Monday, March 25, 2019

The Mummy (1999) as Dungeon

The Mummy (1999) is not a good movie, and I rewatched it about a week ago. Although it is not good, it has some elements of a good dungeon in it. Here I have outlined what I can recall, at least without having to do any further research, and with some interjections.

"*" denotes elements drawn from The Mummy Returns (2001), which was also not a good movie.

Getting There

  • Map to dungeon inside Puzzle Box. (meh)
  • Condemned man also knows the way. (cool)
  • Path illuminated by a mirage at sunrise. (meh)


  • Front door unlocked by Puzzle Box. (cool)
  • Stone tablet that says:
    • the Book of Life is below the statue of Anubis.
    • the Book of Death is below the status of Toth.
  • The Book of Life is below the statue of Toth. (nice)
  • The Cursed Box is below the statue of Anubis.
  • Imhotep is trapped and inanimate in a sarcophagus.
  • Dormant mummies entombed behind figures on the walls.
  • Jewels set in the walls are actually flesh-eating scarabs.
  • The river of death flows through the lowest level.
  • A Sacrificial Altar next to the river of death.
  • A treasure room containing lots of stuff and also the Rod of Osiris. Except for the trouble of hauling it, it is unprotected.
  • A big crocodile-headed self-destruct lever closes off all exits and sinks the dungeon into the sand.
  • Location in the desert makes hauling loot inconvenient.


Puzzle Box

  • contains the map.
  • opens the front door.
  • opens the Book of Death. (meh)

Cursed Box

  • curse is written on it, roughly:
    1. If you open the box
    2. And Imhotep wakes up & is free
    3. He will kill you and maybe take your organs
    4. And cause bad things like plagues.
  • contains Book of Death and Canopic Jars.

Book of Life

  • made of gold.
  • incantation 1: control mummies (not Imhotep).
  • incantation 2: make Imhotep mortal.

Book of Death

  • locked, key is Puzzle Box. (lame)
  • incantation 1: raise Imhotep.
  • incantation 2: reincarnate Imhotep's lover.

Canopic Jars

  • gold.
  • contain organs of Imhotep's lover.

Rod of Osiris*

  • a golden scepter.
  • becomes a spear.
  • the only weapon capable of killing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in his final form.


Imhotep's Goals

  1. Kill all who opened the cursed box. Take organs as needed.
  2. Reincarnate his lover. Requires:
    • a woman sacrifice.
    • the Book of Death.
    • the Sacrificial Altar.
    • the Canopic Jars.
  3. Bad things?
  4. Hates and fears cats. Will flee in their presence.

Imhotep's Abilities

  • Assimilate organs
  • Cause plagues (blood, frogs, gnats, beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of firstborn)
  • Summon meteors
  • Turn into sand
  • Command undead
  • Wall of Sand with his face on it. He looks really dumb while doing it. Also works with water.*
  • Speak Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew (after taking a tongue).
  • Rally a mob of locals.
  • Immortality, more or less.


  • Americans—basically a rival adventuring party.
  • Magi—honor bound to keep Imhotep dead. Apparently Muslim?
  • Locals—probably want to be left alone, but also apparently love Imhotep.


There are really only two ways to mess this up: self-destruct the dungeon or awaken Imhotep. Awakening Imhotep requires (1) opening his sarcophagus, and (2) reading from the book of death. This means that if it were run straight, paranoid players might not even interact with most of the stuff outlined in the movie, and instead they'd just haul off as much treasure as possible. This need not be disappointing: the mummy is bound to hunt those who opened the Cursed Box, a likely occurrence when looting. So if some scholar somewhere reads from the Book of Death (having been sold), and some archaeologist later opens up the sarcophagus (having been made aware of its location), then the mummy will start hunting the players. Alternatively, the mummy will just start messing stuff up on a regional scale via plagues. To force interactivity while the party is in the dungeon, just have the Americans make poor decisions while the party is there I guess.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Quick "Trainstorm"

Skerples proposes a collaborative dimension-hopping train. This is a quick brainstorm about trains, to help myself and others get started.

Image Source


  1. Listen to Steve Reich.
  2. Read Wikipedia.
  3. Discuss on Chris McDowall's OSR Discord server.

Types of Railcar

and maybe some thoughts about how they exist in an interdimensional infinite train that never stops (unless it does sometimes).

  • Refrigerator cars. Unirionically called "reefers".
  • Various maintenance cars. The clean the ballast, rearrange the ballast, clear the snow, distribute lubricant and herbicide, and measure the track geometry. Consider how these tasks change when the ground underneath the ballast is unknown and can change suddenly.
  • Rail ambulances. Provide services to remote areas, but on an endless non-stop train, they more likely act as hospitals.
  • Specialized cargo cars. Coil cars are designed specifically to carry rolled-up sheet metal. Slate waggons are designed specifically to carry slate. On a train that could be carrying any kind of exotic material, what considerations would the car carrying it need?
  • Stock cars. Carrying a bunch of exotic animals across dimensions doesn't really need much explanation I think. It raises the same questions as all cargo does, but is more immediately gameable. Possibly it would act more like a zoo or a farm though, given the circumstances.
  • Schnabel cars. The cargo forms an integral part of these cars, without it they're just "ends". Use this as an excuse to make the middle of a car be anything you want.
  • There are all kinds of tanks and hoppers and boxcars for general cargo. Other than the futility of regularly transporting cargo on the Indefinite Express, I'm not sure what to do with these. I guess instead of regular shipping from one location to another, you might have powerful dimensional merchants who trade their wares as they can, possibly lording over several cars just for cargo. This all presupposes that the train will make stops though.
  • Railroad cranes. Ostensibly used for maintenance, these ones could easily be used to snatch interesting things while thundering past them.
  • Mail cars. I did not realize that the mail is actively sorted while in transit, so that it's ready to ship out when it arrives. I don't know what to do with this though.
  • Dining cars. Probably more like farms or shopping malls here.
  • Sleeping cars. Where people live? Possibly unremarkable.

See Also

I would like to be sure that nobody thinks this is final in any way. I'm just trying to pretend that my Wikipedia binge was useful. I would hate for my interpretation of something to step on the toes of anyone else's great idea.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hapaxes in the Ultraviolet Grasslands

At the beginning of the glossary of the Ultraviolet Grasslands (UVG), Luka asks: What have I missed? What needs more details? One way to find things that might be missing is to look for hapaxes in the work. This is not a good plan, but I tried anyway.


The following stuff was done in bash. I assume some familiarity with the commands, but comment on particular decisions that I made. It could be cleaned up.

First, we need the corpus as text so that we can work with it:

> -o UVG.txt UVG.pdf

Then we clean up the text, and select all the words that only appear once:

> cat UVG.txt |
tr A-Z a-z |
sed -e 's/\s/\n/g' |
sed -E 's/[][<>.,();:+?!%/©&]//g' |
sed -e "s/[‘’]/'/g" |
sed -e 's/[“”"]//g' |
sed -e 's/[–—]/-/g' |
sed -e 's/[-"'\'']$//g' |
sed -e 's/^[-"'\'']//g' |
grep -Ev "^[-0-9'd]+$" |
sort | uniq -u > UVG.hapax

Line breaks have been added for clarity. Parts of this bear closer examination:

sed -e 's/[“”"]//g' |

This could be folded into the second sed statement, but it might be useful to keep but normalize double quotes for some purposes.

sed -e 's/[-"'\'']$//g' |
sed -e 's/^[-"'\'']//g' |

Quotes and hyphens at the beginning or end of a word are unlikely to carry much information, so they are stripped. This must happen after all the dash and quote characters have been "normalized".

Lots of the words that only appear once (6832 now) are not exciting. So we'll remove all the dictionary words:

> /bin/diff -i /usr/share/dict/words UVG.hapax |
grep ">" |
cut -d " " -f2 >

Again, line breaks have been added for clarity. The full path to diff is specified because I've otherwise aliased diff to colordiff.


Of the 1612 hapaxes now left, it might be interesting to see how the characters are distributed.

> cat | fold -c1 | sort | uniq -c | sort -gr

This gives a table of character frequency:

. . .

The most common "character" is blank, and I suspect this is related to newlines (3223=2*1612-1). The other "blank" character appears to be a space that did not get stripped out initially, or which was later re-introduced. Perhaps it is some kind of other whitespace.

The most exciting thing in this table (I think) is the high occurrence of the hyphen. This means that roughly half of the "hapaxes" are likely composite words, and worth considering separately. For example:


Disregarding hyphens, these are all words a dictionary knows, but which Luka may be using in novel ways.

The remaining (unhyphenated) words, are a mixed bag. Take this random sampling:


Many of these just show the limitations of my dictionary ("pyrokinetic", "replicator"). Some of them show the limitations of the process ("10x", "jrientsblogspotcom"). Some are ad-hoc compound words ("dustland", "malicereflective"). The rest are either made-up, proper nouns, or typos, and I don't have a way to distinguish between them. It's possible that some of these were "created" by pdf2txt, which uses tunable heuristics to decide where to draw word boundaries.

If you're interested in playing with the lists, I've uploaded them here. They are split into "hyphen" and "nohyphen", and should be alphabetical.

Disclaimer & Plug

I back Luka on Patreon at the $1/mo level, which grants me access to early drafts of his projects. The version used for this project was the most recent version available to backers, but it has not been edited.

UVG is currently running a Kickstarter for a fancy printed version with editing and more art. There's a link to a free version of the manuscript there too.