Skip to main content

Cave of Wonders

"It begins on a dark night, where a dark man waits, with a dark purpose..."
- Aladdin

As life changes, so do adventure ideas.  While I wrote and brainstormed the Vellyn (snow & ice) campaign for quite some time, now that life has alternated, some of the main players involved may be dropping out.  Due to this unexpected nature of life, I'm adjusting.  Perhaps Vellyn will become a possibility again in a few more weeks.

It seems that as I talk with various people, both old friends and new acquaintances, they all seem intrigued when I tell them that I'm involved with Dungeons and Dragons (even writing one article gets you some respect), and when I extend an invitation to them to play, they seem partially uncertain, but extremely interested at the same time.  And so, most of the my games of late are introducing people to the awesomeness that is D&D.

 As I talked about in blog post earlier this week, I've been reading all of the Ashes of Athas adventures since they've become available.  Some of my favorite adventures in the campaign arc are the ones where the characters are exploring old elemental temples, Kalak's ziggurat and the like.  My favorite part about these adventures is the maps that are made out of various Dungeon Tiles.  Other DM's have spoken out that they don't enjoy Dungeon Tiles for a number of reasons.  I think they create a lot of awesome looking terrain relatively easy.  Slap down a acrylic sheet over your tiles, and the map looks solid and doesn't move around.  Bam! You're done.

Ashes of Athas used the Dungeon Tile set Dire Tombs.  I was extremely impressed with Dire Tombs when I first got into D&D and bought the book Dungeon Delve.  Many of the maps in the mini delves used the tiles from Dire Tombs.  Out of all the different tiles, Dire Tombs had a unique look and just seemed to ooze flavor as players would explore.  It was a set I always wanted, but since it was from 2008, it was difficult to acquire.  I did some hunting and searching, and I found two sets for a decent price, so I decided to treat myself and get them.  Two sets of course.

Now I have the joy of planning a new adventure for new players.  When I last did a game like this, I ran Evil Tide and used a ton of sahuagin.  This time, I think I'm going to go for a more elemental themed game.  As a child, my favorite movie was Aladdin.  I watched it countless times on repeat, dressed up as him for Halloween, and basically wanted anything Aladdin (it was my birthday cake too).  In true D&D style, I'm going to pull from my own Appendix N of Karl's Influences and take some inspiration from the much loved Disney movie.

Monster-wise, skeletons fit the theme nicely.  There are numerous tiles in the set that have skeletons scattered around them.  I also think that the "tomb/cave" atmosphere will support spiders and other creepy crawlies.  Though the Dire Tombs tiles are yellow-ish, I plan on combining them with Cathedrals of Chaos and the Dungeon Master Set to create some other interesting terrain and features.  Cathedrals of Chaos especially does well for hidden tunnels, broken columns, and elemental features like water and lava pools. 

The Cave that will comprise the adventure will also have some deep spots that lead to the Underdark.  This will allow me to throw some Hook Horror monsters into the adventure as well, giving me an excuse to finally use them after I bought a few at Gen Con for a cheap price.

Reading the Ashes of Athas adventures also made me miss playing 4E, as all my D&D playing lately has been with the playtest packets for D&DNext.  With all the options (and books) for 4E, it's almost a shame that I'm not playing it as much, but perhaps one day soon I'll go back.  Brainstorming a new adventure has made me pull out the books and start diving into them again.  Heroes of the Elemental Chaos had a ton of great primordial information, and some of the creatures and descriptions really gave me a lot of inspiration.  If anybody else has a favorite book that they always go back to, let me know in the comments!

On a side note, I was flipping through the Book of Vile Darkness Player's Guide when I saw the paragon path for an evil druid which would basically allow them to become a vermin lord.  The picture in the book reminds me of Kyuss, which immediately made me think of my favorite Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath miniature, the Disciple of Kyuss.  I noticed a similarity to that miniature and my favorite PC one, the half-elf druid.  Could a player switch miniatures upon hitting paragon tier, representing their dark transformation?  I think so.

Life is still moving forward, even though my plans changed.  It does feel good to write again and be inspired and creative.  Thanks again for the support everybody!

As always, leave comments below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf


  1. Hey Karl, this is looking good. Good to see that you're back and about.

    1. Thanks Doug! Glad you're enjoying it. I plan on continuing my updates as I brainstorm.

  2. Dire Tombs really is an excellent set. It reminds me of Indiana Jones adventures; Indy is one of my strongest sources of inspiration when I write adventures.

    I'm glad you dig the old temple aspects in Ashes of Athas. We had fun with that. There is an AD&D sourcebook called Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In it they propose a much stronger basis for elemental and paraelemental priests who derive powers from following the ways of their elemental masters. We really liked the idea of the struggle between the elements and how the priests would explore this over time. It became one of the key themes for the campaign.

    1. You're right. Indiana Jones is exactly the motif that fits these. You hit the nail right on the head. Do you have any good stories about direct Indy inspiration.

      I will have to see if I can get a copy of that book. And it's been very apparent that the elementals are key themes of the campaign. I love all the story rewards when dealing with them.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

D&DNext and the Despair Deck

"Fear attracts the fearful." - Darth Maul
In May of 2011 (which seems like forever ago), Wizards of the Coast released a 4th Edition supplement entitled The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond.  One of the coolest things to come in the box set was a deck of 30 cards called the Despair Deck.  The deck, to quote from the campaign guide, "represents the unnatural behaviors and neuroses that can come over those who visit the Shadowfell."  I would like to that statement one step farther and say that the deck represents behaviors and neuroses that come over those who visit any place of horror.  Flipping through the deck, the cards are separated into three main categories: Fear, Apathy, and Madness.  Such traits create good roleplaying opportunities, as well as further demonstrating the horrors that adventurers face on a regular basis.

I thought the Despair Deck was a great addition to special encounters and events for D&D, and I've really wanted to c…

Revisiting the Trinket Lord

As I’ve gone back to dive into the options that are 4e D&D, I took another hard look at something near and dear to my heart: my 4e published article, The Trinket Lord. Published in Dungeon 205 (August 2012), it was another article in the Court of Stars series about the Archfey. With GenCon 2017 occurring right now, I figured it's a good time to talk about such things again.  I had always found the Court of Stars articles extremely intriguing and full of adventure hooks, but when I pitched this article, only two existed, The Prince of Frost (Dragon 374) and the Bramble Queen (Dungeon 185).
The Trinket Lord was originally pitched back in April 2012, when WotC accepted article submissions for their Dragon and Dungeon magazines. My contact for the entire process was Greg Bilsland (which was a major “whoa!” moment for me). I consider my relatively short interactions with Greg to have been extremely insightful, as he gave me a good mix of compliments and critiques and helped me im…

The Evils of Fey

"They were big and little creatures. Some were hairy with long, thin tails, and some had noses long as pokers. Some had bulging eyes and some had 20 toes. In they came -- crashing through the door, sliding down the chimney, crawling through the windows. They shouted and cried. They banged pots and pans. They twirled their tails and tapped their toes upon the wooden floor. He watched as the trolls gobbled the food and threw the plates and drank everything in sight. They continued to shout and scream, to scratch the walls and pound the floors and slap their tails upon the table. The tiny trolls were the worst of all. They screamed at the top of their lungs and pulled each others' tails." - The Brothers Grimm
In the previous post, I wrote about broadening the use of monsters in my campaigns.  I mentioned my love for the fey and the Feywild, and how I was trying to step away from it.  In today's post, I want to embrace the fey, and write about all of the wild i…