Pandemonium Megadungeon Session Report #5

We’re back! You can read previous session reports here: #1, #2, #3, and #4. This is a particularly long one, since I’ve been so late on writing these—this covers some seven sessions.

20th Day of the Month of Grief

Today, our party consists of:
The Eldest Orphan of Forsaken for Eternity, Fighter 3; a mohawk-sporting, shockingly clean noble, dressed in aristocrat’s boots. He carries a necklace of fireballs, a miser’s flute, and shockingly un-notched weapons.
Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Roller of Rugs, Fighter 3; a haggard knight dressed in bone mail-and-plate, missing his left ear, carrying a heavily-notched but non-magical sword, Righty.
Tarkus Two-Fingers, Magic-User 2; an aspiring dark lord necromancer wrapped in black, with only two fingers on his right hand but many spells on his inscribed knucklebone-spellbook.
Snuffet the Pointer, Magic-User 2; a stoner transmuter, with a feather of Hieracon in his cap, which bends towards dangerous creatures.
One the Only, Fighter 2; a drunken, oddly experienced soldier.
Runpril, Magic-User 1; a simpering, smiley transmuter.
The Luggage, a chest to which the magical wooden donkey legs have been attached.

After some shopping, the party descended. They immediately headed for goblin territory; ambushed some guards; talked their way into the goblin’s armory; looted the armory for coin; and then worried about hiding bodies. Tarkus, miscasting an animate dead, accidentally detonated one of the corpses, damaging himself and the Luggage’s chest.

Deeper into goblin territory, the party encountered strange goblins who spoke in multiple voices, bickering with themselves, and seemingly ignored multiple lethal wounds. Eventually, Sōt and the Eldest Orphan settled on tackling the goblins and hacking their heads off—and still they spoke. They looted the shrine the strange multi-goblins prayed to, acquiring two unknown potions, 6 sling bullets made of tungsten (which cannot rust, and magnifies light), and a scroll of perspectival shift in Colossal, which Snuffet reads.

Using Snuffet’s feather of Hieracon stuck in his hat, the party triangulated the most dangerous foe deep in goblin territory, which they believed to be a being called the Goblinscholar,” otherwise known as Bolokhiv. After some measurements, backtracking, running into a dwarf scout, and feeding absinthe to a water elemental, Tarkus passwall’d through the wall straight to the foe.

Inside, they found a dozen goblins acting in near-perfect synchrony, a strange magical dance. Above hovered an enormous green ghost, a goblin, its lower body descending into tendrils connecting to its goblin disciples. This is Bolokhiv, the Goblinscholar.

Immediately, Snuffet cast dominate, and in a moment of supreme magical power, managed to dominate Bolokhiv, and accordingly most of his psychically-linked disciples. Not a moment later, the Eldest Orphan lobbed a fireball, killing half the disciples—and Bolokhiv grew smaller. A raging battle ensued as Snuffet attempted to control the disciples while Sōt, One, Runpril, and Tarkus attempted to kill the ones free of Snuffet’s psychic mastery. After the Eldest Orphan lobbed another fireball from his necklace, the battle was decided—the party stood victorious. With its disciples slain, Bolokhiv dwindled, then vanished.

From the pockets of the disciples, the party looted a great deal of coin, jewels, a hungry coin, 12 arrows made of zamak (which deals extra damage to magic-users), a set of mail-and-plate of immobility made from aloxite (which can smooth surfaces down like sandpaper or a file), some valuable aluminum, and a great deal of burned paper and shattered glass—the result of the fireballs.

Upon defeating Bolokhiv, several changes occurred in the party members: they each suddenly learned to read and speak Goblinoid, they gained the ability

Victorious, the party returned to the surface. Tarkus, blowing his winnings, advanced to level 3, becoming Lord Tarkus Two-Fingers.

21st Day of the Month of Grief

The Eldest Orphan (with a ghostly right leg), Sōt III (with a ghostly left leg), and Snuffet (with a ghostly right arm) all descended once more.

Returning to the goblin area, they learned that the goblins have now split into two sub-factions, led by the two former goblin leaders: Khilo, the High Sage, and Bokho, the Great Pedant. The party talked their way into a goblin lecture (all being able to speak Goblinoid perfectly), and using a map they found previously, discovered a secret elevator chamber behind the goblin lecture hall. They also raided a chamber in the goblin camp, gaining some coin, a potion, dust of disappearance, and Tarkus’s original spell-knucklebones, including the all-important death ward.

After, they found a ghost in a heavily-locked tomb named Evgenia, one of the original warriors who helped build and protect these dungeons. They asked her to locate a hidden shaft, also from their map, which she did. The party realized that, because they were only on the first level of the dungeon, the shaft must connect to the surface.

Returning to the surface, the party did some complicated measurements and realized the shaft must connect to the general store. They stormed in, tore up some floorboards in the basement, knocked a trapdoor open, and found a long ladderway descending into the dark.

After a few hours’ rest, they went down, some 250’. The bottom was a dark, dank, moss- and mushroom-bitten chamber. After pushing open a secret door, they discovered a room with an enormous mushroom inside, some 25’ tall, its cap just as wide. Creepers and vines hung from its gills. The party took a couple of photos (with Erasmus Karl’s old camera), noticed a door and the fact that the mushroom had dozens of eyes along the edge of its cap, and then departed.

22nd Day of the Month of Grief

Three new faces arrived at the tavern, not from the Imperium but rather below—goblins! With Bolokhiv’s demise, some goblins find their way to the surface to join the company and thus players may now play goblins as a player species option (we’re doing it a little differently in this campaign than this post, but it’s the same basic idea).

These three brave companions are Vibok, Olokh, and Khib, all burglars. Directed by the more experienced adventurers, the goblins descended the general store ladder and went to face the huge fungus. Conveniently, Vibok speaks Mycologue, the language of fungi.

The fungus, it turns out, is not very friendly. It names itself That-Which-Dances-Alone-Beneath-The-Moonlight, and mentions it is separate from the Magnificent House.” It wants meat, food, and acts suspiciously hungry for goblins. After some negotiation, the goblins decided to draw straws and offer up two companions so that one might go free. As Vibok and Olokh prepared to offer themselves up, the mushroom took a different option, and three huge tendrils lashed down, snapping up the goblins.

A short fight followed, in which the Khib was thrown against a wall, scalped, and died—whereupon Vibok and Olokh, ensnared still, also believed themselves dead, and so died. Thus ended Vibok, Olokh, and Khib.

23rd Day of the Month of Grief

Tarkus (sporting a ghostly right arm tipped with three new ghostly-skeletal appendages), Sōt, the Eldest Orphan, and the Luggage headed back down to check out the goblin territory (after Tarkus death warded everyone for safety).

After making it to the goblin camp, they learn that the goblins splintered with the defeat of Goblinscholar Bolokhiv: the two goblin academic leaders, Khilo the High Sage studies deep psychometry” while Bokho the Great Pedant practices ascendant psychometry” instead, and both sides now hate each other.

The party: hid Tarkus’s skeletons in the Luggage; disrupted a lecture to find a secret room; discovered the secret room housed an elevator down (currently lowered); looted an unoccupied goblin academic’s office; ran into Evgenia, causing the goblins to panic and scatter; and sent Tarkus’s skeletons to raid Evgenia’s tomb. Then, they set out to scale down the elevator shaft and find whatever lies at the bottom.

Sōt and the Eldest Orphan lowered Tarkus down, using a clever piton-knot combination to prevent falls. As Tarkus reached the bottom and set about picking the lock holding the elevator in place, his skeletons returned at the top carrying a huge silver pike. Sōt and the Orphan, unable to speak the Corpsetongue, tried to explain that Tarkus was below. The skeletons, understanding perfectly, dropped the pike down the shaft. It barely missed Tarkus, and bent severely. After unlocking the elevator, Tarkus grabbed the pike (with both regular hand or ghost hand, as silver affects ghosts) and cranked the elevator back up, at which point he tried to hand it to Sōt and found he couldn’t—cursed.

The party descended, discovered a fleshy chamber full of carnivorous mouth-mushrooms; tried to cut their way through but found it bloody and risky; sampled the mushrooms (delicious!); and then returned to the goblin camp via elevator—Sōt, who sampled the mushrooms, found himself oddly hungry, almost aching.

From there, they almost immediately ran into Evgenia, furious at her tomb being looted: through the power of (Evgenia’s looted) bent silver pike and the kicks of ghostly legs, the party managed to defeat her. From there, the party went to her tomb and looted the rest of the treasure the two skeletons hadn’t, including a set of full mail made from duralumin (which slows fall speeds). Then, Tarkus accidentally miscast question dead and temporarily died, so the party chucked him in the Luggage and returned to the surface.

24th Day of the Month of Grief

Snuffet, Runpril (now with a ghostly right arm) and Sōt III set out with:
Paparazzo Vetch the Orcbreaker, Fighter 3; a tourist-turned-aspiring-chef, wearing a belt of cat imprisonment and carrying a sealed oilskin bag with an angry air elemental trapped inside.
Sabine, Fighter 1; a grizzled, burly veteran with a limp.

After discovering that the distance from the base of the second-floor stairs to a merchant’s room was only 10’, the party hatched a plan: Snuffet cast stone to flesh on the wall, permanently transforming it to living meat, then cast perspectival shift to shrink it down and carve an opening, then perspectival shift it back, creating a meat wall with a tunnel through it. The party went through and met Tonus, Master Alchemist, a merchant clad in a yellow rubber jumpsuit with a huge barrel on his back, face hidden by a spherical glass bubble-helmet filled with rainbow potion. The party sampled all of them but bought only one—a potion of cloudkill.

Backtracking, the party decided to go down to the chamber the three dead goblins discovered with the giant fungus. After talking with it for a while (Vetch speaks Mycologue), it seemed friendly, and the party made a deal to get safe passage. Right as the terms were set, the fungus attacked, ensnaring everyone in its tendrils, and a desperate fight ensued where the party only barely escaped. Infuriated, Vetch and Sabine went back down, lobbed in a bunch of oil flasks followed by a torch, then chucked the cloudkill potion in for good measure.

25th Day of the Month of Grief

The party went down the secret shaft beneath the general store once again, and discovered the giant traitorous fungus dead and desiccated. Exploring further in the overgrown depths, the party: discovered a scum-filled fountain with a monosyllabic myconid scout within; talked with two other myconids, part of a hive mind called the Ministry;” discovered the myconids value LSD and will pay good money for it; and got Vetch an appointment on the 7th of Imperium (next month) to meet with the Council, the leading body of the Ministry (such as leaders” exist within a hive mind). The myconids explain that this involves trepanning the skull; Vetch believes he will die and join the hive mind as part of this appointment.

After salvaging a bit of treasure, the party returned to the surface. Runpril, with winnings from Bolokhiv still unspent, advanced to level 2, becoming Runpril the Crunty.

26th Day of the Month of Grief

Tarkus descended again, this time joined by two newcomers:
Nouh, Fighter 1; a butcher monk, an adept, tall and scrawny.
Jim, Magic-User 1; a hillbilly goblin transmuter, surprisingly strong.

Descending down to level 2, the party: raised some skeletons; encountered the meat wall (none of which any of them had seen); ran into Curus, Master Peddler, a magical items merchant; accidentally enlarged a door instead of reducing it; raised some undead corpse crawlers; failed to gain access to dwarf territory (dwarves do not like necromancers or skeletons); explored around the edge of a pit leading to deep water; and bargained with some orcs to let them through their territory while blindfolded—in exchange, the party would bring back dwarf heads and show the orcs the way to human territory.

After being blindfold-walked through the orc camp (and hearing all manner of shrieking and gnashing), the party explored only briefly before finding a sarcophagus. Opening it, it released dangerous gas, and a monstrous paper-wrapped hand appeared and ripped the head off of one of Tarkus’s skeletons. A fight ensued: more skeletons died; the gas prevented much movement; the monster revealed itself as a mummy; Jim accidentally transformed everyone’s rations into angry badgers; Nouh was struck by the mummy and became infected with something bad; Tarkus’s minions seemed controlled by the mummy somehow; and Tarkus eventually managed to land a fear on the mummy, who bargained. The mummy offered all its treasure—including a porcelain bow, a scroll of wizard agility in the Corpsetongue, and another scroll written in Hornsound—bar its most prized, which it described as that which binds the universe together.” The party took the deal, claimed the loot, then headed back to the surface, using passwall to skip the orcs (thus failing to uphold their end of the deal).

27th Day of the Month of Grief

Sōt III, the Eldest Orphan, Snuffet, Runpril descended, joined by:
Old Iron Grip, Magic-User 2; an illusionist with an iron left hand, iron left peg leg, and missing his left ear.

Sōt III recently leveled up to 4, becoming Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Roller of Rugs, Squandering Hugs; as did the Eldest Orphan, becoming the Eldest Orphan of Forsaken for Eternity by Birth.

The party descended, climbing through meat wall once more; its tunnel seemed to have shrunk. The merchant room as unoccupied, but the merchant blanket still sat there. They went on to investigate the now-familiar teleportation circle, but still to no effect. Giving up, the party went back to the first level.

Heading to goblin territory, they pushed towards the territory held by the ascendant psychometrics” rather than the deep psychometrics,” the latter of whom seem further from the unexplored area where Bolokhiv resided. They met with the Great Pedant, who seemed friendly-ish; discovered a bear in a cage with a goblin’s psyche stuck in its brain; and recruited a goblin tour guide to show them through what was described as a trap hallway of death.”

The party met several traps: sliding spikes (cut at the shaft); spinning saw blades (sidestepped, but only after killing their tour guide); falling-block tripwires (ducked); noxious gas (sprinted through); a barely-hidden pit trap (leapt over, but saw something odd speaking Mechanian far below); poison darts (avoided, and claimed a few); and an exploding corpse, which they failed to avoid. It exploded, nearly killing Old Iron Grip, saved only by quickly transforming flesh to stone and sending him home with a teleport. The Eldest Orphan pushed ahead, realizing that this trap hallway led to the far side of Bolokhiv’s chamber—a place they’d already been.

Deflated (though enlightened), the party clambered into Runpril’s teleport and went home. The temple priest saved Old Iron Grip, but only barely.

28th Day of the Month of Grief

The Eldest Orphan, Tarkus, and Vetch descended once more. Vetch claimed the duralumin mail; Tarkus death warded all involved.

Vetch immediately leapt down the shaft to the mushroom chambers carrying the Luggage, slowed by his new mail and landing safely. Tarkus and the Orphan had to climb down normally. The floor was filled with a deep blue-green haze, tinting the moss and fungi even dimmer.

Exploring, the party: spoke with some myconids and learned about a bit of lore (mentions of the Heart of Many Hearts, the Cannibal King, the Castellan of the Depths, and others); snagged some coins with the Orphan’s miser’s flute; and found a room full of pale blue gas and bright blue mushrooms. They wrapped their faces in wet cloths, and explored.

A short ways in, they saw something that looked like a body sprawled amidst the growths; Tarkus tried to animate the corpse, and it had no effect; after some more paranoid investigation, they discovered it was a man, unconscious but alive! As they dragged him out, the Eldest Orphan passed out, unconscious—the gas was sleeping gas.

Tarkus and Vetch woke up the man, learned his name was Tarninus,” and that he had been asleep for [REDACTED]. Confused and bewildered, the man agreed to follow them as they returned to the surface.

The Eldest Orphan woke up the next day.

1st Day of the Month of the Imperium

On the surface, the party asked Tarninus” about his time exploring, and he mentioned that the entrance they came up through—the one in the basement of the Forsaken Inn—doesn’t seem at all familiar. His memory is hazy after so long asleep in the dungeon, but the party remains convinced.

Deciding to look for other entrances, the party lowered Vetch off the cliffside that Forsaken sits on, descending down towards the Shivering Sea. About 200’ down, Vetch found a carved stone disc set into the cliff-face, 10’ across, set with the image of a crowned corpse. Descending down even further, Vetch found a half-flooded cave amidst the sharp rock at the cliff’s based, the waves crashing around.

They poked around through the other buildings in town—apothecary, stables, the temple—looking for basements and hidden entrances, and found nothing. Using passwall, the party also examined the weathered statue at the town’s north edge, and discovered a large metal plate beneath it. They then set Tarninus” up with a shovel, told him [REDACTED], and set him digging.

Resolved, they headed back down below; Tarkus raising more skeletons (and accidentally death warding them instead of raising more). They: went down to level 2; discovered gas that clung to the ceiling, requiring them to squat; convinced some orcs to help them kill dwarves; killed some dwarves in a workshop and a guard post; found a secret chamber that held the possible remnants of an orc-dwarf treaty; and then another secret chamber, which lead to a large metal conveyor belt bearing earth, stone, and metal.

Realizing this was dwarf territory, the party investigated by following the conveyor belt: they killed some more dwarves in some kind of kitchen, found a huge dwarf machine of unknown purpose, and then were spotted and the alarm raised—the party hightailed it back. Before they left, they killed the orcs and claimed the dwarf heads, which they sold back to the other orcs, earning untrusting looks and a measly 20sp per head.

Returning to the surface, the party woke up Snuffet (my roommate came home) and got him to perspectival shift both the monument in Forsaken and the metal plate beneath it, revealing a set of stairs descending down into the dark. The party investigated only a little: the stairs were shallow, only a few dozen feet, and led to a dusty, dark, cobwebbed catacomb.


What lies beneath the monument stairs? How will the party navigate the fungal hazes? Will they side with the dwarves, the orcs, or neither? Find out next time (hopefully sooner than last time).

April 14, 2024 session report Pandemonium

Two Projects, One Week, Four Years

On Monday, my Mothership adventure Time After Time released. I started working on it in the winter of 2021, during grad school; I Kickstarted it in February 2022 for ZiMo 22, which I also helped organize. It was supposed to release December 2022. I rebooted the project almost from scratch in late the summer of 2022 (when it was about three-quarters done), taking it from the intended 36 pages to more than double that.

Today, Wednesday, my toolbox setting guide Seas of Sand released. I started working on it in spring 2020, during my last semester of undergrad. I Kickstarted it during the summer of 2021. It was supposed to release May 2022. After struggling a lot during the fall of 2021, I scrapped my original master’s thesis and focused all my efforts on Seas; I wrote many of the 1d100 tables in the appendices over Christmas. I finished the writing, editing, and graphic design, about 80,000 words and 264 pages, in time for the thesis showcase: my little booth had an art-less version printed out on regular school printers, held together with too-big metal rings. The covers were made from folded-over red construction paper. The illustration-less PDF went out to backers just a couple weeks before I finished my master’s.

I finished the rebooted draft of Time After Time in early 2023, some 30,000 words, about a month after I’d originally told my backers they’d have the whole zine. It was that fall, 2022, that I started teaching university courses. I finished the illustrations for Seas of Sand in the early summer of 2023, about a year after the writing and graphic design were finished, in time for the one year late” mark. That, too, involved a reboot—I had about 40% of the pieces done, and then decided the style wasn’t working and threw almost all of them out. The graphic design of Time After Time took longer than expected: I’d taken the wear-and-tear look of Lowlife a step further, and each spread required about a dozen Photoshop layers superimposed over the InDesign spread working together to get the final look. I ended up outsourcing most of the illustration work to Locheil, an internet friend who did excellent work, because after all the illustrations in Seas I just didn’t have another couple dozen large pieces in me.

After finishing the art for Seas, I took it to Jarrett Crader at Space Penguin Ink for publication. It took us a while to figure out the specifics, but we ordered proofs by the end of summer—I had the proof in hand by September. That book’s still full of my notes, catching typos and issues. Loch finished the art around the same time, and I sent out complete PDFs to my backers in the early fall, 80 pages in total. It took quite a bit of searching and hunting around to find a printer willing to print and bind a zine of such length, but I found one. There, I turned to Spear Witch, a retailer I’d worked with before, for distribution; I had the proofs of Time After Time by the winter. At the same time, a thousand copies of Seas were being shipped across the Pacific on a slow boat from China: they arrived shortly after the new year. After the BackerKit ran for a month, we got copies out to backers by early spring of 2024. The copies of Time After Time made it to Spear Witch from Canada in March, and went to out to backers at the end of the month.

This week, both of them released to the public.

Since I started these projects, I moved three times; received two degrees; taught seven courses; started two blogs; gained a brother-in-law, two nephews, and a niece; went back to therapy again; made and spent tens of thousands of dollars; cut my hair; picked up a couple dozen editing and graphic design gigs to make rent; accrued several hundred social media followers; ran about a half-dozen RPG campaigns to completion and several more to incompletion; and started many, many other projects, only a few of which ever have seen the light of day.

Rarely a day went by where I didn’t think about both projects. And now they’re done.

What have I learned? Mostly what not to do. Don’t run a Kickstarter before you have a complete draft finished. Don’t plan to illustrate dozens of pieces or write tens of thousands of words in just a few months. Don’t piss off the Kickstarter backers. Try not to overhaul projects halfway through. Try not to start new projects in the middle of previous ones. Try not to get yourself in a situation where you’re compelled to lock yourself in your bedroom and work for months without really being able to show it to anyone.

But lots of other things, too. I know vastly more about Photoshop and InDesign than I did four years ago. I know how to publish hardcovers outside of DriveThru. My editing skills are much, much sharper. I have a much better idea of what GMs want from their books, and how to give it to them. I know more about games, play, and roleplaying than I perhaps thought possible.

And, despite the trials and tribulations, I am still making RPGs—there are few greater joys. Keep your eyes open.

Seas of Sand is available in hardcover at Space Penguin Ink, and in digital at itch.io and DriveThruRPG. Time After Time is available as a zine at Spear Witch, and in digital at itch.io and DriveThruRPG.

April 10, 2024 release the biz

The Five Session Hump

Something I’ve noticed: it takes about five sessions to get a campaign going. That means five sessions, in a row, with everybody showing up, meeting at your weekly time.

This plays out across multiple levels.

Logistically, five sessions are enough that they’re starting to become a habit, an assumed default rather than an exception to carve out for. After five sessions, if somebody misses a session or you have to cancel, you aren’t at risk of the whole thing collapsing. (Five weeks is also about how long it takes to confirm a flake, and for self-aware potential flakes to realize they maybe shouldn’t commit.)

Mechanically, five sessions in is about when everybody’s learned all the rules, which dice to roll, and how their spells work. After five sessions, players start getting sneaky with their tactics, the wizards take the weird spells, and everyone starts getting excited about (rather than dreading) the next level-up.

Narratively, five sessions are the point where everybody’s characters start to solidify, and when everyone’s gotten familiar with the GMs world. After five sessions, players want to start exploring the next new area, and GMs can start adding in new NPCs, factions, and paths forward.

And socially, five sessions are about how long it takes to start becoming real friends, when you start talking about stuff outside the game, when you invite each other to other events. After five sessions, D&D becomes a chance to hang out and socialize with people you like and care about, not merely just strictly game-time. It’s great!

With strangers, I think it takes an extra couple sessions over the hump; with players you’ve already played with, it takes maybe a session or two less. My sense is that for online games, it takes about double this time. For open tables and West Marches-style, where you’ve got players regularly moving in and out, I’ve found it takes about five weeks for it to sink into players’ heads that the game is happening. Then, it takes each individual player about five sessions to realize that they actually really enjoy this game and want to keep playing.

Of my campaigns that died early, nearly all were before the hump. Of my campaigns that worked, I started feeling much more confident (or much less, after some key realizations) in them—both in- and out-of-game—after those first five sessions.

April 3, 2024 running the game

The New York 1d6

In tabletop RPG books, dice are correctly notated as 1d6,” that is, [quantity of dice]d[die size]. 1d20, 6d6, 3d8, and so on—all correct. Much as the serial comma is the Oxford comma, in this case the quantified 1d6 becomes the New York 1d6.

Compare:

  • roll 1d6” (correct) vs roll d6” (incorrect) vs roll a d6” (incorrect).
  • 1d6 goblins” (correct) vs d6 goblins” (incorrect).
  • longswords deal 1d6 damage” (correct) vs longswords deal d6 damage” (incorrect).

Without the New York 1d6, manuscripts find themselves full of irregularities and unevenness in their dice notation as they move from one die to many. The New York 1d6 ensures precision and standards at all points: one die and many dice use identical notation.

Thank you.

Notes & Use

The New York 1d6 applies only in cases in which the die notation is used as a stand-in for the value rolled; in the case of multiple dice, they are added together. When a longsword deals 1d6 damage, it means the longsword deals 1–6 damage; when fireball deals 6d6 damage, it means the fireball deals 6–36 damage.

In the case of multiple die rolls not added together but kept as separate results, such as on a mutator table, write roll 1d20 thrice” or roll 2d6 four times.” (Compare vs roll 3d20” or roll 8d6,” which suggest adding the values together.)

When referring to the physical polyhedrons, such as a die-drop table, write drop a six-sided die” or roll three four-sided dice.” While perhaps laborious, this once again ensures clarity, in that it is the objects that matter, not their mathematical values.

It is never correct to pluralize 1d6. 3d6s” is just as bad as a fistful of d6s.”

The d” in 1d6 is always lowercase. Compare 1d6” (correct) to 1D6 (incorrect). This applies to smallcaps text as well.

The 1 (or other quantifier) in 1d6 functions as the indefinite article: it is not roll a 1d6” or roll those 2d6,” but simply roll 3d6.” In the cases of specific dice requiring the definite article, define the die size early, then simply refer to the dice without the full 1d6 notation, e.g. “Roll 2d6 as the Escalation Dice. Roll the Escalation Dice each subsequent hour. Each time a ghost wakes up, roll the Escalation Dice.”

The New York 1d6 applies to table headers. Compare 1d6 | Encounters” (correct) to d6 | Encounters” (incorrect).

In the case of dice notation outside the standard, such as d66,” the New York 1d6 generally does not apply. For example, d66” refers not to one sixty-six-sided die, but rather to 1d6 rolled twice and read as digits; accordingly, the New York 1d6 does not apply.


This article may be updated in the future to answer additional questions and edge cases.

March 8, 2024 design writing

Pandemonium Megadungeon Session Report #4

It’s been a minute! Read reports #1, #2, and #3 of my ongoing open-table megadungeon campaign project, working-titled Pandemonium.”

13th Day of the Month of Grief

Our party consists of:
Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Roller of Rugs, Fighter 3; a haggard knight missing his left ear, clad in bone mail-and-plate, wielding Righty, his unmagical but very notched longsword.
Old Iron Grip, Magic-User 2; a recently-recovered illusionist, his medical bills and carousing cash paid for by a comrade, now sporting an iron left hand, a wooden peg left leg, and missing his left ear.
The Eldest Orphan of Forsaken, Fighter 2; a shockingly clean and well-dressed sporting a mohawk and very fancy boots.
Caspar, Magic-User 1; a gloomy, morose, but oddly friendly necromancer clad in a white sheet.

The party descended into the depths, straight to the second level. They messed about with the golden skull, woke it up, and it set itself on fire before flying away cackling; Caspar attempted to ghostwalk and accidentally died for a short while instead; found a hidden trapdoor falling onto spikes; ran into a cautious-if-polite dwarf (Sōt III speaks Dwarvish); and lowered Old Iron Grip down to the spikes to recover some treasure and a mysterious reddish bone key.

Given that Caspar still laid dead, they decided to drag him back to the surface and wait. He recovered some hours later.

14th Day of the Month of Grief

Going below once again, the party: recovered some lost gear; ran into some yellow ooze; heard mention of an elemental from some skeletons; Caspar lied to the skeletons, claiming he was a leader; and ran afoul of some orcs. The orcs seemed quite durable, even immortal: many bore hideous wounds yet seemed quite calm, and one was just a head, but still talked.

The party bargained with the orcs (the Eldest Orphan speaks Goblinoid, which orcs speak), trading knowledge of the secret elevator previously discovered for dwarf bodies. After tangling with some skeletons (having seen through Caspar’s deception), the party dragged the dwarf corpses back to the goblins, to uphold their stairs-for-dwarves deal. The goblins rejected the dwarves—they wanted living bodies, not corpses. Dejected, the party returned to the surface.

15th Day of the Month of Grief

After some shuffling in the Forsaken Inn, a new party descended:
Tarkus, Magic-User 1; a black-clad necromancer—last delve, he seemingly died after drinking a potion, and a seemingly-identical Tarkus stepped out from an alternate dimension.
Vetch, Fighter 1; a genial, ambling tourist, newly out of retirement.
Little Guy, Magic-User 1; a heavily-mustachioed conjurer, muscular and sporting crimson tattoos.

After getting some advice on the maps and dangers from the Eldest Orphan, who was conveniently in the Inn’s taproom (my roommate walked by), the party descended. They: ran into skeletons on the steps to level 2 and convinced them to fight the goblins upstairs; jammed the golden skull into Little Guy’s pocket dimension; cracked open a couple of sarcophagi and tangled with a yellow ooze but also claimed quite a bit of treasure; woke up Zagan the Old, a giant skeleton friendly to a previous party (Vetch took a photo); and retreated back to the surface.

16th Day of the Month of Grief

After offering advice to the previous party, the Eldest Orphan of Forsaken decided to join this group.

They went below to discover that skeletons had taken over the room leading to the stairs to the second level from the goblins—which the goblins had promised to control and allow the party access through. The party bothered the goblins, who raised a band of fighters and rousted the skeletons; the party descended to level 2.

The party immediately went to the secret elevator shaft they’d previously discovered, and lowered Vetch down with some 200’ of rope. At the bottom, Vetch found a large elevator platform with a crank on it, which he dutifully cranked, raising the elevator.

Little Guy, his nerves failing and his body quaking, decided to return to the surface alone (my friend had to leave early). Unfortunately, as Little Guy departed, he almost immediately ran into some kind of invisible wind-monster, which promptly sucked the air out of his lungs and left him gasping, then dead. Thus ended Little Guy.

Meanwhile, the other three—Tarkus, Vetch, and the Eldest Orphan—lowered the elevator back down, with them three on it. At the bottom, they discovered a large metal door set with patterns of bone, similar to what they’d seen above. Tarkus attempted to pick the lock but fumbled it, and a blade suddenly sheared out, slicing off three fingers on his right hand! After blocking the blade-slit with a shield, he kept working, eventually opening the door.

The party found themselves faced with a wooden wall and the sound of rhythmic metal scraping. Peeking around the wall, they gazed into an armory, where two four-armed humanoids sharpened two blades apiece simultaneously. Rather than tangle with these individuals, the party retreated back up the elevator.

From there, the party: offered Tarkus’s fingers to an undead divine figure called the Judge of Kings;” raised an orc zombie; discovered a room with a shrine; realized the shrine was trapped with poison gas, which they burned; discovered the steps up to the shrine were trapped, too, slicing up the zombie; and eventually used a ladder to skip the steps and reach the shrine. Inside was a great deal of treasure, a strange icon of a broken gravestone, and a note reading But a taste of good things to come.”

Retreating, the party ran into Little Guy’s corpse, which they stashed in a caved-in hallway. Vetch took his gold, promising it for his eventual successor, whoever that may be.

Back at the surface, the party spent their winnings, celebrating raucously. As they leveled up, they took on titles: the Eldest Orphan became The Eldest Orphan of Forsaken for Eternity, Vetch became Paparazzo Vetch, and Tarkus became Tarkus Two-Fingers.

17th Day of the Month of Grief

Synthesizing the previous parties, three adventurers went down:
Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Roller of Rugs, Fighter 3; still haggard, still clad in bone, still missing his left ear, still wielding Righty.
Paparazzo Vetch, Fighter 2; camera-wielding tourist increasingly interested in dungeon ecology.
Sabine, Fighter 1; a burly veteran soldier, seemingly old and young at the same time.

After getting Sabine up to speed on their adventures thus far and planning their route, the party descended. They: went straight to level 2; rummaged through Little Guy’s gear; left Vetch’s photo of Zagan the Old next to his crypt; ran into some friendly dwarves; helped the dwarves fight a band of orcs, wherein Vetch slaughtered a half-dozen singlehandedly; grabbed a bunch of still-living orc heads (wired or nailed shut to stop them biting or talking); then suddenly were ambushed by a group of corpse crawlers!

The crawlers rapidly paralyzed all but one of the dwarves, who fled, and Vetch. Sōt went to rescue Vetch, but was paralyzed as well. Sabine retreated, leaving the dwarves and her comrades to be slowly consumed by the crawlers. She ran back to the nearby skeleton shrine, and begged the skeletons for help: they agreed, but asked that the party would recover the dwarves’ fabled treasure for them in exchange. Sabine, with no other options, agreed.

The skeletons raised some zombie orcs and dwarves, then stormed in, driving back the crawlers handily. Sabine dragged the paralyzed Vetch and Sōt back to (relative) safety. While waiting, various dwarves kept arriving to check in, including two mechanical-armor-clad engineers who, upon realizing both arrived on the same job, began arguing viciously with each other.

After Sōt and Vetch recovered from their paralysis, the party: went back to the chamber where they believed the invisible air elemental lived; sealed the door but for the keyhole; mocked and baited it (Sabine speaks Zephyrean); and then managed to trap it inside an oilskin bag. They searched the room, found treasure, and took both treasure and air-elemental-bag-bomb back to the surface. They gave the goblins the three still-living orc heads—as orcs regrow over time—thus paying their debt of hostages for the week and ensuring safe passage to the second floor for another week.

Vetch, with a suspiciously-large amount of gold handy, partied hard and reached level 3, becoming Paparazzo Vetch the Orcbreaker.

18th Day of the Month of Grief

Our party consists of:
The Eldest Orphan of Forsaken for Eternity, Fighter 3; still noble, still mohawked, still extremely clean, still not a notch on any of his weapons.
Paparazzo Vetch the Orcbreaker, Fighter 3; now clad in scavenged armor and wielding a battle-axe, suspiciously rich.
Tarkus Two-Fingers, Magic-User 2; black-clad necromancer, now missing three fingers on his right hand.
Keviin, Fighter 1; the rookie burglar, still quite fresh.

After descending, the party: told the goblins about a secret passage on a map they found of goblin territory; feigned death Tarkus and Vetch to speak the Corpsetongue; semi-accidentally raised a skeleton presumably-named Isaakios; discovered dangerous dwarvish wall-slamming traps; examined a huge hole in the floor and thought they saw water below; and found a merchant! The merchant, clad head-to-toe in paper and parchment, gave his name as Textus, Master Scrivener, and offered six scrolls for sale. The party, pooling together their funds, purchased a scroll of magic dome in the Corpsetongue and a scroll of passwall in Void, which they paid Textus extra to translate into the Corpsetongue as well: Tarkus promptly claimed both, declaring himself an aspiring dark lord.

After, they found a room full of gas that induced lightheadedness with a shrine in it, which they raided, including a strange note reading Acid, Fire, Strangulation. Taking their winnings, the party retreated to the surface, and Tarkus transcribed his new spells, going deeply into debt to his comrades. Isaakios, Tarkus’s skeleton, declined, staying below to examine the mysterious golden skull.

19th Day of the Month of Grief

After Tarkus feigned his death once more, the party went below, straight to the second floor. The golden skull, which had consistently reappeared (even after being pocket dimension’d for a day by the late Little Guy), was missing, replaced with an ordinary skull.

Unsure of what to make of this, the party proceeded. They: realized Sōt’s red-bone key opened the iron doors to the secret elevator; distracted corpse crawlers with orc meat; and discovered a different merchant in the same room as Textus. This merchant, wearing a treasure chest for a helmet and carrying a huge pack, named himself as Curus, Master Peddler, and offered a variety of magical items and trinkets. The party, pooling their funds, purchased a miser’s flute to draw coins, a set of donkey legs to allow objects to walk, and a necklace of fireballs with 5 beads. Then, Tarkus attempted to passwall to a nearby chamber but failed, instead accidentally discovering a secret vertical shaft, from which daylight shone down. The party believed it the well in the town of Forsaken leading to the water below, but didn’t confirm for certain.

After, they: correctly passwall’d into an orc armory; learned that orcs all grow from great Allmother Brood; ran afoul of an orc magician and three horrible gibbering orc-flesh-hybrid-beasts; then lobbed a fireball from the new necklace into the corpse crawlers’ nest, promptly incinerating all of them. After looting the treasure, they realized that, according to their hand-drawn map, there should be a single wall between the room containing the now-ordinary skull and the merchant’s chamber: opened up, it’d be a huge shortcut. But alas, after passwalling again, they discovered it to be a distance of 10’—a huge distance to tunnel through substrate.

Still, after several hours away, Curus’s stock had refreshed, and the party purchased a Lagash sapling, which grows apples when watered with blood, and a folding boat. Tarkus raised two skeletons and commanded them to tunnel for the duration of their unlife, then the party returned to the surface.


Will the company manage to pay their debt to the undead for rescuing Sōt and Vetch by finding the treasure of the dwarves? What enemies will burn beneath their next 4 fireballs? What lies below, at the bottom of the secret well-shaft? Find out next time.

March 8, 2024 session report Pandemonium

Pandemonium Megadungeon Session Report #3

Recently, I started an open-table megadungeon campaign using a megadungeon I’m working on, working-titled Pandemonium.”

Here are reports #1 and #2.

9th Day of the Month of Grief

Our party consists of:
Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Fighter 2; a scraggly, haggard knight missing his left ear, clad in mail-and-plate made from bone, wielding Righty, his unmagical but heavily-notched longsword.
Erasmus Karl, Fighter 1; an amiable, balding tourist taking photographs for his travel [b]log readers back home.
Shrike, Fighter 1; a sickly, cursed outlander clad in a robe of black feathers, wielding a whip.
Keviin, Fighter 1; a haunted, ex-mercenary burglar.

The party descended into the depths; went to the goblin camp and handed over a clay goblin icon they retrieved previously, depicting a goblin head made of many, smaller goblin heads. In exchange, they were granted leave to attend the lectures of Khilo, High Sage, and Bokho, Great Pedant—the two most-senior goblin academics in the camp, each clad in mortarboards and academic capes.

They sat through long lectures on metaphysics, little understood (none of the party speaks Goblinoid); volunteered for baby lessons;” were sent to pick mushrooms; and eventually found a goblin academic who spoke the Nine Forked Tongues, the language of demons, which Shrike speaks. After some questioning regarding goblin lore and the much-mysterious Goblinscholar, the Forked Tongue-speaking goblin asked if Shrike would like to become” a goblin. Shrike agreed, as did Erasmus, and they were led away, deeper into the goblin camp—but not before leaving behind Erasmus’s Polaris-demon camera with 7 photos’ worth left.

There, the goblin academics produced a strange syringe made from an unusual metal. After withdrawing something from the ear of a twitchy, attending goblin, they injected the syringe into Shrike’s right ear. After convulsing and twitching for a minute, Shrike was led away. Despite this strangeness, Erasmus volunteered as well, and suffered the same fate.

After waiting for a long time, Sōt and Keviin decided to leave. The goblins did not return their companions.

10th Day of the Month of Grief

Two newcomers arrived in town to join Sōt and Keviin:
The Eldest Orphan, Fighter 1; a rich-dressed noble with a fancy mohawk.
Snuffet, Magic-User 1; a sleepy, shaved-head stoner transmuter.

Together, the party went back down; attended goblin lecture for several more hours (both Snuffet and the Eldest Orphan conveniently speak Goblinoid); went to goblin lunch (terrible); Snuffet snuck a photograph of a spell from Khilo the High Sage’s dissertation-spellbook; and then struck a deal with the High Sage and Great Pedant. If the party provides 3 dwarves (or orcs, or ghouls) to be turned into goblins, the goblins will clear a previously-skeleton-held chamber to allow access down a flight of stairs. The party accepted the deal, with one week to complete the kidnappings.

The party descended the stairs; found a suspicious lever on the staircase; raided some sarcophagi for treasure; discovered a strange golden skull with ruby eyes on a plinth in a room full of burned bones; realized the stair-lever turned the stairs to a ramp; and decided to keep their winnings and retreat home. Once back at the Forsaken Inn, Snuffet examined the photograph of Khilo’s spellbook, determined it to be dominate, and transcribed it into his own clay-tablet spellbook.

11th Day of the Month of Grief

Comprised of old and new faces, our party consists of:
Sōt III, Butcher of Bugs, Fighter 2; still scraggly, still clad in bone mail-and-plate, still down his right ear, still wielding Righty.
One the Only (pronounced own”), Fighter 2; a drunken, hungover, spear-wielding soldier.
Snuffet, Magic-User 1; a sleepy, shaved-head stoner transmuter now with a new spell.
The Eldest Orphan, Fighter 1; an increasingly-edgy noble with a mohawk.

After some shopping and loaning of silver, the party descended. They talked with the new goblin guards of the stairs down; realized the goblins might not be trustworthy; went down the same stairs; found a yellow ooze and set it on fire; found a very large room covered in an equally-large carpet; and discovered a crypt beneath the carpet, which they raided for a great deal of treasure, a map of an unknown dungeon area, a feather that points towards danger, and a pair of cursed boots of devouring.

Taking their winnings, the party retreated back upstairs to spend it all on booze, coke, and fast floozies. The Eldest Orphan and Snuffet both reached Level 2, taking on the titles The Eldest Orphan of Forsaken and Snuffet the Pointer, as Snuffet placed the danger-pointing feather into his cap.

12th Day of the Month of Grief

After descending once more, the party: rolled up the giant carpet; found a room with an almost-certain teleportation circle inscribed with circles in seven languages, only some of which could be understood; found an enormous giant-sized sarcophagus labeled Zagan the Old” in Colossal (which Snuffet reads); met a whole bucket of skeleton mages, only placated after One offered wine at their shrine; found a hallway with some oddly-placed columns; and discovered a Scooby Doo secret rotating door!

Going through the secret door, the party discovered a large metal door decorated with patterns of human bone, and a large, ominous keyhole. Rather than try to pick it, the party decided to wait so Snuffet could ritually (and thus safely) cast knock. Hidden in their secret hallway, the hour passed without incident: Snuffed knocked and the door opened. Inside awaited a wide, square, deep hole, with four thick chains descending along each corner—a hidden elevator! Descended currently, and with no means to call it up, but a valuable shortcut nonetheless.

Suddenly, a loud crash echoed through the walls, along with a Colossal voice calling Who dares disturb my slumber?!” The party returned to the room with the giant sarcophagus to discover a huge silver-crowned skeleton inside, mostly unable to escape his tomb but very able to swipe his giant skeletal arms at passers-by. After some discussion and learning that Zagan yearned mostly to sleep peacefully and was quite forgetful, the party offered a solution: in exchange for Zagan’s treasure, they would provide him with blankets. Traveling back and forth, the party cut up large swathes of the carpet in the previous chamber, swapping each new blanket for treasure: silver, gold, a map (which they recognized as the goblin camp, including some unexpected hidden areas), a creepy jester mask, and a pair of fancy magical boots. After briefly tangling with some kind of invisible wind monster that almost killed the Eldest Orphan, the party took their winnings and returned home—their longest descent yet, just over 4 hours beneath the Forsaken Inn.

Spending his winnings, Sōt reached level 3, taking on the title TBD. (It was late and we were tired.)


Where does the secret elevator go? Will Zagan the Old ever get a good eternity’s sleep? What will Sōt III choose as his Level 3 title? Find out next time.

February 24, 2024 Pandemonium session report