Wednesday, September 8, 2021

It lives!

(Art by Dan Smith)


I’m back from the grave!

So…what’d I’d miss?

Seriously though, I’m happy to be back, and I want to talk about what I’ve been up to for the past year and a half, not that it’s really relevant to anyone, but I’m hoping to start this blog somewhere, and this feels like it.

I launched a new blog called Beyond the Weird ( with my friend, Tony Obert. That blog is a different animal — featuring original content, mostly written by Tony, along with guest writers and original artists brought in for almost every post. I don’t really write for the blog myself, spending more of my time producing for it, which I enjoy but I struggle to get content made for it consistently which, if you know me, is a pattern I succumb to (just look at this blog, THE SECRET DM, and my history of posts — pretty sporadic).

I’ve also dismantled my company, In Search of Games, which I started in 2016. I enjoyed it, and grew the company to include several other employees, but my focus and drive wasn’t there, and ultimately I decided it was time to move on.

So I formed KILL JESTER ( with my friend, Ava Islam. Together we launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign for Ava’s old school roleplaying game, Errant…which you can preorder at the site above, or check out the rules here:

…and there’s more, but not much more. I’ve battled depression, faced Covid with my family (everyone survived, which I’m very thankful for), lost 40 lbs, gained back 20…and have started to lose weight again. I also set up a group on Facebook called Chris Mennell’s Setting Ideas and Art Share Forum — feel free to request to join, I love new members! 

I’m also starting to use Twitter more, only now I’m @chrismennell — same on Instagram. One day (soon) I’ll talk about Google+ and all the interesting conversations that occurred there and the incredible creativity it sparked, but for now there’s Facebook and Twitter (and Discord too, of course) and we’re doing okay with what we have.

So what else is happening? I hired an amazing assistant, Ty aka Eldtrich Mouse (@eldritch mouse on Twitter) who has been helping me establish routines, get organized, get tasks done, and move forward on any of a dozen ideas I’ve had in the works.

For instance, a couple of friends of mine (Jim Pinto, Dan Smith, Chris G. Williams) got together and produced a game called MURDER CARS!!! - a narrative game of vehicular combat. It’s available for download now at DriveThruRPG:

I’m also launching a new blog, dedicated to a game called Down We Go, written by Markus Linderum, and being produced by Tony Vasinda — currently crowdfunding on

The new blog is:

It will feature original artwork by Billy Blue, as well as Luigi Castellani and others. The blog is set to feature regular posts from me as I lead a party of player characters through a series of dungeons using the Down We Go rules, exploring and testing the system. I’m also hoping to feature additional DWG content, like optional rules, monsters and equipment, etc., as well as interviews with the creators and other contributors (which, if you check out the crowdfunding campaign, you’ll see are quite a few people.)

Which Reminds Me…

I’ve been working on a personal campaign setting for awhile…a far future space opera I describe as “Dune meets DOOM” — complete with hell in space and provincial houses of a crumbling imperium. It’s called The Dark Between, and I’m looking forward to sharing more about it in the weeks and months to come. I’ve started picking Dan’s (of Throne of Salt — brain about making the AI Hegemony in the setting more noteworthy, and I look forward to sharing the results of that discussion as well.

Which brings me to closing out this blog post, that didn’t really talk about much and doesn’t improve anything for anyone, anywhere. More and more I feel that blog posts should serve a purpose, should advance something in some way, and I’m terrible at writing in that fashion, at this point anyway…although I hope to get better at it.

I also don’t want to just list a bunch of blogs to check out, because I feel like that’s a cop out. Same with listing Kickstarters to check out.

Final Thoughts…?

Here’s a picture of a simple layout for a dungeon I’m working on, Nethregor’s Crypt. It’s a terrible map, but I’m not an artist or a cartographer. What I will eventually do is turn this map over to an artist, someone whose talent far exceeds my own, and have them craft something mesmerizing. Probably Dan Smith, again.

But what this map does for me is allows me to better visualize the intended layout of a dungeon I’m plotting. And similar to a point crawl, a dungeon can be a series of points linked by corridors. Obviously I want to make it more than that — the finished work will be a living, breathing dungeonscape with its own flora and fauna and ecology. Well, some undead too but definitely a story that can be told by the placement of the inhabitants, in case anyone is paying attention.

Which is a subject I want to get to in the future — the importance of some semblance of realism in populating dungeons with monsters vs. the lack of interest in backstory by a bunch of murdering lunatics hunting for gold.

I’m sure others have written about that subject, people smarter and more talented than me, and I’ll do my best to find those posts.

But back to Nethregor’s Crypt…

One of the key things I love about Down We Go is the encouragement to use adjectives, especially for players to get involved. What kind of dungeon are you exploring? DWG suggests choosing or rolling: Flooded, Shrouded, Infected, Glowing — and then you build from there.

I think using adjectives is key; it’s easy and sets a tone immediately. Like playing Mad Libs, only we’re building a dungeon.

So, our entryway…what is it?

The entryway is murky.

Okay, so what does that mean?

“The entryway to the crypt is a small chamber of lackluster design, slightly flooded with a few inches of mud. The air is damp and mold clings to the chamber walls. A single passage leads east down a dark and murky corridor.”

This helps set the tone for the dungeon.

I could add more details of course, it’s great to use flowery language and dress up a descritption, and I highly encourage touching on the five senses — how it smells, how it tastes, what can be seen or heard…how the ground feels wet and soaks through the boots as the players slosh towards the next chamber…

…but remember you’re entertaining lunatics hunting for gold, and they don’t care about the finer points of your descriptive prowess. Keep it short, make it interesting with adjectives, and be ready to move on.

Okay, I feel like I gave you, the reader, SOMETHING there. It isn’t a lot to go on, but I mostly wanted to say I’m back now, and happy to be here. But I also wanted to offer up something tangible, which I want to do regularly.

And maybe you’ll read this and let me know what you think.


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