Sunday, April 12, 2009

A First Foray Into the Underworld

Last night I ran my megadungeon for the first time. We got off to a later start than I wanted (it was midnight by the time the game actually got going) but we spent a solid three hours playing, and a got a good chunk of the first level explored.

This was a solo game. I'm playing with my boyfriend, whom I've tried to introduce to roleplaying a couple of times before (he played Tim the Barbarian, who became the Mayor of Gnometown) but it's never quite stuck. He's not completely comfortable "pretending to be someone else," and I suspected that both the more player-challenging nature of dungeon and not having other people around to look stupid in front of would help. It did: he's been bugging me to play again today, and I have high hopes that this will become a regular campaign.

Solo gaming makes it a great third campaign, (you'll recall I'm already running Traveller and playing Labyrinth Lord online) because we don't really have to worry about scheduling it. When we've got a couple of hours, we can play. At some point, I'd like to run more players through it, but the nice thing about the dungeon is that I can have different groups of characters who don't necessarily all delve together, or even know about each other. So long as everyone picks up out of the dungeon and heads back to town by the end of the session, it's all good.

We're running Swords & Wizardry, with only a few rules tweaks at the moment (concerning shields, mostly) but I'm planning to add more as we go along, in response to both my own mad whims and actual campaign needs. We've already got a few changes that need to be made to the equipment list: he wants to buy jars, and finds the weapon weights woefully inaccurate. (That'll teach me to play D&D with a medieval re-enactor.)

He's running Zane Archer, fighting-man. (I told him about the Traveller game, and he likes the name.) So far, we've been running pretty light on background. I know the name of the small town where he's based, and I have a rough sketch of the terrain between it and the dungeon, but that's about the extent of my world information so far. We didn't determine much more about Zane, either; I suggested he was a follower of "the moon goddess," owing to the silver holy symbol he'd picked up while buying equipment (in case of werewolves) but beyond that he's just a guy who does crazy things like wander around in monster-infested labyrinths because he thinks there might be treasure.

I was impressed at how he handled himself in the dungeon -- apparently, he's been paying attention when I talk about how dangerous and weird dungeons are. He listened at doors, backed off from fights that didn't have to happen, brought a ten-foot-pole (which he used to carry his lantern and sack on, so he could easily set them down in a fight, as well as to push open doors) and generally dungeoneered. He was sort of annoyed that being "nice" to the monsters in the dungeon didn't always make him friends (trying to help down what I described as "a giant demon-frog" hanging on hooks got him attacked by said frog) but overall his approach of "talk first, stab later" kept him from getting killed.

Unfortunately, he's not mapping (yet) and he didn't bring any henchmen. I'm hoping the dungeon will convince him of the value of the two practices; he's already gotten a bit lost, and missed a couple of semi-important features that would have been obvious if he'd had a map in front of him. If a wandering monster check (brought on by his use of a signal whistle to taunt some goblins into following him out of the room they were looting) hadn't brought the intelligent white ape he'd bothered earlier and who was more than happy to lead him out of the dungeon, the session would have taken quite a while to end. As it was, we were both tired, and I was happy for a convenient excuse to get Zane back to town.

The main thing I'm not happy with about the dungeon is that it doesn't yet have a name. Zane knows it as "those weird ruins off in the hills" which is enough to get a game going, but at some point I really need to get around to naming the dang thing. I want to give it a color+noun name, and I think the first part of that will be either "jade" or "jet," but I've yet to think of a good noun that starts with "b" and isn't "blood."

Overall, though, a good session. It'll be interesting to see how things develop from here.


  1. Awesome! I'm shocked the guy who enjoys dressing up like a 15th century knight has issues with "pretending to be someone else", but hey, different strokes for different folks.

    As for the weapon weights, like hit points, weight in D&D is an abstraction of more than just one factor. It also includes issues such as how easy something is to carry. For instance, lugging around a 10 lbs bag of flour is very different from carrying five unsheathed and double-edged swords. Most of the "weight" of polearms is actually due to their length rather than the mass of the metal and wood.

    However, if you want to make him happy, you can probably just crib your weights from places like this.

  2. It truly is the year of the megadungeon, isn't it. I prepped my own last week and I'm hoping my sandbox-players will wander into it some point soon.

    Who am I kidding, I'm totally going to push them there.

  3. Barnacle, Bastion, Bastille, Bivouac, Belfry, Balance (as in a scale), Brass, Bronze, Bell, Bog, Babbler.

    the Jade Babbler. A gargantuan and grotesque bas-relief carved/installed on the side of a cliff, surrounded by mysterios cyclopean ruins. Once every 23 years the Great Viridian Comet returns, and under its light the Babbler speaks in long dead tongue.

    Or not.

  4. Barrows?

    Jade Barrows sounds pretty good to my ear, at least.

  5. Perhaps the name of the place should be associated with the name of the creator or the sentient force inhabiting it, along the lines of Castle Heterodyne?

  6. Your boyfriend was an excellent Mayor of Gnometown. That oneshot was one of the most fun ones I've ever played. He should play again with us sometime.