City elements

The city is going to need some fleshing out too.  That's more likely to be needed, and of course I only have a week left to do it.  Less than that, since I'm going to be busy on other things for the next few nights.

The city of Denethix was once one of the many city-states ruled by tyrannical wizards.  Its hideous wizard, Feretha, was a horrid being twisted by magic and evil - his head was black and leathery, and covered with eyes, and his hands were red-taloned claws.

Feretha's last days were spent experimenting with his mind-replacement device.  He would scoop the brains out of his living human test subjects, replacing their minds with a cable running to his computer console.  He hoped to create an army of mindless computer-controlled slaves, and use them to crush the neighboring wizards and steal their super-science.  Sadly, a diet high in cholesterol finally caught up with him, and he had a stroke.  The captain of the wizard-guard, and the hapless victim, were the only witnesses.

The captain and the slave knew what had to be done - cut their former master's brain out of his many-eyed head, and hook him up to the machine.  The neighboring wizards would swoop down on the city in a heartbeat if they knew Feretha was dead.  With Feretha's still-living body hooked up to the computer, they could take incoming holographic messages from his wizardly neighbors and foes, convincing them that he was still a potent threat, and that Denethix was best left alone.

Under the control of these two, Feretha began issuing many strange decrees.  He became incredibly curt and distant from his wizard colleagues, angrily cutting off their holographic communications.  He began ignoring the affairs of his many human slaves, effectively freeing them to do as they would.  He announced the establishment of an elected council to handle most human affairs, as he could no longer be bothered with mere mortals.  He still maintained his city-guard, under the strict control of the captain, and the council was presided over by his appointed vizier, that lucky slave who witnessed Feretha's de-braining.

The two have strangely not aged since this event, over 50 years ago.  The people know how good they have it in Denethix, and aren't making much of a squawk over piddling little necromantic issues like eternal youth.  The few insurrections have been dealt with harshly by the wizard's guard.  Upsetting this apple-cart is in nobody's interest, the two true leaders of Denethix reason.

Denethix needs:

a. The main wizard tower.  I just need an idea how it looks like externally.  I'm thinking a gigantic sphere atop a massive structure of beams and girders, with an elevator leading up to it.  The rest of the city would have been nothing but decrepit huts used as slave quarters a half century ago, and has grown organically since then into a variety of more permanent structures.

b. The Street of Temples.  The gods will have many established temples dedicated to them.  I'm thinking Blibdoolpoolp for the Great Sea Mother and primary fertility goddess.  Because hey, lobster!  What says fertility like lobster?  Every other deity imaginable will have a temple of some size or another on that street, each with a God's Eye.  Personal visits from the gods will be common.  Also present:  the Cult of Science and their nuclear bomb (yeah I know I'm risking a lot putting that into a campaign...), and the Church of Starry Wisdom.

c. Inn of Alabaster Surprise - I don't know what the surprise is.  Nice name for an inn though.  An exceedingly decadent place of perfumed baths and exotic pleasures.

d. The Street of Tormented Flesh - The slave markets.  Things are better in Denethix than in most city-states, but yeah, there are certain moral issues that still need to be worked out.

e. The River Pristine and The River Effluent - it's got one name coming in, another going out.  Guess which is which?

f. The City Underfoot - sewers, full of escaped slaves and horrible pooh-eating mutants.

g. Bank Inviolable - the bank.  It's inviolable, because of the giant machine-gun toting robots that WILL ruin your day if you step out of line.  Finest banking services to be found in Post-Apocalyptic Earth.

h. Palais Immaculate - the palace of the Vizier, one of the two largest buildings in the city

i. Palais Indomitable - the palace of the Captain of the Guard, and its headquarters.  He keeps his troops handy.  This is the other of hte two largest buildings in the city, aside from the tower of Feretha.

j. Palais Public - the meeting place of the city council.  It also houses the many bureaucracies that govern Denethix.

k. The Street of Upright Living - the residences of rich merchants, councilmen, and tax collectors

l. The Street of Worthy Servitude - residences of craftsmen

m. The Street of Lesser Men - residences of the poor

n. The Bazaar Incomparable - the commercial quarter.  In the center is a square full of tents selling anything or anyone imaginable.

o. The Academy of Elevated Thought - Denethix's university, dedicated to sorcery and super-science

p. The Street of Students - troublemakers here.  Students, drop-outs of mild means, and less-affluent professors from the Academy make their residence here.

q. The Street of the Alien - non-human residences, virtually a ghetto.  Wealthy demi-humans prefer to live on The Street of Upright Living, but the rest tend to live together here, away from the prejudiced, ignorant human lower classes.  The odd moktar or two also makes his home here.


Mysteries of the ASE

Now that I've got the first level done, I've got a short list of mysteries.  There are two categories of mysteries, mysteries about the Unnamed Megacorp that explored the dungeon 3,000 years ago, and mysteries about the megadungeon itself.

Megacorp Mysteries
1. Why was the dungeon locked down?
2. What happened to the people left behind?
3. What happened to the Shining Trapezohedron?

Megadungeon Mysteries
1. What's with the silver skeletons?
2. Where is the Lazarus Room on the 2nd level?
3. Where is the Fountain on the 3rd level?
4. Where are the colored crystal skulls, and what do they do?
5. Where did the undead come from?

That's a lot of mysteries right there.  I don't expect my players will find the clues about all these, but if they are diligent, they'll stumble across at least a few hints about these oddities.  They still don't have a real good idea of the depth of this place, and these are supposed to lure them down further.

I've partially done with the second level map, and currently focusing on the lair of the Painted Men.  I can draw maps two ways:  just draw an interesting map, and throw stuff in later - or draw to a pre-set purpose.  Right now I'm drawing to a pre-set purpose, which means some areas are more structured in an attempt to "make sense" (particularly, the former family quarters of the scientists), and others are drawn to accommodate set-piece encounters (such as the room with the giant geodesic-dome "big top" and the carnival midway).

Other major areas of the second level:

1. Fungus Gardens.  I'm conceding a little to "dungeon realism" here, all these humanoids have to go somewhere to eat and get water.  So some truly massive caves full of fungus.  It's a pretty common dungeon element, though, so I'll mix it up a bit and try to make it a little more interesting.

2. The Tower.  There's a tower.  Built in a cave.  Underground.  It goes up to a visible peak.  It also goes down.  How far down, I don't know yet.  Who lives in it, I don't know yet.

3. The Painted Men.  Mentioned above.  They should be interesting.  They'll be Chaotic, because they're clowns, and all clowns are inherently evil.  But they're also desperately yearning for a new audience, so they'll want to put on a show for the PCs, before killing and eating them.  I'm thinking a big top, ferris wheel, carousel, log flume, sideshow freaks, rigged carnival games.  Maybe a little clown car, that you stuff more people into by putting them through a wood chipper first.  Maybe a roller coaster.  They'll definitely have a carnival barker.

4. The Troglodytes. The manual says they're hateful and nasty.  Sounds good to me!  I like my lizard men to be aromatic.

5. Midget necromancers.  Somebody had to make those undead wandering around the first level.  It certainly wasn't the morlocks or screechmen, they eat the dead.  They're midgets, because that guy from Twin Peaks freaked me out.  I want all my garmonbozia!

6. The Lazarus Chamber.  Once they hit the second level, I'll toss the players a bone and give them a way to raise the dead once or twice.

7. The Metal Tomb. I'm thinking a gigantic chromed statue of Lemmy, and appropriate tricks and traps, so that only the most worthy of players can enter the Metal Tomb and claim the prize within.

8. More clues about mysteries even deeper.  Hints about the massive gold deposits that were found below, hints about the location of more crystal skulls of various colors.  More goofy super-science machinery, this time partially operational

9. The Teaching Library.  A hologram projector with many partially-playable lessons.  Stuff about the accelerated evolution that occurs in the ASE, more hints on anomalies down below, some warnings about the horrors in the lower depths, that sort of thing.

10. I really ought to come up with a good name for the Megacorp.  This will be a goal of the second level.

It should be a lot of fun to write up this level.  I've been on hiatus over the Thanksgiving weekend, time to get back to work!


Level 1 map in CC2

The level 1 map of the megadungeon has entered into CC2.  Once again, the JPEG conversion stinks, but it prints out fine.  It's late and I'm tired, so enough talk, here's the map.  Click to enlarge.


Grenadier Miniatures - A Henchman's Tale

During our last session, in that last tragic fight with the blade zombies (encounter #11 on a 2d6 table of monsters, and then I rolled the max # appearing, 6, for them - bad luck for the party all around), we ended up using a piece of scrap paper and dice to represent the battle.

In the aftermath of that night, Too's player (previously Theopolis's player, and soon to be Mongo's player) and I had a discussion.  He has volunteered to buy a Chessex battle mat (although I urged him to spend the next three weeks painstakingly sculpting Hirst Arts dungeon blocks, I was unpersuasive), and I've dug my Grenadier miniatures out of the attic.  Plus apparently one Ral Partha gold dragon.  Click on any of the pictures below to make them larger.

What's this???  The "Hirelings" set?  An entire box full of unworthy henchmen!  Die, you little freaks, die!

It looks like the guy carrying the chest took one for the team.  Poor bastard.  That's OK, there's a horrible surprise in store for the rest of this shiftless crew.

Yes, an ambush!  The wandering monsters made their surprise roll, and it's the end for our unhappy crew of miscreant XP- and treasure-sponges.

The Lich and his crew of skeletons will make short work of this poor pack-bearer.

And if they don't, the Horrors of the Marsh will:

The unpainted wizard, from the shadows of the laboratory, watches the carnage and is amused.

How could this calamity have occurred?  Oh, right, the "potion drinker".  Yes, there's a hireling miniature called the "potion drinker."  That's a nice 40-proof "potion" you've got there, slacker.  Maybe if you'd watched where you were going instead of searching for the bottom of that bottle, you wouldn't have walked straight into the shrieker.

I'm not sure when I got these, probably when I was 11 or 12 years old.  I never used them during play, although I did paint them (and I think I got my mom to paint some, too).  The paint jobs are fairly mediocre, and rubbed away in many parts.  And I got tired of painting them at some point, as you can see by the sheer number of unpainted minis.  I will be breaking them out in play now, though - they are a bit more interesting than dice for showing positions.  I won't be going overboard here, it'll be only a few combats that get the miniature treatment - if it's a simple fight, no need to slow things down by drawing up rooms on a battle-mat and yanking out the minis.

My favorite of the sets I had, when I was a kid, was the "Horrors of the Marsh" set.  They weren't in the Monster Manual or Fiend Folio, so I found them utterly fascinating.  Maybe I'll stat them up and use them in the Anomalous Subsurface Environment.  The second level is going to have that gigantic fungus-cavern, and something has to live there...  surprise!  log leech in your face!

Grenadier did include stats for the monsters in the box, plus an endorsement by Dave Arneson.  The stats were a little funky, so I don't think I ever used them when I was a kid.


Labyrinth Lord DM Screen

Someone asked for the Microsoft Word document I used to print out the Labyrinth Lord tables for my DM screen, on the LL forums.  So I've published it on MediaFire, you can download it here:  ll dm screen.doc

You will need the Souvenir font installed, I downloaded the font from here: http://www.sitetoolcenter.com/download-free-fonts/page5.php


Gatehouse map with symbols and numbers

The gatehouse map is done.  I made a Moldvay-style symbol catalog - it turns out that it's pretty easy to do.  I had to redo half the symbols because I didn't test the first door I created, because there are some bugs in how the symbol control points work.  Chances are you have no idea what that means, but my solution was to just not use symbol control points.  So I spent a few hours reworking some symbols, and popped them into the map.

The other two bugs I noticed were:

a. When printing to the printer, the doors are solid black, instead of white outlined with black.  Maybe CC3 fixes this, or maybe it's my printer driver.
b. When saving as a JPG, some of the diagonal lines turn a little "jagged", you can see a few spots like that near the octagonal rooms.

So here's the completed map, click to make it larger.  It definitely looks computer-generated, I don't know how I'd make it look more hand-sketched.  So a little sterile, but way more useful for a PDF than a scan of the hand-drawn original.


More about last night's session

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.

Session recap, 11/17/2010

Here's the recap email I just sent for tonight's session:


Here's a recap of tonight's (tragic) session.

The party, having decided to spend the night in the dungeon, was disturbed by loud screams during the night.  At one point, the screams were right outside the spiked-shut door, but they fortunately moved on.

With their spells recovered, the party stepped outside the room, and were greeted by the sight of their dwarven comrade Rollo Jr. heading down the stairs.  Gutboy, his elven henchman, and his two dogs greeted Rollo Jr., and ran upstairs to head back to town.  After this tag-team maneuver, the party headed back towards the throne room they had discovered the day before.

The throne was pushed out of the way, and Rollo descended the ladder to see what lay below.  A rough-hewn stone corridor extended south as far as he could see, with torch brackets lining on the walls at 5' intervals.  The rest of the party climbed down the ladder, and they headed south, following the corridor to its end, where a set of stairs led up to an oaken door.

Opening the door, they found themselves in a large room, empty except for a black metal circle on the western wall, 10' wide.  Within the circle was a gigantic, slitted eye, with a black pupil and deep purple iris.  The eye watched the party as they entered the room.  Rollo used his 10' pole to poke the eye, with disastrous results.  He was filled with a deep hatred for all living things, and rushed at Too with his sword drawn.  Fortunately, he missed, and after a few minutes regained his senses.  The group decided not to further disturb the eye, and continued on through a tunnel on the far side of the room.

This tunnel led up another set of stairs, into a room empty of all but a thick layer of dust.  As P.W. listened at one of the doors exiting this room, a swarm of six large beetles, two and a half feet long, with glowing lights upon their heads and in their bellies, entered the room from the corridor they just came from.  The beetles were not hostile, and remained at the entrance to the room.  The group considered attacking them, but decided to leave the room through a door in the northeast wall, and closed it behind them so the beetles could not follow.

Heading southeast, they came to a door that opened into an alcove off a long 30' wide hall.  This hall stretch to the east and west as far as could be seen by the feeble torchlight, and was lined with 10' wide alcoves on the north and south sides.  Exploring these alcoves, the party found rotted furniture, small heaps of ash, jewels pasted to the walls, animated skeletons, and a sarcophagus containing a single animated skeleton and a jeweled spear under a false bottom.  The skeletons were quickly dispatched, and the loot taken.

The last alcove investigated had a door, with a humanoid skin nailed to it.  The skin was white, and covered with patches of gray fur or hair.  Behind this door was an empty room, with an equally empty closet.

The party kept moving eastward down the corridor, stopping to briefly examine an archway in the southern wall, with a smiling, bearded face sculpted into the arch at its apex.  They ignored this opening, and continued hundreds of feet onwards as the corridor turned north.  As it turned, they found three doors on the south wall.  Stopping to measure and make sure the map was correct, the party was surprised by six corpses emerging from the gloom.  The walking dead had knives pushed through the backs of their heads, with the blades emerging from their eyes.

The horrid creatures began carving through the party.  First Rollo, then the Claw, and the henchmen Zarak and Dingo were killed, the creatures attacking with swords and head-butting with the blades protruding from their skulls.  P.W.'s attempt to douse the fiends with holy water failed when he accidentally spilled it all over the ground.  Overwhelmed, Too, P.W., and the henchman Fast Eddie ran heedlessly down the corridor, frantically looking for the door to the north they had used to enter this passageway.  They accidentally ran past the alcove, but saw a door in an alcove to the south.  Running through this door, they slammed it shut and ran down a southern passageway, bursting through a door at its southern end.

A horrible sight faced them:  a hideous creatures, with an egg-shaped gray body, eight spindly legs, and a 5' long prehensile neck that ended in a strangely goblin-like head, with massive jaws and giant black eyes.  The creature extended its neck and bit Too's head off.  As it began to consume the rest of Too's body, P.W. and Fast Eddie ran for their lives back north, and out into the 30' wide corridor.

The undead were nowhere in sight, so P.W. began checking the alcoves to see which one had a door leading north.  He quickly found it, and the duo made their way back to the surface.  They made their way back to town, and Fast Eddie proclaimed his loyalty to P.W., deciding their narrow escape must be due to P.W.'s good luck.


Gatehouse map in CC2 (no doors)

I've completed the gatehouse map in CC2, but haven't added the doors yet (I'm not happy with the default set of symbols DD2 provided, so I'm going to make my own over the next few nights).

It turned out to be very very easy to draw the dungeon.  BUT, it is very very painful to draw that gray background.  It's a very convoluted process that involves copying and "exploding" and splitting elements to come up with the reversed-polygons.  I'm not looking forward to doing it on the first level map.

So here's the map done up in CC2.  Click to see a larger version.  The graph paper lines got distorted when Photobucket resized the image, it all looks very nice on my computer, and should look perfect in the PDF as well.

And here's the original pencil drawing on graph paper:


Funhouse-style room

I'm not entirely sure I like the symbols in the Dungeon Designer 2 catalog.  They don't seem old-school enough.  I'm probably going to create new symbols - but this will of course slow my dungeon mapping down.  I'll give them a try on the gatehouse level and post the results, maybe they'll grow on me.

Below is a funhouse-style room (well, not an actual funhouse, that will be on Level 2).  You should be able to tell why I say my dungeon keys are much much much longer than most megadungeon examples.  I've still got that last room to detail, which is driving me nuts.  It's room 160 on the map.  I decided to put a bunch of tattered banners in room 159, which leads into 160 (if you don't take the side doors), but I can't figure out what kind of trap to actually put in room 160.  The most coherent thoughts I've had so far is "trap with monster."

Enough complaining, here's one of my "specials":

150. Misty Arches
The walls of this room are lined with archways, leading into small 10’ by 10’ rooms.  Each archway is filled with a thick mist of a different color (red, orange, yellow, white, black, green, blue, and purple), blocking vision into the room beyond.  In the center of the room is a stone pedestal, with a bronze jug standing upon it.  The jug has the image of a monkey-headed winged serpent carved into it.  The jug is full of fresh water.

Characters attempting to walk through the mists will find that only one player can be present in the room beyond at a time; other characters will be stopped as if the mist was made of solid stone.  Should two characters attempt to enter simultaneously, roll randomly to see which character makes it through the mist.

Each room has a painted scene on the walls, floor, and ceiling, and large stone basin sticking out of the far wall, with a drain hole in the bottom.  Whatever plumbing connects to the drain hole, it must be running through the wall, as the drain hole does not exit on the underside of the basin.  Should a character pour water from the bronze jug into the basin, a magical effect will be triggered.  The mist colors, painted scenes, and magical effects are detailed below.

Once an effect has occurred, it will not be available for another year’s time.  Pouring anything less than a full jug of water will have no effect, nor will pouring water from a container other than the jug.

a. Red Mist: the mural here is of flames and burning coals.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause a small glowing ball of red-yellow firelight to fall onto the floor, next to the character.  If thrown, this ball will act as the fireball spell, doing 3d6 points of damage (and consuming itself in the process).  If not used within 24 hours, it will turn to a small ball of cold charcoal.

b. Orange Mist: the mural here is of a field of orange poppy flowers.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause the character to become intoxicated, and will have a -2 on all to hit rolls for the next 24 hours.

c. Yellow Mist: a scene depicting a costume ball, with the guests recoiling in horror from a figure dressed in rags, wearing a tattered white mask.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause the scene to animate, and the character will see a horrible crowned figure in yellow robes enter the room, before the walls fade entirely to whitewashed plaster.  Having seen the King in Yellow, the character permanently loses 1d3 points of wisdom.

d. White Mist: the room beyond is painted sky-blue, with fluffy clouds.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause the character to be able to fly, as per the magic-user spell, for the next 24 hours.

e. Black Mist: the walls, floor, and ceiling are painted black.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause the player’s pupils to expand, until they occupy the entire visible portion of the eyeball.  The character will now have wide-spectrum vision, such as dwarves and elves possess, for the next 24 hours.  If the character already has wide-spectrum vision, they are able to briefly see between space and time, and must save vs. magic or become comatose for the next 1d6 turns, as their mind cannot handle the sights revealed.

f. Green Mist: this room is painted in a jungle scene, with thick vegetation, and lianas and other vines painted on the ceiling overhead.  Pouring the water down the basin in this room will cause a monkey to leap out of the image overhead, and land on the character’s back.  The monkey has 4 hp, is AC 9, and will not let go of the character.  Any hits to it will split the damage between the character and the monkey.  It has no attacks.  The monkey will hoot and holler for the next 24 hours, making surprise impossible, and increasing the chance of wandering monster by 1.  After the 24 hour period expires, the monkey will fall to the floor, dead.

g. Blue Mist: the room is painted in an undersea scene, with fishes, octopuses, and coral reefs painted on the walls and ceiling.  Pouring the water down the basin in this room will cause the character to be able to breathe water for the next 24 hours.

h. Purple Mist: the room is painted with veins of purplish color, ranging from near-black to lavender.  Pouring the water down the basin will cause the veins to being to shift and move around the floor, walls, and ceiling of this room.  The tendrils will then reach up from the floor, and wrap themselves around the character.  The writhing bands of color will twist around him for the next 24 hours, giving him +2 to his armor class for the duration.


Re-learning Campaign Cartographer 2

The afternoon was spent in playing 3rd edition D&D, in a campaign where I'm a mere player.  It's been going on for 9 years now, on a once-monthly basis.  The combat takes soooooo long to resolve.  My thief got hit with a poison needle trap, and I figured I was dead dead dead.  I had forgotten that 3rd edition traps do damage, rather than save-or-die.  13 hp damage.  It was kind of a letdown, no rush for the neutralize poison or anything like that - just write off some hit points.  So now I like to think that when I force the players in my campaign to save-or-die, I'm adding excitement to their lives.  Well, to their deaths.

My few spare hours I had left after the day's festivities, I spent re-learning Campaign Cartographer 2.  I used to know how to do this, but that was ten years ago, so I've been doing the tutorial - about halfway through now.  I really only want to do dungeon maps, but I've got to learn the basics first, so I've been putting together a terrible little outdoor map as I follow the tutorial.  It's pretty easy getting the hang of it again though.  I'll take more care with the aesthetics once I'm doing the dungeon levels "for real".

ProFantasy has released Campaign Cartographer 3, but I don't know that I want to plunk down more than $100 to upgrade CC2 and the 2 expansions I got way-back-when (City Designer 2 and Dungeon Designer 2).  I don't really want any fancy coloring, just various shades of grays, and rooms with 10' square grid lines.

Anyhow, here's the fruits of my tutorial labor.  Click to get a larger view.


Killing Players

It's possible that I am a "killer DM."  When I'm reading everybody else's session recaps, they speak endless of players being knocked unconscious, and getting revived later.  They also don't seem to encounter the endless series of traps that I've scattered around.

The first level of my megadungeon is loaded with traps.  It's also got lots of "specials" that are basically magical roulette wheels - the players don't know what's going to happen, they only know that something will, if they mess around with the obvious gimmicky thingamabob.  If they don't touch the gimmicky thingamabob, or walk away from the (rather obvious) traps, then life continues on.  The dungeon isn't actively out to get them, but if they want to try for the good stuff, they've got to figure these things out.

So that's tons of traps, often with save-or-die poison effects, and combat is brutal.  I'm trying to play Labyrinth Lord by the book, so you go to 0 hp, you're dead.  No funky tables that may save your life, no going to -10.  You're just dead.

All this makes players cautious, and they've gone a couple of sessions without losing a PC, so I don't think I've made anything too deadly.  I just find the contrast between how I'm running my campaign, and some of the session recaps of other people's campaigns, interesting.  Not good or bad, just different.  This is the first time I've been this much of a hardcase about the rules though.  It definitely adds some tension.

I've only got one room left to detail in the first level of the megadungeon, and then it's time to work on electronic versions of the maps.  I may have a PDF of the first level ready in December.  It's a lot (and I mean, a LOT) more verbose than other megadungeon material I've seen so far, for better or worse.  I personally prefer to have everything written out in detail beforehand.


Ferayn, Wizard of Tab-Nakel

Yes, it's Zardoz!  That ridiculous flying head is perfect for one of the wizard overlords of the nearby city-states, and his red-diapered goons make for great minions.  He's only a 6th level magic-user, but he's got an endless supply of enchanted guns, and a great spiel about what those guns are better than...  I only made him 6th level because the character is pretty much an ineffectual wimp, tossed overboard by Connery without much effort.  It's his gigantic horde of Exterminators that make him dangerous.

The players actually stumbled across a group of Exterminators on the way to the dungeon 2 session ago, but since the Exterminators were surprised, I ruled that the party heard them coming.  They chose discretion, and skulked off in the opposite direction, so they had no idea they missed an encounter with a bunch of baddies with rifles and red diapers.

Ferayn, Wizard of Tab-Nakel
No. Enc: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6th level magic-user (18 hp)
Attacks: 1 (+2 dagger)
Damage: 1d4 + 2
Save: MU 6
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: XVIII
XP: 820

Ferayn is the ruler of the city-state Tab-Nakel.  He is a thin, sickly-looking man, with no natural hair.  He wears a scarf on his head to hide his baldness, and has tattooed a small beard, moustache, and eyebrows on his face.  Any comments about his lack of hair will send him into a murderous rage.  He is a 6th level magic-user, wields a +2 protonium dagger if cornered, and wears bracers of armor, AC 5.  Ferayn typically has these spells memorized: shield, sleep, arcane lock, invisibility, fire ball, and fly.

The city of Tab-Nakel is a ramshackle collection of crudely-built huts and buildings, surrounding a massive step-pyramid, with a 60’ tall statue of a human upper body atop it.  The 20’ tall bearded stone head of this statue is both a flying machine and weapon.  It can detach from the body, and fly at a rate of 30’ (10’).  The operator may, once per round, fire high-energy lasers from the glowing blue eyes.  They use the operator’s to-hit chances (use dexterity modifiers to adjust chances), and do 3d6 points of damage on a successful hit.  Both lasers are considered a single attack; do not roll two separate attacks.  The head must have a clear line of sight to attack, and since the head cannot be tilted, this typically means that the head must be floating very close to the ground to threaten anyone.  The eye lasers have a range of 240’.  The head may be treated as AC -2, has 90 hp, and saves as a 12th level fighter.

The operator of the head may speak into a microphone inside, and his words will be echoed loudly and deeply by the head.  Entrance to the head may be gained through a trapdoor underneath (sealed in flight), or through the mouth.

When raiding for supplies and minions, Ferayn will fly alone in his giant stone head, and send his Exterminators forth to pillage. He will then meet them at pre-appointed locations, both to vomit forth enchanted hypno-weapons for the prisoners, and to receive the tributes of foodstuffs that the Exterminators plunder from the locals.

The hypno-weapons that the head vomits forth are swords, axes, spears, pistols (doing 1d6 points of damage on a successful hit, range the same as a short bow) and breech-loaded rifles (doing 1d6 points of damage on a successful hit, range the same as a long bow) and bandoliers of ammo for those rifles and pistols.  The handles/stocks of these weapons have all been painted red, marking them as the instruments of the Exterminators.  They are infused with Ferayn’s will, and anyone touching them must save vs. magic or become enthralled by Ferayn, seeking only to kill all non-Exterminators (unless Ferayn orders otherwise, which is rare).  Breaking contact with the weapon is enough to end the enchantment in the early stages, but if a character should still be charmed after a week’s time, the enchantment will become permanent.  Note that characters who save successfully are not granted immunity from the effects, and will have to save every turn they remain in contact with the weapon, until they become enchanted.

Should Ferayn be killed, his weapons will lose their enchantment, although those who have permanently come under Ferayn’s influence will remain psychotic killers.  The head will cease to operate within a day, as it is powered by his insane will to dominate and destroy.

Ferayn’s minions are Exterminators.  When raiding and otherwise terrorizing the countryside, he is always in his giant floating head, but may (25% chance) have a group of 4d6 of them leading the way.

Exterminator (Minion of Ferayn)
No. Enc: 4d6
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 10

The Exterminators were once normal humans, but have been brought under the sway of the wizard Ferayn by extended contact with the hypno-weapons he distributes.  They wear nothing but red loincloths and red boots, with the occasional red leather bandolier of ammunition, and are mindlessly loyal to Ferayn.  They have an extra +4 when saving vs. charm person spells due to their single-minded devotion to the wizard.

The Exterminators are often armed with pistols (same range as short bow) or breech-loading rifles (same range as long bow), doing 1d6 points of damage each.  If not, they will have typical melee weapons.


Wizard: Monsator, Lord of the Stalks

Several weeks ago, I mentioned this would be a megadungeon campaign loosely based on Thundarr's world. The players' interest in the outside world has been limited so far - the chance for mad phat l00tz in the megadungeon has entirely occupied their interest to date.  Too's player has been talking about needing to get his shield identified, and about investigating the source of the stink in the aptly named Stinkborough, and with only 2 more rooms to write up on level 1, I'm going to devote a little time to coming up with some information about the outside world.

Wizards are great for outdoor encounters and quickly-thrown-together plots.  Their sole excuse for existing is to provide a foil for players, so I don't have to worry about how they fit into the greater world too much.  They just need to be memorable, and maniacally hungry for power.  The more powerful wizards will rule city-states, but every wizard has to start out small.  This fellow I outline below is an early-stage wizard, and given how silly he is, I'm hoping he dies an ignoble death rather than becomes a persistent feature.  But that all depends on the players.  I don't mind having him be so ridiculous, given the deadly serious nature of level 1 of the megadungeon - a little goofiness will provide a nice contrast.

Monsator, Lord of the Stalks
No. Enc: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3 (21 hp)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2d4
Save: F3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XII
XP: 65

Monsator was once just a local farmer with a surly disposition.  This changed when he discovered a strange vault door buried near his farm, while digging a new root cellar.  Behind the vault door was an ancient cryogenic storage facility for a genetic engineering firm.  Being an enterprising sort, he collected the various embryo and seed samples, ground them up, and used them to fertilize his cornfield.

The DNA from embryos, seeds, spores, and retroviruses proved a potent cocktail, and were nearly the end of Monsator.  He had contacted and inhaled much of this DNA mixture, and became feverish after a few days, eventually lapsing into a coma.  When he finally awoke, he felt invigorated and refreshed, despite the strange fleshy seed-pods that now covered his body.  What was truly shocking was the spectacle that greeted him upon inspecting his cornfields: the cornstalks had become animate, marching about the field.  They recognized their genetic brother and master in this simple farmer.  Monsator had acquired an army.

They say that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Monsator’s power is something less than absolute, but he has put his corn army to work regardless, emulating the powerful wizards that all men fear.  He has limited himself to raids on his hated neighbors so far, stealing their livestock, burning their farms, and enslaving the survivors.  He brings the loot and prisoners back to his “wizard’s tower,” a structure much like a grain silo, on a grander and more martial scale.

Monsator attacks with a pitchfork he has modified with parts from a plasma pistol.  It has a range of 120’, and does 2d4 points of damage.  The weapon will cease to function within several hours of separation from Monsator, as it is only his insane will that keeps it functioning.

Monsator’s henchmen are Cornstalk Warriors, and he is always accompanied by 2d6 of them when he roams abroad, mounted atop his reliable draft horse, Tess.

Cornstalk Warrior
No. Enc: 2d8
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 10

Cornstalk warriors are animated stalks of corns.  They walk about on root-like feet, and attack with crude wooden spears and clubs that they grasp in their leafy hand-stalks.  These creatures despise all animal life, especially those who eat corn.  Cornstalk warriors are highly vulnerable to fire, and take double damage from it.


Death Frost Doom

This isn't really a full-blown post, just a quick follow-up comment.  I read through Death Frost Doom yesterday, and I like this one.  It has the usual death traps, but I don't get the vibe that the players are being arbitrarily punished, for several reasons (some of which are SPOILERS so you might want to move along):

1. Many of the effects the players hit early on are non-lethal, and can be dealt with via remove curse and other typical remedies
2. Where the effects are lethal, there's often a repetition of the same trap, but with increasingly bad consequences (e.g. the inscriptions in Duvan'Ku)
3. Most of the nasty things going on actually appear nasty, and the players ought to know better, so they'll blame themselves if they goof it all up
4. A lot of the traps actually appear as traps or puzzles (e.g. coins on the children's crypt door).  So there are quality hints that the players need to be figuring things out.

I find I like this a lot better than Tower of the Stargazer or the pirate lair in Weird New World.  If players blame their own stupidity when bad things happen, then I'm happy.

I could drop this in my campaign and it would fit right in with the traps & tricks I put into my own encounters.  And if they get bored of the megadungeon, Death Frost Doom will definitely be on the menu.

Anyhow, this isn't a review blog, so it'll be all content all the time again with the next post.


Weird New World

When I wrote the session recap / review of LotFP: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying, I mentioned that I hadn't read Weird New World yet.  I did read it later that week, but never got around to writing up what I thought of it.  So here is my review.  There will be SPOILERS, of course, so skip this if you don't want to see that sort of thing.

I have the sense that Mr. Raggi & I were reading the same books recently.  Last year I read Dan Simmon's Terror, and Anthony Brandt's The Man Who Ate His Boots.  Weird New World is heavily influenced by the search for the Northwest Passage, and I saw a nod in there to the monster from Dan Simmons' book.  If you're planning on running this, I think you really do need to read one of the above books (or another about the search for the Northwest Passage), if you're going to get the flavor right.

The module is a sandbox, which is great, but it's mostly very very sparse on detail.  You'll have to put a lot of work into this to play with it.  It's more a campaign sub-setting than any kind of adventure.  Most of the encounters listed are bare-bones, a few lines of great ideas, but all the work is left to the DM.

In practice, I can't see players just wandering about this wilderness aimlessly.  The environment is deadly in the extreme, and they're going to need a reason to head out there, and probably some halfway-decent idea of where to go in particular, if you want to do more than watch the party flail around for a bit and die of exposure.  So just stumbling across the encounter areas is unlikely.  This is good and bad - good because you don't have to detail everything before the players set out, bad because they won't run into all the wonderful awfulness that's out there.

I really liked the map, it was really well done and very reminiscent of the arctic reaches of northern Canada.  The only fault I find with it is the numbered encounter areas.  The numbers are very tiny, and hard to pick out.  Putting text labels next to the encounter hexes, in addition to the numbers, would make it easier to use.

Mr. Raggi did describe two encounter areas in greater detail, the pirate lair, and a ship impaled on a coral spike.  The pirate lair suffers from the same issues that the the Tower of the Stargazer had - players are punished very very very badly for curiosity.  If you go through all the work of getting past the lava and/or rivers, you most likely just end up being screwed over for your ingenuity.

The coral spike didn't have that sort of punishment.  It is a bit lighter of an encounter though.  My only quibble here, which probably won't bug most people, is that it is patently impossible from a nautical perspective.  The sailors in my group would never suspend disbelief - boats that don't leak when pitchpoled onto giant spikes.  Probably not an issue if you're not dealing with sailors, but I could never get away with it.

All this said, I probably won't be using this anytime soon.  I'm in a Thundarr-inspired megadungeon right now, and wandering off into the Great White North isn't in the cards right now.  When they get down to the lower levels, with the teleporters, black ziggurats, and other low-level tomfoolery, I expect I'll drop in a gate to the frozen north.

I've also been turning over in my head my criticisms of both this and Tower of the Stargazer, in respect to the player-punishment.  I've read similar critiques of Death Frost Doom, which I also purchased, but have not yet read.  I have to compare what I've read, though, against my actual experience running the Tower.  The players mostly avoided the death traps, by being too scared to mess with anything, with the exception of the telescope.  I'm curious to know what lethality other people have experienced when running through these adventures. I've only read speculation so far, and one run-through of Death Frost Doom where the party didn't touch anything at all.

I also forgot to mention in the Tower of the Stargazer post, that the "game for your soul" section was very well received.  I only had 2 players, and both got involved with the game of checkers (chosen because it would be shorter than chess).  It was a big hit.


More about last night's session

We had a new guy last night, who had never played D&D before.  He seemed to enjoy it, so score one for Labyrinth Lord.  He rolled up a magic-user with 1 hit point.  I had left P.W.'s player to help guide him through the character creation process, and when I got back with the pizza, he had selected Floating Disk as his sole spell.  Apparently there was some confusion about spell progression, he had thought you had to pick a "number" for your spell progression, and all your spells would be in that category - he liked the Floating Disk's later spells the best.  I correct that confusion, and lightly recommended Sleep as being the "bad boy" of first-level spell casting, but he decided he liked Magic Missile better.  He fired it off in the combat with the vagabond mushrooms (those weird yellow & red giant-kruller-monsters), and then asked how long before he could use it again. There was a certain amount of dejection at hearing "Oh, after 8 hours rest."  Life is cruel for first level magic-users.

P.W.'s player and Rollo Jr.'s player (who wasn't hear tonight) have been mapping the dungeon, using the same sheets of graph paper.  P.W.'s mapping style is technically accurate, but he keeps deciding he's out of room and drawing new rooms in random spots, and he had no idea what Rollo's player had done since then, because he wasn't at the last session.  Thus the wandering monsters as the players huddled over the map, trying to make some sense out of the randomly scribbled notes and rooms scattered all over the place with no connecting corridors.  I think Too's player was a little nervous, so he started making a second map.  He brought his own ten-square-to-the-inch graph paper, and his second map is pretty good.  I'm very pleased with this development, the players are picking up on the fact that without a map, they are all going to die.

Another development I enjoyed was during the encounter with the jawheads (those dog-like guys with the pyramid heads).  Too's player was shouting at Gutboy's, "What are these? I don't know what those are!  What are they, D&D boy???"  "I don't know!  Maybe he's making them up!"  Oooooo you better believe I'm making up my own monsters.  The flat shriekers on the ceiling didn't phase them, though.  Pretty obvious they were shriekers, of course, despite the different shape.

In the previous session, I had been ruling that it took a full round with no attack to switch from bow to sword.  I found that it made missile weapons kind of pointless, as monsters would close and attack while they switched weapons, and thus limit the player's tactical options.  So for last night's session I changed that ruling, so that the players could just switch weapons with no penalty.  I'm not worried about realism when making these rulings, only game play.  If there's an official rule that says otherwise in Labyrinth Lord, I'll use that, but I haven't gone looking yet.  Whenever there's an "official" rule I almost always defer to it, just in the spirit of playing games by their rules.  My only house rule to date is that the characters have to spend gold to get XP from it.

Speaking of which, I very sadly (no wait, gleefully, very gleefully) informed the players that the money they had to spend on the bribe to Lt. Hammer did NOT count towards XP.  Getting robbed by monsters doesn't have side benefits.  I can tell the players really want to kill Lt. Hammer and take his stuff, but those plasma cannons on his arms have them deeply worried.

So far, the most important stat in the game has been Charisma.  There are tons of reaction rolls.  When I was much younger, I always considered this a throwaway stat, and every creature I ever fought would just instantly attack anyways.  How wrong I was...

Half the night was spent in the henchman-hiring phase.  I came up with a table in my head, and rolled up who was at the inn.  Four goons, ready to hire.  Of course, the failed reaction rolls led to some instant backstories to these characters - for some reason, the thieves, who I had stated didn't even know each other previously, hated priests.  The dwarf despises halflings.  Some campaign flavor is starting to build up here, maybe the priests and the Thieves' Guild have some bad blood between them.  We'll see what happens.

During the equipping phase, there were some comments about how they didn't need torches, the ceilings were lit up anyways.  Yeahhhhhh.... that didn't last, did it?  Muahahahahha.  I also enjoyed the panicked looks the players exchanged as they entered the throne room, and I described the room just going off into... darkness...

There were other comments about the general layout of the dungeon:
- Some wondering about how the jawheads got into that room.  "Do they have opposable thumbs?"  "No."  I had actually wondered this myself but decided that I would stick them in anyways.  To heck with verisimilitude.  Let the players come up with a reason.
- A comment or two about some rooms being completely empty.  Well, it's been three thousand years.  Everything good is scavenged.
- In this Thundarr-inspired world, a dried up ballpoint pen is not going to be worth hundreds of gp, no matter how much the players believe it will be
- P.W.'s player is playing his halfling quite boldly.  Well, we all know how this is going to end up:  in tears.
- The gently curving corridor to the throne room had Too and P.W.'s players quite annoyed at me, as they made their maps.  That warms the cockles of my heart.  Let's see how well those rooms connect after a few hundred more feet of tunnels.

The players still don't know that they're in a megadungeon, although there's been a lot of hints dropped at this point about the depth of the place.  They were heading in the direction of the throne room because P.W. wanted to "find the edge."  Sadly, that actually is the edge, but given the scope of this level in the other directions, I'm not going to worry too much about it.  It'll be a long time before they realize where the edges really lie, if ever.

Session recap, 11/3/2010

Here's the recap email I just sent for tonight's session:


Here's the usual recap of the session.  We'll meet next on Wednesday, Nov 17th.

The halfling P.W., fighter Too, and cleric Gutboy, gathered in the Stinkborugh village tavern, when they were approached by a magic-user, who called himself The Claw.  He was accepted into the party after a few brief words, and they began scanning the tavern for likely henchmen.  Two human men, a dwarf, and an elf looked like they could make capable employees.

Gutboy walked up to the first human, and introduced himself as the village priest.  "Get lost, priest.  Always taking money from the poor.  You make me sick."  Trying his luck with the second human, he was told to take a walk as well.  Whoever these two were, they despised the priesthood.

Gutboy decided to try talking to the elf.  He was 5' tall, with gray skin, pointed ears, a nose so small that the nostrils were almost like slits in his face, eyes entirely black, and a mouthful of sharp fangs.
"Hello.  Would you perhaps be looking for an adventure?  Something to make a little money?"
"Why yes I would!  I could always use fame and fortune, more fortune than fame, if you know what I mean."
"Uhhhh.... no."
"Coin and I are never together for long, it's the ladies I long for.  My name is Slezgar."

Too approached the man who first told the priest to take a hike, and offered him a job.  "Yeah, I could use some coin.  Just keep that priest away from me.  I'm good at sneaking around.  My name's Fast Eddie."

The Claw also decided to try his hand talking to one of the men who told Gutboy off.  "What?  Yeah, sure I'll work for ya!  The standard half-share?  I'm quick with a dagger, and I've done a bit of safecracking in my time.  Call me Zarak."

P.W., also wanting a henchman, approached the dwarf, a flabby, squat, gray-skinned creature, with eyes also entirely black.
"Hello, good sir, would you like to join me on an adventure?"
"Get the hell away from me, you little freak!  Say another word, and I'll knock your head clean off!"

P.W. quietly backed away, but Too liked the cut of his jib, and saw an excellent hiring opportunity.  "Well, would you like to work for me?"  "Yeah, sure, I'll work for you.  I hate those halflings, though.  The name's Dingo."

Employers and employees agreed to meet back first thing in the morning.  After an uneventful night at the inn, the party gathered, purchased equipment for their new retainers, and Gutboy purchased a second war hound, which he named Ruckus.

They spent a day and a half tromping through the woods and up the slopes of Mt. Rendon, when they reached the cave mouth.  They proceeded into the well-lit, white-walled complex, and stopped in the first octagonal room to try to figure out their map.  This took quite some time, and while they turned pieces of paper over, tried connecting them in various ways, and otherwise flailed about in confusion, a lone automaton stumbled into the room, its body a mix of steel framing and bones tied to rusting stumps of metal with ragged strips of human skin.  It rushed at the party, frenzied by the prospect of retrieving precious skeletons from the filthy meat-sacks, but was quickly dispatched by the party.

Gutboy had Slezgar drag the automaton's body along, as they made their way to the room where the party had met Lt. Hammer, during the last session.  They passed a group of non-hostile five bone-and-metal automatons along the way, and Gutboy struck up a conversation.
"Hello!  Are you interested in more parts?"
"Oh. Hmm. Do you like Lt. Hammer?"
"Why not?"
"He takes our parts!"
"Would you like to help kill him?"
P.W. then pipes up, "Do you want my parts?"
After thoughtful consideration, the automaton replies "No, your parts are too small."

One of the automatons then grabbed at the automaton-corpse they had been dragging along.  Gutboy told him to stop, but the automaton just shouted "Parts!"  The other automatons then descended on the corpse as well, and they began tugging it apart.  The party decided to just move along, and made their way to the room where they had last seen Lt. Hammer.

The lieutenant was there, along with his three footlockers, but was in a foul mood.  "Humans!  Again?"  He lined up one of his arms at Too, the black hole at the end of his arm-pod staring Too right in the face.

Gutboy spoke up, "Wait!  Will you let us go down?  We'll bring you back money."
Hammer laughed loudly.  "Ha!  You won't be coming back from down there!"
"What's down there?'
"More fleshy things like you.  I shoot them.  Want to see how?"  He points his arm at Gutboy.
"You'll pay now if you want to go down."
"How much?"
"100 gp."
"How about half now, half later?"
"How about all right now?"  Hammer grows impatient, and clearly prepares to fire his arm-weapon.
"Ok!  We'll give you the money!"
P.W. says, "I've got 95 gp."
Hammer: "Give it to me!"
"Well not all of it!"
"Yes, now!"  He points his arm at P.W.
The other members of the party quickly start handing over fistfuls of gold to the lieutenant, and he drops his 100 gp into a footlocker.  Gutboy tries to sneak a peak inside, but was unable to see what else Hammer had inside.  "Now get out of here!"

The party proceeded south into a 20' square chamber, with an opening in the west wall, blocked by protonium-metal bars running from floor to ceiling.  On the south wall was an inclined metal shelf, with a lever and glowing screen.  The screen read, "Safety period expired. Fuel replenished. Subsurface entry permitted."

Too sent Dingo to use his wide-spectrum vision to look through the bars.  He saw a stairway heading down as far as he could see (that is, 60').  The stairway was of dressed stonework, there was no sign of the glowing ceiling or white walls and floors of the complex they had explored so far.

After much discussion, Too volunteered to pull the lever.  The rest of the party cowered in the doorway, as Too carefully pushed the lever up.  Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then the screen changed.  It now read "Subsurface Research Facility Main Power Facility Re-Activating."  Another few moments of silence, and then klaxons sounded, both within the room, and from somewhere deep underneath the room.  Horrible crashing noises were heard from below, and the room began vibrating.  Finally, the klaxons quieted and the shaking stopped, and the screen now read "All entrances open.  Ready."

The party headed downstairs, with Too and Fast Eddie in the lead.  The stairs went down for 100', before ending at an intersection:  a door to the north, and corridors heading west and south.  Too listened carefully at the door, and hearing nothing, opened it.  A small room lay behind it, 20' square, with nothing but a skeleton, grasping an antique pen, and a few papers beside it.  P.W. read the papers aloud:  "To whosoever finds this note, they have locked us in. I don't know what happened in the lower levels, but I'm pretty sure they will never let us out.  The soldiers at the top of the stairs were taking pot shots at us.  Please let my wife and kids know I loved them.  There is something outside in the dark."

After listening to this sobering message, Gutboy picked up the pen.  It was not a mere quill, but a retractable ballpoint pen.  The kind rich people have.  He was disappointed to find that the ink was dry, but he claimed it as his own regardless.

Heading back out of the room, the party headed west, following a winding corridor til they found another door.  Too poked his head inside, and saw a room empty, except for another door, and a dozen small holes in the northern wall, five feet off the floor.  The party grew nervous, and wondered what traps could lie within.  Except for the halfling, P.W.  He boldly strode into the room, fearing nothing, not even the dozen darts that flew over his head as he stepped on a pressure plate.

After some experimentation with the pressure plate, the party gathered up two dozen darts for the thieves and The Claw to use.  They then crawled on their hands and knees to the other door, and proceeded down a short hall and into another room.  This room was empty except for dust, and a few dried piles of excrement.  Seeking gold in unlikely places, Gutboy pawed through the piles of dessicated manure, but found nothing.

On to the next room.  The party opened a door in the south wall, and beheld a strange sight.  They lookd into a pair of corridors, one heading east, another west, and the walls opposite them bore large floor-to-ceiling carvings of grinning faces with empty recessed eyesockets and recessed mouths.  Scattered on the floor were many skeletons.  The party decided discretion is the better part of valor, and closed the door carefully, deciding to try a different exit from the dung-covered room.

Listening at this other door, Slezgar reported that he heard chewing noises.  The party lined up, bows and darts at the ready, waiting to slaughter whatever beasts lay behind.  One of the thieves crept up to the door, threw it open, and ran back to the party.  Behind the door was a room with three horrific creatures savaging a bloodied corpse.  The creatures were vaguely dog-like, with oily black skin, six legs that ended in knobby stubs, and heads like elongated four-sided pyramids, that hinged open into four toothed jaws and a toothed tongue.

The creatures didn't seem to notice the party, and they let fly with their weapons, and Gutboy released his hounds, Rufus and Ruckus.  The creatures were slain within seconds.  Entering the room to investigate the savaged corpse, they found it was too mutilated to determine what kind of creature it was, but it did have a gold necklace.  Grabbing up the treasure, they exited south from this new room, and wandered through more maze-like corridors.

Eventually the hallway opened into another room.  Approaching the entrance, the flickering torchlight revealed two clumps of a strange fungus on the ceiling, with knob-like growths on it.  Holes opened in the knobs, and suddenly they gave out loud screeching noises.  The party rushed in and pulled out darts and bows to kill the fungi before it attracted attention.

As they began to shoot at the fungus, two bizarre, twisted creatures, with gnarled semi-cylindrical bodies 10' long and 1' wide, one with 5 legs and another 8 legs, entered the room.  They were yellow, with red splotches and stripes, and from the ends facing the party, each had a pair of "arms" that ended in long spikes.  The hounds were released on one, but another charged Fast Eddie and gored him badly.

Arrows, darts, and magic missiles flew, and the gas-bag of one of the ceiling fungi was pierced with a loud flatulent noise, and its shrieking was silenced.  Still, more monsters appeared from the gloom.  From behind the party, five giant earwigs appeared in the corridor, but the insects did not attack.  More fighting, swords were drawn, and the twisted yellow-red creatures were cut to bloodless pieces.  Their bodies were fleshy and yellow, but there was no blood or internal organs to the creatures.

As the party killed off the last ceiling fungus, they heard horrible screams from off in the distance, somewhere to the east.  They eyed the earwigs nervously, but didn't attack.  The insects headed back into the darkness, and the party, fearful of whatever made the screams, headed south, deeper into the dungeon.

Following a gently curving corridor, they found themselves in the eastern end of a vast room.  Their ceiling arched far above them, beyond the feeble illumination of their torches, and the walls stretched off into the darkness.  Pulling back so the dwarf could look with his wide-spectrum vision, he reported that he still could see no end to this room.  The party began walking along the wall, trying to determine the extent of this room.

After much exploration and surveying, they found that the massive chamber had a doorway in the southeast wall, a massive archway with a short corridor to a massive set of double doors to the north, and raised dais with a throne on the west wall.  The throne was stainless steel, and covered with raised steel sculptures of winged cherubs.  The cherubs were threatening in appearance, with empty eye sockets and cruel smiles.  Other than the empty eye sockets, they didn't resemble the faces they had seen earlier.

Examining the area around the throne, the party noticed scratch marks curving away from the base of the throne.  They had two of the henchmen push the throne, and it pivoted around one corner, revealing a hole in the floor.  Dingo took a look down, and reported that there was a ladder that went down 40', and then a tunnel headed south.

At this point, the party took stock of their situation.  They were deep underground, with an extortionist soldier-robot above, out of magic missile spells, and with a wounded henchman.
Too:  "You want to heal Fast Eddie?"
Gutboy:  "No, I want to save my cure light wounds.  He's just a henchman."
Fast Eddie:  "Hey, I'm right here!  Stupid priest."

They briefly considered camping out in the vast hall of the throne room, but then decided that it wasn't defensible enough.  They went back to the first room they had found, the one with the skeleton, clutching the note describing how he had made his last stand in that tiny room, some 3,000 years ago.  Hoping for better luck, they spiked the door shut and made camp for the night.


Shining Trapezohedron

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the "special" rooms on the upper level will be dedicated to hints about what's deeper in the dungeon.  Here's a little bit of information about the Shining Trapezohedron.

164. Chief Research Assistant’s Office
This room still contains ancient steel furniture, quite rusty by now.  There is a desk, chair with tattered cushions, and a short cabinet.  On the stone wall next to the desk is a large white square (6’ wide by 4’ high), with several ancient inkless pens on a small shelf below it.

The desk and cabinet are empty.  However, the top cabinet draw has a false back, which will be found by anybody performing a careful search.  Behind the false back is a bundle of papers titled “Spectrum and Wavelength Analysis of Trapezohedron.”  The papers are in an unknown scientific jargon, and the party is unlikely to make heads or tails of it.

If a player is able to read and write, and rolls a 6 on a d6 (add the number of languages the player can speak as a bonus), then he understands that the paper discusses a shining black jewel the size of a man’s fist, somewhat in the shape of a trapezohedron.  The paper mentions that the angles of the jewel’s facets change depending on its orientation to the viewer, and that light reflecting from the jewel follows a discrete square wave rather than a continuous waveform.

The cult of Science in Denethix has the ability to decipher the papers if the players cannot, and would purchase them for 25 gp.

The Church of Starry Wisdom would also be greatly interested in these papers, as they refer to the Shining Trapezohedron, a jewel that can be used to communicate with their god.  If they find that the party has the papers, they would do anything, up to and including murder, to retrieve the papers and determine where they came from.


Another Pit Trap

As I create monsters and encounters, I have to watch myself, because I unconsciously latch onto certain ideas and reuse them.  You've seen that in previous posts, with the similarities between the giant earwigs and the polychaete worms, between the greater automaton abomination and gorillapede (both splitting into multiple creatures), and now with pit traps that drop players into cages.  By the time they get here, it will have been quite a long time since the last one, so I'm not worrying too much about it.  Plus, I like this refined version much better, as the pit closes itself shut, trapping whoever fell in.  Then wandering monsters get to come by and get fresh adventurer meat from the vending machine above.

191. Pit Trap, with Viewing and Taunting
The two corridors here do NOT intersect.  The north-south corridor runs underneath the east-west corridor.  At this point, in the east-west corridor, there is a pit trap.  This trap is triggered when a character places their weight in the center of the trap.  Then, the trap will drop them into a 10’ deep pit, with an iron grate for a floor, and they will take 1d6 points of damage from the fall.  After the characters fall in, the pit’s lid will swing shut again.

The iron grate is pressure-sensitive, and while there is weight on it, the trap door to the pit, above, will no longer open.

The iron grate that is the floor of the pit, is also the ceiling of the north-south corridor.  There is a lever in western wall of the corridor beneath the pit, in the “up” position, that can be pushed down to cause the grate to open and spill its contents onto the corridor floor (causing another 1d6 points of damage unless the characters somehow prevent themselves from falling).

The commotion of falling into the pit has a 50% chance of attracting 1d6 tunnel caterpillars from room 199, who will squirm about on the floor beneath the pit trap, hoping for a meal should the characters successfully open the grate.