Thursday, December 21, 2017

Villain Spotlight: King Haggard


The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle, was published in 1968.  It tells the story of a unicorn who overhears a hunter saying that she is the last of her kind and decides to leave her enchanted forest in search of other unicorns.  She learns of the Red Bull, who drove the unicorns to a far away land, and she meets companions in the magician Schmendrick and Molly Grue, the wife of a bandit leader.  On the journey to the castle of King Haggard they encounter the Red Bull and Schmendrick turns the unicorn into a human to protect her.  They arrive at the castle and seek employment with the king in order to search the castle for signs of the unicorns.  Following clues and braving the lair of the Red Bull, they eventually free the unicorns and destroy the castle.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

AS&SH Review



Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is a game by Jeff Talanian of North Wind Adventures.  "A Role Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Fantasy", AS&SH is a retroclone somewhat resembling 1e but with significant changes, and including the built in setting of Hyperborea, which is heavily influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many other great authors of weird fiction.  I've been running the game for my group for a handful of sessions now and decided to write up a review with my thoughts so far.  This is fairly long, as necessary for a book this size, looking at the Kickstarter fulfillment and then each section of the book, so if you want the quick version: I love it, 5/5, etc.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

AS&SH: The Manse of Korrhil Xai



I'm behind on campaign updates.  We've had three more sessions of AS&SH, playing weekly on Mondays, although I had to cancel one session due to travelling.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

AS&SH: New Roll20 Campagin



We're taking a break from MCC and beginning a new campaign with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  I backed the kickstarter for the second edition last year.  At the time, I knew nothing of the game, but I loved the idea of a setting based on the works of HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, and the artwork looked great, so I figured I'd mine it for ideas at the very least.  Last June at NTRPG con, I had the opportunity to play the game in Chainsaw's Lost Treasure of Atlantis dungeon and loved it, so I promptly asked Jeff Talanian to upgrade my pledge from pdf level to the hardback.  The kickstarter delivered the pdfs in September, only a few weeks behind the original projected date, which is a huge win as far as kickstarters go.  Books began delivering in October, and although I haven't received mine yet (Jeff is hand signing each one in backer order, and I'm backer #853 of 897), the pictures folks have been sharing on the G+ community are beautiful and the praise has been pretty universal.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MCC: A Fallen Star For All


We continue our adventures in Terra with A Fallen Star For All, a level 1 adventure by Tim Callahan.
From the cover:
A meteor strike in the taboo crater country opens up a huge chasm in which lies a largely intact city of the Ancient Ones.
The resulting mad, mad, mad land rush to go claim the newly available cache of ancient artifacts draws interested parties from all over Terra A.D., and at the direction of your tribal elders, that includes you and your Seeker team!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MCC: Assembling an Apocalypse

Welcome to Terra AD.  While Dungeon Crawl Classics had a lot of implied setting baked into it, Mutant Crawl Classics has gone further and explicitly named and presented some facts about the base setting.  The great disaster the resulted in its current state is left unanswered, but a hothouse climate and a world of overgrown jungles filled with mega-fauna and glowing deserts beset by raging storms is described in brief.
Aside from the bestiary, which includes mutated dinosaurs, intelligent cyborgs, alien dimensional travelers, and enough other weirdness to populate your world, the Archaic Alignments probably offer the most setting information.  These alignments are factions operating in the world of Terra with their own rules for joining and their own conflicting goals.  The Gene Police work to eliminate mutations from Terra while the Children of the Glow actively seek out radioactive areas in order to accelerate their mutations.  The Curators worship ancient technology, the Chosen of Zuu believe manimals to be the next stage in evolution and humanity to be a dying breed, while the Clan of Cog - the default starting faction - believes in respect and cooperation between all sentient beings.
Patron AIs also provide a lot of insight into the world of Terra AD, both past and present.  The AI descriptions give the original intent of each entry - including a security protocol for gaming networks, monitoring weather systems, galactic invasion surveillance - as well as their current goals in the post-apocalypse world.  These entries actually give the most firm view of the world prior to the Great Disaster and generally describe a world not unlike our own in some sci-fi future.
Outside of the MCC rulebook, backers of the Kickstarter have already received 8 supplements - mostly adventures - which give additional information about the setting.  I intend to run through all of these adventures with my game group (we ran through Hive of the Overmind recently and have begun A Fallen Star For All).  I wanted to craft my starting village to be consistent from the start.

Spoilers follow.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Weird Lore Found in Books

I've never felt compelled to build a setting from the ground up.  I like drawing maps occasionally, but actually thinking about the borders of countries, the rulers of realms, the pantheon, the lay of the cosmos, it's all kind of boring to me until I need it.  This is why I like gazetteer style setting books like Matt Finch's Borderland Provinces.  It gives me all that background detail with nice bits like the emblems of each province and the religious heresies operating in the region, while leaving plenty of space for me to develop.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Stonehell Wrap-Up

I've decided to put away my Stonehell game for a while.  I recently moved from Kansas City to Atlanta and had to put the game on hold for a few weeks, after which I didn't get much response on starting it back up.  I think that after eight sessions there may be a feeling of futility in confronting the dungeon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

AS&SH Google Drive Calendar

I love campaign calendars.  The more detailed, the better.  AS&SH has a pretty unique calendar, with a 13 month, 13 year cycle with seasons spanning years and daylight ranging from complete darkness to total illumination at the extremes of the cycle.  If you're tracking weather as well, the Appendix B has a table for seasonal modifiers based on the year.  Festivals and moon cycles are also noted on the calendar.  With dual moons having very different patterns, you get the occasional night with both moons full, which begs for adventures in lycanthropy and witchcraft.
Gary Gygax wrote in the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide that you cannot have a meaningful campaign without keeping strict records of time.  This is obvious when you're in a dungeon where the players can turn over every stone if you aren't tracking time and checking for wandering monsters.  Outside of the dungeon time often gets abstracted in a way that ends up hurting the game.  Managing down time activities and traveling between locales becomes less meaningful without the pressures of time, and players cannot be expected to weigh their options if those time pressures get handwaved away.
The more I run games the more the importance of a good calendar becomes self-evident.  I prefer a spreadsheet to a pdf so that I may store notes on it as I go.  I can also roll up the weather for a couple weeks ahead and have that ready to go so that I don't have to choose between slowing down the gameplay or losing out on an important aspect over wilderness adventuring.  I recreated the AS&SH calendar in Google Drive for this purpose.  Hopefully others can get some use out of it as well.

MCC: Hive of the Overmind



Put my usual DCC campaign on hold last night to run through Hive of the Overmind for Mutant Crawl Classics.  This is a 0-level funnel adventure released as one of the first stretch goals from the MCC kickstarter.  Written by Julian Bernick of Spellburn fame.

From the cover:
Younglings on their Rite of Passage are shocked to regain consciousness with no memory of how they came to be in a gigantic insect hive so far to the north of their homelands, laboring as drone-slaves of the savage ant-men.
In a land where an "insect revolution" has taken place, the PCs must contend with insectoid mega fauna and a maze-like underground installation before facing the ominous Overmind: a building-sized insect queen cybernetically linked to an ancient Chaotic AI.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 8

The Party
Koko Googan - Fighter (Joshua D.)
Theran Helxan - Fighter (Daemian Xantos) - dead
Feldric Rotundo - Fighter (Spooner)
Beal - Torchbearer (Hireling) - dead
Raimond - Halberd Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead
Adjan - Archer Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead
Elayna - Archer Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead
Oath - Archer Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead
Ghak - Globlin Clubber (Hireling) - dead

The Crawl
It was a short expedition, and deadly.  The trio of warriors hired every mercenary they could find at the Magician's Mug and set out for Stonehell with nary a plan.  Koko wanted to try his luck at the Wheel of Fortune again, but got lost and ran into some orcs who were kind enough to redirect him to the appropriate room.  Finding a much decayed dwarf corpse, he used the dwarf's arm to spin the wheel and the party watched in horror as the bones of the corpse shriveled to the size of a mouse and crumbled into dust.  Undeterred, he spun again and found his gold pouch mysteriously emptied.  Feeling that misfortune does not actually come in three, despite the common saying, Feldric Rotundo spun the wheel and was rewarded for his dubious faith with a large amethyst.
Unfortunately, their time playing with fortune had attracted a large horde of giant ferrets, who flooded down the corridor wish ferocious intent.  Ghak was chewed to shreds and several took nasty wounds from the critters and it looked like they might overrun the group, but Koko threw a pair of oil flasks into the hallway and Beal threw his lantern, igniting the beasts and sending them into a panic.  Those burning in front chewed through the back ferrets as they fled from the flames, and a volley of arrows and lingering burns quickly putting them to rest.
Further exploration into previously uncharted parts of the dungeon found an alcove with a stone statue in the likeness of a bipedal lizard with four arms outstretched.  In front of the lizard was a large bowl, filled to the brim with hundreds of shining golden coins.  A great many stone fragments lay all about the alcove and the ceiling had ruptures and cracks throughout it.  After briefly considering the scene, Koko and Theran made a grab at the coins.  As soon as their hands entered the bowl, a crack of thunder shuddered the room and split the ceiling further.  A storm of stone shards rained violently on the group, battering Theran, Beal, Elayna, Raimond, Oath, and Adjan to death.  Koko and Feldric barely avoided hailstorm, and scooped up the rest of the gold from the bowl and fled Stonehell.  As they counted their blood-stained treasures, they only hoped it would be enough to hire new mercenaries once word of the terrible fate of all their previous followers spread.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 7

The Party
Burge - Fighter (john)
Casterfo Hearthwood - Fighter (Lane S.) - dead
Chrissy - Elf Magic-User (Chrissy)
Daemian Xantos - Fighter (Daemian Xantos)
Hammer Boyd - Fighter (Chris Scott)
Just Plain Jim - Halfling Thief (Andrew S.)
Koko Googan - Fighter (Joshua D.)
Odie Smee - Cleric (Chris H.)
Saevel - Magic-User (Laim O.)

The Crawl
A full party ventured into Stonehell.  Under Hammer's leadership, they resolved to return the crypts where previous expeditions had found the most treasure.  Making their way through familiar rooms, they encountered a massive cave lizard, an eight foot long scaled monstrosity that charged the group viciously.  Keeping formation, arrows flew, polarms, swords, and axes struck, and the beast was slain without casualty.
Moving on, they found themselves back in the dusky crypts.  They retraced their steps along the northern hall, seeing that all the crypts along this section had been plundered now and remained empty.  Eventually the returned to the evil priest's chamber and found a band of black robed acolytes, worshipers of that veiled goddess, who attacked with a mindless frenzy and were quickly slain.  Beyond this chamber, they encountered a room with a strange black obelisk.  Odie warned that he felt cut off from his god in this evil place, and they chose a side passage to move into.  Here they found a small room where hideous ghouls were tearing the flesh from the bones of some poor victims.  The party killed the ghouls and found a warhammer, which the magic-users were able to detect a magic aura on, though they could not say if the magic was good or evil.
Further into the crypts, they encountered a massive horde of undead in varying state of composition.  Twice Odie rebuked groups of the undead with holy wrath, splitting them up and allowing the group to take them on in smaller waves, but he was unable to rebuke them a third time, and Casterfo fell to a skeletal warrior's rusty sword.
Sad to lose one of their veteran members, the party decided to return to the roadhouse, but felt confident that the many undead they'd slain would surely clearly the way for deeper expeditions to come.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 6

The Party
Hammer Boyd - Fighter (Chris Scott)
Casterfo Hearthwood - Fighter (Lane S.)
Koko Googan - Fighter (Joshua D.)
Magnus the Adequate - Magic-User (Greg)
Yonder Dirkwater - Cleric (Spooner)  - dead
Beal - Torchbearer (Hireling)
Raimond - Halberd Men-at-Arms (Hireling)
Othine - Archer Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead
Adjan - Archer Men-at-Arms (Hireling)
Claud - Axe Men-at-Arms (Hireling) - dead

The Crawl
At the Mug, the adventurers made a plan to deal with the orcs in Stonehell and recover the stolen Breyheath treasure.  They chose a frontal assault and recruited heavily among the locals, gathering men-at-arms to bolster their ranks.  They made their way to the southeast of the great stairs, retracing past steps through the room of the Dwarven carvings.  Along the way they were attacked by a pack of giant centipedes, but they were easily dispatched with arrows before the venomous creatures could strike anyone.  The first corridor leading towards the orc lair was filled with refuse and a large pack of giant rats feasting on it, so the party continued south to a new corridor.  Here they found a pair of armored human statues flanking a small room, pointing at each other.  Fearing to pass between those statues, Yonder led the group single file, hugging the outer wall, in order to move around them.
Soon they arrived in the sleeping quarters of the orcs, where six orcs drank and sharpened their blades.  The party struck quickly, but orc arrows fell Yonder and Othine.  The melee dispatched the remaining orcs quickly, but Claud was slain and the noise summoned the great orc captain, who burst out of his room roaring with fury and swinging his great bone-hilted battleaxe.  As he charged forward, Magnus called on arcane forces to put the monster into a sleep, and the warriors quietly decapitated his still head.  In the next room they found another pack of orcs, fortified behind a makeshift wall.  The party moved back around the corner and called out to parlay, while displaying the severed head of their leader.  They were approached by one of the orcs who called himself Snaga and asked for the wise and fair Seer Elofinde.  With the death of Shagrat, Elofinde had promised to make Snaga the new leader.  The party honored Elofinde's word and gave Snaga the wicked battleaxe to signify his leadership.  Snaga promised the adventurers safe passage through his outpost in the future, but warned that the greater part of the orc tribe lie to the south, and Big Chief Mudugoth would not be pleased to see them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 5

The Party
Casterfo Hearthwood - Fighter (Lane S.)
Orin Smee - Fighter (Chris H.) - dead
Thorold - Fighter (Mathieu V.)
Markus Ironfist - Dwarf Fighter (Greg) - dead
Seer Elofinde - Magic-User (Frey)
Black-Eyed Sonya - Elf Thief (Wright J.)
Yonder Dirkwater (Spooner)
Magnus the Acceptable - (Greg)

The Crawl
At the Mug, a soldier tells his story.  He was part of a military escort from Breyheath taking a payment to the outposts in the Reach.  His band was set upon by orcs and slaughtered.  The soldier was gravely wounded and left for dead.  Coming to, he followed their tracks to Stonehell, but lacked the strength to go in.  Now a deserter, he cannot return to Breyheath empty handed.
Casterfo recalled meeting some orcs to the south of the grand staircase entering Stonehell.  The party elected him leader and set out to retrace his steps in hopes of recovering this military treasure.  Moving through a room carved with dwarven figures, Markus was able to identify them as avatars of strength, virility, and cunning.  Examining the avatar of cunning, they found a secret door which opened into an orc guard post.  In the ensuing battle, Markus was slain by orc arrows, but Seer Elofinde was able to charm two of the orcs.  The orcs agreed to lead them to the captain and said that if any could best the captain in single combat, the orcs under his command would join them, but if they tried to outnumber the orc captain, the tribe would fall on them and tear their limbs off.  Approaching the captain's room, the door burst open and the largest orc beast any had ever seen roared with rage, swinging a massive bone-hilted battled axe.  Casterfo and Orin ducked his attacks but were certain the strength of his blows would easily cleave any one of them in half, and the entire party fled from the orc outpost with the tribe's jeers and taunts echoing behind them.
After a quick trip back to the Mug to recruit the Magic-User Magnus and the cleric Yonder, they decided to make back for the crypts, where Elofinde had so much success before.  On the way back to the crypts, they explored a room they'd passed by before.  Covered in mildew and rot and full of broken furniture, they did find a secret compartment in an old wardrobe that held a jewelry box, long missed by other explorers.
In the crypts, they chose southern halls this time, quickly falling back into their proven strategies of clearing crypts.  They found these halls to be more dangerous, however.  Horrendous, flesh-eating ghouls were found in the first, but Yonder was able to banish them.  The second crypt opened into a cold, ominous darkness that their lanterns could not penetrate.  Across the floor they could see a set of gold and gem encrusted jewelry gleaming.  As they argued whether or not to go after it, the darkness spilled out of the crypt and formed into two malicious shades in the corridor.  The fighters swung their blades at the shadows but they passed harmlessly through, while the shade reached out at Elofinde and she felt an icy claw rake through her, sapping her strength away.  Yonder splashed holy water around the corridor, missing the shades, but the party was able to flee and choose another hall.  Here the first crypt they opened spilled out undead skeletal warriors, and although they defeated them, Orin was slain in the melee.  With another slain and most of the party licking wounds, they decided to end this expedition and return to the expedition.  The jewelry box and some gold found in the ghoul crypt more than paid for the expedition in, but the body count in Stonehell continues to rise.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 4

The Party
Hammer Boyd - Fighter (Chris Scott)
Cecil Bonebottoms - Magic-User (Spooner) - dead
Jacobus the Consecrated - Cleric (John M.)
Rinorren Alsbach - Fighter (spicer)
Eneagon - Cleric (Nicholas D.)
Casterfo Hearthwood - Fighter (Lane S.)
Carissa - Elf Magic-User (Joshua D.) - dead
Koko Googan - Fighter (Joshua D.)

The Crawl
This is not the stuff that legends are made of.  As snow fell outside the inn, a party formed under the veteran leadership of Hammer Boyd.  With the foul weather and the deaths of too many hirelings recently, they had trouble filling the ranks with any other willing adventurers from the locals.  After buying some heavy fur cloaks from a trader in the inn, they set out again for Stonehell.  Arriving at the canyon, they decided to have a look in the ancient, crumbling gate house.  Through empty corridors littered with dirt and dried leaves, they kicked open doors and found a pack of goblins feasting on a dear carcass.  Before anyone could speak, Hammer and the magic-users led the charge into the room.  The ensuing melee was chaos, and when the last goblin was struck down, Carissa had been slain and almost no on went unscathed.  A few silver pieces and a gold nose ring taken from one of the goblins would be the reward for Carissa's life.
They returned to the party to get a night's rest and recruited Koko Googan to join them.  Returning again to the canyon, they bypassed the gate house and made straight for the entrance to Stonehell.  After Jacobus fell into a pit trap, they learned caution and began prodding their way cautiously through the dungeon.  To the southeast they came to an intersection where a band of orcs met them.  Choosing to parlay instead of charge, the orcs warned them to turn back and stay out of their territory, advice well heeded.
With Eneagon's prompts, they were able to find their way back to the Wheel of Fortune, where they found the corpse of a dwarf, empty cavities where his eyes should be.  Eneagon identified his former companion, Samo, and recommended that his new companions try their luck at the Wheel.  Koko spun first, and felt blessed with quick reflexes and strong fortitude.  Casterfo was emboldened and spun next, and felt the wisdom of the ancients flood his mind.  Cecil spun third, and with a flash of smoke was gone, replaced by a small squirrel.
Feeling their luck had run out, the party made their way back to the Magician's Mug.  They'd lost two of their number to Stonehell, with only a goblin's gold nose ring to show for it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 3

The Party
Isarn Esrevaine - Cleric (Spooner) - dead
Black-Eyed Sonya - Elf Thief (Wright J.)
Carissa - Elf Magic-User (Joshua D.)
Hammer Boyd - Fighter (Caleb C.)
Jacobus the Consecrated - Cleric (John M.)
Rurik Devilspawn - Cleric (Tatiana E.)
Seer Elofinde - Magic-User (Frey)

The Crawl
A little leadership and experience goes a long way.  Returning adventurers Isarn, Hammer, and Elofinde recruited a new batch of neophytes to return to Stonehell. With three clerics in the party, they decided to make for the crypts where they’d had some luck before with grave robbing. Using Elofinde’s maps, they were able to retrace their steps safely and efficiently. Things seemed unchanged in the halls of the dead, and they picked back up at the crypt that Elofinde had previously spiked. With superior numbers, volleys of ranged weaponry, and the righteous furor of at least two of their clerics, they were able to make quick work of the skeletons and zombies that plagued the crypts. Treasure came easy in these ancient tombs.
After clearing the crypts along the north corridor, they came to a large chamber with a rusty iron statue of a veiled woman wielding two flails – one plated in gold. The likeness matched an unholy artifact they’d found among the crypts before, but the shine of gold can brighten up even the most depraved shrines. After taking the flail, some in the party suggested making for the surface with their bounty, while others argued to press on. Rurik located a secret door on the south wall and curiosity overcame prudence. Following the hidden corridor to an old priest’s chamber, the adventurers were quick to ransack the room, but slow to look up. Large centipede dropped from the ceiling and struck Elofinde, Grim Will, and Isarn. Antidotes purchased from Savort the Alchemist saved Elofinde and Will, but there wasn’t enough to go around for Isarn, and the hired cleric became the seventh victim claimed by Stonehell.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 2

The Party
Raker - Thief (Spooner) - dead
Rinnorren - Fighter (spicer)
Cotter - Figher (Chris Scott) - dead
Hammer - Fighter (Chris Scott)
Elofinde - Magic-User (Frey)
Isarn - Cleric (NPC/Spooner)
Oath - Thief (NPC)

The Crawl
Under the veteran guidance of Raker, thief extraordinaire, a new party ventured back into Hell's Antechamber.  They avoided the "Dragon's Den".  They closed the door on some giant rats feasting on fresh corpses.  A brief encounter with some kobolds was ended decisively with arrows and darts, and when they discovered a kobold outpost, they kept their distance.  They discovered a stone carving of a head, 10' tall with smoking mouth and crystal eyes.  It answered questions in cryptic phrases, but they were only interested in those crystals, which were soon pried free.  They discovered a room covered in soot, showing sillhouettes on the walls that spoke of horrible dangers.  Here they met a group of dwarves led by an archeologist named Snorri Broadshoulders.  The courageous adventurers allowed the dwarves to traipse across the the sooty room before them to ensure its safety.  This was a group that knew the dangers of Stonehell.  Warned of the poisonous snakes that leap from dark places and struck down most of Raker's old team, they proceeded into a junk room and started kicking through the garbage, startling some poisonous snakes that struck down Raker and Cotter.
Back to the inn, they recruited Hammer and Oath to fill the void of their freshly departed and swore revenge on all things serpentine.  They returned to Stonehell and made their way further in.  Avoid the living became the order of the day.  An ancient battlefield seemed promising.  Only corpses and rusted weapons here.  The mausoleum doors, adorned with dancing skeletons, promised a lack of flesh and blood beyond.  Into the crypts, the grave-robbers proceeded to ransack tomb after tomb.  Where they encountered resistance, it was in the form of newly arisen corpses, and a healthy dose of Isarn's prayers and applied fire made swift work of them.  The tombs proved valuable, and before long the party was able to return to the inn with a fair supply of treasure to show for their expeditions.  Drinks to the fallen!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stonehell: Expedition 1

The Party
Samo - Dwarf Fighter (spicer) - dead
Raker - Thief (Spooner)
Eneagon - Cleric (Nicholas)
Porealis - Ranger (imafrog) - dead
Kerroph - Magic-User (Michael) - dead
Father Mug - Cleric (NPC/spicer) - dead

The Crawl
Explored a few rooms of the first level of Stonehell, known to adventurers as Hell's Antechamber.  The first casualty came from a magic wheel of fortune.  After Porealis spun it and claimed a large sapphire, Samo attempted to push the dial to a specific result.  The wheel spun free of its own will and landed on a sigil of death - he was instantly struck down.  After Kerroph was temporarily paralized by his turn at the wheel, the party moved on.
In another room, the party found a dry fountain with fish statues.  Porealis poured water into it which instantly vaporized into a poisonous gas, which he narrowly avoided inhaling.  Father Mug poured holy water into the fountain and removed its curse, after which it flowed with a clean, pure water.
The party was ambushed by 9 giant rats, but Kerroph cast a sleep spell on them and they were all bashed to death in their sleep.
Further investigation of the room discovered a giant spider nest.  Three great arachnids attacked, but were slain quickly before they could harm anyone.  The nest was put the the torch, incinerating dozens of eggs.
Further into Hell's Antechamber, the party found a rough cavernous area with a stone well that whistled with gusts of wind.  As they moved to inspect it. 5 poisonous cobras struck from the darkness of the well, isntantly dropping Porealis, Kerroph, and Father Mug.  Raker and Enagon quickly scooped up Porealis's magically bestowed gem and Father Mug's holy mace and fled from dungeon, retracing their steps by Raker's chalk marks.  Without incident, they returned to the stairwell and exited Stonehell - for now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Stonehell: Running an open table megadungeon.


There's something immediately fascinating to me about the megadungeon.  A vast network of halls delving ever deeper into stranger realms, where adventurers brave horrendous monsters, lethal traps, and cunning puzzles to win fame and fortune.  The scope of the dungeon implies a certain precedence: this is the game.  World building can be somewhat postponed when the session is all about plunging straight into the dungeon for further exploration, but the world building that emerges through play can lead to an organic, immersive experience.
I am running Stonehell, Michael Curtis's 10 level megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord, as an open table on Roll20.  I'm adapting it to Swords & Wizardry Complete, my preferred retro-clone, which is pretty much effortless.  I'm redrawing all the maps in Dungeonographer and drawing dynamic lighting in Roll20.  This allows for some fun dungeon exploration.  Easy to track the party's movement through the dungeon, and no confusion on the description, but their vision of the dungeon is limited by their light source.
I am capping players per session at 8 to keep it manageable, and posting a signup sheet a couple days before each session.  I'll post my play reports and thoughts on play as we go.  As a product, I'm very impressed with Stonehell.  I purchased the pdf and was ready to run the first session the following day.  It uses a very condensed format to make each section of the dungeon very easy to digest.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in large dungeons, but especially for someone new to running this sort of thing.  It doesn't waste any time on anything you don't need, which really lets the referee focus on presenting the dungeon.