Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Go Die In a Hole: a Podcast for You

 Back in 2019, me and Nick put our microphones together and made a podcast called Go Die in a Hole.  We made 2 episodes.  It was a magical journey in which I learned how much I hate the sound of my own voice.

The concept:

Go Die would be a podcast where we analyzed adventure design, specifically dungeon design.  There aren't a lot of podcasts that focus specifically on dungeon design.  

* Which elements of the dungeon work well?  Which elements suck?

* How does the dungeon's layout affect how it plays?  How's the flow and the tempo?

* How well does the dungeon tell a story?

To explore these questions, we would spend 1 episode exploring a dungeon in rapid fashion: one person would be the DM and the other person would be the entire party.  Combat would be resolved in a single roll, or would be hand-waved entirely.  

Then we would spend episode two discussing the adventure.  The focus would be on (a) how information about the dungeon is presented to the player, (b) the types of decisions/problems that the dungeon presents, and (c) how a party would make these decisions.

We only sorta succeeded at these goals.

Anyway, now we made two more, so there's four in total.  And I guess that's pretty cool.

Episode 1

I run Nick through B1: In Search of the Unknown, written by Mike Carr in 1979.  It was the adventure that was included in the first edition of Basic D&D.

Episode 2

We talk about B1: In Search of the Unknown.

Episode 3

Nick runs me through CM8: The Endless Stair, written in 1987 by Ed Greenwood (creator of the Forgotten Realms).  It was an adventure for the Companion Set.

Episode 4

We talk about CM8: The Endless Stair.


Hopefully it won't be 2 years before we record another one.

Thank you, Nick, for your melodious voice and vorpal wit.  You have a better work ethic than me, and I resent you only slightly for it.

Note: not a Patreon post.  Psh.

Friday, January 14, 2022


Imagine a 2d wizard, living entirely in the photon-thin surface of your television screen, who learns about the existence of a third dimension--hitherto unobserved by himself.

Wizzrobe from Zelda (1986)

And even though the two-dimensional wizard might have some understanding of these spaces and its inhabitants, the wizard still has no way to interact with it.  None of his tools give him the ability to interact with the world in a three-dimensional way.  Even his mightiest spells are two-dimensional.

So what that wizard needs is a three-dimensional tool.  Even a humble instrument would give him the purchase he needs to begin his three-dimensional machinations.  But it is difficult--so crushingly difficult--to construct such things from two-dimensional tools.

But by now you already understand that all of this is just an analogy for three-dimensional wizards struggling to interact with the four-dimensional universe, so let us speak plainly.

A tool that allows a three-dimensional creature to access the fourth dimension is called a tetravect.

The smallest four-dimensional organisms are gorbels, and many wizards attempt to summon the blasted creatures and attempt to make a tetravect from  their bodies (which have organs that grow fourth-dimensionally).  This is a difficult road--gorbels are maddeningly obtuse in both mindset and biology.  (For example, every dissection presents a new set of organs.)

Geminoids are also an option, but no one knows their true nature yet.

Second, other wizards may also attempt to summon slaad, but they are fools.  Slaad interact with the multiverse, which is entirely different from the fourth dimension.

The third and final option is to build a tetravect out of three-dimensional parts.  (This is akin to building a cube out of squares, or building a hypercube out of cubes.)  The resulting creature is a triphage (or more commonly, a tirapheg).  

We'll come back to tiraphegs in a second.  Let's talk more about gorbels first.


Only a fucking idiot would attempt to reach the fourth dimension with a gorbel-based tetravect scheme, and yet it happens often enough that we had better stat out the little monsters.

Gorbels are red, rubbery orb creatures.  They have three eyestalks that can be retracted inside their head.  They have two blubbery baby arms that terminate in bulky claws.  And they have a dull, drooling mouth that hides a decent set of fangs.  They are 2-3' in diameter, and they weigh less that you think.

Gorbel from the Fiend Folio (1981)
Does anyone know who the illustrator is?


Lvl 3  Def leather  Bite 1d6

Climb average  Int 2  Dis oblivious

Rubbery - Immune to bludgeoning damage and falls.  Bounces as well as a basketball.

Self-Insertion - Whenever a gorbel takes damage, it splits into two nearly-identical gorbels (with the same current HP).  (This the actually a different insertion of the same gorbel, but don't worry about that.)

Spike Burst - When a gorbel is killed, it deals 1d4 piercing damage to all creatures within 10'.  Dex save for half.

Psuedoresurrection - Gorbels that die have a 4-in-6 chance of reappearing 1d6 minutes later at some location within 200'.

Gorbels are difficult to keep in captivity.  When bored, they bite themselves (creating more gorbels) or engage in "barbering" where they bite the eyestalks off of other gorbels.  They are famously difficult to entertain, and gorbel-keepers are advised to hire professional entertainers.  (Gorbels enjoy slapstick and children's stories.  At no point do they laugh, smile, or show any reaction.  If bored, they will wander off and commit mischief.)

Wizards who wish to keep gorbels are advised to have a disintegrator on hand so that excess gorbels can be killed instantaneously.  They will also need a system to hunt down psuedoresurrected gorbels and throw them into the disintegrator.

Gorbel-keepers are also advised to construct their lair in such a way as to avoid Gorbel Resonance Cascades.  GRCs occur when a gorbel takes damage in such a way that when new gorbels are inserted into existence, they also take damage.  A pit of acid can cause GRCs.  So can a small room with strong walls.  Once more and more gorbels are bent into a space, they can begin taking crush damage from all of the other gorbels, creating a runaway reaction that can explode castles and collapse dungeons.

And of course, the sequela of a GRC is always a bunch of gorbels reappearing in the area.  Gorbels can become aggressive when they outnumber non-gorbels by a large margin.

It is not known what type of food gorbels actually eat.  They obviously get hungry, and they are always trying to eat things, but nothing seems to give them sustenance and most things cause them to vomit and take damage. 

They are famously oblivious.  Roll a d3 when you encounter one to determine its disposition.

1 - Oblivious.  Ex: staring into the sun.  Aggressive if touched.

2 - Distracted.  Ex: trying to eat a rock, gagging, and throwing it back up again.  Aggressive if touched.

3 - Aggressive.  Will try to eat you while shouting its name.  Aggressive gorbels in adjacent rooms will hear the commotion and come bouncing in.

Magic Items of the Gorbels

In the process of making a tetravect from a gorbel, there will be many failed attempts.

Gorbelblood Potion 

Creates a clone of the drinker without any clothing or items.).  Prepared spells are split randomly between the two.  Yes, if you use it on a PC, you can now control two identical PCs.  After 1 hour, one of the two clones (determined randomly) melts painfully over the course of five minutes. 

The name of the potion is a bit of a misnomer, as gorbels lack blood, instead having a pneumatic circulatory system.

Gorbel Bile

Comes in a vial with 5 applications.  Each application of bile reduces an objects weight by 20 lbs, down into the negative weights.  Smaller doses can be applied, if you wish.  Lasts 1 hour.

If applied to a 20 lb object, the object now becomes weightless.  A second application causes the object to weigh -20 lbs, and causing it to fall upwards if not secured.  A third application causes it to weigh -40 lbs, and so on.  

If drank, each application gives you +2 to jumping and -2 to shoving (and similar).

The name of this potion is absolutely accurate.  Gorbels are 50% bile by weight--although distilling it correctly is another challenge.

Gorbel Bone Chariot

Gorbels are boneless.  Inducing osteogenesis in gorbels is a biomantic and spiritual challenge.  So is removing them, since gorbel corpse disappear shortly after their death.

A successful gorbel bone chariot is a successful tetravect--the point of this whole exercise.  The chariot described below is only one form that a gorbel-based tetravect could take.  The chariot is a spherical cage, 10' in diameter, made from chrome-plated gorbel bones.  When used, all creatures inside the cage are shifted along a fourth-dimension access to a place a few centimeters outside our universe.  The rider with the highest Charisma is the "driver" and controls the function of the chariot.

Unlike most (spirit-facilitated) teleports, this is a "sharp" teleportation.  Anyone who is halfway in the chariot when it teleports will be cut in half.  If you teleport into a solid object you will be fused with it.  It sounds like a thundercrack every time it is used, and hearing protection is strongly recommended.

There is no three-dimensional air out there.  Anyone who uses the chariot without fully exhaling and relaxing their airways will take 1d6 Con damage (if reduced to 0 Con, the result is lung eversion and death).  Even with that precaution, anyone remaining in an extradimensional space will lose consciousness after 2 rounds.  (I'm glossing over the other effects, like the nitrogen bubbles and edema.  You honestly need a space suit.)

From here, you can observe any location as if you could see through walls.  Additionally, you can teleport to any visible location with 1000'.  Each of these two usages causes the passengers to gain 1 point of Trauma.  

If you see a gorbel's true form from this vantage point, take another point of Trauma.