Friday, December 16, 2022

Dungeon23 Roundup #1

We're still in December 2022, but dungeon23 is already popping! If you've been under a rock and somehow missed dungeon23, then read about Sean's challenge here. Basically, it's a journalling challenge where everyone is working on a megadungeon, one room a day, for a year. I posted here about the Catacombs of the North Wind, the dreamlands dungeon I'll be doing. Here's the roundup of stuff that's caught my attention so far. 


First folks have been putting together some significant resources. A lot of people are using this as an excuse to buy a fancy planner (*guilty*). But @sivads_sanctum pointed out that a likely more effective technology may already exist for almost $0. To wit, 

Truth bomb

People have also been pulling together digital assets, which could be printed out and put into a binder like that or printed and bound in some more fancy way. Or even left digital. First up is Gus L's contribution, The Dungeon23 Workbook. Which you can find FREE on All Dead Generations here. It's a google doc, so it's easily customizable. Just duplicate it and you can alter the text as you see fit. It's got a groovy cover, which Gus says is a reworked WPA poster with an adventuring party snuck in. 

This looks amazing

The pages of the workbook are neat. There are periodic pages for maps of whole levels and encounter tables. But then you get one page for each room, so less cramped and more organized than Sean's teeny tiny planner. The rooms have the dungeon name, your name, the level, a room map, info on the lighting (crucial for dungeon crawling), a description, and then a spot for a couple of features to be listed OSE style. Monsters and treasure too. This is a perfect system for digitally sharing, i.e. tweeting rooms, if that's your thing btw. It's a neat little package:

 In a similar spirit Pandion Games has put together a Dungeon Year Design Journal on itch for PWW here. It's pretty groovy. You can download it in a bunch of different formats, including landscape and portrait and different sized paper. It's got big double-page dot map spreads, and single pages for rooms like Gus's but with less structure: encounters, notes, connections, and maps. There's also an alternative minimalist version that replicates the structure of Sean's planner. 

Lone Archivist has a really groovy dungeon23 asset pack with some very nice looking logos that you can download here and slap onto thing. It looks like Lone Archivist is going to have stickers soon too, STICKERS. I mean look at how good this looks:

This is just one of several gorgeous variations

In general, it looks like a great place to go for the accumulating resources on will be Andrew Duvall's page, which you can go to here. Poke around there to find some more stuff. But now, into the dungeon itself.


People have begun doing some good posts about advice. Of course, the OSR in the heyday of the blogosphere produced tons of relevant stuff. The best collection of links by far that I know of is this one by Ava Islam at Permanent Cranial Damage. If you want a reading list, Ava's got you covered. 

My favorite blogpost with advice so far is Kyana's post at the always wonderful Noise San Signal blog. You should read the whole thing for her process and thoughts. Kyana is approaching dungeon23 as an opportunity to work up a bunch of small, 7-room locations, rather than a megadungeon. She's got a lovely scrap-booking approach, which people should really think about doing. There's no reason we can't integrate collage, stapled maps, even painted swatches in Kyana's case.  

I also enjoyed the first in a series on megadungeon design by Dave McGrogan. He helpfully distinguishes 3 themes to think about in designing your megadungeon: historical, structural, and aesthetic that can guide your creation. 


To find lots of stuff on either Mastodon or Twitter, just search the #dungeon23. So far, my favorite specimen by far is Zedeck Siew's  Last Voyage of the Sea-Queen Lessa, which you can see here. It's a funky vertical shrine housing a ghost ship. Thematically, it vibes with the dungeon I'm working on. Zedeck's adventure is a lovely tidbit that you could run pretty much as is. Go to his Tumblr blog now and check it out.  

I'm also enjoying watching Gus' early efforts take shape, which you can follow @RatkingRpgs on twitter and probably eventually on his blog All Dead Generations. But I mean, just look at this thing:

Finally, I've been enjoying the posts by Chris Bissette on Mastodon ( who has been posting about the first rooms of his new megadungeon, and @goblin_archives on twitter. Goblin Archive's project looks fun:

The Feed

My offer still stands to include your #dungeon23 stuff in my occasional roundups, especially if you have a blog. If you send me a blog (throughultansdoor AT gmail) that's doing #dungeon23 stuff on the semi-regular, I'll probably drop it into #dungeon23 bloglist on the right here. But whether or not I do that, I'll certainly put it into my own RSS feed and draw attention here to anything I find that's neat on here. Also tag me on Twitter or Mastodon if you see something neat. 


Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Catacombs of the North Wind

This post introduces the Catacombs of the North Wind, the subject of my Dungeon23 endeavor for the next year. My plan is to work on this dungeon and post about it maybe every other week for the entirety of 2023. We'll see how that goes! 

The Treaty of the Farthest Shore

The creation of the Catacombs of the North Wind is one with the founding of Zyan. The Sky Singers were the settlers of Zyan. For centuries they were explorer merchants, princely conquerors, nomads of the Endless Azure Sea, famous for sailing the heavens above aboard a fleet of flying galleons. The Marine Wars, about which little is known today, were likely a series of skirmishes flaring occasionally into catastrophic violence between the Sky Singers and the spirits of the air. The Treaty of the Farthest Shore brought an end to the Marine Wars. The Sky Singers received from the spirts of the air a title over Zyan and a new-founded glittering monarchy. In exchange, they agreed to ground forevermore their ships. 

The Catacombs of the North Wind were carved into a set of whistling caverns that riddle the cliff beneath the precipitous scree of tumbled stones that lie beyond the Wall of Cusp and extend to the cliff-face at the island's edge. History teaches that the five great flagships of the fleet served as hecatombs sanctifying The Treaty of the Farthest Shore. In the upper levels of the Catacombs, their remains were interred in sepulchers with mystical rites of remembrance. With them were put to rest the old ways of the Sky Singers. The lower level of the catacombs is said to be open to the Endless Azure Sea. Formerly it was a sacred playground of the spirits of the air. These marine environs were repurposed to serve as the Chambers of Audience, the meeting grounds for the ambassadors of the Kings and Queens of Zyan and the Court of the North Wind that rules the fickle spirits of the air. They are said to be replete with the richest of kingly trappings befitting such a meeting ground between monarchs from two realms. 

As Zyan has declined, turning ever inwards, memory of the Catacombs of the North Wind have dimmed, for the last audience was held many centuries ago. The obvious approach is by a ruined grand stairs that once led from the Wall of Cusp down the steep scree to the catacomb entrance. This entrance is patrolled by the King's Guard still, if lackadaisically. There are rumored to be a number of ways into the Catacombs through the eastern edge of the Apartments of the Guildless, the sealed, forsaken undercity populated by various pariahs and criminal enterprises of Zyan, stalked by murderous puppets and other horrors that runs beneath Pentacle and Cusp. 

Stories & Speculations about the Creation of the Catacombs

The first word goes to Learned Paw, legendary jurist of the era pre-dating the Slow War between the cats and the Zyanese. It is drawn from his autobiography, A Cat at the Moonlight Court: Memoir of a Feline Barrister

The creation of the Catacombs of the North Wind exists as a cipher of myth and legend, refracted through the lens of a thousand works of art. As a barrister, with deep training in Zyanese jurisprudence and knowledge of the antique maritime law of the Sky Singers, I see in the depths of this mystery tangled legal questions that point to the Treaty of the Farthest Shore. I am convinced that the enigma of the Catacombs can be deciphered only through the law of that treaty. But as a cat, I cannot help but see in this bizarre founding event the freighted folly of the Zyanese and the capricious, daemonic purposes of the spirits of the air. As my whiskers twitch, I fear I will never understand these people, no matter how often I drink at a saucer with them. 

Next a relevant passage from Medes the Utmost Chronicler, who wrote in the age of the Incandescent Kings. This passage is drawn from her Metaphysical Crown, Illumined by The Light of Reason:

Although his augurs counseled against it, reading mixed and ominous portents in the heavens above and below, Hegalion the Captain, leader of the resplendent fleet of the Sky Singers, saw no other way than to parlay and negotiate a lasting peace. 
    The Treaty of the Farthest Shore is named for the site of the conclave, the most remote of the satellite islands that share an orbit with the Rock of Zyan. The negotiations were conducted between the Priests of Azmora (as the Archon Azmarane was then known) and the Squamous Jurists of Hashivaz, Prince of the North Wind. It is said that Hegalion agreed to ground the Sky Singer’s fleet, ceding the currents of the Endless Azure Sea to the feckless spirits of the air. He also agreed to erect the Catacombs of the North Wind, a complex of whistling, wind-filled shrines in the caves that catacomb the eastern cliffside of the main island, where pleasing worship could be rendered to the marine beings. 
    In exchange Hegalion received three things: a cessation of mischief and violence from the genies of the sea, the service of a number of spirits in fixed roles that were distributed to the aristocratic lines, and the Metaphysical Crown. The Metaphysical Crown was an artifact of tremendous power that would found the monarchy, and make Zyan the flying pearl of all Wishery. That there were further costs he did not yet know, but would learn soon.

Last word for now goes to this passage from Path of the Flenser, a text of religious instruction for apprentices being inducted into the Fleischguild:

The time came at last when the shining vessels, sacred patrimony of the Sky Singers, were to be destroyed. It was then that the butchers of the fleet asserted themselves against the shipwrights, who claimed the rights to dismantle the ships they had built. With their farseeing wisdom and honied tongues, gift from crafty Malprion, the Butchers argued thus:
    "Who could say that these glorious ships are mere conveyances and machines as you vulgar carpenters insist? Do they not partake of the wonders of life, carrying the Sky Singers through the Azure Sea like a pod of Leviathans, at once living city and enclosing womb. Are not each of these storied galleons unique? Do each not have a personality and a deep history that is intwined with the very history of we Sky Singers? What do carpenters with their saws and awls know of the slaughter of such great beasts? Who better than we butchers to flense and carve the flagships at their joints? Have we not prepared with subtle arts the flesh that has sustained us on our perambulations? Have we not cut with exacting precision the sacrifices we have offered as boons on behalf of our fleet, in keeping with our customs?" 
    All could see the wisdom of their arguments, and so they prevailed over the carpenters. From the hecatombs of the six great flagships of the Sky Singers were thus born the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Butcher Priests. They were sanctified and elevated in the eyes of all by this holy labor. Lavished in gratitude with rich gifts from the people, they received honor and wealth merited by this great task. With these proceeds they established the first sacrificial temples, and built their own sacred catacombs in emulation of the Catacombs of the North Wind. So was born from this founding act of butchery our Fleischguild, without whose labors the pleasing odors of charred meat and sizzling fat would never reach the thrones of the Archons. All praise to Malprion! 

Rumors and Hooks (from Some Familiar Faces)

Cephaea, Prophetess of the Muddled Waters: "The sterile Catacombs of the North Wind imprison many lonely ruined beauties that would be more at home with our collection of sewer treasures. Greatest of the broken lovelies in those whistling caverns is the Song Blade. Forged with the highest art of the Sky Singers, the music of the heavens embodied in steel. It was broken into three pieces. For these fragments we would pay a king's ransom in prophecies and wishes."

Captain Dwerdosma: "We Volish Hillers have never forgotten that we were once Sky Singers, least of all The Sons and Daughters of the Vigilant Watcher. For us the Catacombs of the North Wind hold a special meaning. Oh, what I wouldn't give to lay my eyes upon those splendid galleons on which our ancestors sailed the Endless Azure Sea! The rare gleaming woods decorated with frisson opal and father of pearl; the glorious figureheads, works of master carpentry none can match in this age; the terrible weapons of nautical warfare; and the subtle sails of shimmering gold. But alas, none are permitted to traduce those sacred grounds."

Free Hand Hesock: "I'm no scholar, but I'd recognize a pirate anywhere. The Sky Singers were the greatest pirates of all time! Like any good pirate, they buried their booty, stolen from across all of Wishery. If no ones dug it up, it's still in the Catacombs. There's a shanty about it that I often sing while I'm separating my enemies from their hands. Do you want to hear? Vigo, bring some lavender whisky, be quick."

Manuk-Cush: "Among the scriveners, it is believed that the original of the Treaty of the Farthest Shore is housed in the Catacombs of the North Wind. This legal document established the monarchy. It is the basis of the law of the crown. It is also said to govern diplomatic relations with the spirits of the air. According to the scriveners, it was not written by human hands, but was instead crafted by the squamous jurists according to exquisite arts of the spirits of the air. They say it is no ordinary document." 

The Cranemay: "Do not torment me by stirring cherished memories of that place. How many ages has it been since I played with my cousins at the Beach of Pink Sands? What mischief we used to make amongst the swirling currents of those caves, when the island was wild, before the Zyanese came. The beach there is strewn with the most amazing shells I have ever seen. As a memento, bring me the scintillating shell of an ether conch, through which I can hear the roar of the sea once again. I will render the service of all my beloved cranes to you."  

See the next installment of The Catacombs of the North Wind, "Below the Wall of Cusp", detailing the entrance to the dungeon here.


Wednesday, December 7, 2022


 So Sean McCoy posted this on Twitter. 

He wrote about it more on his substack here. Sean is calling the challenge #Dungeon23. The challenge is to write one room a day, one level a month, for a total of 365 rooms spread over 12 levels. I'm going to be doing a version of it (more on what I'll be mapping in a minute). A lot of other people on Twitter also said they were in. If enough of us do it, this could be the first REALLY big collective event in the OSR since the heady days of Google plus. I mean sure, there have been lovely game jams and a lot of collective projects around particular game communities (Mothership, Mörk Borg, Mausritter, etc). But this hobbyist, let's-do-a-thing-together project sure would be a lot of fun. 

Now I know there's a certain sort of person (OK, it's me) who is perhaps inappropriately motivated to begin a project by the thought of getting a fancy journal. Luckily Sean has us covered because he is rocking a Hobonichi Techo Weeks 2023. As he explains, they're nice because they have graph paper and a facing space for a key broken down by each day of the week. I think one minor challenge will be that the map for each level will be spread across a bunch of 7-room page spreads, but I think we can figure it out. The monthly spread looks like a good place to do a big d30 encounter table for the entire level. 

You can get the Hobonichi Techo Weeks on Amazon and on Jet Pens for about $25. I got the one in light purple because it is well known among all opium dreaming wizards that lavender is the true color of dreams. Sean's yellow looks real nice too, a sort of rich ochre. Or just do it on your tablet or a Mead notebook or whatever will be convenient and easy.

What will this amount to? Well, I think if enough people do it, we can share our scribbles around in whatever form we feel comfortable. Scans, photos, little PDFs, word docs, whatever it is. Sure, you could post them in Twitter threads or on Mastodon, or (heaven help you) on Reddit. But I would humbly suggest that you consider posting them on a blog. Don't have a blog? This is a golden opportunity to start one! Make it about going through this process. Write one post every week just sharing the results of your journalling. If you blog about this, reach out to me on Twitter or by email (throughultansdoor AT gmail DOT com) and I will put your blog in my RSS feed and do megadungeon roundups on my blog or social media accounts.  

What might come of this in the broader sense? Imagine if we got to a place where you could mix and match from a whole host of little bit sized megadungeon bits that people were passing around. For one thing, it might get a whole bunch of people actually playing megadungeon campaigns, and so thinking and talking about them. I think there's a lot of innovation to be had in the wild space of the megadungeon. It has that fun double quality of being a strange old form that was left behind early in the hobby, and also a space of innovation in a certain phase of OSR design. It would be fun to bring it back to life now and see what new places we could collectively go with it.

In my journalling, I will mainly be focusing on The Catacombs of the North Wind. It's one of three large dungeons in Zyan. I'll write about it more soon. But here's the gist. The Sky Singers were the settlers of Zyan. For centuries they were explorer merchants, princely conquerors, nomads of the Endless Azure Sea, famous for sailing aboard a fleet of flying galleons. The Sky Singers received from the spirts of the air a title over Zyan and a new-founded glittering monarchy. In exchange, they agreed to ground forevermore their ships. The six of the great flagships of the fleet served as butchered hecatombs to this treaty, their remains interred with mystical rites of remembrance in the whistling catacombs that riddle the cliff face of the rock of Zyan. The lower levels of these catacombs are open to the Endless Azure Sea and were once a sacred playground of the spirits of the air. Here lie the Chambers of Audience, the long slumbering meeting grounds for the ambassadors of Zyan and the Court of the North Wind. When I run out of steam on the Catacombs of the North Wind, as I surely will, I will likely to something more straightforward, perhaps a classic sword and sorcery megadungeon. 

 My Hobonichi Techo Weeks is on its way even as we speak. It starts in January, so I'll be beginning Sean's challenge on New Year's Day. I hope you join us!