Dungeon23: Week Five

I just worked 11 hours constantly going out in -36 windchill and I am absolutely desperately cold x_x

At least tonight won’t be quite as bad …

But I did get my weekly dungeon finished, and I’ll count that as a win —

Larger version of the pic can be found in this Mastodon post ~

Dungeon23: Week Four

Well this week sure ended with another rollercoaster on top of a rollercoaster for rpgland, didn’t it?

If I can gather up my scattered wits and thoughts, I’ll probably make some kind of rambling post about the whole OGL/CC/etc etc thing or at least how it affects me (or not) personally, if only to exorcise the metaphorical demons; but for now, another dungeon!

More deer-goblins, and now they have fancier faeries setting them to work. But also a blast from my own past and the return of my “green rat people” and their abiding love for chickens ~


Link to Mastodon post (with larger image, hopefully) here

Spirit Stones, and experience point musing

A thought that marched hand-in-glove with my tinkering with a B/X cultivator class (which took me the better part of a year to actually commit to and I can’t believe I’m admitting that ye gods), and that I kept on coming back over and over again, involved spirit stones.

Spirit stones (lingshi) are fancy mystical stones — or jewels, or crystals, or some kind of bit of shiny valuable rock/crystal/whatever — that have a pile of descriptions (or none at all, lol) in cultivation novels. They’re basically storehouses of spiritual energy, and cultivators can use them as energy sources or —

— this is the bit that I kept circling back to —

— to boost their cultivation level.

There’s even varying grades or levels of power for these stones, and apparently some series have higher powered versions also (“god stones” and the like) although I haven’t spotted those yet myself. Cultivators hoard spirit stones, use them like candy, treat them as currency, squabble over sources of them, and on and on. Sometimes they, or jewels a lot like them, get found inside the carcasses of powerful monsters or demons, even.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this ~

Spirit Stones and Experience Points

There’s a whole pile of extra bits and bobs that could get piled onto the spirit stone concept as applied to OSR stuff, but the crux that I’ve been rolling around is this:

If treasure = xp up to this point, but say you don’t want to just run a treasure hunter kind of campaign — or you can’t wrap your brain around just what the PCs are doing with that treasure to justify the xp gains, or the treasure piles are just piling up, well, why not decouple it altogether?

Have piles of normal loot for awesome normal loot reasons.

Have finding — or claiming, or stealing, or carving out — and then consuming spirit stones as the actual source of experience points.

You could even make up a set of tiers for grades of stones (type, colour, names, whatever) like in the source material; low-grade stones have 50 or 100 or whatever xp in them, sage-grade stones have thousands or more. Give them different appearances, and go to town.

– some combat encounters could give a lot of spirit stones/xp, if the target is likely to carry them. some, not so much. choose wisely.

– that said, think of the stone or stones likely to be found in the roiling innards of a mighty dragon, or condensed in the core of an ancient, sorcerous undead prince, or or or

Which brings me to notion number two!

Claiming stones from innately powerful creatures is one way to get powerful stones fast, if the GM enables that, yeah. But what if there’s a side effect of shortcutting one’s way through the shortcut, and too many spirit stones (too much xp) gained from a specific kind of source twists or changes you.

Consume too many demonic cores, start to take on demonic traits. That probably won’t go over well with a lot of people. Might be better to be cautious.

I’d probably decide on some particular ratio of “flavoured” xp vs. “standard” xp.

And yes, yes, I know, this sounds like some unholy amalgamation of “gold = xp” and “milestones” and an esoteric economy straight from satan’s arsecrack, but I’m still tempted to beat out a few more details and try it sometime, lol.

Imagine the possibilities! Players might even be tempted to slow their characters’ progressions (not consuming stones) in order to use them to wheel and deal and influence by trade/barter/etc etc. And that’s without layering on any other possible uses for the things …


Some seek power through acts of physical strength, some through erudition. Some petition so-called higher powers instead, seeking to channel that power through themselves.

You have chosen another way, a far more pointed way. You have been inducted into — or have woven together for yourself, from bits of lore and subtle hints from prodigies and other, odder things — a path to cultivating your own, inner power, one that is of you and only you.

Along that path you will clash with beasts, spirits, monsters, and fellow cultivators jealous of your power, following a rival philosophy, or simply seeking to thwart you personally.

But if you reach the end of that path?



Prime Requisites: WIS and CHA
Attack: as Cleric
Saves: as Magic-User
Hit Dice: 1d4
Armour Allowed: None
Weapons Allowed: Staff, dagger, and one chosen weapon or object to use as weapon
Languages: Common, Alignment

* Spiritual Weapon: Choose a specific type of weapon (shortsword, spear, dagger, etc). By bonding with a specific example of that weapon, you may treat it as a +1 magical weapon with 1d6 base damage; this bonus increases by +1 at 5th and 10th level. You may select a non-weapon object; in your hands, it now causes 1d6 damage.

At 3rd level, you may use your spiritual weapon to cast a bolt of damaging energy. This bolt has a range of 50′ and does 1d4 damage, increasing to 2d4 at 7th level.

Losing your spiritual weapon requires hunting out a replacement and spending one day and 100gp/level x2 to bond to the new weapon.

There are known tales of cultivators enchanting their spiritual weapons to great effect.

* Sect: All cultivators belong to a sect, whether formally — trained as a member of the sect — or informally, having absorbed the lessons of cultivation from a manual or pieced their path together independently via snips of wisdom and lore. This sect determines an ideal to follow, a ban or taboo, and often a theme or type of thematics for its particular stripe of cultivation philosophy.

Much like knightly orders, cultivation sects can become elaborate and byzantine in their codes, rules and symbols — and clash with rival sects at the drop of a pin, especially over resources and promising new students.

* Spirit Sense: A cultivator has a 2-in-6 chance to sense the presence of a spirit, ghost, otherworldly entity, or similar unearthly being within 40′. This chance increases as the cultivator progresses in level: 3-in-6 at 4th level, 4-in-6 at 8th level, and 5-in-6 at 12th level. From 2nd level, they have a 2-in-6 chance to recognize enchantments, specific otherworldly entities and subjects pertaining to their sect’s specialties.

* Turn Undead: As the Cleric, including the possibility of commanding undead (a specialty of some sects, even). In addition to undead, a cultivator’s sect teaches how to affect a second category of entities, such as far, nature spirits, heavenly or demonic entities, or magical constructs. This second category must be chosen at character creation.

At discretion, with a suitably prepared location or object at hand, a result of destruction can instead be a sealing away of the turned creature.

* Purity of Body: A cultivator sheds more and more mortal weakness as they gain in the refinement of their inner energies (aka rise in level); these changes progress as follows:

1st Level: +1 AC bonus, +2 to saves vs poison and disease
3rd Level: +2 AC bonus, +4 to saves vs poison and disease
5th Level: +3 AC bonus, immune to mundane disease, +4 saves vs poison and magical disease, age at half rate
8th Level: +4 AC bonus, immune to mundane disease, half-effect from poison, +4 saves vs magical poison and disease, age at quarter-rate
12th Level: +6 AC bonus, immune to mundane disease and poison, +6 saves vs magical disease and poison
14th Level: +8 AC bonus, immune to all but the most potent supernatural afflictions, Unaging Immortality

* Magic Item Creation: At 1st level a cultivator may enchant spell scrolls and potions, as per the standard enchanting rules. At 4th level they may enchant protection scrolls. At 8th level, a cultivator may enchant all forms of magic items.

* Flying Sword: Beginning at 6th level, a cultivator may step onto their spiritual weapon and ride it into the skies, flying at a rate of FL 24 (eagle or equivalent). This flight lasts two hours/level. At 8th level, they may bring one passenger along. At 13th level their range doubles and their speed triples.

* Spellcasting: A cultivator has a certain number of spell slots per day with which to cast magic. Spells are memorized from the spell levels accessible (as per cleric spell memorization), selecting daily spells from all those available on the cultivator spell list which are a level which the character can cast. A cultivator may cast a reversed spell without penalty.

Many sects also possess unique, “secret” spells. A character must be taught this spell or otherwise awarded access to it (perhaps on a scroll); these spells are not automatically added to the cultivator spell list.

– Assimilation: A cultivator has a chance of learning a spell not normally on their spell list, treating it as if it was always available. By studying a spellbook or scroll or holy text, there is a 1-in-6 chance of so assimilating the knowledge of the spell. The source is destroyed regardless of success or failure.

* Magic Item Use: A cultivator may freely make use of magic items, save for enchanted armour. This includes spell scrolls intended for other classes.

* Foundation: At 10th level, a cultivator may found a school, attracting 2d6 1st level cultivators. Or, the character may strike out on their own and found their own sect as well, attracting 1d4 would-be student cultivators and 1d8 fighters or thieves — needed extra muscle as rivals will appear and their home sect may be displeased. There is a 50% chance, in either case, of also attracting 1d3 “unusual” petitioners, actually concealed spirits or demons or the like.

A Few Thumbnail Sect Ideas

Forest In Winter
“Be at peace. Be still and measured. Conserve yourself for the moment that you, or others, require your strength.”
– turn elementals
– ban: inciting violence or thoughtless action; flame magic

“There is nothing without knowledge. Hoard it like the perfect pearl it is.”
– choose one turning or command category
– ban: destroying texts or allowing them to be destroyed; passing up a chance to educate — or learn a secret

Black Wind
“Do not suffer your enemies to live. Keep them close in death.”
– command undead
– ban: allowing a deliberate slight to go unchallenged

Golden Chain
“Be vigilant, because so few others seem capable of doing so.”
– turn demonic entities
– ban: tolerating undead or demonic forces; excessive wealth or indulgence

XP ProgressionSpell Slots
yeah that’s not a lot of spell slots, arguably; but it’s easier to add than take away
First Level SpellsSecond Level SpellsThird Level SpellsFourth Level Spells
01.Detect MagicPurify Food And WaterSilence 15′ RadiusRemove Curse/Curse
02.Protection From EvilFalse AuraInvisibilityConfusion
03.Light (Darkness)Know AlignmentProtection From Evil 15′ RadiusTemperature Control
04.Read MagicProduce FlameSuggestionHallucinatory Terrain
05.ShieldLevitateClairvoyanceWizard Eye
06.Detect DangerBlindness/DeafnessDispel MagicFear
07.SpookHold Person
08.HypnotismCure Light Wounds
don’t forget sect secret spells (talk to each other, GMs and players!) and also assimilating like a mofo

Some Thoughts

This is kind of …

Dramatically lower-powered than in cultivation fantasy/xianxia fantasy? Damn right it is, those fuckers can practically explode planets by the end of the road in some of those novels. I wanted something that had as many of the highlights and nifty powers I like in those stories, but could also work in a B/X-Basic D&D game.

Not a lot of offensive magic capabilities, though?

Let’s be real here, in the fantasy stories cultivators come from, they’re the stars of the show and they do everything; if I piled a bunch of attack spells and the like in here, they’d beat the magic-user at its own game if not beat the pants off the class in the process. (Basic D&D, remember!)

And there’s a lot of stuff to squeeze in here, which is why I (regretfully) also left off a specific warding-type class feature. (I may change my mind on that at some point.)

That said, if you want to add spells to the class list, there’s space? Or make combat spells various sect secrets!

Actually, Let’s Talk About Sects

If we legit talked about sects my fingers would fall off typing; more importantly, those are a lot more setting-specific even in the source novels (are your sects initiatory, like in the I Shall Seal The Heavens series of novels, or are they also extended families like in Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, or …).

Honestly, they’re left as wide open as they are for a reason. Make them as simple or as baroque rules- and roleplay-wise as you want.

You could even borrow some of the many tables of esoteric weirdos under my “factions” tag and change them around to suit, lol.

Did you have to mix in druid and illusionist spells?

I wanted to.

If that really sticks in your craw, or you don’t have any version of those you can crib from, here’s some alternate lists:

First Level SpellsSecond Level SpellsThird Level SpellsFourth Level Spells
01.Detect MagicPurify Food And WaterSilence 15′ RadiusRemove Curse/Curse
02.Protection From EvilESPInvisibilityConfusion
03.Light (Darkness)Know AlignmentProtection From Evil 15′ RadiusContinual Light
04.Read MagicBless (Blight)Protection From Normal MissilesHallucinatory Terrain
05.ShieldLevitateClairvoyanceWizard Eye
06.Detect DangerBlindness/DeafnessDispel MagicLocate Object
07.Hold PortalHold Person
08.Remove Fear (Cause Fear)Cure Light Wounds
honestly you could probably use the find-and-replaced spells anyway, but then the lists possibly aren’t as nice and rollable.
maybe even them out to nearest die if needed?

Dungeon23: Week Two

There is so much I could say/rant/howl/something about the state of rpgland right now — like the whole absolute fuckery that is “OGL 1.1” — but I don’t have the energy and retreated somewhat from social media for a smidge for a reason.

But I did finish Week Two, with its strange dragon and stranger spawn and hidden burial stranger still.

And more deer-goblins, because.

Link to Mastodon post is here ~

on the eve of Dungeon23

By this time tomorrow, it’s going to be a new year.

I just finished the last page in a scribble-journal I’ve kept for a year, after several year’s hiatus.

I used to use Moleskine journals, but I couldn’t find one that just had dates, and this was more stressful than it needed to be; in the end I was saved by finding, oddly enough, an unused and very old (1975 at the youngest, by the calendar on the inside cover) government diary-pocket journal-agenda squirrelled away in the bookroom. (the gods only know where I found it initially, and when.) And it’s served admirably.

In 2023 I’m going to use a Moleskine again, and will just ignore the bujo notations down the side of the pages, and not let them bother me. I will fill larger pages than the little green diary, the way I used to; word lists and fragmented ideas, bits of prose and imaginary quotations, descriptions of places that don’t exist and that I might write someday, or not, or just in an expanded form on some other journal pages. And when I’m finished this one it will go stacked on a shelf with the other Moleskines, and with the little green diary.

Yes there’s a point I’m getting to here.

Sometimes, I miss days, in the Moleskines or the little green diary. I make them up when I have the opportunity; it’s the filling of the pages that I like to do, not flagellating myself if I double up a day down the way. Some stories need more than one page in any case.

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be starting Dungeon23.

In the time since I decided to take part — spurred by being aggravated at someone on the webs taking pass-agg “humorous” potshots at folks’ happy preparations and chatter — I’ve gotten myself settled into what I plan to do, which is still what I already posted about, more or less. (I’m kind of predictable?) I may leave some dangly bits on my maps to make linking bits together later easier, if I decide to.

I’m also not planning to transcribe my dungeons afterwards, at least not now, because I don’t want this to be a Thing[tm] — it’s something I want to tinker with and poke at and add to, and I might miss a day and catch up a day.

Like my journals, and all their contents that sit contentedly in their pile.

I might snap a picture or roughly scan dungeons to show, if I remember to. (that’s the plan, we’ll see if the plan survives.)

And that’s fine.

Some folks are planning to release their dungeons (or cities, or environments, or spaceships) as finished products.

That’s also fine.

Some folks are making theirs expressly to be played as they go.

That’s fine too.

Others have made special journals and workbooks and the like, some for free and some not, some fancy, some not.

Also fine. (I’m using a little one myself, I like it a lot.)

Whatever we want to do with our work, that’s fine.

You know what’s also fine? Feeling that the Dungeon23 activity — in whatever form — isn’t for you. Not all things are. I was feeling that it wasn’t for me, until I realized that no, all the folks pointing out that it doesn’t have to be a megadungeon were right.

And also that I don’t need to be a brilliant artist or anything either.

I can just make my dungeons.

My dungeons.

For however many weeks I have ideas for.

And that’s fine.

And if someone feels the need to cut down folks who are doing this thing that — one hopes! — makes them happy; or if someone feels the need to try to guilt those happy folks out of their fun and their conversations and their plans, just because they don’t feel it’s for them themselves; or if someone decides to start a tirade about how dungeons (never mind that not everyone is even making dungeon-dungeons) are BadWrongFun and terrible and we should all feel bad —


Yeet them all into the sun.

We got dungeons — and spaceships, and maps, and cities, and towers, and a zillion other things — to make.

A Little Less Lethal

You hear a lot sometimes about the (supposed) lethality of OSR and OSR-adjacent games, and how players are used to having backup PCs and so on and so forth; but you know, in my experience the toss-away-the-dollie mindset hasn’t really been how it’s worked. Folks get attached to their characters. This always disposable-PC, cavalier thing is one of the more annoying bits, for me, of the “OSR” construct.

Having your PC die kind of sucks a lot of the time. It’s true.

So, chewing on this while trying not to get completely soaked at work, I came up with some alternate options. Toss 2d6 when a PC measures their length in the dust, and let them carry on — but with a bit more baggage than what they started with.

Of course, some might decide they’d rather have their PC die dramatically, or heroically, or comedically, or they just don’t like the result of the roll. That’s also totally cool.

What did you walk away from death with?

02: Marked by the damned …
03: Came back with a spirit (dead or otherwise) sharing body
04: Woke bound with a geas to perform a certain task
05: Maimed wind; prone to illness
06: Missing or maimed limb
07: Shocking or strange-looking scar
08: Lost or partially-lost sense (whether injury or trauma)
09: Permanent wound (requires tending)
10: Woke bound with a geas on a certain behaviour
11: Appear like the dead; healing is twice as difficult now
12: Marked by the beatific …

Or, what if for some reason an adversary had the chance to kill the PC, but chose not to? Though there surely would be a reason for such a decision, right? Toss 1d12 and —

Why did they stay their hand?

01: Proving they could have dispatched you is good enough for them
02: “Wait! I remember you! You were at –” (were you though?)
03: They don’t want you to die; they want you to suffer
04: A prisoner is worth more than a corpse
05: That hexmark they just placed on you will ensure you’re no threat anyway
06: “If I spare your life, will you help me with …”
07: You would have been their first sapient kill, and they just can’t …
08: “I’m not the real enemy! The real enemy is –“
09: It was less ‘staying their hand’ and more ‘didn’t check to be sure’, honestly
10: A strange faint glow appeared around you and they backed right off (but did it stay? what now?)
11: “Now I owe you nothing.” (have you even seen them before?)
12: A leader or companion orders them to let you live; they are not happy, but comply (for now) (and why were you spared?)

quick weapon materials: some d12s

Today has decided to be a morning of near-tears in preemptive despair over taking Soci to a cardiological vet appt next week, so in an attempt to distract myself, have a three-d12-table slate for making unusual weapon materials (or anything else materials):

it could be odder — I’ve written odder — but sometimes the basics of oddness are also good