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A Reliable Rumor has led the dungeoneers into the dangerous ruins of a once great Dwarven Fortress. Inside, they seek fabulous material wealth and a game-changing magical artifact – the Genesis Tablets of Primordial Stone. These are said to be hidden in the fortress’ treasury vault, accessible only when the 400 lb golem stands before the entrance.

Be sure to convey this information clearly before the player characters enter the room.



  • You enter a vast underground chamber of carved stone. Expertly smoothed hematite floors pave the way.
  • Obsidian pumps and aqueducts bring in a constant flow of roiling lava from a churning lake of fire below. The room is lit in a brilliant, bright glow.
  • The heat and stale air are sweltering and oppressive. Sweat pools off your body in rivulets.
  • A massive bronze pressure plate is embedded in the floor in front of the a massive, 10-foot tall door made of solid lead.
  • The door has no handle or visible hinges, but above the door is a row of four glittering cat’s eye chrysoberyl gems embedded in a plate of shining gold.
  • The door is embossed with the image of a large, mechanical golem. It is making a plaintive gesture.
  • There is a massive iron lever set into the wall adjacent to the door.
  • There are a a pair of small indestructible mithril cauldrons on the floor nearby. One has a trio of jade chips embedded around the lip of the cauldron, the other a group of five glittering black tourmaline gemstones. All work is of the highest craftmanship.


  • When filled with magma, the small mithril cauldrons weigh 300 lbs (jade) and 500 lbs (tourmaline).
  • If the lever is pulled and there is not exactly 400 lb placed on the pressure plate, a hideous trap is triggered. Upon the second time this happens, the vault is filled with magma and sealed forever.


  • Fill the tourmaline cauldron with magma.
  • Empty the tourmaline cauldron into the jade cauldron, leaving about 200 lb of magma left in the tourmaline cauldron.
  • Empty the jade cauldron.
  • Fill the jade cauldron with the 200 lb of lava leftover from the tourmaline cauldron.
  • Fill the tourmaline cauldron with fresh magma.
  • Fill the remaining space (about 100 lb) in the jade cauldron from the tourmaline cauldron, leaving 400 lb of magma in the tourmaline cauldron.

EXPERT CHALLENGE: The dungoeneers must find a missing orthoclase cog in order for the lava pumps to work again. The cog is a puzzle item hidden somewhere else in the dungeon.

MASTER CHALLENGE: The oppressive heat and sulfurous fumes of the area means that this is a timed puzzle and must be completed in 5 minutes of real-time.



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gallerysculpturerhodes3Daughter of Styx and sister to power, force, and zeal; the goddess of Greek mythology Nike is a champion to be revered. Tabletop gaming is not equivalent to television and movies, it is not a passive activity. Each of us, whether as a player or as the lauded Dungeon Master, owns a piece of that table and are responsible for what we make of it. The dynamics of group emotions is a curious thing. People naturally feed off of each other and subtly alter their own state of mind based off of the others around them.

Sieze the day. Set the tone for your adventure. Be the champion of passion at your gaming table. Fight apathy, mediocrity, and laziness. Demand more.

Do this and drag your gaming group onto the path to Nike’s realm – victory.


The Crown of Charon, a massive deathtrap dungeon for both 13th Age and D&D 5E, is proceeding at a nice pace, scheduled to be released sometime in May. Whet thy appetites with this introductory background and table of contents. Tell us in the Comments below which title of the 32 areas just blew your fucking mind!


Since the time when the gods first created mortal life, Charon, the infernal boatman, has ferried the dead across the River Styx and into the afterlife. In exchange, he has collected an eternity’s worth of tolls, ranging from the simple copper coins of peasants to the mythic and mystical relics wielded by those who shaped the land of the living.

It is these treasures that you seek to claim.

Legend holds that those who pass away without a proper burial are cursed to wander the shores of the River Styx, unable to cross into the Exalted Domain of Elysium. It is on this river that Charon’s pyramid exists, a grim monument attracting all who seek to escape their purgatory.

For a share of the spoils, the Dread Priestess of the Ashen Cloister agrees to poison you and lay you out, unburied, in her courtyard for one night. You will die, only to descend into the underworld in an attempt to enter Charon’s lair. You have until sunrise to liberate all that you can carry from his pyramid, chief among the prizes being an artifact known only as the Crown of Charon. With this relic, one can commune with and seize control of the spirit of any mortal that has passed into the kingdoms of the gods.

When morning’s light breaks, the Dread Priestess will use a ritual to call your spirit and any treasures you have claimed back to your living frame.

The adventure begins with the PCs standing at the steps leading into 1. Pauper’s Shrine, standing in the shadow of the great pyramid.


Adventure Background
A Note to the GM
Time Limit
Primary Quest
Secondary Quests
Area Legend
Resting & Recharging
Death & Respawning
Icon Relationship Rolls
Demonic Script
Scattered Treasure
Demon Abilities
Starting the Adventure
Outside the Pyramid

1. Pauper’s Shrine
2. Pyramid of Salt
3. Maw of Erebus
4. Scrying Fire
5. Satellite Control
6. Frost-Bog of the Half-Goristo Froghemoth
7. Gauntlet of Bestial Monoliths
8. Sending Circle
9. The Eviscerator
10. Tomb of Frozen Demigods
11. Hand of the Timekeeper
12. Crematorium of the Five Rivers
13. Moors of the River Styx
14. Nyx’s Gate
15. Candelabrum
16. The Mural in the Mouth
17. The Wheel of Mortals
18. The Scales and the Chasm
19. Crypt of Weeping Hieroglyphics
20. Death’s Trident
20d. Stagnant Ossuary
21. Vile Scriptorium
22. Corridor of Mother Memory
23. Shrine of the Brass Circle
24. Terror Core
25. Resurrection Pool
26. Docking Pool
27. Whirlpool Descent

Interjection: Submarine Descent

28. Submerged Catacomb
29. Catacombs: Fane of Nyx
30. Catacombs: Crucible of Erebus
31. Dome of Charon
32. Maelstrom’s Crater

I. Tournament Scoring
II. List of Items
III. Cards
IV. Stat Blocks
More from DDE Adventures


Game Lab – Convention MetaGame

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by Matthew Surber and C. Steven Ross

This next look behind the curtain of our gaming designs offers a glimpse into the workings of Defy Danger East, our yearly long-weekend get-together. We hesitate to call it a con, as it’s more like a well-organized, nerdy house party, but you can think of it that way if you like.

For this coming year, we were inspired by a definitive gaming convention, namely Big Bad Con out in Bay Area California. The people who run it seem absolutely top notch and have a lot of overlap with us in terms of gaming philosophy. We both have a big focus on being different, being inclusive, and striving to be the best we can. Quality, not quantity.

This past autumn, Big Bad Con developed a meta game, named Big Bad World, that ran in the background of the entire convention as a whole. In it, attendees earned XP by doing various tasks that the con organizers wanted to encourage, generally creating a more welcoming atmosphere in a massive crowd of strangers. This is a great idea, so we stole it.

The Defy Danger East meta game follows a similar pattern as Big Bad World, but splits the focus into three distinct categories and applies a more tangible incentive system. Our differences here do not reflect badly in any way on Big Bad Con – we’re just trying something a little different, because we’re tabletop gamers and we can’t not fiddle around with rules.

Each category of behavior that we wish to encourage comes with an associated title. With that title, we also include the reward of getting a coveted Defy Danger skull die, marked in gold. Though all attendees will get a complementary white die, it is only the elite who earn the gold. The behaviors we wish to encourage can be summarized as:

  • Create an atmosphere of teamwork and inclusiveness outside of games
  • Push players to master the technical aspects of their games
  • Enhance the immersion, storytelling, and roleplaying elements at every table

In order to obtain a title and the associated gold die, an attendee must complete both primary items in each category and at least three of the four bonus items. See below for the detailed descriptions!

You can also read about Big Bad Con’s meta game here.



To become a Master of the Societal Arts one must take care and responsibility of those around them. Gamer life is nasty, brutish, and short so we must seek peaceful cohabitation to create an environment free of angst and garbage.

Primary Items
Champion of the Skullery – Help prepare at least two meals
Warden of the Waste – Help clean up after at least two meals (dishes or trash)
Bonus Items
Butler Of Hope – Help at least three people find their game’s location
Concierge – Help at least two people set up their game
Sommelier – Get a drink for at least five different people
Night’s Watch – Walk someone’s drunk ass back to their house safely


The Munchkin of Destiny seeks to be a master of the mundane and mechanical. They know the ins and outs of the systems they play and work with their group to squeeze as much juice out of every roll possible. But like a rising tide, they seek to bring every one with them and help others see the joy of being a dice-chucking badass.

Primary Items
Arbiter of Justice – Land the killing blow on the BBEG

Resurrectionist – Bring back at least three allies from the brink of death

Bonus Items
Corrective Directive – Help at least three players squeeze out more damage by pointing out extra bonuses they missed

Dealer of Dice – Take an action requiring the rolling of ten or more dice at once

Trilogist – Play at least three separate characters in a single game

Builder of Teams – Devise and coordinate a strategy that requires each member to succeed on their own individual action


The Devotee of Design strives to deepen the story of each and every game around them. Nameless villains and bland descriptions vex them, so they wax fiction around these elements to build a richer, bolder world in which the characters live, fight, and conquer.

Primary Items
No Fate but What We Make – Push the GM outside of the prepared materials

No Words… No Words – Produce actual, physical sketches of characters or scenes within the game world you are playing

Bonus Items
Witness Me! – Deliver a riveting eulogy for the death of a party member

Some Part Yet to Play – Give the BBEG a backstory that makes them pitiable and deliver this to the table

Definitely. Definitely. – Create non-mechanical compulsions for at least three of your characters that help define who they are

A One-Sided Account – Go into detail about a major event in the history of at least one game you’re playing

Design Challenge – Cold Front

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Riding on the wave of excitement surrounding the release of the Fourthcore line of products, we presented a nostalgic challenge to share with us your most cherished memories from that era of gaming.

Andrew Pascoe wrote to us this month, saying:

There’s actually two moments I’d really like to share from my d&d group’s delve into the Revenge of the Iron Lich, one moment in-game, and one moment that’s more “meta.” Emotions were especially high because I dared to run this adventure with our characters that had been gaining experience and power over the past three years.

Our crusaders were investigating room E (Crypts of Iron), investigating the sarcophagi. I had switched up some of the rumors that appear in that adventure, and one of the new ones they were following was, “The secret to eternal life lies within the sarcophagi.” Eventually, they opened the north-eastern most sarcophagi discovering it glowed with this violet power. Our party wizard (a wild mage) decided to jump in and learn the truth. The wizard steps into the sarcophagus, the lid closes, and the room flashes with power as necromantic runes blazed over the surface. I demanded silence from everyone at the table, and then turned to the wizard’s player, asking only, “What would you like your phylactery to be?” Everyone roared in excitement and horror, and he declared that his magical crown he’d poured all of his wealth into manufacturing would become his new lich’s phylactery.

The second was later in the same adventure, I can’t remember exactly where we were like I can with the sarcophagi, but I know it was near the end. I think the party was preparing to ascend the spectral staircase for the final confrontation, and just before, two of the players’ girlfriends both barge in through our front door (We were living in a college dorm at the time). I was extremely frustrated, because I knew they were going to waste a bunch of time and annihilate everybody’s suspension of disbelief. However, before I could even say anything, one of the boyfriends at our table said, “NOW IS NOT THE TIME” and pointed them out the door, since our party only had 45 minutes in real time before they would be destroyed. I consider this my greatest personal victory as a Dungeon Master, and I now use the real timer in almost every adventure.

If you haven’t experienced this gem yet, do yourself a favor, get Revenge of the Iron Lich for free, convert it to whatever RPG you like, and take it for one hell of a ride.


This Month’s Challenge – Cold Front

The theme this month surrounds the cold winter months this time of year (at least in the northern hemisphere). Though the weather is unpleasant, we can go so much worse.

We want to hear about a crazed design of your own atmospheric hazards. Tell us about the most dangerous, insane weather conditions from the most hellish landscapes. Post your description here in the Commenst and the most brutal description will get sent a cool skull sticker in the mail along with the glory of triumph. #putaskullonit



RUMORS – February 2017

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by Anthony “Deuce” Franchini

  • Seizing the Emerald Lion Statue will banish a soul back into the Material Plane.
  • The Stygian Opus will shatter the Volcanic Echo Chamber, killing the Chimeric Fomorian Blackguard.
  • The Sixth Stage of Apotheosis is completed by slaying the Stone Children of Kronos.

Next week, we present a new Design Challenge, as well as announcing the winner to last month’s Design Challenge. Each month, we send a personalized letter out to the winner along with a pair of DEFY DANGER skull stickers so you too can #putaskullonit


PUZZLE: Thin Ice

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We continue this month’s wintry theme.



Place a frost-covered steel plaque elsewhere in your dungeon, ideally in a previous chamber and at least somewhat obscured. This is a cipher to translate the inscriptions on the doors in the ice room, found later.

The plaque should read: 41 62 63 64 45 66 67 68 49 6a 6b 6c 6d 6e 4f 70 71 72 73 74 55 76 77 78 59 7a

This is the hexadecimal counting of the latin alphabet, with all vowels capitalized.


  • You enter into an hexagonal room, with five steel doors visible across the room from you, evenly spaced.
  • The doors each have an inscription chiseled onto their surfaces:
    • 1st Door: 62 45 77 41 72 45 (Translates to ‘bEwArE’)
    • 2nd Door: 64 41 6e 67 45 72 (Translates to ‘dAngEr’)
    • 3rd Door: 68 41 7a 41 72 64 (Translates to ‘hAzArd’)
    • 4th Door: 45 78 4f 64 55 73 (Translates to ‘ExOdUs’)
    • 5th Door: 74 68 72 45 41 74 (Translates to ‘thrEAt’)
  • A cold breeze from within chills your breath and it hangs in the air.
  • The floor is made of slippery ice that has begun to melt, a sheen of water visible on the surface.
  • On a few select spots on the floor that you can see, the ice has been melted to be paper thin. A thick black liquid roils beneath. You cannot see where else the ice might be too thin.
  • To what door do you walk across to?


  • The ice is especially thin in most areas. Stepping on one of these areas causes the entire floor is collapse into a pit of viscous black poisonous sludge.
  • Moderate Knowledge check – The black sludge is dragon bile, a powerful poison that can be collected by a skillful assassin. Full body contact with this poison wil immediately kill any living creature.


  • The path to the 4th door, marked “45 78 4f 64 55 73“, is safe. The code translates to “ExOdUs” in hexadecimal.
  • In addition, the sections of the room where the ice is thickest, ie. the path to the 4th door, are magically kept cooler than the others. The air here is frosty, and observant characters will notice that their breath is visible here and invisible over the areas where the ice is thin.

EXPERT CHALLENGE: The air currents are mixed in the room and freezes breath no matter what path is taken.

MASTER CHALLENGE: The cipher found in a previous area does not have the full alphabet and instead only a fragment; dEfYdAngEr64 45 66 59 64 41 6e 67 45 72.
An image of a gem-eyed skull in emblazoned beneath the cipher.

Proclamation – Winter’s Cold Embrace

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The rolling chill of winter is a prime chance for us all to seize the longer hours of night and experience glorious moments of tabletop gaming excellence. Snowed in, iced in, or just too damned cold; this dark time of year is begging for you to roll out your own inner darkness in the form of roleplaying adventures. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by – no one is going to be lured outside to enjoy the weather, so make plans now to enjoy these months as best you can, rolling dice with friends.

Lastly, make sure to turn on the nostalgia faucet and let the memories gush out in this month’s Design Challenge. Tell us about your most harrowing DEFY DANGER moment, either with the adventures from our Fourthcore catalog, or some other devious deathtrap dungeon experience.



Continuing from last month, we’re proud to show off the second half of Fourthcore titles that Defy Danger is now shepherding. This next batch moves away from adventures per se, and more into the nuts and bolts of Fourthcore design.

An ensemble cast of contributors, these free products are each great resources for any game master or tabletop game designer seeking a DEFY DANGER aesthetic.

Fourthcore Armory

FOURTHCORE ARMORY is a supplement designed to offer Dungeon Masters and players new options and rewards suitable for their fourthcore adventures. Items in this book share the following traits:
Dramatic. Many of the items in the ARMORY have overly-dramatic secondary effects, such as moving the sun and moon, sending whispers through time, or destroying entire worlds.
Narrative. Items in the ARMORY often have abilities that give the dungeoneers narrative boons, such as the ability to steal the body of a monster or instantly raise a valley of crops.
Powerful. Though compatible with items such as those found in the ADVENTURER’S VAULT, treasure in the ARMORY is intentionally more powerful, prominent, and complex.

Fourthcore Alphabet

The inspiration to the popular Edge of the Empire Alphabet!

FOURTHCORE ALPHABET is a reference for D&D Dungeon Masters who are building and running dark, deadly dungeons.
Each chapter of FOURTHCORE ALPHABET spotlights a different element of fourthcore dungeon design, beginning with a short essay that describes how the element fits into the fourthcore aesthetic. These essays are followed by a table with which you can generate hundreds of examples using only your twentysided die.
The primary purpose of this book is to stand alongside C1: Crucible of the Gods as a primer on fourthcore design. All of the elements featured in this book are quintessential to fourthcore adventures, and much of the material overlaps so that you might come away with a clear and comprehensive understanding of the genre.
While this book references the 4TH EDITION rules, every effort has been made to present the material in a way that makes it easily adaptable to other systems. DMs running gothic deathtrap dungeons in games like OSRIC or WRATH will find much to use in the following pages.

The Fortune Teller’s Guide to Deathtrap Dungeon Design

This free ebook is written for and by GMs like you who are designing tournament deathtrap dungeons for any fantasy adventure RPG.
Each entry in this ebook spotlights one of the 22 cards in the legendary Deck of Many Things, with each card representing one of the fundamental types of challenges crusaders might face in a lethal tournament delve.
This ebook is intended to be an inspirational tool and quick reference guide you can flip through as you’re plotting your dungeon’s encounters. This ebook can be read over the course of your lunch hour, and you don’t need a physical Deck of Many Things to use the advice presented. However, a printable Deck of Many Things has been provided.
A deathtrap dungeon is an adventure that focuses exclusively on the players’ struggle against lethal challenges laid down by the dungeon’s designer. Deathtrap dungeons embrace a board or video game-like experience where the PCs are the players’ disposable game pieces with which they fight monsters, dodge traps, and solve puzzles in the game world.
A tournament dungeon is a deathtrap dungeon adventure run competitively at a convention like GenCon or PAX. Each group of competitors plays through the dungeon, trying to earn as many points as possible for their team before the time limit elapses. At the end of the tournament, the teams with the highest scores go home with prizes.