Sunday, January 1, 2023

Dungeon23 Roundup #2: Go!

So here we are on the first day of #dungeon23! 

The energy in the lead up to #dungeon23 is really exciting, but so much is happening so quickly that I don't think I can claim to sum it up here. Take this as one readers report of the things which caught my attention before whirring by as we approached the starting line of #dungeon23. 

One thing I love about dungeon23 is the way it feels like the kind of collective undertaking that was going on during the heady heyday of OSR blogging. So one thing that's brought me special delight is seeing some bloggers who were active in that earlier period throw their hats in the ring for dungeon23. 

James Maliswieski of Grognardia fame announces he'll be doing dungeon23 in this post. He will be documenting the Vaults of sha-Arthan, "deep, ancient labyrinths" that hold "the secrets of the deific Makers" in his developing science fantasy RPG, The Secrets of sha-Arthan. James has long experience running and designing megadungeons. I used to read his Dwimmermount play reports avidly. I've also always loved the way science fantasy lies beneath a swords and sorcery surface in his games, and I expect we'll see that here too.

Another exciting development, James Garrison of the amazing Hereticwerks blog is back in action and doing dungeon23. Hereticwerks was one of my absolute favorite blogs during the mid-OSR, a big source of inspiration for me when I was starting up this blog. The city of Wermspittle was like a labyrinth of glorious posts, each one a rabbit hole of hyperlinks in which one could lose oneself for an afternoon. (I think the first rabbit hole to pull me in was the series of posts about roofcrawling in Wermspittle--table II is my favorite.) Well, James announces that not only that Hereticwerks is back, but that he'll be doing dungeon23 here!

If you can't tell that I'm already vibrating with excitement here, things really kicked into overdrive when Nick K. the DM of the megadungeon campaign I'm currently playing in that's blowing my mind, The Twilight Age,  announced that they will be doing dungeon23 on their blog Underworld Adventurer. Nick is a comic artist and they casually dropped photos of a treasure trove of illustrations and "doodled" megadungeon maps they were sitting on that might get pulled into action here.   

Meanwhile, Zedeck Siew continues to drop whole adventure locations on his tumblr blog Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours with first a city, Queen's Rest, and then the city's lighthouse, home of a clockwork sorcerer, and now the prison of the Moon Maiden! For me the biggest surprise of this isn't the rich imagination in this, and the sense of place that pervades each location, which I've come to expect from everything Zedeck does, but rather that it turns out that Zedeck is, in addition to everything else, a really great cartographer! What a little book of treasures this will be when he's done. 

 Since I enjoyed The Visitor's Guide to the Rainy City and its follow-up, I was delighted to see that Andrew Devenney announces that his dungeon23 megadungeon, The Great Cuttle, will be inside of a giant cuttlefish. Of course it will be. 

I was tickled to see Dyson of Dyson Logos mapping fame announce on Facebook that he would be doing a Tekumel dungeon for dungeon23. He teased this lovely illustration.

In comments to the post, he wrote a little more explaining the idea: "Tumissa is a city dedicated to Vimhula (dark god of fire) in the Empire of the Petal Throne / Tekumel setting. Tekumel cities often have massive underground areas because they are supposed to renovate the whole city every 500 years - adjusting to how the city has changed in that time (tearing down old temples to build new temples, fixing infrastructure, moving clans / temples / etc that have fallen out of favour away from the core of the city to be replaced by those who are currently more powerful, etc)."

Zedeck drew my attention to this little gem by Victor J. Merino. Give him a follow on Twitter or Mastodon. It's a parking garage themed dungeon, with a sacred library of demonic texts in the treads of tires. 

I found this post by Josh McCrowell over at Rise Up Comus both useful and inspiring. It announced two amazing dungeon23 projects, one a 78 room tarot-themed dungeon, maybe a supplement for the megadungeon ruleset His Majesty the Worm that Josh has been working on a for a long time now. The second was a 100 depthcrawl exploring your eccentric halfling uncle's mansion! But, as if that announcement wasn't enough, he gives us 23 dungeon features you can employ when your imagination idles, along with flavorful examples. A great resource for megadungeon stocking. Here's just one to give you a taste:

In more personal news, my son, 13, told me he would be doing dungeon23 with me. So I gave him a journal for Hannukah to do it in. He tells me his megadungeon is going to be called Mons Formicdean: a megadungeon in an anthill of giant ants. It's an idea he had a long time ago, when my wife showed us the images of sculptures created by artists pouring molten lead into ant colonies, which is amazing if the ants are gone, but when they're not an act of horrific destruction. Somehow the artistry of nature bent to cruel purposes seems like fertile ground from thinking about a megadungeon. I'm excited to see where he takes it!

My frequent collaborator Gus threw me a lovely illustration of the approach to the Catacombs of the North Wind that I'll be using for the first week of entries. So I'm excited about that. As usual his illustration pushed me to imagine the place more fully. I'll be sittting down today to work on it along with my son.

One last observation. Something Zedeck wrote struck a chord in me. He points out that since a lot of authors who publish are doing #dungeon23 (like Zedeck or me) it can seem not a DIY communal outpouring, but a grindy race to publication that only the most productive will win. To hold this specter at bay, here's what Zedeck is doing: "I’m keeping my #dungeon23 with no plan and no outline. I’m keeping it in my notebook. I am not digitising the text. It must remain uneditable. It must remain as sketches and notes.This way it doesn’t trigger my brain to go: “Okay, you are writing (ie: working) now." For now, it remains un-instrumentalisable. Unseen and unable to serve the market. Once I’m done with it, who knows? But while I do it it remains play, a way for me to serve myself."

I probably will put mine in cleaner form up on my blog, but I have similar thoughts. I know that a "daily challenge" is not everyone's cup of tea. Speaking for myself, it's actually not my cup of tea either! I've literally never done a daily challenge. What is my cup of tea is doing something with his hobby I love in solidarity with many others. Seeing the collective brilliance, feeling the comaradie of it all. So I'm going to focus on that, rather than "hitting challenges". For folks who aren't interested in "doing" the challenge, but would like to contribute, I would recommend dipping in and out of it when the fancy strikes. Just share some dungeon keys or maps, or other ephemera that fits - anytime. That's probably, speaking realistically, is what I'll be doing when all is said and done. 

I'm taking the opportunity to put the material I create up on my blog to share, for free with everyone, rather than locking it away in published zines as I have for a while now. Publishing stuff about Zyan has been a double-edged sword for me, because it's felt at times like it's made it so that I share less on my blog. Well, dungeon23 for me is an opportunity to break that cycle. Whatever I end up making, and I imagine I'll veer between a couple of dungeons before all is said and done, it'll be a bit of Zyan from me to you without the mediary of the market.


  1. My planner for 2023 is from MUJI, so is quite similar to Sean’s. I was very suprised to see his post, but it inspired to get another just for Dungeon 23 work. So far, it has become a collection of ideas and notes rather than any single project, inspired by the many ideas I’ve seen on twitter, on mastodon, on Facebook and now the r/dungeon23 subreddit on Reddit. Which was good for me because when it came to an actual dungeon I was lacking inspiration. Your round up is a great help as well, with things like Zedeck’s comments being insightful.

    I did end up doing something: a world for Traveller. It feels like something I can get more behind than dungeons, and I think one of the other powerful messages out of the creativity I’ve seen on twitter and elsewhere is to do what inspires you, and if that ends up wandering away from the original idea somewhat, it doesn’t matter.

    1. That sounds great. A traveller world is a nice project.

  2. I can appreciate the desire to maintain the joy of the thing paired against the possible pressures of publishing the thing. It does feel something like a race. I suspect that what will start as the sensation of a mass community rush (and with it, the waving of various 'commercial' flags) will become the realization of a marathon; small groups will develop, and those that continue to support each other will form the real value inherent in the idea of a social project like this.

    For what it's worth, I'll be watching yours and Zedeck's progress, and cheering you on.

    And re: your son's fascination with those liquid metal pours in ant holes: yeah—amazing, horrifying, in one. Amazing what they do, amazing what we had to do to know what they do.

    Good luck.

    1. Thank you! Personally I don't view it as having to do with publication, since that's not my goal and certainly not Sean's original challenge. So I actually don't feel the tension that way. I was attracted to Zedeck's vision of it as making especially clear what it was and wasn't about. The truth is that I think very few people are thinking about publication, and so criticisms that suggest that it's about that seen weirdly off to me. Although I don't think there's anything wrong at all with doing it with a view to publishing something. If that's what you want to do, why not? I may switch to projects that I might publish in the future at some point if I burn out or get stuck on this one.