Last night's session was a lot of fun, despite the horrible deaths visited on the party. A wandering monster roll went horribly wrong, and 6 zombies surprised the party. If they had run away immediately, they would've been fine, but the party is a bloodthirsty bunch. If they see it, they want to kill it. They almost launched themselves at the fire beetles in a fury. Wandering monsters have no cash, so eventually they'll pick up on the risk/reward equation here.
At least one player has started giving advice on how old-school dungeons are laid out, so they're picking up on what's going on.
The maps continue to have epic-level badness. One of the two mappers said to the other, "How are you fitting this all on one page?" "Oh, I shortened the long tunnels." There is also a certain amount of misunderstanding of where one level begins and another ends. They think they've gone deep, and are spanning multiple pieces of paper. Their mapping misfortunes bring me no end of delight.
I'm not really into injecting realism when it's inconvenient for the game as a whole, so when one player couldn't make it and another who wasn't around last time showed up, I just had them pop up in the middle of the dungeon. The gatehouse level isn't much of a challenge to navigate anymore, so I just did some hand-waving and the absent PC left, present PC waltzed in. I did kill off 75% of the party with wandering monsters and a panicky run into the dark, so I'm not worried that I'm being too lenient. I didn't do a reaction roll for the blade zombies, though, so that was a little harsh. I'll have to come up with a reason for wandering blade zombies, and the skeletons, too. Probably I'll have a bunch of insane necromancers living on the second level, cranking out zombies and sending them forth to the upper levels to slay the living.
The "survival horror" theme I deliberately injected into the first level is working out great. Of course, at first level, it's not hard to achieve that feeling. Now I'm getting all psyched up to detail a bunch of evil clown encounters for the second level. I also want to add some of the "Thundarr" flavor back into the game, so I'll start detailing the central city. Gigantic lights on the mountain are now broadcasting the existence of the megadungeon, so city politics will start to intrude on the nearby villages, and rival adventuring parties will begin to throw themselves into the meat-grinder. Only the party knows about the gatehouse entrance, so the rest of the world must contend with the horrors of the lower levels - if the party can keep their mouths shut, and continue to end sessions with most of their henchmen dead, they stand a good chance of keeping that entrance all to themselves. Until somebody notices them coming out with truckloads of money. Or they hire a caravan to carry all the ridiculously bulky loot out of the dungeon.
Tonight, I plan to do a bit more work on the symbols, so I expect I'll have the gatehouse map converted to an electronic format by tomorrow night.
The next session is 3 weeks off, rather than 2, so there's plenty of time to mess around with the city and villages.