Thursday, October 29, 2009

Megadungeons 2

I have read a lot about megadungeons over the last week or so, and the more I read the more I want to run one. I have never run a megadungeon before. In fact I hardly ever run dungeons at all. I can think of two real, multisession dungeons I have run. The most recent was the 4th edition module Keep on the Shadowfell. This combined two things I am usually wary of doing in a game: a pregenerated module and a dungeon crawl. It was one of the worst modules I have ever read,let alone ran. We made it maybe 4 sessions in before going back to Traveller.

The first dungeon run I did was shortly after high school. We had been playing for around 8-10 years at this point and I put one into a long running campaign purely because we had never done one before. It took about three long sessions to run through the dungeon and many great and memorable stories game out of that adventure. So this one was overall very positive.

Generally my players pretend to be in the political thick of things, even at low levels so we tend not to do a lot of dungeon crawls. Oddly my Traveller games have always had a lot in common with a dungeon crawl. The players always have hirelings or troops of some sort, I start them in the thick of things, and most of the actual roleplaying in those games occurs in the retelling of the story later. I just never thought about megadungeons that way until reading about the recently.

But even then I don't want to do things totally traditional. Mutant Future is on its way to my house right now, I want to use it to run a megadungeon. I want to take the city of Camden, NJ and have huge chunks of it swallowed up by the earth. Anyone I am likely to be playing with at this point is going to be familiar with Camden and the idea of an event so cataclysmic that Camden would get worse is just wacky enough to fit into a Gamma World type game.

I already have a bunch of ideas floating around that I need to figure out how to glue together. Most of them are faction ideas (I love wacky cults):

1) A cult that worships Walt Whitman's statue

2) The RCA cult

3) A cult that worships the statue of the Campbell Soup kids

4) A cult that hires the characters to find special offerings to their god. Their god is a nuclear missile and the offerings are parts of the launch mechanism.

5) Philly has turned into a hellish wasteland and there is a creepy guy who operates the ferry to hell

6) The entrance to the megadungeon is through the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge

7) People smuggle food into the city from South Jersey farms through the PATCO tunnel

8) The guy who lives down the street from me who wears a Cat in the Hat hat and talks using a sock puppet, who is running for mayor. Just use him, somehow.

9) All the big scary churches need to be standing. Obviously Father Doyle will have to be still running one of them because he is just that much of a bad ass.

I haven't really thought it through more than that yet.

Has anyone else run a megadungeon in Mutant Future? I'd be interested to hear about it, especially if you keep a blog record.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


There has been a lot of megadungeon talk around the internet for the last week. I am hardly an expert on the subject, having never run one myself, but I do have some things that I would like to see in a published megadungeon.

1. It should be pretty short. I don't need to see more than 100 pages for a whole world campaign setting (and I can go with FAR less) so I'd like to see the megadungeon come in at 64 pages or less.

2. Most of that space should be spent on a description of the rooms/areas. I am not talking about boxed text to read aloud here, I am talking about good physical descriptions that give me more than I will probably give the players at first. Historical information will be really useful here.

3. I would prefer that, in general, an area of rooms was described with random tables given for things that could be found in that area. Give me good historical information, a good description of what the stoenwork in that area is like, and random tables to use to populate the rooms with the kinds of traps, monsters etc. found there.

4. I would prefer nice looking poster maps. Don't put grids on them, don't number every room. Just call out the areas, point out special rooms, and give me a scale for the map.

5. Good descriptions for special, cool rooms. Don't bother with the other rooms other than the general information. I wasn't going to use what your detailed description of the mess hall anyway.

6. NPCs that inhabit the dungeon and the surrounding areas. Just the important/cool ones. I won't bother to read about the ones that are just run of the mill blacksmiths.

What I don't want:

1. A room by room description. *Yawn*

2. Adventure hooks

3. Adventures/quests

4. More than 64 pages

5. A bunch of gridded maps in the book that I have to keep flipping back and forth to

6. A poster map with no scale on it.

Here are some more posts on the subject of megadungeons:

The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope
Greyhawk Grognard

Monday, October 26, 2009

@ttack Thoughts

I have come to prefer a blend of sci-fi and fantasy over either in their pure form. This can take the form of science fantasy like Star Wars or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks style UFO's in a fantasy world. Post apocalyptic fantasy like Gamma World is also very appealing.

I do not like prophecies, supermen, or chosen ones. Anyone like that is likely to be a villain in one of my games. Actually a villain is likely to be someone pretending to be genetically superior to others to control them.

I want to have a megadungeon in my game. I have never run a megadungeon, in fact I have run very few dungeons period. There have been caves and ruined castles, but they were always realistically small in size. In order to have a megadungeon I will need to come up with a reason for it to exist that makes sense.

I do not want to have character classes or races in @ttack. That isn't to say that players cannot have a character of a race other than human, just that they will not be forced to adhere to any mechanical definition of the race.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

D&D Editions: BECMI Basic Set

From time to time I will be writing my thoughts on different editions of D&D. I take a very expansive view of what counts as an edition of D&D. There are several games that are heavily D&D based that will be included.

BECMI stands for Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal. These were box sets published throughout the '80s by TSR and put together by Frank Mentzer. They detail the system that is commonly referred to as Basic D&D or Classic D&D. Each box set was intended to cover different levels of play. Basic: 1-3, Expert: 4-14, Companion: 15-25, Master 26-36, Immortal: after the characters ascended to immortal status. They are easily identified by their Larry Elmore cover art.

The Basic Set was my introduction to D&D. It was not actually my introduction to the hobby, More on that later. This edition is laid out to teach the game. After a short introduction there is a very simple adventure in which you only roll the D20 to play. That is followed by another, slightly more complex, adventure that is laid out in numbered entries like a gamebook. This was a great choice, gamebooks were very popular in the '80s and school book fairs were full of them. Twelve year old boys were very comfortable with this format. By the time you finish the gamebook section you have learned the basics of mapping and the rules of the game.

The next part of the book details the different character classes/races and how to make a new character. The rest of the book is spent detailing combat, equipment, and tips on how to play the game. The reader leaves the Players Manual with a very good idea of what goes on in a D&D session and how to play the game. They know about mapping, using their equipment, retainers, light and many other subjects.

The second volume is the Dungeon Masters Rulebook. Like the Players Manual the meat of the book is taken up with an adventure. This is also done by slowly removing the amount of help the DM gets. The ground level of the dungeon has very detailed notes for the encounter, the second level has less boxed text and the third level is left up to the DM to create. The introduction on how to be a DM is just as well done as the introduction on how to be a player.

The next section of the book details rules for different situations like morale, traps, and retainers. Then there is a list of monsters and treasure. The final section is a how to guide for dungeon making.

For me this is the best introduction to the game ever made. You could learn to play D&D from this even if you didn't understand what a roleplaying game was when you picked it up. The main drawback of this set was that it was not very useful for looking stuff up later because of its teaching layout.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Spending the evening helping my friend plan his major battle for the Imperial City.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Knockspell Issue 1

Knockspell is another magazine catering to the old school gaming market. It is published by the same people who make Swords and Wizardry and is aimed mainly at that game, although the articles work for any pre-WotC D&D.

The first issue has a great Mullen cover, I really enjoy his art style, especially the way he draws people. Inside you will find an editorial from Tim Kask, the first employee of TSR, an article on one way doors and trick stairs, several character classes, 2 adventures and several other miscellaneous articles.

The high points of the issue for me were:

From Kiroth's Quill, an article on one way doors, variable stairs and sub-levels. These kinds of articles always give me good ideas for things to do in an adventure. Even if I don't use any of the things listed in the article, it sets my mind down that path.

The Random Hireling Generator, I always enjoy random trait generators. They are one of the best tools a GM can have, especially for improv.

Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent, a level 4-7 adventure that features some great atmosphere and some really nasty encounters in the crypt. Room #14 is my favorite

The Dungeon Alphabet by Michael Curtis of The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope is highly enjoyable and is getting published in book form.

I have to admit that I enjoyed Knockspell Issue #1 more than I did Fight On! 1. But both were good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fight On! Issue 1

Fight On! is an old school gaming publication. It will be most useful to people playing OD&D, Basic D&D, or 1st Edition AD&D. By extension it is also useful to people playing Swords and Wizardry, Labarynth Lord, OSRIC and other "retro-clones". That is not to say that it will not be useful to players of newer editions or other games. It is the kind of publication that gets the gears spinning in your head no matter what kind of game you play.

The first issue is a slim 30 pages, but it is packed with gaming goodness. Inside you will find random description tables, a new character race, three dungeon descriptions, some magic items and other various articles full of gaming ideas including a primer on sandbox building. The dungeons are presented in very sparse detail, this gives you enough to work with but leaves plenty of room to make it your own.

Overall I enjoyed the first issue of Fight On! and trust me they only get better, more on that later.

Expedition to Castle Blackmoor

I have been thinking about running a game set in the dungeon of Blackmoor Castle. I started my research a few days ago and thanks to some very nice people (you know who you are) I was able to read Supplement II: Blackmoor and The First Fantasy Campaign. Both of these were interesting reads but didn't help me as much as I thought they would. The First Fantasy Campaign was very difficult to work through. It was basically a dump of Arneson's campaign notes, and in many cases assumed that the reader already knew a lot about the players and the setting. There were some great maps of the dungeons, so I will be using those.

Luckily, a guy named Harvard has an awesome site dedicated to Blackmoor. He also has a rockin' blog on the subject. Thanks to those sites and some articles in Fight On! I was able to read accounts by the actual players of those early games. I found the accounts by Greg Svenson to be especially useful.

There is no way I can reconstruct the actual story of what happened for my game, and I really wouldn't want to anyway (then it wouldn't be my game). I did get enough information to get an idea of the feel. It seems that many of the excursions into Castle Blackmoor were made by a group of PCs with a large retinue of guards and soldiers. I also managed to get enough plot ideas to grab some of the old style.

I am planning on using Searchers of the Unknown to keep it as rules light as possible. I thought about using Swords and Wizardry: White Box but I don't want to spend any time on rules explanation. I plan on giving the players a large number of soldiers to take into the dungeon, SotU will make the combat really easy to handle.

My basic plot idea revolves around Baron Fant and his transformation into Lord Fang. I actually couldn't figure out if they were historically the same character, but I am going to go with it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


This blog will deal with pen and paper roll playing games. I previously had a blog that dealt with many different kinds of games and with movies. I will concentrate only on pen and paper games and related items in this blog