Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Megadungeon Session 2: A Learning Experience

Friday night also marked the second ever foray into the megadungeon. (Yet nameless, I'm still trying to figure out a balance between the ridiculous criteria I've come up with and keeping it from sounding like a 4e power.) Halfway through the Traveller session, two players had to leave, and rather than soldier on so shorthanded I suggested that we play this crazy dungeon I'd been working on. The idea was met with enthusiasm, and so we spent an hour making characters, and another two dungeoneering.

The party consisted of:
Din Aleboot, 1st-level Dwarf (Alice Dice in the Traveller game)
Fitz the Fantastic, 1st-level magic user (Shmiff)
Yui Fluorite, 1st-level Cleric (Nina Ka-Fai)

This party was significantly less cautious than Zane Archer was in his expedition. Still fairly cautious -- they listened at doors, looked up at the ceilings, and so on -- but they were much more willing to fiddle with things. Fitz smashed a glass gramaphone, Din dipped things into mysterious freezing pools, and Yui picked up tiny robots using acid to etch things onto the walls. ("There are robots in this dungeon?!")

They also mapped, which let them make some intelligent decisions ("this door probably just leads to that room we've already explored") and helpd them escape at the end of the night, when I declared that it was getting late, and that anyone who was still in the dungeon when I got too tired to run would be subject to a roll on "The Table of Probable Doom." That got their attention, because when I say "them," I mean "Fitz and Din," and shortly thereafter just Fitz.

See, they'd run afoul of a heat ray. You get zapped, you save vs. 3d6 damage and melting of your armor/other metal. (Which I neglected to mention at the time, but further expeditions will discover these corpses in the proper condition.) Yui got zapped and died, and then while trying to get back towards the entrance Din was also zapped, and promptly died.

They took it pretty well, since they'd been kind of expecting something like that to happen based on my brief descriptions of the enterprise, but I'm entirely happy with how it went. The triggering mechanism wasn't completely clear, even in my mind, and then once I did come up with a decent mechanism a few seconds later, it was still something that was going to be pretty close to undecipherable to the players, without some serious investigation and perhaps a stroke of luck.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But this particular trap only gets set off some of the time, even when the triggering mechanism is met, and what I learned is that this actually can make a trap more deadly, not less. Because, for instance, you can end up with a character on the wrong side of potential death. And you can get PCs thinking they know something that doesn't trigger it, when really what's happened is they got lucky on a die roll.

So, learning experience. The players aren't bothered by it, and they've got a map so they know to avoid that room from now on. But I now I've got some things to do differently in the future.


  1. Nothing really to comment on, except that I adore the 'Dungeon Watch' stats you have posted.

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  3. But this particular trap only gets set off some of the time, even when the triggering mechanism is met, and what I learned is that this actually can make a trap more deadly, not less.Don't throw this idea away. Just put it in your toolbox for later. When will it be time to use? When, some time in the future, your players have so learned your style that they say something like, "Oh, wait, this is similar to the jade statue of the laughing wildebeest on level 2. I'll bet if we do this..."

    First, when this happens, it's really cool because it means you actually have a style, and your players have been enjoying it long enough that they've begun to figure it out. But you don't want to make things too easy for them. There are two classic solutions to this problem, and the first is to introduce a certain amount of randomness. This can either be like what you did, having the trap go off x% of the time, or by having the effect randomized:

    1-2 take 3d6 points of damage from heat ray, 3-4 anti-magic ray cancels all active spells, has 50% chance of destroying each potion in target's possession, 5-6 target transformed into a giant pastry.Later, when you're feeling really wicked, do this:

    1-3 random object in target's possession transformed into a ruby worth 600 gp, 4-5 target's primary weapon enchanted to +1 to hit/damage for the next month, 6 target transformed into an incontinent beagle puppy.The other solution, and one you should probably start using as soon as possible, is to steal tricks and traps from others.

  4. Ugh. Blogger is really mauling the formatting on comments. :p

  5. Knightsky: Glad you like it. I'm thinking I might fiddle with it and see if I can get some kind of RSS feed action attached to it (maybe by setting up a separate blog that the space then grabs) but for now I'm happy that it serves to amuse me and others.

    trollsmyth: Heh. I like those traps. My players won't, but I don't think I'll inflict them on them just yet. It now seems sort of obvious that putting in a random chance of effect would make the trap more fiendish, rather than less, but I guess that was just one of those things I had to see in action.

    Part of the reason I picked up Fight On! was to see what other kinds of traps people were using; I think I've already stuck from Sham's dungeon in mine. And I've been looking at Green Devil Face, which looks like a very useful source for that sort of thing.

    And yeah, Blogger's been acting weird lately. It was sending me e-mailing me all it's comments twice for a while.