Underworld Lore #6 | Arcane Dwellings

Given the frequency that your average semi-retired magic-user finds himself pestered by the demands of johnny-come-lately adventurer-types, it's no surprise that the "wizard tower" has seen a steady decline in popularity. For one, it's ostentatious. A tower practically screams "MAGIC STUFF HERE! COME ON IN!" to any and all vagrant treasure-seekers who happen to spy its undeniably phallic stone shape from afar. Once upon a time, a wizard's tower was a place to be avoided, but no more. Most of them have now been abandoned by all but the most vain of magic-users (I'm looking at you, sorceresses!) for more secretive accommodations. These dwellings may be remote -- located in areas nigh-impossible to reach by non-magical means. On the other hand, they may be secreted under the noses of urban passerbys, hidden away through cunning use of arcane geometries, so that not even the most astute of thieves would suspect their existence. What follows are thirty examples of such unreal estates.

  • Fill in the blanks in the table below by commenting. Designate a result number to go with your entry. 
  • Describe the dwelling as if it were for sale (but omit the price).
  • Specify any unusual conditions or hazards related to living there.
  • This table is designated open-source gaming content. No rights reserved. 
  • Names of contributors with links to their respective blogs (if any) will appear next to their entries.  

Gelatinous Cubicle: More of an office space than a dwelling proper, the cubicle is actually a living gelatinous cube with a roughly 10' x 10' x 10' hollow inside it that contains a lead-lined chamber. Various metal tubes extend from this chamber through the creature's translucent body, providing the interior with ample air to breathe. A circular port-hole can be found on one of the cube's sides that is large enough for a man to pass through and step inside the chamber. The door to this port-hole resembles that of a safe and usually features a trap-loaded combination lock. [Gorgonmilk] 
Hollow Giant: The Hollow Giant is the result of an Animate Dead spell cast on the stitched-together flesh of Titanic Humanoids wrapped around an iron housing. Along with the Hollow Giant proper comes the Command Ring that allow the Wizard to direct the actions of the Hollow Giant, as well as stay in communication with it when away from the dwelling. The entrance to the Hollow Giant's chamber is through the mouth, which will unhinge to accomodate the entrance and exit of the Wizard -- with a directive through the Command Ring, of course. Once inside, the resident-Wizard will find that within the Giant's enormous ironclad belly is a finely furnished and provisioned single-person dwelling -- fit for study, respite or simply isolating oneself from the Mundane World.The resident-Wizard within the Hollow Giant should take care and bring plenty of scented oils and salts into the iron housing. The Animation spell, while complete, does nothing for the horrible stench of the dead that the Giant continues to exude. Caveat Emptor! [Dane Black]
The Watch Maker's Alcove: This lovely little pocket dimension, once the abode of a "Lord of Order", is now up for sale with the over 20,000 tools of the trade of such a lord. Long abandoned, this lovely plane takes  the form of a deserted shop or office space belonging to a professional merchant. Seated between the "real world" and the other of the astral plane this space has enough room for both the busy on-the-go wizard, his tools, familiars, and family. The wizard should be familiar with both the school of Order and the issues that its magic can cause. Any broken or mismanaged machine brought inside will fix itself within 1d20 hours as the magic of the place heals all broken mechanical imperfections. The place has a 60% resistance rating to the magics of chaos. These safeguards may be improved with time, patience, and sacrifice of the proper rites. Those wishing to purchase this wonderful dimensional property should contact the real state offices of Vance, Lovecraft, and Moorcock through the usual Astral Channels. [Needles]   
 4 Earnest Jan's Well-worn Wizardly Workplaces [see sub-table below] [Porky]
 5 The "Hallenbruck-Brewery-Front": This well established brewery in (next big city in your campaign) not only produces one of the finest ales in the known kingdoms, it also comes with a inebriation-fueled mirror-dimensional arcane facility (you may remember the positive review in "Potion Weekly" a couple of years ago), complete with an occult library (value not known), a fully equipped laboratoy (with minor fire damages due to recent unfortunate events) and the recipe for the "secret ingredient" that makes this place so special. This clandestine extra-dimensional space is a perfect copy of the brewery (and in the same place, sort of), with all the necessary changes to realize big projects and all the comforts needed for after hours relaxation. And no smell. There is no smell. In the interest of full disclosure: Apparitions of drunkards are a bare possibility. They are harmless and their songs are decent. Rumors that our dearly departed uncle and his highly sophisticated recipes (which are all part of the deal!) are responsible for a local zombie outbreak, cases of mind control, demonic possession or mutations are overly exaggerated. Interested parties are welcome to send their references. [JD]

D10 Sub-Table
Earnest Jan's Well-worn Wizardly Workplaces

Step right up my good being and get yourself a bewitching bargain - the bargain of the very age! I saw you coming a mile off - right here through my crystal ball. Now, gaze deep. I've got just the place for you. Do you see it? A fine arcane abode priced for the pocket of the discerning prestidigitator but fit for a minor deity. Did I say minor? Middling even! It's (roll 1d10):

anchored along sunbeams in a shaft of unusually vivid light and accessible only by means of a reconfigured spell for illumination adjusted to the given wavelength. A stellar opportunity!
zipped up in a dimensional hollow; the hollow itself and/or the careful - ahem - current owner may be a braner
strung taut up into the heavens, space elevator-like; import/export offworld or keep a personal space fleet - or lure someone else's from afar! The choice is yours! 
inside an exceptionally dense body orbiting within the atmosphere of its host world. Spectacular views! Accessible using convection currents, perhaps in the eternally elegant style of that impeccable sorceress Ms Mary Poppins. 
tightly woven from thick silver cord and suspended somewhere on an astral plane. Classy. 
built upside down into the ground, the foundations showing flush with the surface. Now that's workmanship, and by nameless ancient artisans to boot! 
compressed into a pointed hat. How's that for imagination - worthy even of the indefatigable arch demiurge jasons
one fractal scale further down, easily mistaken for an intricately carven staff, just as you - its new proud owner - could easily be mistaken for a woodworm while within. Confound your foes - at no extra charge! 
the original inspiration for the old British police box, a classic design recognised across the dimensions. Often imitated, never bettered. 
sewn from the outer skins of gas giants and bobbing like a cork on a lost sea of stars. Hideous hellhole and holiday home in one!  


The Hide-Behind

Here's an excellent vid on this creepy bit of American folklore. Enjoy, hunters!


Gunstock War Club (d8)

From Wikipedia:
Although well known as an indigenous weapon encountered in several American Indian tribes across the northern United States and Canada, details of its early development continue to elude historians. They were first used in the late 17th century[2] but were in use by Northern Plains tribes, such as the Lakota by the mid-19th century.[3]
Many sources have noted that indigenous tribes created the design based upon European firearms.[4] The tribes who encountered British, French, and colonial soldiers were impressed by their usage of a musket that, once its shot was spent, could easily be reversed, held by the metal barrel, and used as a harrowing bludgeoning weapon in close quarters combat. Other historical sources have claimed that several tribes obtained muskets from traders and later modified them into club weapons. However, with substantial holes already carved out of the crook of the gunstock - the focal striking area - for the metal loading and firing mechanisms of the musket, a club of this design would not have withstood repeated usage before breaking. Furthermore, none of the original war clubs excavated from archaeological digs have borne any indication that they started out as an actual firearm, as they lack lock and barrel inlets, and many are instead flat and board-like.
Another theory is that muskets and rifles of sixteenth-century Europeans merely provided the inspiration for the design of the gunstock war club. American Indian tribes, impressed with the thundering power of the musket as well as its dual usage in close quarters battles, may have tried to capitalize on the awe and terror created by European muskets by fashioning similarly designed clubs. Carrying these clubs closely resembling European muskets, American Indian tribes might have gained a psychological advantage over rival tribes in battle.
A third theory posed by some historians and several American Indian activist groups contends that the gunstock war club is simply a coincidence of design, developed independently years before the arrival of Europeans.
In case you were wondering, this brutal weapon can be obtained via WalMart.

Underworld Lore | Issue Concepts

Issue # - Theme/Concept

1 - No specific theme [available HERE]
2 - Filth, fungus [available HERE]
3 - The Hyborian Age [in progress -- due Dec 25th]
4 - The Occult and ghosts
5 - Bandits, highwaymen & dungeon "gangs"
6 - The Vancian Issue (magic, magical servants)
7 - The Dunsanian Issue
8 - Long Guns & Cannibals
9 - XOTHIQUE: The C. A. Smithian Issue (hexmap and bestiary)
10 - Big Ass Scary Spiders
11 - Hell Yeah Skeletons


OSR Goings-On | Gorgonmilk played FATE

It's a mere few weeks till Xmas & the OSR loot bag keeps looking more and more copious, dungeoneers.
  • In January 2014 the other GG, Greg Gillespie of Discourse And Dragons, will begin the crowdfunding for BARROWMAZE COMPLETE, containing both BARROWMAZE I and II and extra stuff besides. I'm a huge fan of Greg's megadungeon complex, with its "loot the burial grounds" incentive and its crusty assortment of undead types, its evil cultists and its weird-in-the-old-S&S-sense story-background. It appears that there are also going to be some miniatures -- the Official Barrowmaze Monsters -- to be produced through Otherworld.
  • Zenopus Archives got his archivy hands on John Eric Holmes' Dungeons & Dragons manuscript!
  • I'm planning on an Xmas release date for the in-dev UNDERWORLD LORE #3: Hyborian Issue, so if you want in as a contributor check out the community-generated article HERE. Totally unauthorized and completely unapologetic, UL#3 offers a bevy of fresh ideas, monsters, gods, and -- of course -- lore related to Conan's epoch. Original cover art by Joseph Cole.
  • Remember Hyborian Wars? That play-by-mail game where players represented different Hyborian nations? Well it's still going on, and you can find a lot of useful stuff on the game's website -- including regional maps for each of the thirty-six Hyborian Age states! Some radical ref rar'd those PNGs and you can download them HERE (6.5 MB). With a little elbow-grease these could make very gameable reference maps for the D&D.
  • So I played FATE for the first time last weekend. By the end of the session I had begun to understand the game's possibilities. It will never replace class-and-level, XP-based adventure games in my heart, but I get the sense that FATE will be able to offer its own unique forms of fun. There was a lot of opposed dice rolling with results modified by the referee according to the rules, the situation and his whimsy. While this simple core mechanic is easy to grock and has endless application, I can't help wanting there to be MORE there in terms of mechanics. But maybe that's just my inner Gygax.
  • What is this thing in the pic below called? Knew once, then forgot.


Underworld Lore #3 | Obscure facts pertaining to the lands of the Hyborian Age

Let's groupthink this!

Choose a territory/nation/state named on the map below and tell us one obscure fact* about the region. Multiple facts -- including facts that reference other facts -- are encouraged.


Many Corinthians celebrate an annual festival called the Orgy of Atronis, a celebration of the Black Ram God. During this three-day function all social barriers between man and beast are forgotten as the populace partakes of the hornwine -- a powerful hallucinogen derived from the fruit of the saphian, a deep-rooted scrub found on the grassy slopes of local mountain ranges.

*Your invention


Underworld Lore | D30 Unnatural Resources

Like in the title!

For inclusion in the Bandits & Highwaymen issue.

Name an otherworldly resource (eg. ethereal timber; red adamant; plucked fairy wings; etc.) and define its properties. Explain how it affects characters and/or environments. It must have some recognized value as a commodity within the game's economy. Rarity of the resource is up to you.

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UNDERWORLD LORE | Call of the Cover Art

Cover Concept & Request:
Two or three characters from The Goonies (1985) as adult, D&D-style underworld adventurer/explorers. Black ink on white background. Must be 300dpi.



Underworld Lore | Another for Issue 4: Ghost Behavior

The working title for this article is


Gorgonmilk answers(?) the questions

  • What sort of society/non-society of lost spirits exists in the Underworld and (by extension) most dungeons?
  • Does it make sense to the living? / Is it comprehensible?
  • What do ghosts do down there? What weird games do they play? (I imagine many of them consider dungeoneers to be particularly good game pieces)
  • Are ghosts different based on the type of creature they were when alive? For instance, when a giant dies is its ghost rather small and grotesque but still fond of throwing rocks?
Specifically the idea of dead adventurers -- guys who came to the dungeon, fought like hell and died grisly deaths long before the PCs got there -- appeals to my Referee-brain. Ghosts that can trade information/provide advice or directions/hassle or block their progress will make for interesting chains of events.

The subject also ties in with the mezzoglune topic here.


OSR Goings-On

All the tawdry gossip fit to print!

D20 THIEVES OF FORTRESS BADABASKOR FOR A BUCK. Literally. $1. And Stephen Colbert has a bit in it?

FROM THE ZONES is a new community project for Sci Fi campaigns using the FATE system. Its based on the cult Russian SF film STALKER and that film's inspiration, the novel ROADSIDE PICNIC. Essentially your character would be entering any one of a number of very odd zones governed by strange natural laws in order to steal alien artifacts -- a situation that roughly parallels the central occupation of the dungeoneer. Intriguing! (I don't know enough about FATE yet to contribute, but I'm going to try out a game this Saturday.)

BUNDLE OF HOLDING is the RPG PDF equivalent of a bacon shop -- flaunting its delicious gamey bacon in all of our faces as we prepare to throw our money!

Adventurer! The Bundle of Holding features time-limited offers of ebook collections for fans of tabletop roleplaying games. Each bundle offers a treasure hoard of top-quality DRM-free PDF roleplaying games and supplements, or of ebook novels by great RPG designers, at a price you set yourself.

Underworld Lore | D12 Brands of Root Beer, Potions and Booze found in the Underworld Vending Machine

Like what it says in the title! Include any bizarre ingredients found on the label + any unusual properties.

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The Psionics rules published in AD&D (both 1st and 2nd) are almost completely compartmentalized and set apart from the rules covering magic and spell-usage, presumably in order to keep them an optional element in the game. The "mechanical distance" between these sub-systems suggests by way of analogy that the inner-workings of the metaphysics of the campaign setting itself also divide Magic and Psionics into distinct realms governed by different pseudo-scientific laws as well as operating through completely unrelated supernatural mediums.

This scenario is illustrated by Fig. a below.

Fig. b represents my current approach to the relationship between these two phenomena. The core of psionic and magical power is identical -- each are expressions of the same ur-force, though sometimes covering widely different areas. The blending can even be taken further -- elements of the magic-user's repertoire might be converted to psionic displines, eg. astral travel, telepathy, telekinesis, illusion, etc. I'm considering building a psionic system that would be completely magical -- a subset of abilities available to any character but especially magic-users. The goal would be to make Psi and Magic complimentary -- no longer competing but growing from the same source.

Underworld Lore | Mezzoglunes

Thinking out loud here about an upcoming article for UL#4:

The dreams of underworld gods -- be they indigenous to that environment or exiles cast down from the Land Above -- congest the tunnels, passageways, quadrangles, chambers, and caverns of the Land Below as they rise up like a psychic smog, invisibly congealing into supernatural territories called mezzoglunes
Mezzoglunes are psychic real estate accessible by mortals only through the act of dreaming. For every level below the surface world, there is a 5% chance that a sleeping N/PC will accidentally "wander" into a nearby 'glune. 
It is very rare that such non-places are found uninhabited. Ghosts of dead adventurers, for instance, may take up residence in a mezzoglune and are just as likely to welcome a stray dreamer as they are to rebuke him for showing up uninvited. Demons, shadows and other disembodied phantoms are equally attracted to the ambiance of particular 'glunes, altering the misty dream-environments to suit their unearthly tastes in decor. 
There are particular risks associated with dreaming in 'glunes. For instance, an N/PC always runs the risk of encountering a being capable of constraining him, so that his dream-self will be incapable of returning to his physical body. With his mind imprisoned, the N/PC's body could become hijacked by a ghost, demon or phantom.

There's at least one chart I need to generate for these concepts: The table that explains the end-result of an N/PC's sojourn in a 'glune, eg. he gleans useful info from a ghost and answers a question; or he ends up a psychic prisoner and his body is now usurped by a demon -- lots of possibilities for roleplay here!

Underworld Lore | "Dungeon Disappearances"

What happens to Jim Bob's character when he can't make the game Saturday night?* Gavin Norman -- arch-vivimancer, lord of the City of Iron -- has attempted to answer this very question with a random table and he needs YOU to help him finish it.

It's going into UNDERWORLD LORE #4 AKA "The Occult Issue" -- due out Jan 2014.

BTW, UL is looking for write-ups for magical entities specifically for #4. These are beings along the lines of Patrons in the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG -- for the most part non-corporeals that can augment a magic-user's arcane knowledge but also bind him by way of an airtight Geas.


No. Enc: 
Align: (3-fold)
Hit Dice:

Send these freaks to:


* Because "He went back to the inn." is just laaaaaame.


FREE PDF: Underworld Lore #2

UNDERWORLD LORE #2 doubles down on the page-count from the previous issue with oodles of weird and useful junk for fantasy campaigns. Click on the cover below to download the RAR archive -- contains the PDF as well as two TIF files for the cover (exterior and interior).



PUNISHER short starring Thomas Jane

A short film starring everyone's favorite malcontent -- FRANK CASTLE. Miles and miles better than any Punisher movie that's appeared on the big screen.


[Music/Visuals] "Undulating Terrain" by Robert Rich and Brian Lustmord

Were Gygax's post-TSR Gord the Rogue novels flagrant IP theft?

From page 4 of City of Hawks:
"CITY OF HAWKS takes place, in part, in the locale described in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK(TM) Fantasy Game Setting, which was created by Gary Gygax. Characters, towns, places and landmarks from that product are used pursuant to license from TSR, Inc."
Now I'm not versed in the fine points of legalese, but isn't "used pursuant to license" essentially a way of saying, "Yeah, we don't have the rights but we're gonna just publish this anyway"?

Don't get me wrong -- I think it was a shame that Gygax didn't retain the rights to Greyhawk, considering that it was his baby. And it's kind of amusing/interesting how cavalier ACE and New Infinities were here. Did Gary have a leg to stand on, legally speaking? 

I've read bits here and there concerning the fallout after SHE-WHO-WILL-NOT-BE-NAMED bought out the Blumes and took control of TSR. I'm not clear though on whether the Gord books were at issue when TSR sued/seized/destroyed New Infinities.


One of my favorite local used book stores is closing shop...

And it's bumming me out. :(

Though I already had the SciFi Book Club omnibi, I managed to grab the first seven or so THIEVES' WORLD collections, plus Andrew Offut's SHADOWSPAWN -- all in really great condition. I don't know why these books don't get more talk/love from D&D fans. They're a great example of shared-world setting creation. I'd love to see the OSR pull something off along these lines. And maybe have it premiere in the pages of UNDERWORLD LORE?


CROM! UNDERWORLD LORE #3 is packed with mighty thews!

Underworld Lore | "Dungeon Slang" Article Series

Hey Fellow Groglings, UNDERWORLD LORE is looking for examples of slang terms that could be part of common parlance among experienced dungeoneers, tomb-robbers and crypt-pilferers, underworld explorers and persons lost in the underworld. 

Comment below with your slang terminology. This will be another educational supplement found in UL#2, with additional future installments if we have enough material.

Gobnobbler. Slur for goblin or goblinoid creature, suggests that all goblins are obsessed with sucking their own warty pricks ("gobs"); eg. "This is me share and that's your'n. Now why don't ye ugly, green gobnobblers go fellate yerselves," quoth DALT DOOGINS the Delfer during negotiations with a contingent of goblin mercs.

[Music] "The Snow" by COIL


Using the Player-Knowledge vs Character-Knowledge gap to Confuse, Bewilder, Misdirect

My customary approach to maps -- be they outdoor or indoor -- is that they are kept hidden from the players until they have been fully explored.*

I assume this is the conventional way of going about things. The reasoning being that players will naturally use the map to direct their characters from a god-like aerial vantage point -- an advantage that would skew the first-person structure of roleplay to the game's detriment.

While this is an entirely possible scenario given the options normally available to characters in most versions of the D&D, I think there is a way that we can keep the map completely visible on the table AND use the player-to-character knowledge gap to one's Referential advantage.

By "gap" I mean the fundamental difference between what the player knows as he's playing the game and what the character he's directing knows. With a map laid out before his eyes, the player knows the general lay of the land and can foresee the consequences of movement in any direction. Unless the character was very familiar with his surroundings, his perception of his environment would be much more limited and short-range. 

With full knowledge of the map, however, the player-character would be immune to misdirection, incapable of being lost...

But what if that wasn't always the case? Without a compass or a clear view of the sun -- say under a forest canopy -- there's a chance that any of us could be lost in the woods. What if those woods are not entirely natural? Perhaps the trees hide an invisible intersection of Ley energy-lines, giving them a subtle but pervasive phantasmagoric aspect that wreaked havoc on one's sense of direction...

Every two turns that they travel through unfamiliar/unknown territory, the party must check to see if they have become lost. The lead PC/NPC makes a WIS check using 3d6, subtracting his Experience Level from the result of the roll.
  •  Dense foliage or Low visibility (+6) 
  •  Under the effect of Panic or Fear (+6) 
  •  Exhausted (+3) 
  •  In pain or Wounded (+3) 
  •  Quasi-magical/Magical environment (+1 to +12)
Failure of this check indicates that the party has become bewildered.
A bewildered character has a 1-in-3 chance of "defying" player direction. This situation applies specifically to (1) large-scale overland travel and (2) dungeon navigation. The player must state his intention (eg, "Brown Dweezel takes the left passage") and then the Referee checks to see if the character will botch the player's plans. Failure here indicates that the character moves in a different, random direction. THUS "Instead of taking that left turn, Dweezel continues forward a full move." Things will continue in this fashion until the character has followed player direction successfully three times in a row.

*In most cases, there will be a "player version" of the map -- a version that omits most secret or hidden items and locations.

Today I Bitch About: Alarums & Excursions

The only listing for the zine to be found on eBay.

I can't even pirate myself an issue.

What's the d% on getting some early A&E issues scanned into PDF form? Maybe Lee Gold could even sell them via RPGNow. I don't want to sound like a whiny, suckling grog-wannabe here, but it kind of bothers me that the only way to have access to years and years of this material is to (a) be really old and already have them OR (b) spend way too much dough trying to piece together a sad little collection of rusty-stapled, barely legible zines.

This is the fucking INFORMATION AGE!!!!

All of this stuff can/should be preserved in PDF format.

Letting it just rot away in a box in your attic is doing a major disservice to the whole D&D zeitgeist. 

You might as well be skullfucking Wormy.

It's just wrong, man.


Sprang that Bat

Now that Cartoon Network's latest series in the Bat-verse, Beware the Batman, is off-air and appears to be slated for oblivion after a mere eleven episodes, it's obviously time to start dreaming up its replacement.

I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing a series done in the style of Dick Sprang's Batman. Something with a nice retro-vibe but not as balls-to-the-wall whacktastic as Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Such a series would make a nice counter-point to the grim n' gritty Bat-stylings we've seen of late via video games and Christopher Nolan's film trilogy. Get to work, Warner Brothers.


Maps: A Different Perspective

Here's a setting map drawn by Hiyao Miyazaki for the setting of his manga (and later film) NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind.

Remembering: Satanic Panic

Two geniuses explain why everything I love
in the cockles of my heart
is the product of
\m/ SATAN \m/