Adventurers begin in the lovely little village of Kettle, where the problems seem fairly mundane and manageable. Although the lake is very hot. And there is some very large wildlife. But then the cemetery erupts! People and creatures from a vast subterranean realm come flooding up from below, telling tales of an ancient metropolis buried beneath the lake, full of riches and magical treasures… and full of mad mutants and raging dragons, which are also coming up!
Unless the adventurers do something about it, of course.
Teasers: Mutant nobles, snail racing, living saints, sad wizards, dragon worshippers, doomsday triggers, tombs full of traps, mechanical refugees, and angry teens! Oh yeah, and dragons from outer space.
60 pages of three-column content
Over 50 detailed locations, including a quaint village and wilderness, and then the underground village, the ancient dying city, its gloomy and mysterious under-city, and the variously dusty and volcanic caves around them
Over 50 original creatures and stat blocks
Dozens of original treasures and magic items
Overview maps of each area
How long does this play?
If you try to run through this in a linear style, then maybe 6-8 sessions. But the campaign is designed to reward recursive exploration, like a Metroidvania-style game. You can “unlock” features and items! For players who want to “find all the things”, expect about 20 sessions or more.
How was the playtesting?
Fantastic! The players loved getting to know the village of Kettle, and then discovering the vast regions underground. In fact, the playtesters got so involved in trying to help everyone they met, that the campaign ran very, very long.
Is this campaign only formatted for 5e?
Yes. Usually my adventures come in both a modern and an old-school version. But this one will not. Frankly, I’m overwhelmed with projects right now and I need to move forward. Thank you for understanding!
So. Last winter, in the middle of my campaign Witches of Frostwell, and its probably-never-to-be-published sequel, Fangs of Vulgoth, I also wrote another campaign… Star Dragon Rage. I put this last one on the shelf until there was a chance to playtest. Then edit. And illustrate. And now it is done!
I know, I know, I’m still wrapping up the playtesting on 13 Weird One-Shots, that’s coming. Soon. Just not as soon as this:
What is it? Exactly?
Star DragonRage is for low-to-mid Tier play. So you can start at Level 1 and continue up past Level 5. You start in the quaint little village of Kettle on the shores of a burning hot lake, doing helpful little quests for the locals and slowly improving the village itself. Then you discover a massive cave system under the village, with another village, and a decadent dying city, and a nether-city, and more caves… It’s a lot. Plus, it is designed to be recursive. Players are rewarded for going back and “finding all the things”.
For instance, if you find the village smith’s master tools, then he can make you any regular weapon or armor. If you bring him exotic materials, then he can make exotic magical items. There’s a nun who makes magical broth from bones, so you might want to keep bringing her the bones of the things you kill. There are mutants, plague victims, dragon worshippers, blind opera singers, snail racers, undead knights, insane cultists, and angry teens.
Plus dragons. Space dragons. With solar-sail wings and laser-eye-gems. And they are miffed.
I didn’t mean to write a Big Thing, but I did. Actually, it’s a bunch of little things masquerading as a Big Thing…
It is a collection of 13 one-shots for low-level (3) play. Each one has been expertly crushed down to fit on just two (!) pages (plus a page of treasure and 1-2 pages of monster stats), and they each play for 2-4 hours. You can run them as one-shots, or drop them into your campaign as side-quests. Quick and easy to run, zero prep, lots of weird.
Each adventure has at least 7 encounters, with NPCs, traps, treasures, etc. There are over 60 original magic items and weapons, and about 70 original monsters. There are also Saintly Shrines, Eldritch Altars, and Weirding Waters. (What are those? You’ll find out…)
It will be in two formats, for Old School Essentials (OSE) and for Fifth Edition (5E).
Plus, it has illustrations. By me. Like this Frostback Gorilla:
My daughter came home yesterday and immediately demanded we play D&D. Since the last campaign was over, I grabbed my notes for 13 Dungeons and had her roll up a character using my homebrew system. Three minutes later, she had created Faythe the Paladin. (She didn’t know what a paladin was, she just chose the abilities Heal, Holy Fire, and Duelist, which I think is a pretty good build for a paladin.)
The mystery of the stolen gold
Faythe wandered into the fishing village of Anglerhead and found two sailors from the Orca Delima accusing the local fishermen of stealing the gold from their ship. Our hero immediately intervened and offered to find the missing gold. The sailors gave her one day before they would destroy the town!
Faythe began exploring the area. There was gold dust in the tidal pools on the coral beach! She also saw a little girl being chased by a huge steaming Kettle Crab. The paladin unleashed her Holy Fire and cooked the crab to death. The girl thanked her, said she knew nothing about the missing gold, but had heard some strange singing up near Dwindle Cliff.
At the top of the cliff, Faythe found a small lighthouse. The creepy old lightkeeper invited her in, but Faythe declined. She snooped around outside, and fought off a Dire Pelican with her sword. The noise brought the old woman outside again. This time, she led Faythe to the edge of the cliff to show her the gold dust under the waves. Then she tried to shove Faythe to her doom. The paladin just barely grabbed the edge of the cliff and climbed back up. When the old woman attacked again, Faythe ran her through with her sword, and the woman fell into the sea. Back inside the lighthouse, Faythe found some silver coins, and obtained a magic lantern that could clear away a foggy sky.
An insightful interlude
It was at this moment that my 9yo daughter turned to me and said, “I think I’m the villain. I just killed an old lady, and stole all her things. That’s villain stuff.” Then she laughed and continued the game.
Through the dense fog, Faythe heard the sailors singing on the Orca Delima, and a woman singing near the Dwindle Cliff. The paladin climbed down to the beach, and then worked her way along the rocks. A huge wave almost drowned her, and smashed on the rocks. Then she spotted some stone stairs on the cliff, and the gold under the water. She dove into the sea and swam down into the glittering cave. Defying the powerful current and avoiding the deadly sharks and barnacles, she emerged in a flooded cave. She spotted thirteen mounds of gold, and one tentacled sea witch!
The witch attacked with stinging tentacles, but Faythe blasted her back with Holy Fire. Then the sea witch unleashed her magical song, but Faythe sang back at her, and overwhelmed her with holy music. With the sea witch weakened, Faythe grabbed the gold bricks from the Orca Delima and swam to safety. She returned the gold to the sailors and saved the village!
Another win for the homebrew system, we got a game started in just a couple minutes and had a great time. As always, I was excited to see how versatile and creative my little girl was in dealing with strange people, problems, and creatures. But most of all, I was impressed with her realization that her “heroic actions” were not so heroic!
I recently read a blog post by Patrick Stuart about how a classic D&D monster, the owlbear, doesn’t seem to embody any of the cool traits of either owls (silent fliers with super senses) or bears (honey-loving tree climbers). He goes on to reinvent the owlbear for his own game. But this inspired me to create my own monster for my Dungeon Age world of Harth, the Ravenwolf!
The ancient world of Harth is home to many strange and dangerous forces, not the least of which are the cosmic horrors known as the yugharim, the Immortal Dreamers, the Engines of Chaos. Their mere presence on Harth (and its moons) causes bizarre mutations such as the Ravenwolf.
Dreaded across the frozen tundras of Harth’s northern wastes, the ravenwolf is a pack-hunter with a child-like yet cruel intelligence. Rather than waste precious energy stalking their prey, they prepare elaborate ambushes tailored to the local wildlife. Which includes humans.
A shaggy gray wolf with the sleek black-feathered head and wings of a raven. Their large black beaks can rend flesh and crack bone, but also gently manipulate delicate items and tools with great precision. Their keen vision can spot distant creatures and objects in great detail. They typically keep their wings folded to run through the woods, but will extend their wings for short glides to overcome difficult terrain or to cross treacherous ravines and icy creeks.
Ravenwolves live and hunt in packs (1d6 + 3), never alone unless sick or injured. Their preferred hunting tactic is the ambush. They gather objects known to attract prey animals and then lie in wait all around the bait. A ravenwolf will use its Mimicry ability to call out, hoping to draw a target closer to the bait and the ambush.
When hunting humans, ravenwolves often assemble a pile of shiny objects including coins, gems, shards of glass, or polished metal scraps. When a human is spotted in the area, one ravenwolf will call out. Sometimes they mimic a human voice calling for help, or a baby crying, or even the sound of an injured animal. When the human approaches the pile of shiny objects, the ravenwolves all attack simultaneously. Some hunters will go low to sweep the legs, some go high to knock the target over, while others attack the limbs to immobilize weapons. The target is often torn to pieces in a matter of seconds.
Stat Block (5E)
RAVENWOLF: A wolf with the head and wings of a raven. Uses shiny objects or Mimicry to lure prey into ambushes.
PACK TACTICS. The ravenwolf has advantage on attack rolls against a target if at least one ally is within 5 feet of the target.
MIMICRY. The ravenwolf can mimic sounds it has heard, such as a baby crying or animal calling.
BEAK. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d6) piercing damage. The target must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Stat Block (Old School)
RAVENWOLF: A wolf with the head and wings of a raven. Uses shiny objects or Mimicry to lure prey into ambushes.
Medium monstrosity. Unaligned. Save as Fighter 2. HP 8. AC leather. Move 50. Attacks 1.
PACK TACTICS. The ravenwolf has advantage on attack rolls against a target if at least one ally is within 5 feet of the target. MIMICRY. The ravenwolf can mimic sounds it has heard, such as a baby crying or animal calling. BEAK. +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d6) piercing damage. The target is knocked prone.
Can’t stop, won’t stop. My daughter insisted we complete her campaign!
Play time: 1 hour
Characters: Rose the Druid (2)
Rose the Druid slept the night in Fang Castle, and in the morning Bella made pancakes. With the Red Gem in hand, Rose set out into the forest. She quickly spotted a wolf, but it didn’t try to approach. Instead, it followed her all the way back to the Heart of the Forest where she found her friends waiting for her. Together they befriended the wolf and Rose restored the gem to the Great Tree. One gem to go!
Webs and Thorns
Rose headed west into the Old Forest to find the Thorn Castle. The trees grew closer and darker. Spiderwebs filled the branches. Sounds of footsteps pattered in the darkness, along with tiny giggles, but she ignored it. When webs blocked the path, she used her magic candle to burn them away.
Soon she arrived at a massive maze of thorns. Rose transformed into an eagle and carried Mittens of the maze. But a giant violet dragon swooped down at them! Rose dove through an open window into the castle and the dragon roared outside.
Back in human form, Rose explored a dining hall full of sleeping nobles. She detected a magic spell at work, and found a wisp of magic smoke under the table. The smoke tried to put her to sleep, but she trapped it in her hand. Rose followed the smoke upstairs to a bedroom where a woman was sleeping, the Purple Gem in her hands.
Just then the dragon burst through the window and transformed into a tall woman, the witch queen Malice! She challenged Rose to a duel. Malice unleashed fire and thorns. Rose captured the thorns and hurled them back at Malice with ice, freezing and wounding her. Malice surrendered.
Rose claimed the Purple Gem and the sleeping princess awoke, but she was still tired and went back to sleep. After checking on the waking people downstairs, Rose flew back to the Heart of the Forest and restored the fifth gem. The forest was saved!
The little one struggled a bit staying focused and deciding what to do, but I stayed quiet and patient and eventually she came up with a solution to every problem.
The best part of this little campaign, beyond watching my daughter display some dazzling creativity, was seeing her genuine enthusiasm. Night after night she came downstairs with her dice bag, demanding that we play D&D! So I am very much looking forward to adventuring with her next characters and exploring new worlds with her.
I like mushrooms. They look cool, and have cool names like Destroying Angel, and are part of a completely unique Kingdom of lifeforms. I like that there is a giant mushroom under Eastern Oregon that is 8,000 years old and weighs 35,000 tons and is totally not a cosmic horror monster. Probably.
So of course I had to have my own fungal monsters on the Dungeon Age world of Harth: the Mycotic Zombie and Mycotic Sprawl.
No one knows how old or how large the Mycotic Sprawl is. There are legends and fairy tales that mention the vast orange mass of spongy fungus all over the world going back to the earliest Ages. Sometimes it is merely mentioned as a convenient meal, or a deadly toxin. Or it is a force of nature that must be battled by heroes and defeated by sages. Sometimes it is even worshipped as a god. All that is known today is that the Sprawl is everywhere, and possibly immortal, and its spores can not only animate the dead as fungal zombies but also colonize the living to serve its alien purposes.
The Mycotic Sprawl has never been seen in full. It spreads throughout the countless caverns, cisterns, tunnels, and cracks of the mantle of Harth and appears as bright orange lumps and folds of soft, springy fungal flesh.
The Sprawl blossoms with both wide and narrow capped mushrooms as small as common toadstools and as large as houses. These caps are typically dotted with small white cysts, and the brown gills beneath the caps exude a sticky red sap that smells of iron and rotting fruit. Tiny orange spores float through the air around the Sprawl. Spores that settle on the ground take root as common mushrooms. If the spores settle on dead creatures, they bind to the corpses and animate them as walking spore factories or False Mycotic Zombies.
Spores that settle on living creatures root into their nervous systems and turn them into servants of the Sprawl, as True Mycotic Zombies. These creatures blossom with large orange stalks and caps and move about in a thin cloud of spores.
The Sprawl spreads. If left unchecked, it proceeds to grow anywhere there is room and fertilizer to sustain it. False Mycotic Zombies merely move more quickly than the sprawl to spread spores. True Mycotic Zombies seek out dangers to the Sprawl and attempt to neutralize them. This often includes diluting acidic pools and poisoning human settlements. The zombies, however, are still zombies and move slowly and clumsily, and can be easily outrun or outfought. Just watch out for the spores.
Stat Block (5E)
Mycotic Zombie (50 XP): A person with orange fungal growths in a haze of spores. Slow. Mindless. Want to spread spores.
Embrace. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: target is grappled.
Mycotic haze. When a creature starts their turn within 5 ft. of the zombie, they take 3 (1d6) poison damage. Roll 1d6: on a 1, the target is infected. They will become a mycotic zombie in 1 week.
Stat Block (Old School)
Mycotic Zombie: HD 1, HP 4, AC unarmored, 1 attack, Embrace (+3, grappled), Mycotic haze (any target within 5 feet takes 1d6 poison damage and must roll 1d6: on a 1, the target is infected and will become a mycotic zombie in 1 week), saves as fighter 1.
Night after night, my daughter comes to me with her jingling bag of dice, demanding more adventure!
Play time: 1 hour
Characters: Rose the Druid (2)
Beetles and Treasures
Rose the Druid set off from the shores of the Mirror Lake toward Fang Castle high in the mountains. Along the way, Mittens the Jaguar smelled something strange in the woods, so they went to investigate. A rustling in the bushes alerted them to a creature, so Rose transformed into a lion.
A giant Unicorn Beetle skittered out of the bushes, and Rose smashed it with her paw, and claimed its magic horn. Then they found a chest half-buried in the ground. Rose smashed the side of the old chest open and pulled out a magic candle that lit itself whenever she held it. Huzzah!
Howling in the Night
Back on the path, she quickly climbed up into the dusty mountains and found Fang Castle. Wolves began howling in the trees. She rushed inside and found the castle dark and deserted, except for a light upstairs. Wolves howled in the courtyard. Rose climbed the stairs and heard something growling above her. Scared of the wolves, she transformed into an eagle and flew out a window with Mittens. They flew up to a lit window and found a woman reading. Inside, they met Bella, who said she was a pirsoner of the werewolf Bastion.
The werewolf burst into the room and told Rose she was his prisoner and now she must read him books! Instead she stabbed him with the magic unicorn beetle horn and he transformed back into a normal human. Rose healed his wound so he wouldn’t die, and then she took the Red Gem from his sleeping body. Success!
My daughter was on top of her game this time, with lots of clever solutions and an adventurous spirit!
Victor Frankensteingoes to college to study science and medicine. He eventually discovers a formula and process for building a living being out of spare parts. But he finds his creation hideous and runs away from it. The creature wanders about the country, learning to speak and fend for itself, while being tormented and hated.
Eventually the creature finds Victor’s home. It begins killing his friends and family until Victor agrees to build the creature a mate. He starts to do this, but decides it is too evil to make another abomination. The creature then kills Victor’s wife. Victor pursues the creature to the frozen wastes where Victor dies and the creature kills itself.
What did I think?
Frankenstein is a gothic tale of deep inner struggles, dramatic conversations, and (in my mind) a lot of gore. It’s an impressive work, especially from a writer as young as Mary Shelley was at the time (18-20).
I hadn’t read it since high school, and I enjoyed revisiting this all-too-real world. The characters felt believable and complex (although overly talkative) and the story flowed naturally. This writing style isn’t my favorite, but it is one I enjoy from time to time. And while the writing is dense, the book is not long and covers a lot of content in a short space.
Can I use it in a tabletop RPG?
There are certainly a lot of elements that could be used in a game. Frankenstein demonstrates how to create a living ecosystem around a monster: the monster’s creator, the monster’s original purpose, how society reacts to the monster, how the monster reacts to society, and so on.
You could easily slip your band of heroes into the story of Frankenstein in many places: when the creator first makes the monster, when the monster is vulnerable and confused, when the monster is angry and hated, when the creator and monster are locked in tragic combat, and so on.
All of this could make for a rewarding story, either triumphant or tragic.