Chime in, people!

So I've sold a bunch of these ASE1's, and I'm busy working on the next levels.  My players push ever downwards (when they aren't quivering in abject terror), and presumably some of you will be wanting the sequel.

So this is my mini-survey - who's started running ASE1 yet?  Anyone out there?  No real reason for asking other than vanity, but I'm curious who's taken the plunge.  I imagine that a lot of people are holding off til they have a few more levels in hand, but I'm curious all the same.  Leave a comment and let me know!


Eye Jelly

I like oozes, jellies, and puddings.  Anything that dissolves players or their equipment is a recipe for fun.

Eye Jelly
No. Enc: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 30’ (10’)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d10 + acid
Save: F4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 350

This monster is a collection of thousands of eyes suspended in acidic ooze.  It is an ambush predator, waiting on ceilings for prey to walk beneath.  It attacks by enveloping its prey and dissolving their flesh with its acidic slime.  After killing its victim, it will extract the unfortunate's eyes and add them to its own body mass.

The eyes of the jelly are functional, and it is thus impossible to surprise one of these monsters without the aid of invisibility spells or similar magic.

Each successful attack by an eye jelly has a 50% chance of rendering its target’s armor useless, as the acid slime chews through straps and smaller metal attachment points, if not the armor itself.


Lightning in a Bottle

As I've written before, I like my traps to be dead obvious, and completely irresistible.  It's there, it's in your face, it's going to kill you - and you can't help but monkey around with it.

96. Lightning in a Bottle
In the center of this room is a lattice frame constructed of thin silver rods, running from floor to ceiling, and supporting a glass jar in the middle.  Five of the silver rods terminate inside the bottle itself, while others wind around it.

The bottle holds an electrical charge, and will shock anyone touching the frame for 3d6 points of damage.  Small amounts of insulation (such as touching with leather gloves, or a leather-wrapped metal pole) will reduce this to 1d6 points of damage.  Thicker insulation (more than a half inch thick) will allow the rods and jar to be safely handled.

As long as the bottle remains intact, it will continue to shock those who touch it or any metal that contacts it.  Breaking the bottle will fully discharge it, causing 6d6 points of electrical damage to everyone within 30’ feet.  If properly insulated, the jar could be removed and used as a weapon this way.

The silver rods are worth 500 gp if recovered and sold.


Hall of the Underlords

Here's another "special".  This one gives a little history - most of it is meaningless flavor, but Uligob the Hive-Mind still lives down in the levels below.  I left the first bas relief blank to encourage ambitious players who felt like establishing an underworld dominion.  Ha, good luck with that if they try!

97. Hall of the Underlords
This hall stands 40’ tall, with a byzantine vaulted ceiling, carved into abstract spirals and triangles.  The walls are decorated with bas reliefs, depicting ambitious underlords of the Anomalous Subsurface Environment who sought to rule the subterranean realm.

Each bas relief occupies a 20’ by 20’ area on the walls, and is bordered by raised black stone, carved in a spiral and veined with a translucent blue mineral.

a. This section of the wall bears the same border the other bas reliefs do, but is empty, except for these words carved at the bottom:  “The Last Underlord, Whose Rule Is Yet To Come.”

b. This bas relief depicts a goblin in armor, attended by robed, man-sized goblinoids with swollen heads.  These words are carved beneath:  “Uligub, Lord of the Labyrinth. His mind lives still.”

c. The mural here shows three robed bearded men of advanced age.  The first man holds a loaf of bread, the second has a belt around his waist from which dangle severed hands, and the third is cutting through his robe and abdomen to reveal his bowels.  The image is titled:  “The November Gentlemen.  Living or dead, all kneeled before them. Devoured by darkness, they shall not return.”

d. Carved onto this section of the wall is a spider in a vast webbed hall.  It is titled:  “Morguilos, Spinner of Lies. Fire burned lie and spider alike.”

e. The section of the southern wall pointing inwards is carved with skulls.  Below the skulls are carved the words “The Treasures of the Underlords.”

f. This bas relief shows a man-shaped figure made of spikes and blades, surrounded by corpses.  The words carved below it read:  “The Blade of Kharg.  He slew all who fought with sword, but was laid low by the song of Lem.”

If the bas relief of the November Gentlemen is inspected carefully, the players will find that the carved bowels of the third gentleman may be depressed.  Doing so will cause the eye sockets of the skulls carved into the southern wall to open.  If the skulls in the Disco Vault (room 27) are still within, alternating green and blue lights will shine from the sockets, resulting in bright circles of color on the northern wall.  Players may peer through the sockets to see within room 27.  The sockets will remain open for as long as the bowel-carving is depressed.


Session recap, 8/10/2011

Netal the Elf (2), and his enraged pit-bull Sweetiepie
Gutboy Barrellhouse the Cleric (3), his dog Rufus, and his henchman Serlo the Elf
Mongo the Fighter (2), and his henchmen Leroy Brown the Cleric and Jimgar the Elf

The adventurers convened in the City of Denethix.  Netal had a pocket full of gold that he was looking to burn, and after tossing aside the dead hobo draped over him, he found Mongo and Gutboy and asked them to join him at the Bazaar Incomparable.  Once at the Bazaar, he made his way back to the gunsmith, once again seeking shotguns.  "No!  No!  I will never sell you a shotgun!  Away with you!"

Disappointed, the party marched back to the Street of Temples, to check in on the booth containing the devotional to Nisus.  The door to the booth had been left unlocked, and a hobo had crept in during the night, defecating in the booth.  Disgusted, Gutboy scooped up the turd and cleaned up as best he could.

Hobo-turds not being particularly satisfying, Netal grabbed his gruesome mirror and headed back to the Bazaar Incomparable.  First, another trip to the gunsmith - this time to purchase a pistol.  The smith, delighted that the obnoxious elf was no longer simply browsing, pulled out a massive hand-cannon, its ivory grip etched with images of a man getting his head blown off.  On the underside of the handle was written the gun's name, "Molly."  Impressed by the craftsmanship, Netal spent the vast majority of his cash to purchase the weapon, and also purchased a number of lead, silver, and solid gold bullets for the revolver.

Six-gun in hand, the party searched for a place to unload the accursed mirror.  They stopped in again at "Tasteful Curios of the Forgotten Age," a tent filled with unusual artifacts from days long past.  The proprietor was still reluctant to purchase the mirror, as last time, but Mongo's simple eloquence convinced him.  "You buy mirror!"

Gutboy then asked to see some of the artifacts for sale, and was shown:

- A large porcelain toad, with smaller porcelain toads nested within.  "Marvel at the toad, each having a smaller cousin within!  There is no end to them!"

- A collection of peryton figurines, each dressed in fine clothing, drinking tea, holding umbrellas, etc

- An ancient bronze box.  Gutboy opened it to find it contained a still-beating heart.  "Who knows what creature this heart came from many thousands of years ago!  Buy it, and the mystery may be yours!"

Deciding not to purchase these marvelous artifacts, the party wandered back into the bazaar in search of exotic animals, particularly large insects.  Approaching a vendor of exotic pets, they inquired.

Pet salesman:  "No, no bugs, they don't domesticate well.  They always bite the children's arms off.  Then everyone wants a refund.  Stopped selling 'em. How about a baby grunky?  Look!  They do little handstands!"
Mongo:  "Oooooo"
Netal:  "Do you have any dogs?"
Pet salesman:  "Why, of course, of course.  Errr... here's a great one, right here!"  Presenting a muzzled pit-bull, growling ferociously:  "He's got a wonderful disposition!  I call him Sweetiepie!"
Netal (as pit bull strains at its muzzle to maul him):  "I'll take it!  Here's 25 gp"
Pet salesman:  "That'd get you twenty-five baby grunkies!  Sure I can't interest you in any? No?"

Murderous pit-bull in hand, the party began discussing the hideous red mist and the hobo deaths that plagued Netal.  Netal finally confessed that the hobo deaths were due to the bronze amulet he was wearing - during the night, it would steal life from the weak and give it to him.  If not worn, however, it would steal life just the same - but no one would get the benefit.

Netal decided to store the amulet in the Bank Inviolable, and they headed to the fiduciary fortress.  Inside, a teller took the amulet and headed to the vaults - she returned ashen-faced, and asked Netal to step aside and wait for a manager.  The bank manager approached gravely, and informed Netal that the mirror he had placed in the vault had inexplicably disappeared.  Gutboy feigned outrage, and the manager quickly informed Netal that of course the bank would credit his account the appraised worth of the mirror - 1,000 gp.  Well content with this fraud, Netal and the rest decided to gather their henchmen and head off to the dungeon and seek a large bug for sacrifice to the goddess Nisus.

Stopping in Chelmsfordshire, Gutboy purchased several hundred more feet of rope, while Mongo sought out a pig to bribe the morlocks.

Farmer:  "I have a very special pig for you!  Look, a spider wrote his name right above his stall - Wilbur!"
Mongo:  "Hmm.  Maybe less special pig?"
Farmer:  "Sure, I got Phil over here!  He's only got three legs, I just had to have a haunch off him.  But the rest is still good!  Plenty o' back bacon there!"
Mongo:  "Too hard to pull pig.  I take Wilbur."

Wilbur turned to look back at the web and the spider within as he was dragged away, a tear in his eye, but Mongo had no remorse - morlocks need ham, too.

The trip to the dungeon and to the well at the end of the wide corridor was uneventful.  The party stopped at the morlock lair on the way, knocking on the door.

Morlocks:  "Mongos!  You bring food?  People?"
Mongo:  "Bring pig!"
Morlocks:  "We take pig!"  - and they did so, immediately, slamming the door in the party's face afterwards.

This rude exchange over, the party headed to the well. They had 300' of rope in total - enough to tie off to a pillar in a nearby room and run down to the bottom of the well, leaving only 10' to spare.  Then the party began discussing what to do once they had captured a giant insect, as they were now entirely out of rope.

A few light bulbs went off, and the party trudged back to the morlock lair - they hunted down below, and surely must have rope.

Gutboy:  "How was the pig?"
Morlock (with bloody mouth):  "Squeaky pig delicious!  We bite as soon as we get to see what taste like!  Pig taste like people!"
Gutboy:  "Fantastic.  Look, can we have some rope?"
Morlock:  "Yes, yes, mongos can have rope!  We bring good rope, just made from people you give last time!"

The morlock retreated into the lair and came back with a 50' length of rope, made from poor Krogo's innards - it was a length of dried small intestine, reinforced with sinew.  The morlock pulled on it to demonstrate its strength, and handed it over to the party.

Thus equipped, the party came up with a plan:  Netal, Mongo, and Gutboy would be lowered into the pit, while the three henchmen and two dogs stayed up above, waiting to haul them back up.  They would then search out a giant bug, cast sleep on it, tie it up with Krogo's intestines, and haul it back up the well.

Netal was first down.  The first fifty feet were through a stone shaft - after that, Netal found himself dangling within a massive cavern, 150' tall.  The walls and ceiling were coated with a glowing red substance, and occasionally clouds of the red stuff would break off and float about the cavern.  Below, the cavern floor was covered with giant cave ferns, and the blue and yellow glow of various subterranean fungi could be seen between the fronds.  From his high vantage point, he could also see a large opening to the north leading to another cavern, a marble building in the middle of the cavern, a pit filled with gray nothingness, a rockfall, and most interestingly - a herd of giant pillbugs.

Once Netal reached bottom, he found that the 10' tall cave ferns were thick enough that he could only see 30' ahead.  Mongo and Gutboy were soon at the bottom with Netal, and they headed towards the herd of pillbugs.  On the way, they passed the marble building - it was covered with a blue fungus-vine, and it had only a single door leading inside.  They looked inside, saw it was empty, and decided to not get distracted - they would stick to the mission and grab a giant bug.

As they reached the pill bug herd, the cave ferns thinned out.  The bugs had chewed the ferns around their nesting area down to the roots.  There were over a dozen full-grown adults - each 10' long, and 5' high.  The resembled gigantic armadillos, and sported a pair of nasty looking horns on their heads.  There were also large numbers of smaller juveniles, and countless fist-sized infants.

Netal cast his sleep spell upon the closest pill bugs, and three adults succumbed.  Each looked to weight between 500 and 1,000 lbs.  Close examination revealed that the only weapon the bugs had were their pair of horns - the mouth was tucked low underneath their heads and useless for anything but chewing plants and fungi.

Mongo prepared to tie one up - but how?  He had no idea how to get the Krogo-rope underneath the creature.  Gutboy urged them to try pulling the creatures by their horns - surely Netal's magic would keep them in a deep coma.  Sadly, Gutboy was mistaken - trying to drag the bug around by its head did, in fact, wake it up.

Mongo pulled out his two-handed sword, and aimed a blow at the creature's horns - but the tough chitin horns easily resisted his blow.  The creature was armored far better than Mongo had imagined, and it thrust its horns into Mongo's side, bellowing angrily.  The other adult pillbugs bellowed in response, and the party decided that running like mad was the better part of valor.

They took off as fast they could towards the marble building.  At the entrance, they hesitated to enter - but the door was narrow enough that the bugs couldn't push their way in, and reluctant to face the herd, the party entered the building.

Once inside, the three felt a strange pressure in their minds - and then the horrible voice began inside their heads.  "BRING ME SORROW!  GO FORTH AND BRING ME SORROW!" it roared from within their own skulls, inescapable and horrible.  Their noses began to bleed, and the pain was overwhelming.  Netal maintained presence of mind enough to cast another sleep through the door at the pillbugs, and the three closest collapsed, barring the rest of the herd from getting closer to the building.  As the demands of the voice seethed within their brains, the trio squeezed out the door, staying between the building and the three slumbering bugs.

Outside, the voice faded away, and their minds were once again clear.  A quick discussion on what to do - and the party made a break for it around the corner of the building, running towards the rope and safety.  With the pill bug herd close on their heels, they made it to the rope.  Gutboy began scrambling up the rope, and the henchmen above, feeling the tugging, began hauling the rope up.

Netal and Mongo were left behind, and began running through the cave ferns as fast as they could, trying to evade the angry herd.  They ran past the strange pit they had seen from above - it descended at least 20' deep into the cave floor, and then began fading into a formless gray void.  Running past the pit without stopping, the pair realized that there were no longer any sounds of pursuit.  The pillbugs had grown tired of the chase.

They made their way carefully back to the rope, using the natural rock pillars that supported the cavern ceiling as a guide.  Gutboy had made it safely to the top, and the rope was waiting for them below.  The two ascended, one at a time, and the reunited party left the dungeon in defeat.

The trip back to town was marred by a goblin attack in the deep of the night - Mongo was too busy staring at the fire to notice the four marauders.  A spear flew into Leroy Brown's gut and pinned him to the ground, bleeding, as Mongo drew his sword and prepared to fight.  His blade swung mightily, and a goblin head was sent flying, convincing the remaining goblins to retreat into the darkness and find easier prey.  Gutboy, roused by the sounds of combat, used his divine magic to heal Leroy of his wound.

The remainder of the trip back to Denethix was unremarkable.  Next session is Wednesday, 8/24/2011.

20% off ASE1 at Lulu, til Friday

20% off ASE1 at Lulu (well, 20% off anything at Lulu), so if you were unable to find a copy at GenCon, here's your chance to pick it up for cheap.  Just enter the coupon code SINK305 when you check out.  The coupon code is good until Friday August 12th!

ASE1 sold out first day of GenCon

I had sent on 10 copies of ASE1 to the OSR Group for the GenCon booth - all ten sold out the first day of the con.  I didn't really expect that at all, it's very gratifying.  Thank you to everyone who purchased at the con (and to everyone who purchased online, too!)



The classic D&D monsters only rarely inspire me, so I make up a lot of creatures in my dungeon.  Here's a bit of second level dungeon vermin:

No. Enc: 1d6 (2d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6 + poison, attachment
Save: F2
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: See below
XP: 29

These arthropods are 3’ long centipede-like creatures, with two pairs of 4” fangs jutting from the upper and lower jaws, and six segmented eyes.  The teeth prevent the fangopede from closing its mouth all the way, lending it a fearsome aspect.  The poisonous bite of the creature will paralyze its victim for 1d6 rounds if a save is failed.  Additionally, the fangopede’s jaws will lock shut after a successful bite attack – no further damage is caused by the fangopede, as the enzymes in its saliva dissolve flesh far too slowly to have an impact in melee combat, but the victim suffers a +1 penalty to AC for each fangopede dangling from his body.

To remove a fangopede after it has locked its jaws shut, the arthropod must be killed and its jaws cut free from its head.

Fangopedes are deeply attracted to shiny objects, and each has a 10% chance of having swallowed 1d3 gems.


Review: Tome of Horrors Complete

I preordered the big hardcopy of the Tome of Horrors Complete for Swords & Wizardry a few months ago, and downloaded the PDF last night.

Have I read the whole thing?  Of course not, and I doubt I will.  It's several hundred pages of monsters, I'll flip through it when I need inspiration.  When I was young I certainly would have gone through everything, but I can't dedicate that kind of time to a monster manual nowadays.

As for providing inspiration, it does that in droves.  I've been staring the prospect of another several hundred dungeon rooms in the face, and it was imposing - but just a few minutes of flipping around and ideas started flowing - many only tangentially related to the monsters I was looking at.  It's got enough stuff that there's something to appeal for any given situation.

The collection has a few weaknesses.  The first is that a huge percentage of the monsters are from the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II- and I've already got those.  At least I know if it's in this book, it's OGL and I can feel free to stick it in the published levels of the ASE.  There's still a bunch of new stuff - I'm particularly fond of the "Skull Spider."

The second is that I don't know that I'll get much use out of the "lairs" that appear with each monster.  When I first heard of the "lair" concept I was hoping for little keyed maps - actual lairs.  They are actually brief descriptions of an encounter with the creature, I haven't read any that couldn't easily have been made up on the fly.  There are several hundred of the things though, and I've only read a handful, so there could be some gems buried in there.

The third weakness is a particular monster I find grating - the "crucifixion spirit"?  Seems pretty douchebaggy to me.

The strength of the Tome of Horrors Complete is its size.  It's got tons of stuff, so it's great for paging through and looking at stuff when trying to come up with encounter ideas.  I don't have the hardcopy yet, but I'm hoping it's bound well enough to put up with my thumbing through it at random.