Map & Plot Idea: Tomb of the Sun

Tomb of the Sun Map

The following is a small plot idea I created to go with this map. I’ve been doing a bit of research on Archaeoastronomy (specifically, I’m a huge buff!) and have been jotting down some ideas for maps, encounters and even entire adventures based around areas, puzzles, and beings centered around cycles of celestial bodies.

Here you go… My first hand drawn map! (and… my first handcrafted scenario now I think about it… even if only a part of one)

Set within a hill 10 miles outside of town, whoever (or whatever) created the Tomb of the Sun, that knowledge is now lost to history. Nevertheless, a local circle of druids gather at this site every year on the Summer Solstice. However, the druids were never seen returning from last year’s ceremony.

And the Summer Solstice is tomorrow.

Inspiration for this simple tomb was taken from the real world site, Newgrange. The entrance is on the southeast corner of an artificial hill.


On the day of the Summer Solstice, light from the sun enters and streams all the way to the back of this cross shaped structure. This does not happen any other day of the year. Also, the shape of this tomb matches a constellation in the sky (Cygnus), as it would be positioned on the ground.

Some ideas for this encounter:

  • The adventurers come across a disheveled old sage with opaque, cloudy eyes. Although he is clearly blind, he seems to have no problems interacting with the world. He tells the adventurers of a  legend concerning the return of an ancient demon “when the stars and sun align with the tomb”.
  • The druid circle is actually more of an evil cult. One obsessed with a belief that the world was created by the sun and that the circle of life must be completed by the earth returning to the sun.
  • Currently, an evil druid is completing a year long ritual that began with the sacrifice of the other 12 druids within his circle this time last year. He believes that when he completes the final step, a ritual suicide at noon on the Summer Solstice, that he summons the elder God, Sol’gadon.
  • The belief of these druids is that when Sol’gadon is called, that he will resurrect them all as immortal beings on earth with the power to “return the earth to the sun”. Of course they’re wrong in this belief; if summoned, Sol’gadon ‘resurrects’ them, but as slaves under his control.
  • Sol’gadon‘s domain is one of the stars (of the same name) in the constellation for which the Tomb of the Sun matches
  • There is an altar at the rear of the tomb crafted entirely out of one enormous block of stone that shines as bright as a small star when light from the sun hits it. Various glyphs decorate this alter in the shape of the sun (which, of course is, itself a star)









2018 New Year’s Dungeon Master Resolutions

Who knows if I even accomplish half of any one of these resolutions, but I’ll throw my hat in the ring and commit to something different than the usual resolutions that people do.

In no particular order:

  1. Practice being neutral as a DM.
  2. Yet, be a cheerleader for the PC’s. You can still be that hot brunette chick on the sidelines in a miniskirt for the homecoming game, rooting for the players, even if not actively influencing the outcome of the game.
  3. Don’t feel bad when the PC’s do dumb shit that gets them killed. Or when they walk right past obviously hidden treasure.
  4. Run more adventures that resolve within 1-3 sessions.
  5. Read more. A LOT more.
  6. True inclusiveness recognizes (and respects) that everyone’s version of fantasy and what is fun is different; not the same homogenization of boring shit. So, I’m going to do my part in my community (albeit it a tiny one) to further the time tested traditions of chicks in chainmail bikinis (in distress, needing to be saved, of course), femme racist elves, gonzo 14 year old boy humor, and Evil DM shenanigans.
  7. Paint the boxes upon boxes of unpainted Reaper miniatures I’ve collected…
  8. Drink more while playing D&D.
  9. Draw more maps with cool adventure hooks for when things go off the rails.
  10. Listen to more Black Sabbath.
  11. Work on a better list of resolutions for 2019.

The Good Dungeon Master









How far does a Dungeon Master go?


How far do you go, as a Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Judge, to steer PCs toward special treasure or effects? Stuff that you probably just as much want to see your friends find (and play with) as you’re hoping they will.

For example, in Sailors of the Starless Sea 2nd printing (for DCC RPG), the PCs investigate the hot pits in H-1, but keep wimping out, not to go down further. This is understandable as it is clearly dangerous, but now they miss any opportunity to acquire the Fiend-Blade or a Blessing of the Slow God. Despite me even encouraging them to return later (I mean, it’s a perfect place to thaw out a decades old frozen Chaos Lord…)

Then, a PC actually pulls the bronze ring in the pool in 1-2, survives, and falls into 1-3, but then never even says anything about “oh, let me look around here”. So, it’s not like the Band of Fire is just going to slip onto his finger (ala The One Ring, although now I think of it, I probably missed an opportunity to play it like that!) I give a little extra description to entice further exploration, but it’s like survival kicks in and the priority is simply to get out ASAP, and so the legendary ring remains in the much covered in hundreds of old skulls.

So, a DM, should be “Neutral”, yet I think we also ought to be cheerleaders for the PC’s.

But like a cheerleader, we cannot actively affect the outcome of the game. Yet, it drives me nuts in my OCD brain thinking of cool things that totally go unnoticed simply because a PC won’t at least say “I want to look X to see if there’s anything there amongst all of the A’s, B’s and C’s you just described as being there”. And, I’ve learned that there’s no fun at all just giving them an uncalled for “passive perception” type of roll to do it for them.

If the item, place, etc. is truly necessary for the game, then I see three options:

  1. Make multiple way for the PCs to come across it
  2. Should be rare, but sometimes you have to hit them over the head with it if the DM and PCs simply aren’t on the same wavelength (i.e. if you feel it’s “your fault” and not describing the situation accurately.)
  3. An option for stellar DMs, improvise around it. The PCs don’t find the widget that saves the kingdom at the last minute? Fine. The Kingdom falls. Tear up the last couple sheets of paper you have in your binder and the DM rolls right into describing the chaos that immediately ensues. Roll for initiative motherfuckers! Muahaha!

However, if the loot or what have you, is not necessary for the outcome of the story, then I believe the answer is to simply keep a poker face and don’t ever let on to the PC’s that they just passed up a Vorpal Sword or similar. If your doodad is extra special and you really want to see it in game, then your option is to just put it somewhere else. Maybe in your next game you create a special little add-on area (that they overlook again… uggh…). Or maybe a villain finds it! The über boss at the end of this adventure (or the next?) is now tougher, richer, and has his own castle because he came across the Deck of Many Things that the PCs passed up!

Any other thoughts?

Lazy Eye Marble Set for Curse of Strahd

I was going through my folders and saw that I saved a screenshot of this. There was a call for ideas to be used in Dragon+ Magazine. This was after release of Curse of Strahd. They wanted suggestions for creepy toys that may be at home in Blinsky‘s collection. I thought of something on the spot. Wrote it up and sent it in. I kinda freaked when I opened up that issue and saw my suggestion! A few suggestions got an art piece. Richard Whitters hit it out of the park. Thanks dude, you made my day 🙂

Lazy Eye Marble Set


A bag of glass-eye marbles fashioned in various shades of green, blue, brown, and hazel. When you roll a marble on the ground, it always appears to be looking at you.

Kevin Swartz

Dragon+ Magazine issue #7


10 Years ago on Grognardia

I think it is interesting to read the first 4 posts on Grognardia. Quite prescient 10 years ago.

Starting with “What’s A Grognard?” is important to set a certain stage, that is the wisdom brought to the table by the experienced within a culture.

Then on to “Pulp Fantasy D&D” and “What is Pulp Fantasy?” details the increased desire to incorporate Appendix N influences when playing tabletop RPGs. However, these were posted in early 2008, (a month after Gary Gygax passed away BTW) and this is still a hot topic.

Lastly, in “D&D in the NewsJM totally calls the fate of 4e and sets the stage for (why I believe) 5e becomes a success despite all the other potential escapist distractions. That is, by returning to some of the core roots of D&D in earlier iterations. The one irony in this may be the same technology which brought an alternative fantasy escapism (and signaled a downfall of tabletop RPGs), the PC and the internet, have served 5e quite well in the form of virtual tabletops, Twitch, and YouTube which perform quite well with lighter versions of D&D.

Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading



Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a lad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerers and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:



Brackett, Leigh.

Brown, Fredric.

Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series

Carter, Lin. “World’s End” Series


de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE

Derleth, August.

Dunsany, Lord.

Farmer, P. J. “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.

Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.

Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series

Lanier, Sterling. HIERO’S JOURNEY

Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.

Lovecraft, H. P.


Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)

Norton, Andre.

Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.

Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.

Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.


Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”


Weinbaum, Stanley.

Wellman, Manly Wade.

Williamson, Jack.

Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.

Source: Gary Gygax. 1979. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 224.

To page with links on Amazon for these books.


Free Anime on Yahoo (through Hulu)


I think it’s been about a decade since I even considered going to a website starting with

However, I stumbled upon this. Apparently Yahoo has a streaming video service called Yahoo View. And, there’s an anime section.

Unfortunately, most that I’ve browsed so far is subtitled and not dubbed (hot debate, I know… but as I always say, “I read books. I don’t read TV. Similarly, if I wanted to read the anime, I’d pick up the manga”. This doesn’t seem too different than what is available on Crunchyroll who also has an annoyingly low amount of dubbed content.

However, Naruto is dubbed. (But, Naruto Shippuden beyond season 2 is only subbed, so we’ll keep the DVR schedule up for the latest US episodes.)

And, Bleach is available dubbed.

Unfortunately, one of my all-time favorites, Slayers, is only subbed 🙁

It appears that they are providing content through Hulu. I don’t use Hulu, and so since they got rid of the free version, I can’t compare how much of the Hulu anime collection is on here.

I don’t see an option to change the streaming resolution. From watching some Parasyte: The Maxim, I am guessing it’s in 480p.

I did get some blowback about turning off ad blocking, which is annoying, but I guess that’s the give and take for free content. I’m going to assume that the alternative is to pay for Hulu to get higher resolution and no ads.

Not nearly the selection as on Crunchyoll, but it’s nice seeing options. Go Yahoo?


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Cthulu I mean your Dungeon Master

First Grognardia Post


So, I was curious to read through the Grognardia blog, of which the author (James Maliszewski) stopped posting 5 years ago this month (12/11/2012). I found this thread on Dragonsfoot that addresses the author having family health issues. Not sure what happened after that. Regardless, God bless Mr. Maliszewksi (and his family), whatever happened, this guy was friggin prolific!!! It was actually not easy for me to get to the very first page (I like to read chronologically of course!). I scrolled and scrolled for like an hour!

And so I post the appropriate links here for anyone else searching for the first Grognardia posts:

Beginning of Stream

First Post: What is a Grognard (3/30/2008)

Player’s Handbook Like A Fucking Boss

You really have to love the material from Venger Asnas Satanis. Well… if you’re a politically correct snowflake, then maybe not… but for everyone else his publications are like an awesome head butt from Gronk in the end zone after a Super Bowl winning touchdown.

If you check out nothing else, his core material is not only edgy, but actually incredibly useful and on point. Like a crash course on exactly how to DM, How to Game Master Like A Fucking Boss is an excellent read. It really opened my eyes. Now, I see everything I try to do through this lens and it’s simply more fun that way.

Just released, is the Player’s Handbook Like a Fucking Boss. I just downloaded it. May post a review somewhere. At only $5, I have no doubt that I’ll learn something useful and enjoy myself reading it in the process. Maybe even buy copies for all my players to read so they can be Fucking Bosses too.