Tag Archives: Megadungeons

Survival in Stonehell

It’s been a busy week, so I’ve been neglecting the Belfry, but I wanted to pop in and leave a game update.

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they were lost on the 2nd level of Stonehell, somewhere in the Reptile House. They managed to rest up and regain spells, then deliberated on what to do next.

They decided to try and make their way back up the slide, determining that it would be safer to brave the climb than the unknown dangers, and hoping that the zombies were not still waiting above the pit. So they sent the thief on up, armed with determination and a lot of rope.

As luck would have it the zombies had indeed returned to their crypt, but while hauling people up they did have an encounter. A kobold work crew, moving as silently as possible, came in to check on the pit. The party has learned enough about how Stonehell works to understand the kobold’s role, did nothing threatening. Looking at the tools the kobolds were carrying, they realized that the work crew was there to reset the pit trap. But because the party did nothing hostile they were happy to wait while the adventures pulled the rest of their friends up. The cleric of Set, who speaks kobold, was even able to share a (quiet) laugh at their predicament. They asked for the shortest directions to reach Kobold Corners, and the work crew obliged, giving them instructions that would bring them to the back door.

The kobolds neglected to mention the locked gate. Not for any nefarious reasons, mind you. It just didn’t occur to them to mention it. The party thanked them and moved off down the quiet corridors, leaving the kobolds to their work.

Their next surprise came when zombies in hidden crypts began breaking through the walls on either side of them. The team made a run for it, looking over their shoulders long enough to see a dozen or more zombies stumbling into the corridor. What followed was a wonderful chase through darkened halls; doors were barricaded and beaten down, wrong turns were taken, pitfalls were overcome, and they had an encounter with a mysterious madman who they believe to be a necromancer.

The finale of the chase had part of the party throwing all their weight against an unlockable door with the entire horde pushing on it, while the thief and elf frantically worked on the locked gate. They popped the lock, jumped through the gate, and slammed it just as the zombie horde burst through.

It was glorious.

After that they had an audience with the head kobold, Trustee Sniv, and made a generous contribution to his coffers to compensate for the disturbance. After that Elf the elf made his booze delivery to the bar, followed by a few drinks, and then they retired to the inn to get some rest. Several of the characters were seriously injured and the chance of sanctuary was very welcome.

The party has several choices to make in the next game. The thief, blinded by the Wheel of Fortune in their previous delve, now wears an enchanted scarf over her eyes that gives her sight. It was given to her by a masked sorceress known as The Veiled Lady, who has tasked her to find a lost magician’s laboratory, hidden somewhere near Kobold Corners. It seems likely that they will begin their search for it in the next session, but I’ve learned not to take anything for granted with my party.


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Posted by on February 26, 2016 in Fantasy, Gaming


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Return to Stonehell

With the holidays behind us my gaming group decided to get back to some serious dungeon delving, so it was back to Stonehell!

This is the third expedition into the dungeon for my players. Their previous trips were before Christmas and they went very well, included some delightfully harrowing encounters, and were chronicled in a previous blog post that was eaten when I went to save it. Suffice to say that they have explored most of Hell’s Antechamber.

The party has a new member, my ten year old daughter who was very excited to play Dungeons & Dragons / Labyrinth Lord. We got out the dice and rolled her up a character, a magic user with horrible stats for constitution and charisma but excellent wisdom and intelligence. We determined that she’s a frail, foul tempered witch type, a role my daughter was disturbingly eager to play. Especially when she found out that she could be evil. Petunia the Witch and the cleric of Set are getting along famously.

It’s fun to see how players’ actions can change a DM’s plans. I have a table of events that could happen for each session. I roll once per session to see which of them, if any, will come up, but actions by the players made me decide to have several show up at once.

First there is the thief who was blinded by the Wheel of Fortune on their last foray. One of the encounters I had planned was for a sorceress to contract with the party to find a certain location within Stonehell, bring her the information, and first pick of anything discovered within. This would only come up after the party had survived a couple of sorties into Stonehell, as she would only treat with adventurers with a proven record. The sorceress provided the thief with a silk scarf that allows her hazy vision when worn over her eyes like a blindfold. The thief agreed to the sorceress’ deal, without discussing it with the rest of the party, and the sorceress’ halfling aide will be remaining in the village to receive reports on their progress.

The sorceress is known as the Veiled Lady and is covered head-to-toe in elaborate Byzantine robes and wears a mask of beaten gold. The party knows nothing more about her, though they can guess she comes from Fever Dreaming Marlinko. I’ll be interested in seeing how her relationship grows with the party. Assuming they survive.

Then the elf, named “Elf”, decided that he wants to learn the kobold language. He began asking around the village. This triggered another encounter I had on the list. A merchant is trying to get several pony kegs of liqueur to Kobold Corners, somewhere on the first level of Stonehell, but his hired guards never arrived. He agreed to teach Elf how to speak kobold if Elf would transport them and come back with a receipt from Yik-Yik, his kobold client. The party was already planning on heading there and has a line on its location, so Elf agreed. He purchased two dogs to serve as pack animals and a puppy for the blind thief, suggesting that they could raise it to be a seeing eye dog.

The thief was not amused, but she does like the puppy.

After that it was back to Stonehell. Outside the gatehouse they met the encounter that I’d actually rolled for this session, a group of armed guards with caged carts, camped casually outside the ruined gatehouse. They greeted the party and began making wagers on if they’d see the adventurers again.

It turns out that the nobles of Marlinko will buy slaves and convicts and send them into Stonehell. If they survive and bring back sufficient treasure they can win their freedom, but really it’s so that the nobles can bet on how long they’ll survive. The guards told the adventurers that the nobles use scrying devices to watch their hapless slaves inside the dungeon. The adventurers were told that if they encountered the slaves inside it would be fine to kill them, but to make it look good.

Returning to the dungeon’s depths they first stopped off to chat with “Rocky” the stone oracle. Then they were off to find Kobold Corners. On their previous expedition they’d had a bad encounter with the orcs, so they decided to cut through the undead-filled Quiet Halls.

Along the way they were ambushed by a number of skeletons, who gave the adventurers a good beating before finally being dispatched. While the party was recovering and taking stock, Elf located and opened a secret door. Peering inside he saw a crypt, and rising from the burial niches were zombies. Lots of zombies.

Elf slammed the door, ran past the party yelling, “Time to go!” and headed down the south passageway, where he promptly fell into a covered pit trap.

This was no ordinary pit trap, instead he found himself (and his dogs) tumbling down a slide into the next level of the dungeon. The party, seeing the zombies shambling out from the secret door and now blocking them from the room’s other entrance, decided to take their chances following Elf and slipped down the pit to the slide and off into the darkness. Everyone survived, though one of the pack dogs died in the fall.

The party is now in a dangerous situation. They have time to catch their breath, but they’re lost on level two. They’ve debated trying to climb back up the slide, but are not sure how far down they’ve come nor if the zombies are still waiting for them. They’ve explored enough to have discovered the temple of Yg, a primordial serpent god that the cleric of Set knows is older and not agreeable to his own deity.

And that is where we left things. The players realize that they could be in real trouble, but their luck and cunning has seen them through tight spots before. If they play things right they may yet see the light of day once more.

And if not? Well, I have spare character sheets.


I found our “Rocky” oracle at Wal-Mart in the fish tank section.

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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Fantasy, Gaming


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Stonehell has Arrived!

My physical copy of Stonehell just arrived in the mail!

I’ve been enjoying the .pdf copy so far, but now I’ve got the physical to add to my collection. Stonehell Dungeon: Into the Heart of Hell now takes its rightful place among my megadungeons.


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Posted by on November 5, 2015 in Fantasy, Gaming


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Stonehell Update

This post from Michael Curtis just made my day:

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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Fantasy, Gaming


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It Has Arrived!

It has arrived!

And it is beautiful.

BMCompSoooooo Beautiful…

Barrowmaze Complete is finally mine!


Barrowmaze has long been on my want list. When they announced that a complete edition was on the way I decided to wait for it, but wasn’t able to jump on the crowdfunding campaign. So I have been patiently waiting for it to hit the retail market. I picked up the PDF/Print combo, which is currently a really good deal, and have been reading through it on my iPad. Now I have the physical copy in hand and it is glorious.

I need to do a proper review once I’ve finished the book, but right now I’ll say that I like what I’ve read. This megadungeon takes the classical dungeon crawl approach and injects innovative ideas that really brings the dungeon to life.

Or perhaps “unlife” is the better term.

It’s also a beautiful book, filled with illustrations that fire the imagination and bring home the OSR sensibilities.

Barrowmaze Complete now joins the ranks of my megadungeon arsenal.


Truly a fearsome collection, printed using the tears of countless adventurers.

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Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Fantasy, Gaming, Reviews


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Dwimmermount? That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time…

I’ve been a gamer since the early 80’s.

I started with the red and blue Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons and I’ve been rolling the dice ever since. I’ve played old school, new school, and a few things out-of-school.

A few years back I discovered the Old School Renaissance and it captured my imagination. My old books have never been far from hand and it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull out a vintage manual or adventure and read through it for fun or to mine for ideas. On rare occasions I’d even run something using an old rules set, but it wasn’t until I began reading OSR blogs that I latched on to the idea of choosing these games, or their clones, as mainstays. Many of those blogs are still going strong, and a perusal through my Blogroll will reveal several of my favorites. But there was one blog above all that is responsible for me being sucked into the OSR.


James Maliszewski, the blog’s author, is a gifted writer with a passion for not just looking at how the old games were played, but why the rules were created, and what things still resonate with gamers all these decades later. He is good at taking a fresh look at the classic tropes, exploring the original concepts behind things, how they changed over time, and how we can do something new with them. A few examples I’ve put to use in my own games include his discussions on Rangers and Paladins.

Maliszewski is also a good storyteller. I’m picky about reading game session write-ups. I enjoy reading summaries, but detailed accounts of what other people have done tend to lose me. It’s hard to hold my attention with a long post about what other people were doing at the gaming table. Maliszewski’s reports about his Dwimmermount campaign were some of the rare exceptions.

Maliszewski sees old school gaming as being about exploration, making him a gamer after my own heart. His megadungeon is filled with a rich and interesting history and his session reports reflected this. They were not about how Character A fought Monster B, but about the things the party discovered down in the darkened halls. Reading these reports I was able to get a taste of that discovery.

It made me want to learn more.

When Maliszewski announced that he was launching a Kickstarter to release an official Dwimmermount book I felt no small amount of excitement. In fact, it was the first Kickstarter project I backed.

If you’ve been around the OSR for any length of time, you know how that went. To sum up, the project was funded but fell apart and the book was never produced. For various reasons Maliszewski failed to complete the project and as a result he closed up his blog and dropped out of the pubic’s eye.

Many people have opinions on all this. Mine are simple; A writer I like very much got in over his head and failed to complete a project I invested in (note: invested, not a pre-purchase.) While things could have been handled better, unlike many Kickstarter horror stories he owned what happened, took the blame, and didn’t try any ridiculous schemes to save his reputation and screw more people over. He took the heat and moved on.

I also think that the OSR is poorer for having lost his voice.

Before leaving completely, Maliszewski passed the project over to the folks at Autarch, who publish the Adventurer Conqueror King game system. The Autarch folks had been partners in the project and took over the task of trying to complete the book while still producing their own products. Over the years there would be occasional updates, new deadlines to be missed, and beta test files posted to the backers’ site, all of which I stopped paying attention to long ago.

Until last week.

Last week they posted a nearly 400 page proof document of the Dwimmermount book, complete with artwork and tables. It’s a monster of a file, filled with information on the legendary (now infamous) megadungeon. For the first time in years, they have my attention.

I have no idea if I’ll ever hold a physical copy of the book in my hand, and with things like Stonehell Dungeon and The Castle of the Mad Archmage already on my shelf I’m even less sure I’d run it. Also, at this point I won’t be reading James Maliszewski’s work as much as Alexander Macris’ interpretation of it.

Still, the proof copy is going onto my iPad and I am looking forward to giving it a read-through.

And if you’re looking for something to read, delve into the Grognardia archives.

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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Dungeon Design, Fantasy, Gaming


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A Good Day for Megadungeons

Today has been a good day for my love of megadungeons.

First there has been an update on the upcoming publication of the Castle of the Mad Archmage.  The Castle is a megadungeon that lives up to the name, stretching over 12 levels in depth.  The dungeon is the brainchild of Joseph Bloch who writes The Greyhawk Grognard blog and was originally designed for use with Labyrinth Lord making it easily adaptable to any old school Dungeons & Dragons rules set.  Bloch built and released the castle for free through his blog and it became one of the banner projects of the Old School Renaissance.  Bloch eventually took down the files so he could renovate the Castle for a professional release using the Adventures Dark & Deep rules.  It’s been a long road since then, but now it looks like we’ll be seeing the final product early next year via BRW Games.

I have the original release and it’s a fun read filled with the kind of traps, monsters, and magic we’d hope for from an OSR dungeon.  The Castle of the Mad Archmage is a book that should be on the shelf of any dungeon master and I’m looking forward to adding it to mine.

The second event today was the arrival of my copy of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls.  This is the first volume of another celebrated OSR megadungeon, covering six levels of a vast underground complex.

Stonehell was created by Michael Curtis, who writes The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope blog and has released several products for Goodman Games, including The Dungeon Alphabet which has entertained my whole family.  Stonehell is also designed using Labyrinth Lord and makes extensive use of the “one page dungeon” model, allowing for a lot of content to be put into the book.  The dungeon features a modular design giving it an exceptional amount of flexibility, allowing the dungeon master to pull out pieces of the dungeon for individual use, replace them with his or her own creations, or expand on them easily.  A second volume is in the works and there are two supplementary sections available in .pdf format, one for free.  They can be found on Curtis’ Lulu site.

I’ve been looking forward to picking this book up for a while and the recent fall sale from was the perfect opportunity.  I can’t wait to crack it open and see what secrets it holds.


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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Dungeon Design, Gaming


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