Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Maze of the Vanilla Medusa


Here is an interview with me talking about Jeff Grubb's Marvel Superheroes game--and why I like it better than all other superhero games. In a lot of detail.


Many of you know James Raggi, who usually publishes game books I make, but you don't know Ken Baumann of Satyr Press, who published Maze of the Blue Medusa when it became clear James had too much on his plate this year to put it out (and that's a good thing--James should get behind a variety of stuff). Here's Ken Baumann, child star and literary publisher, explaining to a non-rpg audience why he put this book out. And here's a review that compares the Maze to a city in Croatia.


It's cool that we got nominated for 5 Ennies--if you're worried about the great DIY D&D stuff that got overlooked, you have a wee bit of time left to register to be an Ennie judge next year.


The actual blog entry--

I've noticed that if you have a weird room and a weird monster (not just reskinned weird,  but like what it does is weird) then sometimes it's super fun but sometimes it's just incomprehensible.

Weird rooms plus nothing is sometimes spooky but sometimes just like the players are like whatevs and walk past.

Weird room plus normal monster though--that's almost always a good time. Understandable enough that players can use their heads, novel enough that they have to.

The first draft of The Maze of the Blue Medusa--based on my map/picture--had a lot of weird rooms. (Patrick talks about how we changed it over the drafts here).

My thought was: ok, so we can get away with some normalish monsters especially on the wandering monster table--things that just try to kill and eat you and don't, like, want to buy your legs and turn them into crystal in order to build a monument to their Glassfisted God or whatever. The Chameleon Women, for example, are, mechanically, just stealthy humanoids packing one spellcaster per group. However, even the relatively simple creatures, in the environment of the maze, sometimes just make people go "Ok what the fuck Quay Bros shit is it this time?"

So anyway, point is I think the Maze tastes good with a scoop of vanilla--and the Wandering Monster chart is a good place to put it, since there are a lot of unique monsters on it that will probably get killed and just be replaced with more chameleon women. It would probably make this guy happy, too (though if he wanted to look at the art why'd he get it on pdf?).

So, here's a list of vanilla monsters you can toss in as your players trip through those 300 rooms.


d100 bats. The AD&D rule for bats is there's a (# of bats)% chance of putting out torches. I think the Maze is a lot more interesting as a true resource-depleting dungeon, then when you run out of stuff you face the difficult choice of finding a hidden exit, finding a way past Lady Crucem Capelli or Mad Maxing supplies together from scraps and stolen equipment inside the dungeon.

Diseases are an option with bats but I kind of hate them in D&D because either you get rid of them and, yay, just made the cleric do a thing or you don't in which case you just hate your character for a while. Or they're "interesting" (now your piss is lobsters!) which is kind of a gonzo grotty zany Old School cliche.


Not exactly a vanilla monster, but a standard one. Plus something where at least you know just how scary it is on sight, unlike all the other cryptic bosses hiding in the Maze. Or maybe it's just a gas spore. Maybe not wandering, maybe tucked away in one of the hidden rooms.

Arya Fucking Stark

Faceless assassin 13-year old. But who is she trying to kill? Maybe one of the statues? In which case how? And who is she pretending to be?


The frog so fucked looking you go blind is a good cascade-effect monster. Plus like did we do frogs? Don't think there's any frogs in there.

Carrion Crawler

Scavengers go wherever, right? 


The drow are so fucking Maze. They'd be like shit who built this lit Maze we should kick it with them this is so #goals. We should kick it with them and turn them into weird spider hate cult friends underground. Whoever built this place must've read Vault of the Drow like...twice. Definitely that. And then they'd be like whaaat? Party of adventurers? You are asleep with our sleepy dust crossbows and we don't give a FUCK. Let's find something blue to touch until it's blaaaack and then resist 25% of all yr magic.


Goblins are, as established, bad ideas. Going into the Maze is a bad idea. They'll talk backwards and try to steal art. Players will be like "Hah, idiots" and then the goblins will punch them and then what? The players punch them back but..wait, fuck, some of them are


haha. Nilbogs get hit points when you hit them. Fucking read a Fiend Folio illiterates.

Lava children

Speaking of the Folio, just like "You hear a hissing sound down the corridor and smell sulfur". And a representative of WOTC is like "We decided it was inappropriate to have players murdering things that basically look like human children" and you'll be like "Yeah we're the OSR, you're lucky you have us, huh?" and then the players fail their Wis save and hug the babies and then scalding.

NPC party

NPC adventurers are like chickens, they're good with anything and they can replace you if you die. Tom Middenmurk's are the best.


I can very easily see a chubby blanket of custardthick ooze like the unyellow part of a sunnyside egg scouring the lonesome smooth corridors. Color indicates resistance type: red= edged, blue=fire, etc. Standard biomedical approach to oozes: trial and error it until you get the right combo, then remember which is which. unless everyone who fought oozes last time is dead...


Rats start to look pretty tasty after all your food's been eaten by rats.


In search of exotic stuff to put in stuff and do wizard stuff with. Probably the boss of like the goblins. Accompanied by 2 or 3 at all times.


  1. In my home campaign, the characters have been floating around Vornheim for the past few months. They just stole the False Chanterelle from Eshrigel.

    Out of curiosity, in your game is Psathyrella one of the 12 Medusas, and related to Eshrigel?

  2. Awesome, I was thinking it would be really cool to see how that interaction works out once the dots are connected. Eshrigal is lonely for her long lost sisters.

  3. Zak. In the podcast you say you came up with a hack to replace the table with d20 rolls.

    Could you explain how that works?

    1. each rank is assigned a target number 1-20--the better the rank the lower the target number.

      Roll 3d20 and try to beat the target #--
      1 success=green
      3 successes=red

      Column shifts reduce the target #by 1

    2. Yes I grasped that much from the podcast. What numbers are you using? I played around with some of the numbers and I don't see how you can replicate the d100 role with 3 d20's.
      Are you using these as a 'close enough' rolls?

      Example. Lets say you have a targe number of 11, 50/50. The chance of no successes in 12.5% as is the chance of 3 (A red). That matches no column on the table.

      For a target number of 15 that's 42% and 1% . Again no exact match.

      But they're kinda similar to Unearthly and Good respectivly. Is that what you're doing?

    3. it's not exact.
      Shift 0's target is 20 and they go down from there.

  4. Right. The math nerd in me crys out in horror. The practical GM will probably give it a try.

    1. if the Math nerd can explain any reason why the original progression on the chart (sometimes by 5%, sometimes by 4%, etc) is actually better then i'll be impressed.