Sunday, March 30, 2014

Taenarum gets the ACKS

I ran the first session of the new megadungeon last night.  With any luck, I'll get a second group of players in there tonight, and it will be completely underway.

Last night was the kids and family game.  They made characters with such names as Egrog the Spartan Gladiator, Holly the (Christmas)Elf, Leonidas the Paladin, Starbuck the prophet of Apollo, and Matthias the Athenian Magic User.  For this game, I picked the Adventurer Conqueror King system (ACKS), one of the old school clones, for  one main reason:  world building.  ACKS has extensive guidelines on world building - demographics, markets, armies, all of it.  I plan on making a giant hex map of Mythic Greece and statting out all the major city states using ACKS demographic factors.  I love classical mythology and it seems like a perfect place for characters to rise in power and carve out their own kingdoms.  I'm expecting this to be the default family game setting for years.

ACKS also has an extensive set of templates for the character classes, and this made character creation with newbies a snap.  Templates are character concepts - a fighter could be a mercenary, guardsman, gladiator, legionary, and so on.  The template provides some pre-selected gear and proficiencies.  So the kiddos rolled statistics, arranged them, picked a template, we gave them the default gear, and we were off fairly quickly.

At this point, I have levels 1 and 2 of the dungeon mapped and annotated - around 200 rooms.  Level 3 is mapped and randomly stocked, but needs a lot of work on harmonizing the results, and level 4 maps are underway.  The peninsula is loosely described, and the home base is well detailed.  They're starting in the little village of Psammathous Bay.

I have a confession though.  I miss the horror.  I'm writing descriptions for dungeon bosses like the Zombie Master, and putting in a stitching room where he builds mutant zombies by stitching body parts together to make 3-armed zombies with too many legs and multiple heads, and then I have to catch myself.  This is for the kids.  I feel like Jack Skellington trying to be Santa Claus.  "What is this uncomfortable feeling I'm chasing after?  Oh yeah, that's what it's called… whimsy."

We'll see if I'm capable of whimsy.  I'm still worried that instead of a jack-in-the-box, I'd deliver a decapitated head in the box, but here's hoping.  Awareness is half the battle, amiright?  I'll need to keep writing Harrow Home or the Black City on the side just for an outlet.  Maybe I'll go review some of the new LOTFP stuff.

What would the readers like to see on the blog about Taenarum?  Maps and guides to the levels as we encounter them?  I'll definitely post game reports.  I've never had multiple groups in the same dungeon - it should be really interesting.  It's downright GYGAXIAN.  One thing I'm considering is posting a weekly map showing what the other group explored, so the next group doesn't waste their session going over the same territory (unless they want it that way).  I plan on building a restocking approach for each level, but at least the groups would know where to start fresh each week.  There's an adventurer's guild hall back in Psammathous Bay, and we can create a rule that assumes they're leaving notes for each other back at the guild hall.  I saw something similar when reading about the West Marches campaign a few years ago, and it seemed to work well for having multiple groups in the same locale on different game nights.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Puzzles in Taenarum

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him.

Following up the post the other day on puzzle theory, here are a couple of the larger inventory puzzles in the mad god's dungeon.  I don't know if any of my recent adult players are currently reading the Lich House; if so - warning - spoilers.

The Regalia of the Death God
Hades has hidden 7 artifacts in the dungeon that must be brought together in order to get past one of the deepest portals.  These 7 items are the Regalia of the Death God - the drinking horn, bident, key, helm of darkness, scepter, and throne of Hades, along with the pale horse.  There are clues to the importance of the items throughout the upper levels - friezes, statuary, even some riddles that allude to them.  Each has a magic effect that's worthy in its own right.  There's a boss figure on each level, an archon of Hades, that guards a clue to one of the Regalia as one of its duties.  Obviously, I'm telling you, the readers, but otherwise this is all knowledge the players will need to learn through adventuring and rumors.

The thing I like about the Regalia is that once the players learn about their importance, it creates a natural competition to get every piece.  NPC adventurers will be gunning for player groups that flaunt one of the items, and the players have a reason to do the same if an NPC group gets ahead of them in the dungeon.  The quest for the 7 items has great potential for mischief and driving exploration.

Hades' Box of Mystery
In some ways, I'm trying to make the dungeon of Taenarum evoke aspects of the video game experience on the table top.  I want some of the puzzles to involve scavenger hunt style inventory challenges.  For instance, each major level features three inter-related objects - a chained tablet, a key, and an impassable door.  The impassable doors are obvious and pretty easy to find on each level.  They can be safely ignored and bypassed.  The chained tablet is harder to find.  Written on the chained tablet is a riddle or clue leading to the hiding spot of the special key to the impassable door.  Beyond each impassable door is a Mystery Box, which produces one random item before going inert and resetting.  (I'm picturing a glowing treasure chest like something from the Legend of Zelda).  Once a group has solved a specific Mystery Box, it never functions for them again.

Hades views the dungeon like a giant casino.  As god of wealth and the underworld, his kingdom has collected the wealth of ages - the lost treasures of Atlantis, the secrets of the Hyperboreans, and prized things from all the prior ages of man.  His minions carve the hollow spaces of the world for precious metals like gold and silver.  It doesn't matter if any single group of adventurers succeeds in the short term and escapes with plunder; he's wagering that they'll continue to delve deeper, into more dangerous places.  Like any bookie, mob boss, or casino owner, he knows the house always wins in the end.

For the most part, I'm using random dungeon generation techniques to create a lot of content quickly, but these types of multi-room puzzles that span dungeon levels don't emerge organically from random results; I've taken a little time to generate some of these ideas top-down to tie everything together.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Puzzles and the Dungeon

The Dungeon of Taenarum substitutes a "mad god" for the "mad wizard' who normally has created a sprawling, multi-level dungeon complex.  Because it's meant to embody the archetypal dungeoneering experience, it needs to have lots of puzzles.  I'd also like to work in some of the classic word puzzles, like the knights and knaves puzzle (the one with the two guys, one always tells the truth, the other always featured in the movie Labyrinth).  Since Taenarum will get explored by kids and family, this would be their first exposure to a lot of the classic puzzles.

Before I go on - please share any of your favorite puzzles or riddles in the comments!  Taenarum involves around 40 dungeon areas, so I'll have plenty of room to incorporate the classics.

Most of my puzzle-solving experience comes from the video gaming world and early computer games.  Let's take a look at how some of the common puzzle types carry over into RPGs.

For starters, puzzles tend to be either self-contained or not… single room or multi room.  You have the design space to make single room puzzles more arbitrary and difficult, because the players can just walk away.  Pro tip:  don’t build your dungeon so that the players can't bypass a difficult and illogical puzzle!  Riddles and Interaction puzzles are single room puzzles that are common in the dungeon.  Interaction puzzles are things like figuring out how to trigger a secret door, or disarming a trap.  I love putting in objects as resources that allow the players to interact with the environment... like using the wood to build a bridge and cross a chasm.  Video games also feature self-contained Mini-Games (ie, timewasters) but I don't see as many of those in dungeons.

Multi-room puzzles involve Information puzzles and Inventory items.  The most basic inventory puzzles is "the key" - finding the right key for an otherwise locked door.  Old time computer games frequently featured item puzzles that made the player find the right single use item for a circumstance… like giving the food from 3 to the hungry bear in room 7 in order to keep going; a more complicated model involved mixing items (like mixing the poison and the food to get rid of the bear completely).  Quests for magic items and artifacts are the meat and drink of fantasy adventure gaming, but otherwise we don't see a lot of Zork-style inventory use.

The other type of multi-room puzzle is informational - using a piece of information or pattern found elsewhere to solve a puzzle.  The classic examples is the combination to a safe - you can't open the lock until you find where the combination is hidden.

I'm sure most of this is old-hat to the readership, so at worst I've attached labels to things you already knew implicitly.  I'm mainly cataloging the puzzle types for self-reference and to remind myself of a few maxims:   If a puzzle is a blocker, make sure it's logical and fairly solvable; reserve the arbitrary puzzles for areas that can be bypassed.  Let the players learn about the problem before they encounter the possible solutions, so they're asking the right questions about the environment.  Finally, the table top medium allows a degree of lateral thinking and player creativity unsupported by computers, so don't design puzzles with only a single pre-formed solution in mind.

I've got the first 100+ rooms of Taenarum stocked and ready for adventurers.  In my zeal to learn how the Anti-Beedo would make a dungeon, I've heavily leveraged random tables.  "Special" rooms and puzzles are hard.   There's no short cut to creating them beyond perspiration and diligence.  Self-contained rooms and puzzles frequently come across as a bit arbitrary, whereas the multi-room style of puzzle requires more forethought - and works best if it enhances the overall theme of the dungeon.  I've found myself taking a step back a few times to lay the foundation for the multi-room puzzles.  The effort is worth it as I assume they'll become nice quests as players learn about them.

Puzzles are a big topic.  I'll circle back and look at some of my favorite puzzles from TSR and some OSR products as a follow up to this post and see what insights we can learn from those that have gone before.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dungeon Areas in Taenarum

The Road to Hades is a large vaulted passage, carved in murals, that  spirals into the depths of the earth, culminating on the shores of the River Styx.  There are also stairs, chutes, and shafts that connect the sub levels to each other, but I like the conceit of a wide highway to hell that spirals into the earth - the benighted path trod by Herakles and Orpheus when they visited death's kingdom in the days of myth.

I'm planning 4 dungeons per dungeon level.  At this point all I have is a brief concept for most of them.  There are monster tables for levels 1-5, and maps for levels 1-3. I've just started running the stockers.

Once we get past level 3, the sub levels are really just place holders - I've carved out a bit of mental real estate and constructed a container for future ideas.  If an idea jumps to mind as you're browsing the list, feel free to post your inspiration in the comments.  Since this is for the family (first and foremost) I'm holding myself to a few over-arching constraints; I'm going to leverage standard bestiaries for most of the monsters, along with mostly standard magic items and classes.  Taenarum will encourage an archetypal D&D experience - something you could probably run with Moldvay BX or Labyrinth Lord (there's a good chance I'll use ACKS) .  Taenarum is definitely a "funhouse dungeon" or "monster zoo", and that's fine - Hades built it to be that way.  As god of wealth, he ensures there's always reasons for adventurers to return again and again.  Hades gets to bet house money because in the end, the house always wins.  Muhaha.

Here are the area concepts so far:

1-1 Entrance Halls
The entrance halls are a transition area between the surface and the underworld, and many of the lairs and monsters include humans - bandits, traders, acolytes, other adventuring parties, that kind of stuff.

1-2 Skeletal Legions
The Lord of the Bones is the first archon and he commands an army of skeletons.  This area also features flesh-eating scarabs that strip victims to the bone, preparing their remains to join the Legion.

1-3 Vermin Caves
It's not wise to fool with Mother Nature!  Demeter's power runs amok here, creating "the food of the gods", a milky substance that causes vermin to grow to giant size - giant beetles, giant rats, giant bees, the whole gamut of giant vermin monsters come from here.  Yes, that means there's even a giant killer chicken.

1-4 The Animal Farm
Atalante the sorceress turns captured men into pig men (orcs).  Sometimes she turns men into pigs, and she feeds the pigs to her pig men.  Her pig men scour the first level trying to capture adventurers to drag back to Atalante and get the treatment.

2-1 Zombie Vaults
Noxious fumes from the Asphodel Fields create a treacherous no-man's land that causes the dead to rise as zombies.  Portcullises and sliding walls ensure folks trapped in no-man's land have to move forward, not backwards.  (No matter how hard I try, I can't completely escape the inclination to include some horror-related elements.  Players are just going to have to deal.)

2-2 Berserker Base
Cultists of Ares (male berserkers) have a shrine in the dungeon, as do their enemies, the Amazons (female berserkers).  Opposed factions are fun.

2-3 Mountain Side Caves
Inspired by drum circles, Burning Man, industrial music mosh pits, and Rabbit in the Moon at Red Rocks Amphitheater, no Greek themed dungeon would be complete without  Dionysian Maenads, dancing Oreads, and drum-crazed Satyrs celebrating the Great God Pan.  Who wants a mushroom?

2-4 Naiad Pools
Drowning faeries seriously creep me out.  Reference:  drowning fairies.

3-1 The Harpy Halls
Harpies = iconic Greek monster.  They fly and steal stuff.

3-2 Cultes Des Ghouls
Winding warrens of the Ghoul King.

3-3 Temple of Hecate
A passage to the dark world and the source of all the goblins and spooks that roam the upper levels.

3-4 The Faerie Shrine
I don't see any reason why to exclude sprites, pixies, unicorns, and sylvan creatures from a Greek-themed dungeon - they fit the Artemis vs Pan theme of orderly sylvan nature vs chaotic untamed nature.

4-1 Centaurs of Doom
Centaurs are the biker gang barbaric trouble makers of Greek myth - they have bad attitudes.  Don't invite them to the wedding.  Just ask the Lapiths.

4-2 Darkhome
The Prince of Darkness, lord of the shadows, is the archon that rules this dungeon, where light sources frequently fail.

4-3 The Petrified Procession
Medusas = iconic Greek monster.

4-4 The Pandemonium Shadow Show
Clowns, circuses, giant-headed Carnivale puppets, they're all nightmare fuel to me.  No funhouse dungeon should be without a creepy fun house.  (I do want some things in here that emphasize theater, tragedy, masks, and performance).

5-1 Water Caves
The historical Cape Taino has seaside caves and hosted a temple to Poseidon.  Tritons are another iconic Greek monster, although my tritons will end up more like slimy Deep Ones or the Kuo Toa.

5-2 Hags of the Fates
Graeae, the blind hags who shared an eyeball, are iconic Greek monsters and needed a place.

5-3 Enclave of the Returned
This is a free zone where escaped souls from Hades have built an underground refuge (the dungeon's version of Rick's Café is here).

5-4 Brother Barrow's Tombkeepers Inc.
Brother Barrow, the fifth archon, treats the entombment of dead heroes like a church business.  Hail Hades.

6-1 Ragehollow
The mythical labyrinth hosting Taenarum's angry minotaurs.

6-2 The Monster Mash
The spawning grounds of the hydras of Taenarum.

6-3 Halls of Greater Dread
The sixth archon is a powerful wraith (a rag-shrouded figure like the Witch King or a Nazgul).

6-4 Workshops of the Forge God

7-1 Lesser Temple of Hades

7-2 The Great Library
The dungeon will have access to a cosmic library - or perhaps a portal to something like the great library of Celaneo or HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands.  The 7th archon is a mummified philosopher.  The custodians of knowledge - the Keepers - are all mummies, too.

7-3 The Jersey Devils
Placeholder for a fortress of devils  and the Furies.  Their job is to capture lost souls that escape Hades by swimming the Lethe river.  They don't mind sending new souls down to Hades when they get the chance (ie, whenever they meet adventurers they try to kill them).

7-4 The Giants
The Gigantomachy features in Greek myth, so I know I want giants to have a role in the depths.  Hades doesn't mind reaching across the aisle to recruit players from the other team.

8-1 Nightmare Town
The eighth archon is a powerful spectre with  a pumpkin head and a chilling cackle.  The area features a passage to Morpheus's realm of dreams and nightmares.

8-2 Aah!  Real Demons
The demons cause destruction and chew bubblegum, and they're all out of gum.  On  a more serious note, the overarching goal of the Demon Prince is to release the great monsters of Tartarus by destroying the prison.

8-3 Redoubt of the Immortal
One of the great architects of the prison of Tartarus, from a bygone age, was gifted with immortality and has built an impregnable lair for himself here.  The demons would love to get a hold of him.  I'm picturing an ancient progenitor of Daedalus - someone with knowledge that's too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.

8-4 Elemental Prisons
Clues to the locations of the four elemental artifacts that must be brought together to open Tartarus.  Lots of elementals and elemental creatures are bound to the area as guardians.  (The artifacts themselves are elsewhere in the multiverse as high level quest items).

9-1 Remember the Titans
The primordial titans are the great threats to world peace; I want some of the lesser Titans to have a role in the dungeon as troublemakers.

9-2 The Blood Boss's Throne of Blood
The ninth archon is a powerful vampire lord.

9-3 Lair of an Ancient Dragon
Must have a gigantic dragon in a classic dungeon.  Must.

9-4 Greater Temple of Hades

10-1 Defile of the Demon Prince
An interplanar beachhead between the Abyss and the Prime Plane hosts frequent skirmishes between demons and the followers of Hades.

10-2 Lair of the Great Theurge
The 10th archon is a powerful lich.

10-3 Planar Embassies
Just outside the gates of Hades, many of the great powers of the universe have a portal or gateway to the underworld.  This is the player's chance to jaunt to the City of Brass, for instance, or visit Asgard.

10-4 The Shores of Styx
Charon, Cerberus, the River Styx - you know it.  The good stuff.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nodes of Taenarum

Here's the next design piece on the adventure oriented megadungeon I've been working on.  I'm going to use the term 'adventure' rather than family-oriented to indicate it's not necessarily only for kids, it just won't feature horror and gruesomeness like my default mode.  The genre is fantasy and high magic, i.e. "adventure".

What I needed were good monster tables that could be plugged into the random dungeon stocker.  I wanted to have tables that were populated differently based on the dungeon level and sub theme.  Therefore, I needed to quickly think up some of the major themes, as well as plots and factions.

This early in the process, nothing is set in stone, but I wanted a starting point for some of the major players in the dungeon.  The overarching theme is competition between the gods:  the gods want their champions to rise in power and experience by conquering monsters and getting treasure; Hades wants to one-up the other gods by killing all their champions in his vast dungeons and adding their spirits to his army.  To that end, he employs "archons", intelligent undead that act as bosses on each level.  They command level-appropriate undead throughout the dungeon and actively hunt and thwart adventurers - characters like the Lord of Bones or the Ghoul King.  Plus, they're replaceable - the mantle of Lord of Bones can be passed on to the next promising candidate if an upstart group knocks off the last Lord of Bones.  (In other words, there are plausible reasons to quickly restock certain areas, as the archons back fill whenever there's a "promotion opportunity").

Other factions in the dungeon include various lost souls that have escaped the Asphodel Meadows.  They're not living, so they can't return to the surface world, but by forming enclaves in the underworld, they've escaped the drudgery of Hades.  Servants of Hades (the devils and the furies) search the dungeon for these escapees.

Hecate is not an Olympian and desires to see the 12 Olympians overthrown.  She rules a parallel world of magic, the dark realm, and her goblins and demons slip into the dungeon from the dark realm.  Although she's an erstwhile ally of Hades, her secret desire is to throw open the elemental gates of Tartarus, releasing the primordial monsters.  Not even Hades is that reckless.

There is an elemental sub theme to Taenarum, since the prison of Tartarus can only be opened by bringing together four elemental artifacts from the dawn of the universe.  There are groups seeking the artifacts and others striving to keep them hidden and guarded.  The Great God Pan would like to see the world returned to primordial chaos and uncontrolled nature, and his minions are among the seekers after elemental mastery.

Hephaestus has no love for the haughty Olympians and has lent Hades the use of many automatons and mechanical monsters.  Yay, robots!

Beyond those factions, I picked lots of Greek-themed monsters from the various bestiaries and created a list of sub themes for each major dungeon level.  At this point, I'm trying to get the first three dungeon levels mapped and stocked before letting players loose on the place.  All the stockers and monster lists are built, and I have 9 of the 12 maps done.  The bare-bones approach lets you cover vast ground really quickly.

Here's the list.  Names will change over time, and I'll circle back in a day or two to add a descriptive sentence to each node to give folks a flavor on each area.

Dungeon Areas in Taenarum:

  • Entrance Halls
  • Skeletal Legions
  • Vermin Caves
  • The Animal Farm
  • Zombie Vaults
  • Berserker Base
  • Mountain Side Caves
  • Naiad Pools
  • The Harpy Halls
  • Cultes Des Ghouls
  • Temple of Hecate
  • The Faerie Shrine
  • Centaurs of Doom
  • Darkhome
  • The Petrified Procession
  • The Pandemonium Shadow Show
  • Water Caves
  • Hags of the Fates
  • Enclave of the Returned
  • Brother Barrow's Tombkeepers Inc.
  • Ragehollow
  • The Monster Mash
  • Halls of Greater Dread
  • Workshops of the Forge God
  • Lesser Temple of Hades
  • The Great Library
  • The Jersey Devils
  • The Giants
  • Nightmare Town
  • Aah!  Real Demons
  • Redoubt of the Immortal
  • Elemental Prisons
  • Remember the Titans
  • The Blood Boss's Throne of Blood
  • Lair of an Ancient Dragon
  • Greater Temple of Hades
  • Defile of the Demon Prince
  • Lair of the Great Theurge
  • Planar Embassies
  • The Shores of Styx

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Top Down Versus Bottom Up

The Anti-Beedo Returns

You're probably familiar with the terms "top down" or "bottom up"; they're frequently used in the business world  for planning, and I've seen them used in design and software development as well.  We'll frequently specify a top down or bottoms up approach to generating a project plan or a budget, for instance.

Top down revolves around decomposition; set an overall target or objective, and then break down that monolithic piece until you're down to the right level of detail.  "The software budget this year is $XX dollars; let's allocate that to the different business units based on their percentage of the overall headcount".  You won't know the details of how you're spending those software dollars until much further along in the process, but you're progressively decomposing the overall budget until you get to the requisite level of detail, while staying within those overarching constraints set at the beginning.

A bottoms up approach is the opposite; you'd start with the actual departments, aggregate their detailed software development requests, assign dollar values, and generate a budget by rolling up the sums from the lowest level of detail.  Sometimes those roll ups put you way off target!

That's a brief introduction to the terms; the reasons why to use one approach over another is a different matter.  However, this is a gaming blog, so let's swing the discussion back around to dungeons.  Part of my decision to step outside my normal thinking (to become... The Anti-Beedo) was to apply a top down approach to the latest dungeon.

Beedo always used to start with the details of rooms, encounters, lairs, and inhabitants and assemble the maps piecemeal later; the Anti-Beedo wants to start with the maps, and use random stockers to blow out lots of content, and work out the details later.

The top down approach dictated a 10-level dungeon (the way Gary meant it to be), with the thinking that each level will target 100-120 rooms, divided into 3-4 themes or sub levels on each major level.  I quickly put together maps for the first two dungeon levels (8 individual mapped areas) and built the appropriate random stockers.  I'm going to circle back and complete the 4 maps for level 3, add the random stockers for level 3, and then spend a little time elaborating the details, reconciling inconsistencies, moving things around necessary.  Three levels is more than enough content to launch a game.  Overall, the top down approach seems to generate a large scope blindingly fast.  This new dungeon will be fully armed and operational extremely quickly.  (The emperor will be pleased with my progress).

I've gone with the Greek myth theme.  It's high fantasy and can leverage existing D&D bestiaries and take advantage of classic D&D "as is" without being Tolkein.  I can direct the kiddos to Xena and Hercules, Percy Jackson and Clash of the Titans, for inspiration and ideas and character concepts.  The dungeon revolves around the legendary Road to Hell Hades - a winding passage into the depths of the Earth, culminating at the River Styx, Charon the Ferryman, Cerberus, and the gates to Hades' Realm.

I previously discussed the ideas as "Death Mountain", and you can see the original inspiration here:  Death Mountain.  Unfortunately, I'm now planning on putting the dungeon near a coastal sea cave and cliff, with nary a mountain in sight, so I'm probably going to secure a new name.  ("The Vaults of Pluton" is my mental front runner).  In the next few days, I'll provide more insight into the top down design, how I built the random stockers, and so forth.  It's been a pretty interesting exercise.  Liberating, even.  If you have ideas for a name, suggestions are welcome.  Especially something in Greek or Greek-sounding.  You guys are a smart group of readers, I'm sure there's someone out there with a background in Classics or antiquities.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Never Send to Know For Whom the Bell Tolls

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood.  Or to put it another way, traveling for work makes me reflective.  I don’t envy the life of consultants or salesmen, living out of their suitcases in strange cities.  I'm past the point of finding excitement in hotel bars or night clubs after a long day visiting one of the company's remote offices on one piece of business or another; the nightly routine instead revolves around making notes for the day, preparing for tomorrow, and reading a little before bed.  And always, the quiet reflection.

Kids grow up fast.  My wife challenged me recently, saying I wasn't spending enough time with the two "littles".  "What about that kid's D&D game or family D&D game you keep promising to make for family game night?"  I've had a gamer bucket list, a list of game systems I want to try, classic adventure modules to run, and yes - even games to play with the family.  We're not getting any younger, she says.

March feels like a time for mortal thoughts.  Perhaps it's a case of selection bias, but it seems that a lot of old school game creators passed away near this time of year and we frequently mark their deaths out here on the gaming blogs.  Gary Gygax died in March, Tom Moldvay died in March, J Eric Holmes did as well, and Dave Arneson died in a few weeks.  Those are most of the heavy hitters from my gaming book shelf.  Keep hanging in there, Sandy Petersen.  Clearly April isn't the cruelest month; beware the ides of March, if you're a game designer.

One of my goals for this year was to publish a weekly megadungeon on the blog - something to provide focus and direction.  I have to consider if the project should be less gruesome than my usual tastes so it's appropriate for the kids and family, too.  I love the horror genre, but I can’t exactly inflict something like Harrow Home Manor on my 8 year-olds and avoid a spousal beating.

Roger the GS defined the megadungeon as "big enough for multiple groups to be exploring it at the same time", and that's as fine a definition for my needs.  I've been tinkering with a place that calls to mind the Mythic Underworld, a setting full of wonder and awe, my own "huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses" that can serve as the campaign center piece for both a younger audience and the older gamers, if they're interested.  I've had to miss quite a few weeks of gaming with the regular group as well.  It will be sad to put aside my beloved horror for a bit, but there is a greater need.  I'll have the chance to put the Anti-Beedo's design approach in practice and see if I can arrive at a similar destination.

What about you, have you had any of these moments?  This is a different experience than gamer ADD; it's more like a flash of carpe diem.  In a few years, the kids are going to be bumming the car keys, attending prom, getting jobs, looking for colleges, and if I want them to do the same things I did when growing up, I better get on it.  Time is not on my side.  Before I realize it, it will be March all over again.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say
--Pink Floyd

Well, on those cheery notes, I do promise I'll have some game oriented content in the next few days.  No travel for the foreseeable future and a giant notebook full of stuff.  "Sing in me, O Muse, and through me tell the story of those adventurers skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderers, harried for years on end, after they plundered the House of Pluton and carried off the fabled wealth of the Underworld."