Saturday, January 1, 2022

That Which is Dead May Not Die

Yesterday I mucked the stalls.  After 16 months of neglect, the old "Lich House" was completely inundated with rotting piles of spam and junk comments.  I suppose it's fine to have zero comment moderation enabled if you're going to weed the garden on a regular basis, but the Lich House had become a tomb overgrown with sketchy offers leading to the dark web.

I am putting a difficult year and a half behind me.  Beyond the obvious (we've all been living through a pandemic) I've had kids go off the rails, serious home damage, and a tough work environment - challenges in multiple dimensions that knocked me off the internet for an extended time.  We've all had those days, months, years, decades.  For me it's been this past year.  Things are turning around.  It's time to dig out of the crypt again and emerge, hesitantly, into the cool night air.

I've still been running some games!  I've had a kids and dad's group that's met regularly since about 2007, and while we skipped here and there, we mostly kept playing.  We finished WOTC's Tomb of Annihilation and moved on to 5E's official megadungeon, Undermountain (official title - Waterdeep:  Dungeon of the Mad Mage).  It's a much-maligned publication by the Gen Z crowd.  I'm determined to see for myself if 5E could be folded, shaped, and forced into behaving like a system fit for an old-school megadungeon campaign.

Oh, you've noticed 16 months away from the blogosphere hasn't dimmed my disdain for the Fifth?  It's true, the love-hate relationship with modern D&D is still in force.  My players adore this game system.  I like my players and am willing to indulge them.  I continue to see the Fifth as a personal challenge to prove that you can parrot more satisfying game styles from simpler times in the hobby.  I'm doing it for science.

Here's what's next for me.  First, I haven't been reading any blogs - I want to catch up with what people have been talking about the past year.  I'll continue to split time between what's happening in the OSR discussions versus a few of the 5E-centric bloggers out there I used to enjoy.  I'll also do some retrospectives on Undermountain to date and how I've managed to build a compelling dungeon exploration campaign for the Fifth around a 'big dumb hack and slash dungeon with no story'.


  1. Welcome back to blogging! It's been rough for everybody, and I'm glad to see you posting once more.

  2. Welcome back! I shall keep an eye out for any new posts from you.

  3. Nice to hear from you again! Your Black City campaign was so influential in my B/X campaign that lasted over five years, until it fizzled out in the pandemic.

    I played in a Tomb of Annihilation campaign. It felt reasonably "old school" to me, in that I felt that my character was at real risk quite a few times.

    I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on Dungeon of the Mad Mage. I haven't played or run it myself, but I'm keen to see if an old school megadungeon (which it is sort of written as) can work that way in 5e, which doesn't really have the XP system to make sense of a free-form megadungeon.

    It's written in an old school way, with lots of factions that you could conceivably ally with or play off against each other, etc., but the level advancement suggests that you are expected to just systematically clear every level. I'd rather play a more wild and wooly game where you get a quest to retrieve a treasure from way deeper than you ought to be going, etc.

    1. Jesse, your critique of Undermountain is spot on and I saw the same issues when I sat down with the material. As I get caught up with the campaign I'll share several techniques I've tried to employ to ameliorate the problems.

  4. Was pleasantly surprised to see your blog come up in my RSS feed! Welcome back and glad you're writing again. Sending good thoughts and energy your way for you and your family. Take care and Happy New Year!

  5. hella interested in your Dungeon Of The Mad Mage thoughts! never looked into that one that much but always kinda curious about it

  6. Welcome back - I've always enjoyed your posts and missed your presence!

  7. Is that a light burning in the Lich House? Awesome, welcome back! Your influence on my games has been massive. I look forward to what you’ve got in store for the community.

  8. As someone who discovered your blog late, seemmingly dead, I'm really pleased by your comeback and I wish you a happy New Year!

    I also have a love-hate relationship with 5E, always interesting to read converging opinions on this.

  9. You still have some hopeful readers here! :)
    I'd like to read some stories of your experiences with Dungeon of The Mad Mage, for example.

  10. Happy to see you back!
    Besides some random bursts of activity, my blog has been quite silent as well. I've been reading, but mostly keeping to myself.

  11. Glad you're back! I legitimately thought you were dead lol.