Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Down Night-Haunted Halls

Rosters of players who may or may not make specific sessions due to the vagaries of work, school, and family commitments are a recurrent problem for the modern judge. Simply put, not everyone can make every game night, and sometimes you find yourself being asked to run two separate groups of players on different nights of the week.

Last week, with just two players available, I hauled out Barrowmaze and Barrowmaze II, and allowed the players to create new 0-level characters to go exploring.  They stayed as near to the surface as possible, exploring barrow mounds and having random encounters, until at last the survivors reached 1st level. Then they skedaddled back to Helix.

(As an interesting aside, they actually managed to start on the Barrowmaze II hexmap, thus ending up in more dangerous territory and discovering some nice treasures.)

Tonight, with the same two players being the only ones who could attend, and being asked to allow their characters to do something other than the Barrowmaze (which they frankly view as a death trap!) I offered them another dungeon - Stonehell - to the west toward the mountains, while the Barrowmaze was towards the east. I made each player roll 1d20 on both the Barrowmaze and the Stonehell rumour charts.  They decided to attempt Stonehell on the basis of the rumoured kobold market.

One session in, the PCs have largely explored only the upper ravine area, but they had a lot of fun. Coal is dead (nearly taking the warrior with him), one PC is hoping to raise a wolf cub (he is a halfling keeper of the hounds, and lost 9 teeth to critical hits during the battle with the older wolves!), and they still haven't dared to enter the dark archway that leads to Stonehell proper.

It amazes me to hear some folks say that Dungeon Crawl Classics doesn't mesh well with megadungeons - or vice versa. So long as the players have options, and so long as the area is interesting, my experience is that they work very well together. I have had a lot of fun with DCC and Barrowmaze, and tonight's fun with Stonehell is fresh in my mind as I write this. DCC characters are bad-asses compared to their Labyrinth Lord equivalent, but the unknown effects of die rolls can change a battle from a cakewalk to a nail-biter.

That Helix just became this unhappy village smack-dab between two of the most dangerous places in the world (at least, so far as these PCs know!) also helps bring the world alive for the players. What a place to call home!

Nice work on this adventure setting by Michael Curtis!


  1. Replies
    1. The bear was snuffling around their camping area at night, and rather than simply letting it be or avoiding it, the warrior on guard acted aggressively towards it. The bear started to maul him, but the others eventually awoke, and between the halfling's two-weapon fighting, the warrior, a magic missile, and a critical or two, the bear made tracks.

      The next day, they decided to explore its lair. As the halfling tried to approach sneakily (with the others not more than 15 feet away, hence not so sneakily at all), the bear charged out of its cave. Dice were rolled, and the halfling was able to react before being mauled, two short swords sliced into the bear, the halfing side-stepped, and the carcass went tumbling into the ravine.

      They killed Coal.

      Actually, with the exception of some deer, they killed everything they ran into. That's okay. "I attack it!" as your primary means of interacting with the world will, sooner or later, bring you pain. They were concerned about having the face the bear again later, when they were emerging wounded from the dungeon.

  2. I saw Stonehell on lulu and considered getting it but refrained because it states compatibility with LL, a game which my players lack familiarity. How strongly would you recommend this setting for DCC?

    1. To be clear, you will have to do some conversion work. However, this shouldn't be too difficult if you are familiar with article in DAMN #1 tells you how to do it.

      Personally, I now do 90% of conversion work in my head at the table. If a LL monster has three attacks, I give in three Action Dice....basically, I'm not changing it that much. You need to flip from descending to ascending AC, and you need to supply save bonuses where appropriate. I use "+1 per HD to each save" as a baseline, and the modify upward or downward from there based on the nature of the creature.

      Michael Curtis has done a very nice job on dungeon factions, but you can always use the tables in the DCC Core Rulebook to modify the appearance and behaviour of humanoids and un-dead, so as to keep your PCs guessing.

  3. "It amazes me to hear some folks say that Dungeon Crawl Classics doesn't mesh well with megadungeons - or vice versa. So long as the players have options, and so long as the area is interesting, my experience is that they work very well together."

    I agree with this 100%. The only argument I've heard about megadungeons not "jiving" with DCC has been based on a lot of appendix N "canon" being comprised of pulpy somewhat-disconnected episodes. Thus the feel of an extended campaign in the same locale seemed to be counter to that vibe. I can understand this point of view. Have you heard other reasons for people not mixing DCC and megadungeons?

    1. I think that most people believe that the megadungeon began with JRRT's Moria, but for my money it probably began with the ruined cities or Barsoom, and the levels of unused, menace-haunted tunnels found below ERB's martian cities. REH also had megadungeons, and it is implied that there is far more to Opar than what Tarzan discovered. HPL's tunnels beneath Dunwich (etc.) probably qualify as well, as do the underground worlds implied by A. Merritt's The Moon Pool, etc.

  4. As per your suggestion I ordered Michael Curtis' Stonehell Dungeon from lulu, it came today so I am just beginning to page through it now. I can say that the layout is well composed, succinct descriptions are paired with classic maps, the adventure setting is well suited to Labyrinth Lord, and indeed Dungeon Crawl Classics. I am looking forward to adventures which this way come, from the benighted halls of Stonehell Dungeon...


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