Saturday, 13 February 2021

The Poem Dungeons Revealed

 Honestly I kinda forgot you guys existed.

Richard Tennant Cooper
(thanks to Monster Brains)

But behold! Some people actually responded to my post, and literally everyone who did a dungeon managed to produce something closer to my stated intent than I did.

(And thanks of course to Dyson Logos, whose map was the basis of the challenge.)

I shall link them in the order of their comments.

(No, as of 04.03.2021 they are still coming in so I will link them in reverse order so the newest one is always at the top.


The oldest of the Old-School, JB from BX Blackrazor bestows upon us this. Terse, minimal, classical materials. Do you need a lot of fancy bullshit to run an adventure? This dungeon says NO.

The Tower of the Red Dome

That's not what its actually called (I don't think it has a title), but your boi James Maliszewski of the blog Grognardia, has produced an ultra-minimal dungeon for the famous, and by many, considered quite difficult to access, world of Tékumel. He applied himself to the challenge of describing every element in no more than three lines.

The Undercellars

A lovely gothic and highly playable dungeon by Joseph Manola of 'Against the Wicked City'.

Not just the only creator brave enough to put a sex-cult in his dungeon but also an excellent 'forensic' dungeon (you can re-build the final events of the doomed cult) which rewards historical investigation, an elegant balance of investigatory and deceptive alternate methods with trad dungeon bashing and also something which, with ne or two tweaks, could be easily integrated into anything from a historical setting to a classic D&D world. Also an excellent example of clarity, brevity and prioritisation in text description making something very playable.

Terpsichorean Sodality of the Bird People

Brought to us by long-time commenter Solomon VK from World-Building and Wool-Gathering

"Monedulus Alleline, a man with the head of a jackdaw, paces nervously.. If surprised he will jump. He may be reciting prayers. He will give a cold welcome to newcomers. He is deeply worried about the coming rites, and dreads Vansittart's proposed alterations."


Degenerate Art

We got another long one boys, this one from Louis Morris. 

"Please find attached my attempt at the Dungeon Poem Challenge. Not only is it much too late, I've also managed to ignore pretty much every element of the briefing except the map and possibly the word 'art' in 'artpunk'. That means it's comically long, not especially poetic, and probably not very functional either; it's meant to be system-agnostic, though it only really makes sense in a setting that's close to 20th/21st-century Earth. Given all this, you should obviously feel no obligation to mention it on the blog, though if you did want to put a link in a small addendum to the last post then that would be fine by me. I enjoyed making it anyhow!"

Don't worry Louis, ignoring pretty much all the instructions of the challenge is the norm here.

Likelihood of this being Kent in disguise? I'd say 1 in 6.

All 5's and 7's

Dan Sumpton of Peakrill actually did a poem! Its all haiku!

The Vulnerary House

Nick of Daayan Songs Translated brings us The Vulnerary House in both blog post and PDF form.

"- Who else? 1-a noblewoman begs her son to come with her. His gaze is unfocused. 2-a pregnant wife kneels at the feet of an old man who tousles her hair, gentle, yet absent 3-A boy hands an enthusiastically fashioned, yet crudely painted toy boat to a distant seeming man. The man weighs it momentarily, before pressing it back in the boy’s hands . 4-A woman, expressionless, head shaven, kisses a crying infant. She gifts the wailing swaddling to an old woman who nods and leaves, cooing to the child."

Party Cove

Your boy Peter Webb didn't use the right map but sent me this and I'm putting it up because I like him.


Holy fucking fuck. Her Christmas Knight, the guy who writes extended comments on my blog longer than the posts themselves, brings us a precis of the ideas from some kind of epic Jack Vance/Gene Wolfe collaboration. Heaving with concepts and blistering on the boundary of glorious but terrifying near-unplayability (or is it?) this truly fucks the frame of the concept of 'Artpunk', whatever the fuck that currently means. 

The Great Ghoul Market

From your boy right here. Massively overwritten. Arguably not that artpunk. Did I even do an encounter table? Kinda. At least its a PDF. Patrick should try to remember his own concept next time.

The Court of Hell

Enthusiastic Skeleton Boys brings us 'The Court of Hell'. Down to two pages! Original concept! An image post and some actual illustrations! Another good contender.

The Song of Snow and Sun

Zzarchov! Our Lost God King turns in his mist-wreathed bed of tattered finery and from his battle-scarred fingers drifts 'The Song of Snow and Sun'. Its two dungeons in one! He did a PDF! He put a song in it!

“for any peasant girl,
lonely in the mortal world
Take the twilight ship to elsewhere
for any noble boy,
born and raised a castellan
take the twilight ship to elsewhere
the bard amidst the burning hall
the smell of wine, the siren’s call
a devilish grin, to rule the night
they march on and on, and on, and on”

The winner? Possibly.....

(I will not be announcing a winner but you can pick one yourselves if you like.)

Generic Laboratory

From 'Coins and Scrolls'. Finally you have a chance to join the Skerples train.

The Manteion

'I Don't Remember that Move brings us MASKS! You know its artpunk if there are needless masks. "skinless pink things like cave salamanders stir in the oily water. They attack if you try to help him." As true today as it was yesterday.

A Peer Beyond the Alchemical Aleph Null 

From the blog 'Foreign Planets' a dark-alchemy inspired dungeon in two versions. A 'Light' version for easy usability and a 'Dark' version for maximum pretension.

Clavicarcerum of the Scribe Jamesus

From the blog 'Whose Measure God Could Not Take, the Magma-Marred Clavicarcerum of the Scribe Jamesus. Ahh I remember when I could crank out mysterious stuff. Feels like a long time ago. He even has ferric snail in his.

Ice Troll Moon Abbey 

From the blog Lapidary Ossuary. A classic one-page dungeon.

Possibility of being Kent? 1 in 20.

If you want to read some dungeons, read through, and if you like something, talk about it here or somewhere else. (Also people can keep submitting....)


  1. I am unreasonably proud of myself for figuring out the song in Zzarchov's is probably meant to be sung to the tune of "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. For that reason alone, it will probably get my vote, but I'll withhold it until I actually read them all.

    1. Holy shit I totally missed that on first read. That makes it even funnier to foist on your players to see if any realize that.

  2. I'm over the moon, thank you very much. A lot of what I've learned about what to prioritize during the creative process has been from your blog and books. I read the Ghoul Market, as well; very good concept of introducing this list of wild NPCs and then revealing that some of them will be chosen to be intimately involved with the story. Creates the space for them all to interact in more novel ways than would be reasonable to write out ahead of time.
    "A Verdigris-stained Gondola with skeletal Gondoliers wrapped in the flags of lost empires." I loved the docks. Made me think that God willing GW will someday give CA permission to make Man O' War and Dreadfleet into a full naval wargame with all factions. I will crush the world in my chaos dwarf mechakraken.
    The curse exchange is very interesting. The king of decay piece is great. Very fucking cool market. The bone key man is a great element too

  3. Hope you don't mind if I post a link to my entry, The Vulneary House on this page, since I cleared a couple of typos and added six words that were probably necessary.

    PDF here:

    Blog Entry:

    Sorry to be presumptuous, but Mercury is in retrograde after all...

  4. Regarding the other pieces, I already stated how much fun Her Christmas Knight's Sky Chasm was to read. But truth be told, I learned something from each entry, each one had something that made me say to myself 'I wish I'd thought of that'.

    I'll post my favourite parts out of each one a little later (I think that's the fairest way of going about discussion). I appreciated having a reason to re-stir my feeble RPG blog after a couple of lazy years.

    1. My read on 'Skychasm'

      What can I even say about this? My handwritten notes on my printout of this one look like the wall of crazy connections from a conspiracy movie. (Though all my writing looks like that somewhat).

      So, for sheer volume, originality, insensity and strageness of ideas this may be the winner.

      All the details are there for a dungeon, the cast list alone, Chasemites, The Affidavit Tribe, Hierodules, Grimlocks, Conchguard, Ley Lords etc, are enough for a module. The Implied world-building from the objects, descriptions and TWO (there pobably should have been more) Appendicies, is enough for an entire reailty or timeline. The whole thing is delivered in a breathless maniacal speed and rythm which only adds to the pleasure of reading it.

      Its probably not playable in its current format but all the information is there to make it playable. Markers would not be enough you would need to copy-paste and re-order the writing.

      Its an insane and glorious explosion of ideas and is still arguably, tecnichnically, playable. Dare you enter this magical realm? Very very "artpunk", whatever that means.

  5. Ice Troll Moon Abbey: I like little fish men under ice. I like eating troll food and turning into a troll. Also immediately useable, no fucking about/sticks to brief.

  6. 'A Peer Beyond the Alchemical Aleph Null' has that "wealth wreathed in carcinogens", which is always sweet. Two versions is basically a really neat way of giving you the descriptive bit and the mechanical bit in a two page minimalist format.

  7. The Magma-Marred Clavicarcerum of the Scribe Jamesus: the sense of something taking place that doesn't care if you grasp it or not. It's happening. A lot of info in a small space. A definite brief beast.

  8. I'm reading quite a few religious sites in the above - myself included. Perhaps there's something about the regularity of the rooms that suggests a planned community like a monastery. Skychasm (by nature of being on a mountaintop) sort of bypasses that - one couldn't build in a given spot, because that is sheer rock face. Degenerates' Art has the planned community angle, but is thoroughly secular.

    I suppose my personal challenge is to posit my next dungeon as being thoroughly strange and intricate without leaning too hard on magic or religion. Time to change up my reading.....

  9. Skerples Train has been delayed. Please enjoy the Skerples Rail Replacement Bus Service.

    Anyway, all these dungeons are excellent.

  10. The Song of Snow and Sun

    The time-locks on visiting are good.

    After review, the song is slightly depressing and singing it strongly embeds that idea that this will be a gygaxian 'cheese' dungeon, which is not really whoelly true.

    The dual wandering monster table and its interactions with the rules is a masterwork of brevity and utility.

    The whole dungeon has a really strong and efficient grasp on dimensions and utility. It feels like it would be unlikely that you need some detail of space or mass and not be able to find it.

    There is a wide spread of gygaxian dickishness which may or may not be fun or interesting depending on the awareness and desire of the Players. Some, like the consistently Lateral treasure where you have to grab the not-tresure stuff, feels reasonable, but I don't really like the meta-gaming or context-free puzzle logic of some of the other random rolls regarding statues, etc. This is very Gygaxian and I don't think I would enjoy playing those parts myself.

    One other negative is the prevelenace of +2 bonuses and number boosts from treasure and choices.

    So I don't necessarily love Zzarchovs problem-logic.

    However, he has a very strong grasp on the essentials of space and adventuring, the counterpoint of different effects and the utilisation of space, challenge and opportunity to create a complex but interesting flow of promlem-solution-problem which feels like it could provoke very lateral and creatie solutions and accept the results without breaking.

    And the dual-season concept and how it plays out if you reach "the end" is beautiful in concept and execution.

  11. The Terpsichorian Sodality of the Bird-People




    This is based around a rite, or something like a mystery play performed by bird people. Its fucking cool. I have no idea how you would run it. If 'The Undercellars' was Jospeh Manola doing a gothic horror which is also a functional dungeon, this is Solomon VK doing .. like.. wind in the willows, plus drawing room drama, plus edgy 1930's 'symbolic' theatre, plus mystery play? But its also a dungeon, at least nearly? I can imagine Viginia Wolfe reviewing this.

    Honestly if you dungeon-bash this one you are missing out on almost everything that's good about it. It really sings as a bunch of very particular, very Englishy, social encounters between a wide cast and with complex inter-dynamics and some neat and particular social world observations.

    Here are all the foods and drinks I highlighted in the dungeon, black tea laced with rum, smoked eel fillets, patter of marinated herriing, thin white wine laced with rowanberry schnapps, a large pink gin, a cup shaped like a dragon.

    So you gotta play it as a social/investiagtion adventure really.

    There are adventure seeds. They are of the same tone; "A vinter has sent you to them with the matter of an unpaid bill." - yes the awkwardn social agony of trying to reclaim a minor debt.

    The central 'Rite' 12 NPCs of various factions and beliefs playing 12 rite characters in some sort of play.

    That's a big challenge.

    (Also the PCs should be able/required to (covertly) dress up as and replace the 'characters' in the Rite. You can't have a D&D adventure with masks and costumes and not have Pcs wear them as disguises.

    (Also there is not enough dancing, Terpsichore was the muse of dance I think?)

    1. I'm on my second cup of Assam, and can confirm that the above is all basically true. (Some of the Bird-People have Scots surnames, this is not an impediment to them being VERY ENGLISH)

      The greatest trap in the Sodality is the possibility of being tight as an owl by three in the afternoon.

      The figures of the Rite all have guides to their movement which are probably not dance-y enough to actually communicate the idea of the Rite being (principally?) danced.

      Any actual content the Rite contains could probably be improvised by opening a TS Eliot anthology at random.

  12. I almost did haiku...I’m glad I didn’t! Sumpton’s submission was great (and made me snicker out loud).