Baptismal Font – Dungeon Map

Dead nuns are the worst, aren’t they? So creepy, and always chaining themselves to you so they can drag you to be baptized in the sinister black water of their baptismal font. Here are maps for an encounter with dead nuns! Also, a new spell for Shadow of the Demon Lord and stats for some spooky dead nuns below.

DEAD NUN — Difficulty 10
Size 1 frightening undead
Perception 11(+1); darksight
Defense 11; Health 24; Insanity 7; Corruption 1
Strength 9(-1), Agility 11 (+1), Intellect 11 (+1), Will 14(+4)
Speed 10
Immune damage from cold, disease, fire, and poison; asleep, blinded, deafened, diseased, fatigued, immobilized, poisoned conditions
Partially Insubstantial The dead nuns take half damage from weapons, can move through solid objects, and ignore the effects of moving across difficult terrain.
Attack Options:
Silent Scream (melee) Will attack +4 with 1 boon against target’s Will (1d6)

Special Options:
Ethereal Movement The dead nun uses an action or triggered action on its turn to move up to its speed. This movement does not trigger free attacks.
Power 1
Telekinesis forceful push (2), crush (1),
Metal baptismal chain* (1)

*Baptismal chain spell is new, detailed below.
Telekinesis tradition found in Demon Lord’s Companion page 40.

New spell for Shadow of the Demon Lord:

Baptismal Chain — Metal Attack rank 1
Target Once creature you can reach
Duration 1 minute
You clasp your hands in prayer; make a Will attack roll against the target’s Agility. On a success, 1 yard of rusty iron chains appear, linking your wrist to the wrist of the target. If your size is equal to or greater than the target creature’s size, whenever you move the target is pulled along. For the duration of this spell both you and the target make Strength and Agility attack rolls and challenge rolls with 1 bane. The chain has Defense 7 and Health 15. When the chain is destroyed, the spell ends.

But, you ask: “what happens when someone actually gets baptized in the dark baptismal font?” Well, anything really; it depends on your campaign. Maybe they are spiritually bound to that location, and if they go more than a mile away they take a -10 penalty to Health until the enchantment can be removed. Maybe the nuns possess the poor soul causing 2d6 insanity, and if that is enough to drive them insane, the nuns take control of the victim’s body for 1d6+2 rounds. Maybe they get pulled into the baptismal water and taken to some terrible other reality. But whatever happens, it’s definitely a plot hook for future adventures.

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Terrible DND Character Ideas

Roll 1d12 for a dumb character concept that will annoy your game master.

  1. Bard who can only speak in quotes from Britney Spears songs.
  2. Warlock whose patron, due to cursive writing on the summoning scroll, is an otherworldly lemon instead of a demon (see picture above). All spells are fruit themed.
  3. Barbarian who has high Intelligence and is very peaceful but has a face on the back of their head that tells them to do bad things. This face takes control when the barbarian rages. It also insults all friendly NPCs.
  4. Cleric whose god is the Tooth Fairy and can only regain expended spell slots by eating human teeth, one tooth per spell level.
  5. Ranger whose is sick with fantasy malaria and only speaks like Jar Jar Binks.
  6. Armadillo-themed Druid.
  7. Fighter who has mastered the deadly art of the wooden spoon, the only weapon they use in combat (and while eating).
  8. Wizard who is actually a person from the future and isn’t actually using magic but is just using a futuristic smart phone with lots of cool apps. Occasionally loses all effectiveness when in areas of bad service.
  9. Gnome monk whose unarmed strike involves unhinging their jaw and swallowing their enemies whole.
  10. Dragonborn sorcerer who is literally half dragon. Specifically, the lower half of their body is dragon. Like a centaur, but the oversized pelvis, legs and tail of a dragon where the horse part would normally be. The upper half is human.
  11. Elderly rogue who uses a squeaky wooden wheelchair. Stairs are their greatest enemy.
  12. Paladin who is part of a pyramid scheme and must get one new person to join their religion per week otherwise they lose their paladin abilities until they get someone to join. They always have lots of pamphlets.

Rite of Passage is now in French!

Rite of Passage, the Symbaroum campaign-starting adventure, has been translated into French!

This adventure, written by myself and Mitchell Wallace, is about the coming of age ritual of the mysterious Barbarian tribes. The young Barbarians must undergo three trials in the dark forest of Davokar, becoming true members of their tribes in the process.

Now, thanks to the fine translation work of Guillaume Parodi, Rite de Passage is available to the French RPG community!

Crash Pandas one-page RPG

There is a free tabletop RPG where you each create your raccoon (trash panda) as you all scramble to control a vehicle. You need to win the race, but raccoons aren’t good at communicating with each other; the game is chaotic, fast, and funny. Made by Grant Howitt, one page long, downloadable for free here:

As I was playing this game, I had to make fan art of my trash panda. He was was born under the light of a neon all-night diner sign while Justin Bieber’s catchy song “Baby” was playing, inspiring my mama to name me “Baby Baby Baby, Oooh” (but my friends just call me Baby).

The game is quite fun, I recommend it. Easy to learn, just get chaotic with it. Our game was set in Halloween Town from Nightmare Before Christmas.

Improvising Dungeons

A while ago, there was a reddit post seeking advice for improvising fantasy dungeons for a D&D or OSR-style game.

While I usually come in to each session with about an hour of prep, some of my favorite memories at the table are from RPG dungeons and adventures that I improvised with little-to-no prep time. It can be intensely rewarding to run improvised adventures, but self-doubt, faltering when unsure of what to do, and anxiety can lead to very unfun experiences at the table. After years of GMing, I have developed strategies for creating a simple, fun adventure when I don’t have time to prep like I usually do. Following these methods allow me to quickly come up with some ideas which I can riff off as we go through the adventure.

One of Dyson Logos’ amazing maps

Steps for running a dungeon on five minutes prep:

  1. Pull up blank dungeon map from Dyson Logos or another source. Print it if you want.
  2. Pick one or two interesting themes, such as the ones below:
    • drippy/slimy
    • fire/lava
    • insect hive
    • undead praying at altars to old gods
    • two rival factions
    • large marble statues everywhere
  3. Pick an important monster or type of monster that fits the theme. Give it a unique trait. This monster will play a central role in the dungeon.
    • Example: If we had the undead praying at altars theme, I would quickly find the stats of a moderately challenging undead. Then for its unique trait, I might decide that these undead carry large stone crosses on their backs, and use them as weapons.

  4. Pick a room on the map that looks important and place there the monster(s) that I chose in step 3.
  5. Usually, this is enough to start the game. At the table, describe the entrance to the dungeon based on the theme.
  6. As they start to explore the dungeon, present the players with some vague clues involving the theme, important monster, or anything else. Based on what the players interpret about the dungeon and how they react, improvise monsters and encounters leading to the important room chosen earlier.
  7. When in doubt, stop for a second, look at the map, and think back to the theme. Describe a single sensory input (feel, temperature, smell, etc) for the situation, then use vague foreshadowing of something nearby, which gives yourself time to figure out what is actually nearby.
  8. Then, keep going, filling rooms as you go and liberally steal ideas from the players – if they say “Oh, I think we should try kneeling with the wights to pray at this altar, maybe then they will let us through the locked door!”, then you as the GM should run with that idea and make it happen, even if it wasn’t something you had originally intended.

After 30 minutes of play, the map might start looking like this.

Running a dungeon with half an hour of prep:

For a  30 minute prep dungeon, I do a similar process but I steal liberally from other sources.

  1. Pull relevant fantasy novels or RPG books off my shelves, flip through randomly and stop when you see something cool, jot it down on the map.
  2. Come up with lore as you go, leave lots of room for improvisation. Plan obstacles, not plots.
  3. Come up with one or two NPCs and what makes them unique, then place them on the map.
  4. Run the session loose, liberally deviate from what was planned, and feel free to rearrange things as you go.
  5. Keep the action moving, and make sure the characters always have something to interact with or a problem to overcome.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Everybody is here to have fun, try to have some yourself.

An Apple A Day – Map

An Apple A Day, my gross low-fantasy Shadow of the Demon Lord adventure is very close to being published on DrivethruRPG!


Click to expand the map to see it in its full glory.


Filth, swarms of biting insects, and strange dinner habits, Dribbleton is a place most would avoid. And then there’s that horrid smell. This town’s large rusty cesspool seems to be infested with biting critters called slickers which have a nasty tendency to eat all nearby plants and spread moldy feces around town. With crops being eaten and animals being chased away, food is hard to come by. The solution? Lovely insectoid creatures called expultrixes, which eat slickers and produce delicious apples, the only dependable food source in the area! As it happens, a wild expultrix has been spotted outside of Dribbleton and the villagers will pay heartily if someone catches it for them! Just don’t let it get too close to your face, a wild expultrix is a nasty bugger. And remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

An Apple A Day details the small village of Dribbleton and the strange people who live in this foul-smelling town, and includes expultrix stats and a host of interesting NPCs who could easily become recurring characters in a campaign. It is a adventure for expert characters (level  3-6), but it is low-combat so it could probably be used for characters of lower level. It has gone through writing, editing and playtesting, and now is in its final stages of art and layout.

Expect a post when An Apple A Day goes live!


Creating a 3D Science Fiction Colony Map

To visualize the progress of my group’s science fiction colony that we have been building for 15+ sessions, I have been experimenting with creating a 3D map of our Hyperion colony.

We have been going through the excellent Siren’s Call published campaign for the card-based Shadows Over Sol RPG. The campaign is epic in scope, and follows the first-ever colonists who dared to venture outside of Earth’s solar system. It introduces a truly tremendous setting on the planet Siren, in the Alpha Centauri system, full of bizarre life forms and thrilling science fiction exploration. I wanted a way to visualize their fragile settlement on a dangerous planet. Download the 3D model here!

I used Blender, a free Open Source 3D modelling / animation software. It takes some getting used to, but it is very powerful.

The Siren’s Call campaign has a great colony building minigame, which allows the group to manage technology research, mining, nutrients and other aspects for the colony. As our campaign heads into its final chapter, we will see whether the colony manages to complete their research into orbital launches to put in place defenses against the incoming storm of solar radiation which threatens to wipe out human life on Siren.

I may take the floor plan from the 3D model and use it to create a top-down map showing the important locations within the engineered city of Hyperion.

Once we finish the Siren’s Call campaign, I will write up a breakdown of what changes I made to the published setting and adventures, and how I tailored the brilliantly-written campaign to fit our group style.

Urban map of Baltimore for Changeling: The Lost

My local RPG group just finished a campaign of Changeling: The Lost 2e. It was set in modern-day Baltimore, Maryland, and our campaign involved a lot of travel to and from the Hedge. The Hedge is a twisted magic realm that parallels ours in bizarre ways, and is tied closely to changelings and those that hunt them. For this campaign, our group was creating a variety of portals to this dangerous realm, and the GM asked me to make a map to keep track of all of the gateways to the Hedge that we were creating in Baltimore. So I did.

Baltimore City Map. The mask icon indicates a place associated with changelings, the door icon indicates a gateway to the Hedge. Other icons are meant to be interpreted. 

Map of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which contained some important locations to the campaign.

These maps were made using OpenStreetMap data with the free Maperitive program to create the maps, using my own custom Maperitive ruleset and scripts which you can find here.
Icons are from the excellent and are released with an Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.

Rite of Passage, the free adventure for Symbaroum is out!

Rite of Passage was the adventure written by myself and Mitchell Wallace that won the Symbaroum Adventure Contest. It has been given beautiful art and layout, and you can get it free in all its glory here!

The adventure is takes place in the dark fantasy world of Symbaroum; it follows a mostly unexplored side of the setting, the barbarian tribes in the dangerous Davokar forest. You get to explore the traditions and culture of the different tribes as the player characters go through the three trials of the barbarian coming-of-age-ceremony. (Watch one of the writers run Rite of Passage on Penny For A Tale!)

The adventure is pensive and meant to introduce players to the world of Symbaroum to start a campaign, and we are very proud of it. Enjoy!

Bogwalker – a creature for Shadow of the Demon Lord

Several months ago at a tiny RPG convention in Baltimore I met Laura Ketcham, a talented local artist. After talking with her at her booth, I purchased a print of her Pack of Horrors, a set of cards with unique, creepy system-agnostic monsters for tabletop RPGs; flipping through them fills my mind with ideas of using them in a game.

I may try using them as a form of in-game tarot cards. The GM would present the players with a eerie fortune teller or royal soothsayer. With some intricate-yet-meaningless showmanship (chanting, sorting the cards into seven piles and asking each player to focus their energy through the cards, etc), the soothsayer would place four face-down cards, asking two players to each select a card, which are discarded. The two remaining cards are flipped face-up, and an ominous warning is given about the nature of the creatures that they will soon encounter; the soothsayer thematically explains the info printed on the card, like “Witnesses claim sunlight kills them”.


While you could easily substitute stats of similar creatures, sometimes its fun to make the stats. Above are the quick sketch and handwritten stats for the bogwalker, a mostly docile creature that can be mounted and ridden through the swamp.

You can get PDFs of Laura Ketcham’s Pack of Horrors here, I highly recommend them.