dragon.

Paladin: When a solider truly believes they are doing the right thing to save the world by going Down Below they gain the powers of the Paladin.

Ranger: Doesn’t this just scream Special Forces? I remember reading about those military guys who train to live off the wild, track anything, etc.
In 4e Rangers gain the ability to do ridiculous amounts of damage with a bow. This could be very easily substituted for a firearm since 4e weapons don’t pay attention to realistic amounts of damage anyway.

Rogue: This brings to mind groups like the SAS who focus on stealth and infiltration. Pretty easy to add in.

Sorcerers on the other hand don’t need these items, they just have learned how to reach out and grasp the energies.

Wizards: I see these as scientists who have learned to manipulate the energies of The Below through the use of various instruments and technology. Instead of silly material components they use various machines & instruments.

Warlords: This is your stereotypical warmovie ‘Sarge’ leading the troops by example, inspiring them to greater effort.

Warlocks: Down below is hard to survive, and some are willing to risk there souls to survive it. Sometimes you meet powerful creatures, or find old books, and the temptation of gaining more powerful abilities that will help you and your friends survive can be to great to resist. Once the rituals are learned they are passed from solider to solider. This development greatly worries command however Warlocks are currently considered too useful to lock up.

A History of Below

Alright, I said I had a background for my modern Gygaxian Dungeon Crawling setting. It is roughly based on Voices from Below and The Long Stairs, and is probably compatible with it.

In 1952 the NRX reactor in Chalk River, Ontario melted down. US Navy personal who had been training nearby helped clean up the spill before the radiation could spread and the reactor kept operating until 1992.

Now why would US personal be brought in when CFB Petawawa is just down the road? More interesting is the fact that one of those personal was one Jimmy Carter. Yes, the future US president cleaned up a Canadian nuclear spill. It’s an incident that has stuck in my mind and after seeing the long stairs idea of nuclear incidents opening portals….

When the NRX melted down a portal was opened. It was just a little one however, much to small for someone to pass through. No one really knows how it was created, or what the US Navy had to do with it’s creation but it remained buried inside the reactor until decommissioning was underway following it’s shutdown in 1992. At that time it was discovered that the little portal was no longer so little:  It was then a full meter wide and 2m tall. Decommissioning was stalled while the government decided what to do. All the while scientists studies the portal. Robotic probes where sent through and pulled back ok, but would retrieve no data while inside. Animals pushed through in cages, then pulled out returned unharmed. Finally it was decided to send some human test subject through. There are various official names for it, but most people just call it ‘below’ due to the fact that walking through the portal gives one the feeling they are falling from great hight, and the fact that the portal emerges into what seems to be the first level of a giant complex. The horrified tales they related caused security at the site to be expanded.

Finally they have found people to go down and discover exactly what is going on through this gate. Several scientists to figure out want on earth is going on down below. Soldiers to guard them, medics to patch them up. You are one of those people, sent down Below, to uncover the truth or die trying.

Well? What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Let me know. Please. Comments….leave comments… Anyway, Until next time, Stay Geeky


Gygaxian Dungeon Crawling in the Modern Day

I’ve always wanted to run or play in an exploration based game. You know one where the players keep maps on graph paper and the only reason they go into the next room is to see what is there, to kill what is there and take any stuff that is there. Now I suspect I’d get bored with this as I’ve played hack & slash games before & get bored of combat very quickly, but the obsessive part of me likes the idea of keeping really detailed maps & tracking loot and whatnot. This would be the same part of me that made me collect CCG cards just so I could sit around and organize them. (For those that don’t know I have Asperger’s syndrome and I suspect this kind of behaviour is a part of it. I haven’t done anything like this in a long time though, I do kind of miss it).

This recently returned to me while reading ‘Voices from Below and the Long Stairs’ on In it the US opens a big hole into another dimension with a nuke, and the military has been exploring it since the 60s. Now it has evolved into a full setting, some of which I like, other parts I don’t, but really the part that is sticking with me is modern day people going into a D&D dungeon.

So a giant fantasy dungeon, filled with monsters, treasure and deathtraps. I have some ideas on how I will give access to this, but let us think about this for a moment. In The Long Stairs the dungeon moves around to prevent the military from being able to occupy it, or do room to room clearing. Well that goes against the idea of the party mapping out the dungeon, so it goes. I like the old Greyhawk idea of gunpowder not working. It explains why we simply don’t flood the dungeon with soldiers nicely as well.  How many people can you get -subtly- that are trained with archaic weapons?

This allows it to be run with any fantasy RPG straight off. On the other hand the idea of soldiers using a mix of assault weapons and swords would be cool. If you are using a generic of SF system then it is pretty easy. Another idea is that gunpowder works, just not very well: The reduced explosive power of the ammunition means it only works as well as a bow, and you just use bow stats. This would work very well in 4e I think with Rangers and such. It also keeps gun nuts from annoying you with range, stopping power and whatnot.

I very much like the tales of D&D monsters fighting with player characters. I think the descriptions of that, when done true to D&D where quite interesting.

Lets have a look at the type of scene I want: A squad of JTF2 soldiers walking through a large cavern, protecting some nervous looking academics. Suddenly  Xorn rising up from the floor, biting a soldiers leg off at the knee, its arms yanking ammunition belts and other metallic objects off his body. The soldiers spread out opening fire as the scientists fall back. One of the scientists adjusts some equipment and fires a sickly green beam at the creature, causing it to screech in pain. It grabs the fallen mans rifle and sinks underground. The party medic rushes over, and speaks to the fallen man of brotherhood and unity, and slowly the blood stops flowing and his screams subside. The medic helps the man to his foot, and group hobbles back the way they came.

So: What do you think? Would you like to play a game like that? What parts do you like? What parts do you hate? How could I do it better?

I’ve just noticed I post about modern games a lot. Odd considering that right now I’m running a D&D game in my setting, a Call of Cthuhlu game and playing in an online Serenity game. None of which are modern games, though I have considered moving the CoC game to the modern era.

Anyway, until next time, Stay Geeky.


The Wyzard’s XCrawl posts: The Players [Part B]

I’d like to thank The Wyzard for allowing me to post all of this, its gotten me back into the habit of writing here again. I’ve marked my comments in blue as always. So without further ado, The Wyzard’s posts on XCrawl. Oh and the creator of XCrawl has posted a comment back on the first post in this series if you want to check it out. This is taken from the Wyzard’s thread if you’ve just joined us.

3. The Empire: The NAE created XCrawl under a national charter for one purpose: To keep the populace entertained and distracted. It does that very, very well. It has also turned out to have a variety of other economic (and quasi-military) functions, and it has been turned to the end of social control in a number of other arenas. Potential dissidents, both citizens and inhabitants of NAE-controlled areas of the underdark, are channeled into XCrawl. There, they can safely be turned into being more supportive of the establishment by buying into it, or maybe you get lucky and they die. Hey, accidents happen. The official rules of XCrawl are set up by a Senate subcommittee, although the Emperor himself is occasionally involved. His consultations are taken, of course, very seriously. They also take testimony and suggestions from Referees, DJs, and the occasional Adventurer, if it’s deemed appropriate. Or if they just want a chance to invite him to their kid’s birthday party. He *idolizes* them, you see, and it’d mean a lot to the family…

The gist of this is: There are people in the political sphere who want to keep their finger buried deep in the pie. They don’t do this for fun, they do this because they have an agenda. If a politician has expended resources in making a team or a DJ into his highly-placed pawn, you can hurt him by cutting that finger off.

The only problem I see with this is that I’m my experience players that love long dungeon crawls will be bored with Machevialian politics and vis versa. That was one of my big complaints about the xcrawl books actually, too much time on the world not enough on xcrawl itself. I’d be more interested in the local politics of the arena and the bookies and whatnot myself, but could see this working. I do want some non-combat stuff to break up the crawls as I get bored after 40 min or so of combat or a couple hours without roleplay. I want to do some long crawls like XCrawl but am still looking for a way to do so. I will keep your ideas in mind if I ever actually run this.

4. The Refs
: The Refs are, undoubtedly, the cleanest part of the whole XCrawl machine. They must avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. They make sure that the rules are enforced. However, XCrawl being a game of high complexity and constant innovation, they also have many discretionary powers. They make sure that a dungeon and the tactics used in it are “fair,” and appropriate to the level at which the competition is rated for (Sure, “level” as in the 1-30 number the PCs are at isn’t an in-game concept, but there are relative levels of badassery, and we assume that there are people in the game-world whose business it is to judge those and make decisions based on them.) They can declare Adventurers or the DJ to be out of line, they can assess penalties, etc. They are almost always Lawful personalities, and their organization is rigorously self-policing.

However, they are allowed to play favorites, just a little bit. That’s what discretion means, after all. If a monster gets loose and the PCs risk injury or loss of points to save audience members, guess what? Refs remember that. What goes around comes around. Does a DJ pull a fast one and use a last-minute switchup designed to screw the party? Sometimes that’s fair, sometimes it’s bad for the game. The Ref may not do anything about it, but then again maybe they mark it down in the ledger for later. Oh yeah, and the Refs talk to each other. It is possible for an Adventurer, a party, or a DJ to get on the bad side of the Refs as a whole, and then hoo-boy look out. Referees answer to the organization as a whole. And they watch the games. If there is too much blatant favoritism, they’ll teleport a guy out there and jerk the acting referee during a commercial break. It happens every now and again. Or maybe it doesn’t. Your call.

So we are talking Hockey refs here, not football (By which I mean Soccer). That might be an interesting variant where the DJs are not unbiased and the rules are very fast & loose. No, I’m not referencing that Irish/French game at ALLLLL…. (actually I don’t follow soccer but it made the news and came to mind reading this). Carrying on with this idea it would be an interesting change if there were very few rules in XCrawl but a lot of traditions. For example in soccer there is no rule that play stops when someone is injured but it is tradition to kick the ball out of bounds. A player or DJ could get a nasty reputation for breaking these traditions just a little. A rift forms in the fans who love the blood this creates and the traditionalists who long for the old clean days.

5. The Sponsors: XCrawl is money. Big money. The pay-per-view guys make a fortune, the networks make a fortune, the merchandisers make a fortune, the cities that host the crawls make a fortune, the monster-wranglers and summoners and so forth make fortunes, even the guys that design traps and summon the cameras can make tidy sums. The people who are just in it for the money come under the wide umbrella of sponsors. Sure, NBC and Budweiser don’t exactly have the same interests, but they’re in the same bed together enough that I’m going to put them all here. What you need to know is this:

Cities like to have either their own pro team, have arenas that host XCrawl events, or preferably several of the former and at least one of the latter. NYC has an official XCrawl team for each one of the Five Boroughs, and a dozen more that just happen to be from/based in the area. They compete for this, and they can generally provide you with lots of lovely little amenities, like tax breaks and speaking engagements and God knows what. (This umbrella-group can include the Mayor, city councilpeople, aldermen, major organized crime figures, philanthropists, really rich people who just love the city, and any other local figures you can imagine. They can offer some pretty nice inducements.)

I found this one of the least realistic parts of XCrawl: Not enough corporate involvement. Crawls wouldn’t be named after cities anymore then sports arenas are. Look at the names: The Air Canada Center, The Rodgers Center (nee Skydome), I think there is one named after Bell now….

You’d have the Labatte Blue crawl, the Ford crawl, the Air Canada skycrawl (everything takes place on a giant cargo jet), the FedEx Crawl (Revolves around safely moving a package from point A to B… 8am the next morning with no damage), and so on.

The Temples like to have their God represented. Maybe prominently. But only by winners. They tend to encourage their young, attractive, martially-inclined clerics to join XCrawl teams and represent. They really like it if they can get XCrawlers to be seen in their temples, wear their holy symbols, and talk to kids about how they must venerate the gods to lead a virtuous life.

Broadcasters, whether major networks or Pay-Per-View, want to have a really badass Crawl, so that lots of people will watch it and they can charge enormous fees from advertisers. There is frequently some consternation on their part when the people who would like to buy advertising time become upset that the teams are sponsored by (and wearing the logos of) their competitors.

Direct Sponsors pay you to drink their sports drink during short rests, or wear their shoes, or put their logo on your armor, or whatever. DJs and Broadcasters consider them a pain in the ass, but haven’t so far been able to do much about it, since they don’t have the right to control the Adventurers that much. They lobby, though.

Yeah, have a look at TV: How much do you think Coke pays American Idol to have the judges drinking coke every episode? I respected Mythbusters for a long time in that they covered the labels on every product they used but even they are now shelling for some car company. Think about the opportunities in XCrawl. All the furniture in the break rooms is from either Ikea or Idomo.
Next Post: Factions!

To date this is the last post he has written which means that I have to start writing my own posts again. I googled around and bumped into this review which is a nice summery of the good bits, however I find it is not critical enough of the poorer bits (The number of pages spent on background to the world & the lack of examples of the crawl).  Oh, I may do a review myself as I saw the total line of XCrawl books on Pazio for huge discounts and bought the whole line. However I will not be getting it till Feb due to having to ship it to a friends due to the fact I’m moving & don’t want it going to the wrong place. Anyway, I’d like to here other peoples opinions & ideas, either here or in the original thread.

His post giving permission:


The Wyzard's Avatar The Wyzard
Re: Do you mind if I mirror your posts?

Originally Posted by Canageek
I’ve been doing a blog series on televised dungeon crawling: It’s not XCrawl, but its in the same genre. I’m going to link to your posts at but was wondering if I could mirror them? RPG.NET has been known to lose threads from time to time and if I run a game I’d definitely be referencing your posts when explaining the world to people. I’m NOT a high traffic blog, its just a personal indulgence of mine, but I’d be willing to link to any blog or website you have in exchange for the privilege
I’d like credit and a link back to the thread in any post mirroring it, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned you can go to town.
I’d also like a link to your blog, in case there’s any interesting discussion. Get some interest, and I might even go back to working on the idea in-thread.


The Wyzard’s XCrawl posts: The Players [Part A]

Ok, time for the 3rd post in my series of posts where I get The Wyzard to do all the work and just add commentary. This is the start of his final post in the original thread, however due to the length of it with my comments (Over 6 pages) I have split it into several parts. If you think this is too long (or that I should have left it as one post) let me know.

Re: It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread

Okay, I’m going to vastly expand on my ideas in the above post, because it doesn’t really seem to follow from anything, and I need to fix that. XCrawl is a funny beast. It’s both a cultural phenomenon and also a massively useful political tool, and also a source of people who are extremely dangerous on a personal level. There are guys in XCrawl who can through personal force of arms take down dozens of normal soldiers. A party of them could spearhead a small military coup.

So, a lot of people are interested in it, and a lot of people want to have influence over it. For that reason, I’m going to go into a typology of the players in the XCrawl world, which hopefully will be inspirational to you.

XCrawl: The Players

1. Adventuring Teams: Also known as parties, or athletes. These are the PCs. Each team has a name, must be registered, may have an agent or a publicist, etc. They may have endorsement deals or sponsors, they may parley their success into non-XCrawl jobs such as shilling cream cheese and canned soup, or more…exciting work. Low-level XCrawlers will probably have to have real jobs, and for them XCrawl is mostly just a ridiculously dangerous hobby. High-level teams May well make enough money from their winnings and endorsements that they can just train or do whatever in the off-season. XCrawl adventuring teams can often end up with personal animosity (rather than merely professional opposition) toward the DJs.

I’d also be interested in seeing adventurers getting involved with politics like Ken Dryden that ran for the liberal party leadership. Xcrawlers are also probably like movie starts are look at all the stuff they get mixed up in. Tom Cruise? Arnold Schwarzenegger aka The Govonator? That NRA guy? Charlton Heston? Chuck Norris using Chuck Norris Facts to help a friend’s political campaign?

2. The DJs: These are the opposite sides of the coin from the Adventurers. To become a DJ requires a lot of things. You have to have both a carefully crafted public persona to display to the fans and media types. You have to be quick-witted and able to improvise on the fly. You have to have an artistic directorial sense, to make sure your crawls are something people want to see. You have to be a broadly capable administrator, able to handle everything from monsters going rogue and eating the audience, to making sure monsters don’t go rogue, to dealing with unions and teamsters and logistics and the financial end of running a crawl.

DJs have to be able to design a satisfyingly watchable and appropriately dangerous dungeon that will pass Referee inspection, get prize support and sponsorships, get a “slot” for it to fit into, cut deals with broadcasters and/or pay-per-view, stock the dungeon with monsters and traps (which is infinitely more complex than it sounds, with ritualists, wranglers, and others required), and…the list just keeps on going. Oh yeah, and you have to build a personal rapport with a fanbase, so that the networks and sponsors consider you to be a draw.

And then the Adventurers come in and wreck your shit, and you have to pay them for the privilege of killing off your expensive monsters and blowing your traps to smithereens (There was a way to disarm that! All they had to do was go up and solve the little puzzle and it would have stopped shooting at them! Now you have to buy another one, and it was expensive!) Fortunately, you are allowed to (try to) kill them. To some extent, it’s even good for your rep.

Man, I would have rather had more pages of stuff like this then all that background on the world before the historical collapse of everything. Again DJs are one of the best ideas in XCrawl and they are rather original and distinctive, so I didn’t feel comfortable stealing them for my setting. Make sure to play these guys up. Each one should have a distinctive style and personality. I don’t mean dramatic themes all undead, all the time for DJ Necropolis (though that is an option) but things like one DJ doing historical themes (The tower of London, The pyramids, the French Resistance during WWII), another likeing placing his crawls on converted ships. You can vary things up stylistically: One DJ might like a crude feel for his crawls, all cinderblock, sheet metal and plywood. Like a paintball arena but more solidly built. Another would make his dungeons with as little modern technology as possible so that it exactly resembles something out of D&D. This is one of the aspects I’d like about XCrawl is you can have each dungeon totally different without any justification needed. No I don’t like that just because I can steal maps & dungeons from lots of different games…though it is an upside. I should write up my Televised Dungeon Crawling setting for SF so I can have space stations, underwater complexes, Warhammer 40K style hulks on which the XCrawlers are dropped on one part and must simply survive and get to the ship waiting to pick them up. The sky is the limit: Push it.


The Wyzard's Avatar The Wyzard
Re: Do you mind if I mirror your posts?

Originally Posted by Canageek
I’ve been doing a blog series on televised dungeon crawling: It’s not XCrawl, but its in the same genre. I’m going to link to your posts at but was wondering if I could mirror them? RPG.NET has been known to lose threads from time to time and if I run a game I’d definitely be referencing your posts when explaining the world to people. I’m NOT a high traffic blog, its just a personal indulgence of mine, but I’d be willing to link to any blog or website you have in exchange for the privilege
I’d like credit and a link back to the thread in any post mirroring it, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned you can go to town.
I’d also like a link to your blog, in case there’s any interesting discussion. Get some interest, and I might even go back to working on the idea in-thread.


Sorry it took so long to get this up, I was bogged down in exams. The next part shouldn’t take QUITE so long.

Anyway until next time: Stay Geeky!

XCrawl Mirror Part 2: Meta-dungeon

Ok, time for the next post by The Wyzard from RPG.Net.

Re: It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread

So, I’ve been thinking further about this. And I think that what XCrawl really needs is more meta-dungeon stuff. So, here’s my thoughts.

The really big thing underpinning the XCrawl world is the rivalry not just between Crawl teams, but between the DJs. Each DJ is as a world unto themselves. Even a moderate crawl requires a massive amount of resources and at least a hundred staff, many of them highly-paid specialists. And the DJ runs all of it. These are proud beings who wield immense power. Not just financial power, either.

This is one of XCrawls best ideas, and one of the ones I underplayed in my posts as it was original to XCrawl. Kinda a defining feature that I didn’t real comfortable stealing. –Canageek

Just as an outbreak of monsters from the underdark might give the PCs a chance to show off their skills and do good deeds outside of a crawl, there are a lot of times when the DJs skills and resources might make them valuable to temples, politicians, or even less savory types. Just like the PCs.

Not my cup of tea as your still dungeon crawling for the first part and I want to break that up. Second part has potential.

What I’m getting at here is, I think that a real campaign of XCrawl might be improved by focusing occasionally on those behind-the scenes elements. There are factions and political maneuverings that go off-camera. What do you do when an up-and-coming DJ upstaged you? You go golfing with a couple of adventuring teams you know from back in the day, and you bribe them to go screw him up.

Oh, I like where this is going.

See, monsters are valuable. Sure, there’s a lot of trash out there. Orcs and goblisn are a dime a dozen, they’ll work cheap. But a beholder, or even a very young dragon? Those are worth a small fortune. It’s vital to the health of a DJ’s operation that the higher-value creatures are still around for the next crawl, because nobody has the resources to constantly replace them all. This is where the PCs come in. Make sure you don’t just knock the bad guys down. Do what you can to accumulate a pack of actual kills. We can make it worth your while. Even killing off the trash monsters like gnolls or orcs is worth something, if enough of them get killed in this DJ’s crawl, he’ll have trouble hiring replacements. Word will get around that there’s a hit out on his operation.

Now, thanks to the Refs (who are incorruptible, of course), you still have to play by the rules. You can’t just take your axe to the bad guys once they’re all down. You have to respect it if they surrender. But there are ways around that. Catch them in an area effect that targets one of the ones still on his feet. Knock them into a trap when they’re low on HP, let it grind them out while you move on. Set them up with continuing-damage effects. There’s plenty of options. Sleep spells are your friend here, as the PCs can’t be expected to tell the difference between “asleep” and “dying” in the heat of the moment, can they? There isn’t a sign that lights up when the monsters run out of HP, after all.

Interesting idea, if rather specific. Also it still leaves the PCs in the dungeon killing stuff. I like the idea as part of a larger plot though.

In order to make this plausible, here’s the new workings you have to add:

1. Monsters die at a given negative HP total, just like PCs. However, since monsters often have slightly better HP than PCs do, I’d make it a number other than -50%. Maybe -25%. This makes Goblins and so forth relatively easy to slaughter even by accident, Dragons are tough to kill even on purpose. However! There’s also the death save. Monsters aren’t heroic, so they don’t instant-up on a 20. However, they do automatically stabilize on a 20, unless they take damage again in which case they start rolling death saves once more (they keep any tokens. Continuing damage is your friend.)

Akkk, extra number tracking! EVIL! (Say sayeth the DM)

2. Once all the monsters are confirmed to be down, a ref calls it and the PCs can collect their treasure while non-com healers come out and stabilize the monsters, then get them drug out through no-go doors.

3. If a monster pops back up and attacks after the combat is confirmed to be over, or if they break surrender, the PCs can kill that monster outright.

2 and 3 make sense to me, I think I will use them.

4. If one monster has healed another monster, they can open up with coup-de-grace attacks so long as the healing monster is up. Um…..I think I’ll have this as an obscure XCrawl rule that someone can break out at some point. Might type up a long list and see if anyone notices it.

So, XCrawl adventurers and DJs have a lot of ways they can subtly work together, or against each other. Sophisticated fans know what to watch for.

Any other suggestions?


I think the good idea from this post is how it changes things up. Constant combat gets boring fast. Well I suppose there are groups which just like killing things, but I want some roleplay. I’m a fan of mixing things up. Players getting involved with their agents, bookies, people trying to fix matches, rival groups, etc. Imagine an XCrawler that gets involved in the nonhuman rights movement and has some political opponents trying to bump him off during matches. You could roleplay out his rallies and whatnot. Anyway, that is what I am looking for, things to change up XCrawl/Televised Dungeon Crawling from kick in the door, kill the monster, take its stuff.
Not as much to say this time as this is a specific example. Look forward to the next post however, its a juicy one!

Until Next Time, Stay Geeky!

PS his letter of permission:

The Wyzard's Avatar The Wyzard
Re: Do you mind if I mirror your posts?

Originally Posted by Canageek
I’ve been doing a blog series on televised dungeon crawling: It’s not XCrawl, but its in the same genre. I’m going to link to your posts at but was wondering if I could mirror them? RPG.NET has been known to lose threads from time to time and if I run a game I’d definitely be referencing your posts when explaining the world to people. I’m NOT a high traffic blog, its just a personal indulgence of mine, but I’d be willing to link to any blog or website you have in exchange for the privilege
I’d like credit and a link back to the thread in any post mirroring it, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned you can go to town.
I’d also like a link to your blog, in case there’s any interesting discussion. Get some interest, and I might even go back to working on the idea in-thread.

It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread [Mirror]

A while ago I stumbled upon these posts by The Wyzard on I contacted him (or her) and they gave me permission to repost them here as a sequel to my Televised Dungeon Crawling posts. My ideas are not XCrawl as I wasn’t a fan of the setting, but a lot of XCrawl material could be used for it, so I thought you’d enjoy it. My comments are in blue. This is just the first post in the thread, I’ll post the rest here. Forums have a habit of loosing posts, and I thought you’d enjoy these. If you think this is a cheap post for me and I should never do it again then let me know! If you love me finding interesting things and reposting them here (with permission of course) also let me know.

Here is the first one:

It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread by The Wyzard

XCrawl is a better fit for 4E than it was for the edition it was originally set up for. Seriously. The profusion of tactical movement powers create a more dynamic, athletic-feeling battleboard. The conditions that last for seconds instead of minutes also help with this. The new philosophy of traps contributes to faster-playing, more entertaining encounters (a room with bladed tops spinning around and caroming off the walls is, let’s face it, far more appropriate to “demented game show” than fantasy novel stuff.) The fact that encounters are balanced towards multiple opponents with individual powers who use teamwork to stymie the PCs is perfect. The fast healing rate also helps keep things moving, making things “feel” more like an athletic event or pro wrestling match than medieval combat. Anyone else can probably come up with even more reasons why this is so. The “treasure parcels” in the DMG are nearly perfectly suited for being handed out as individual-room “prize packages.”

So, how do you run it in 4E? I’m not too much of a fan of super-detailed settings. I think that you can generally get rolling with, at most, two or three pages of setting handout for each player. For that reason, I’m going to leave that part in broad strokes. If anyone else wants to fill in, then that’s awesome. But I’m not going to stress out about how the inclusion of Tieflings changes the game setting.

I’d say the biggest problem with the original XCrawl books was too much on the setting, not enough on the crawl, but that is just my opinion.

Here’s what I’ve got:

The PCs are generally talented losers in real life. That is, no matter how awesome they may objectively be, they just don’t seem to have the lucky breaks and ability to get ahead in the office that other people have. Otherwise, why would they do XCrawl? For that reason, the skills given on the character sheet are “adventuring skills.” They generally don’t have the application you’d think they have outside of XCrawl. A guy with History knows a lot about the history of XCrawl, and all the stories they got out of that intelligent sword, etc. A guy with Athletics does a great job if he ever has to out-swim a pack of ravenous alligators (either in or out of a Crawl) but he’s not necessarily the best in the office baseball team. Essentially, the PCs default to their base attribute bonus + 1/2 level if it doesn’t seem adventure-ey enough.

-I’m not sure I agree with The Wyzard here. I can see a number of people with no other options getting sucked into XCrawl (or the dungeons in my setting). Think of a suicidal white collar embezzler who knows he will never work again when he gets out and whats to leave his family something. A street thug who’s gang is destroyed by a rival and joins XCrawl rather then be hunted down by his rivals. If you use the darker version of my setting then anyone who speaks out against the government. An autoworker’s factory just closed and his family is living off welfare so he joins XCrawl for a paycheck. There are lots of reasons, and I see this as an interesting part of the character –Canageek

New Skill Uses:
1. History: Now, incredibly useful. This includes knowledge of the massively complex official rules and regulations of XCrawl. Can be used to argue technicalities, and get referees to rule for you and against the DJ. All DJs have this skill, or have advisors who have it. I’m not going to actually draw up such a codex, just run it Burning-Wheel style. The player says “But section 805(b)(1)(a) specifically prohibits installing traps outside the green room door while the PCs are in it!”
2. Dungeoneering: This skill covers knowledge of XCrawl DJs. Their habits, personalities, techniques, reputations, ons and offs. In combination with History, social skills, and and clever use of skill challenges, can provide plot-bennies.

–Ok, I love these. I’d add Streetwise for learning what the buzz about this dunegon is. I mean, think about places like Metafilter. I mean, look at this thread. Guys like this are going to track DJs every move looking for info. Did the DJ order 400lb of bamboo? They know that, and can hint he might have a dire panda. He took out a book on the care and feeding of chimara? What about the guy who cleans the cages? Streetwise will get you some hints.

Working the Crowd:

Each PC can only make use of the work-the-crowd rules once per crawl. They have three options.

1. Pre-Crawl Interviews: Make a hard Diplomacy check, and talk up one of your team members or yourself. Roleplay this out. You may include montage sequences in your description. On a success, you gain a token keyed to either yourself or the PC you talked up, as appropriate. During the game, you can spend that at any time the PC chosen has to make a D20 check, to have the crowd remember the interview. They suddenly cheer that PC on, and the PC gets a bonus. It’s +2 if it’s your character, +4 if it’s someone else’s. This must be announced before the roll.

2. Mugging for the Camera: Spend a free action to make a hard Bluff check. If successful, you get a +2 bonus to any D20 roll of your choice before the end of your next turn. Alternately, use a free action to make a hard Bluff check to call attention to one of your teammate’s efforts – they get a +4 to a roll of your choice before the end of their next turn. This must be used before the roll.

The DJs work a little differently. They get 4 bennie tokens to spend during the crawl. They use these by using lighting and stored footage to get the crowd cheering for the monsters (not that hard, since the crowd will be full of people who are backing teams other than the PC’s.) They can spend a Bennie at any time to give one of the monsters a +2 to any D20 roll. They must announce this before the roll.

This leads into use number 3:

3. Psyche-Out: A PC can make a hard Intimidate check when the DJ has announced the use of a Bennie token. If the PC fails, the token is used normally. If the PC succeeds, the monster gets a -2 rather than a +2, as the PC snarls and the monster chokes under the pressure.

Crawl Design:
I suggest using the following as a basis. A Crawl consists of three Delves – each Delve must be completed within a day. Delve 1 has about three level-appropriate-encounters, Day 2 has the same, Day 3 has about 4. Appropriately designed, this means the PCs will gain a level per crawl (So, one per game-year unless they get in more than one.) Obviously, some variation on this is normal. Mostly, it makes it really easy to split up the treasure parcels. The best treasure is on Day 3, so that it only goes to parties who don’t wash out. PCs can get in a short rest once per encounter room, if they want to rest longer they need to find a green room (This shouldn’t be necessary, if they’re sharp enough, since they can always get rested between delves.)

The GM can also, of course, come up with various non-standard tournament forms, such as linear dungeons that are pure time-trial, etc.

I’d mix this up a lot as I feel this would get boring. Just grab maps from D&D mods, Shadowrun, even starship deck plans and use that. There was a battle in roman times where they flooded the arena and staged a naval battle. Now think of doing that in roman times and extrapolate with additional technology. A pure time trial set in a mall filled with zombies? A McGuffin retrieval on a decommissioned warship….as it sinks? Go for it. Pure combat games get old quickly unless you keep things diverse.

Suggestions? I’m really not sure how one should do scoring. Knowing that there are other parties going through the crawl as well, what’s a good way of judging the PC’s performance? I’ve considered a combination of bonuses for goals and penalties for extra time, but I’m not completely certain how that should work, or even if it’s worth the effort.

And the message giving me permission:

The Wyzard
Post Re: Do you mind if I mirror your posts?
Quote: Originally Posted by Canageek
I’ve been doing a blog series on televised dungeon crawling: It’s not XCrawl, but its in the same genre. I’m going to link to your posts at but was wondering if I could mirror them? RPG.NET has been known to lose threads from time to time and if I run a game I’d definitely be referencing your posts when explaining the world to people. I’m NOT a high traffic blog, its just a personal indulgence of mine, but I’d be willing to link to any blog or website you have in exchange for the privilege.
I’d like credit and a link back to the thread in any post mirroring it, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned you can go to town.
I’d also like a link to your blog, in case there’s any interesting discussion. Get some interest, and I might even go back to working on the idea in-thread.

Until next time, Stay Geeky.


The Power: A Sample Party

So I really need a name for this setting (I am terrible at naming things) so hit me with ideas please.

Anyway, as promised a sample party and setup:

Alright now I’m going to try to implement all of this:

Lets start with a modern setting since that was my original idea. Lets take a sample part from D&D: Fighter, Thief, Wizard, Cleric.

The city is breathing more easily. For weeks it has bee held in terror by a killer known to kill his victims in a ritualistic manner. However the work of a heroic police officer has ended the reign of terror of this madman. The aftermath of this encounter however is still unfolding as four people find themselves awakened to a new world.

  • The fighter is a cop. A couple weeks ago he was responding to reports of a break-in when he was attacked by a deranged man with a knife. During the struggle he shot and killed his assailant who was latter found to be a serial killer that had been on a killing spree. Shortly after that he finds himself able to do acts he hasn’t been able to do since he was in his 20s, and some things he wasn’t able to do even then.
  • The thief is a catburgler who was robbing an old mansion on the edge of town. When she picked up a strange gold vase she felt a surge of power through her. Exploring deeper in search of more valuables she came upon a room in which a bloody ritual had recently taken place. At the same time she hears movement in another part of the house. Attempting to leave with haste she comes face to face with the killer. With strength and speed that surprised her she drove her fist into his face and escaped out a second story window. She contacted the police as soon as she was out resulting in our intrepid police officers encounter with the killer.
  • The wizard is an analytical chemist who specializes in obscure forms of spectroscopy. He was contacted by the police to analyze a sample they had retrieved from the site of the serial killers latest murder that their crime labs had been unable to make head or tails of. While experimenting the substance suddenly exploded under what should have been completely safe conditions. He should have been killed but woke up unharmed. Since then he has found himself in possession of odd powers. Being a man of science he has attempted to quantify and explain them, and is starting to develop crude equations to qualify them even as he hides them from the world fearing their response.
  • The priest was the Chaplin on duty at the St. Marie’s Hospital when the only victim of the killer found still alive was brought in. His only words were to request a priest, and he died in the chaplains arms. Since this incident the priest has found the hand of god more visible in the world, and that some of his prays are being answered in a rather direct fashion.

So now we have our party. They are each contacted an elderly man who offers to explain what they have been experiencing. He explains that they have each come into a spark of life and that there are some, such as the killer who hunt it. He warns them that the killers victims included most of the hero’s who defended the city. With them dead many lesser hunters will emerge, targeting those with some spark such as himself first, and working up to those with more of it such as our heroes.

Ok, a touch clumsy as an introduction. Now I need an adventure. I’ll outline that next time.

Oh, I’ve also set this to delay posting until tomorrow at 5:30pm as more people will see it on twitter then. What do you think the best time would be for me to aim for?

Until then: Stay Geeky

Another Setting Idea

Sorry for the huge length of time since my last RPG post but I’ve been quite busy with university. Hopefully I’ll have more time for this blog once my work term starts in January. –I’ve been hired by a large drug company to work on an HIV vaccine, which means I’ll be working 5 days a week, 8 hours a day (or thereabouts) but I don’t have to work long into the night or all weekend! (At least not on a regular basis)

Anyway, I worked out a lot of the details for this back in September and actually wrote out a 1st draft on paper. I started retyping it but then got busy with uni and forgot about it.

Years ago when I was younger I watched digimon. I was never a big fan but I liked a couple of the ideas: In the first season the aesthetic of the environment they were exploring the world I liked the post-apocalyptic undertones with the abandoned traffic signs and streetcars and such. I love post-apocalyptic games but really, there are lots of those around and I don’t have much to add (aside from telling you to go read: A Canticle For Lebowitz, The Postman, and Damnation Ally. Ok, so I do have some ideas on that, but that will be another post)

Anyway at the start of the 3rd season they did a restart with new characters & digimon and whatnot. This was the point at which I started being able to see through the plots of most kids TV shows so I only saw a couple episodes of it, but there was one cool idea. Each digimon when killed released ‘data’ that others could absorb to become more powerful. So unethical people go around fighting duels just for the sake of getting more data and becoming more powerful. I’d already started playing D&D with my Dad so I instantly made the link to XP.

Later on reading a couple of Birthright books this idea returned: In this setting various people that fought at a great battle where the gods died absorbed some of their power. This has been passed down to their children. Those with the most power have become the kings and rulers, those with dark power monsters. When slain the power passes to the slayer.

While listing such settings I can’t avoid mentioning Highlander, with its immortals running around killing one another trying to gather all of the quickenings power.

So that lays out my original inspiration, which was the XP is actually power stolen from the slain. The more powerful the thing you slay the more XP you get.

This idea lay dormant in my mind for years until the very creepy commercials for a show on the zodiac killer started airing (named was I think ‘Zodiac’) which gave me the second piece. What if instead of being a select group of people that go around killing each other for power everyone has a little power? Some people get addicted to it and will do anything to get more.

Enter the heroes, who have somehow gained a fragment of power: They fight to stop such monsters from harming innocents in the quest for more of this power. In doing so they themselves gain large amounts of the power and become targets for those seeking power.

Why try and gain this power? This power is the very power of life itself. Those with large amounts of it can live for hundreds of years. Gain enough of it and one could live forever. If this is not temptation enough in itself as one gains more of this power they become able to transcend the limits of normal mortals. It begins by making the individual faster, stronger, tougher. As they gain more the power becomes more obvious. Some gain the power to shift form giving rise to the legends of werewolves and vampires. Some gain the power to bedevil others minds, or see distant places. From these rise the tales of wizards, sorceress and warlocks.

Should enough power be gained one would become what could easily be mistaken for a god: able to throw lightning, change shape and live for many generations. It is suspected that this is where the legends of the ancient world came from: The petty and violent greek gods, obsessed with hedonism. The powerful and violent norse gods, and the many gods of the Egyptians.

Now I’ve been thinking about how to include more opponents then just other seekers, and this idea struck me:

Where do the great monsters they fight come from? The hydra? the mighty titans? The dragons? Mortals are not meant to hold onto such great amounts of power. Those that do so often find their forms changing. Some who let the power master them take on bestial forms, others become what are vaguely remember as angels and demons.

I’m not entirely happy with it, but it works pretty well. All PCs would have the strength of will to stave off such changes of course. Alternatively some creatures such as Angels, Demons could be pure incarnations of the power of life. Elementals are what happens when a natural material is infused with the power. Golems are wizards way of doing this themselves.

Classes work pretty well with this model: Wizards try and learn the laws and rules of the power and apply them, fighters focus the power into martial skills through training and experience or natural instinct. Clerics believe that it is a divine gift, druids think it is the power of life and so on.

It has been theorized that there is a finite amount of this power, and that in modern times when it is spread over 6-7 billion people each person has far less of it then when it was spread over only a few million. This makes it much harder for any one person to gain large amounts of the power. That is why extraordinary events are so much rarer and we don’t see self-proclaimed gods running around feuding and demanding worship.

Next time I’ll outline a sample party & background to give a feel for the setting.

Sorry if there are any inconsistencies or errors, I wrote this over a long period of time in spare minutes while profs were handing things back or setting up projectors. I’m not really sure where to go with it now other then setting up an adventure idea or two, so please, ask questions and suggest ideas. I’ve been thinking of moving these over to where I’ve been posting more since it gets way more hits then my blog, but I kinda like having my own place. Is anyone familiar enough with that place to know if crossposting is allowed?

Until Next time, Stay Geeky.