The Red Heart Fortress was an example on adventure prep that got published in Fight On #8. At the time, Calithena had mentioned on the forum that he might be interested in half-finished notes etc. I submitted the following:
The essay that went along with it wasn’t published but it’s available on this blog together with the colored original I used for my own game.
The Darkness Beneath is Fight On!’s community megadungeon, and I’m using it for my two Labyrinth Lord games. One of the two games has seen a lot of interaction with the upper three levels of the dungeon:
- Level 1: The Upper Caves by Hackman, with Calithena and David Bowman
- Level 2: Warrens of the Troglodytes by Calithena w/ help from David Bowman
- Level 3: Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men by David Bowman
The Upper Caves connect both to the warrens and the spawning grounds. The warrens have tunnels that end in a swamp. No problem – I soon had rumors of “smelly men” and “toad men” to be heard in the town inn, shepherds needed help with their sheep being stolen during the night, and so on. The town is also by the sea shore, so I had various fishermen following the cult of the crab.
The first few sessions, there were some encounters vaguely related to the dungeon. One player’s newly bought dog was taken by a giant crab and dragged into a cave. Inside, two more giant crabs killed the priest and scared the players away. In another encounter the party was attacked while traveling through and one of the toad men broke the elf’s arm (Death and Dismemberment for the win).
A few sessions ago, however, the party decided to investigate some more and found an entrance to the warrens. There, they started talking and got a superb reaction roll. In the end, one of the characters did some cave paintings for the troglodytes. Then they heard about the king’s treasure and wanted to see him. They started realizing how big the dungeon was with pits, unsafe areas, guards, patrols, lizards, toad knights, and more. They spoke with the king and promised to take care of the crab-men.
In the meantime, the other party had organized a strike force of twenty mercenaries in order to root out the cult of the crab. They entered the spawning grounds from the sea and ended up in the cave men temple, killing practically all of the worshippers.
Thus, when the first party was led to the spawning grounds, they hardly met any cave men. No treasure, either. Instead, they met a giant, freed a mad man, killed some scavenging crabs, sold them to the giant, and so on. Finally the giant told them more about the cave men, the crab men, the boy that kidnaps cave men, and so on. They decided to retreat and heal.
This required them to find their way back through the upper caves – and nobody had drawn a map! That was very exciting.
They did manage to return to the warrens with their troglodyte allies where they rested. They were attacked by a giant badger, heard of the two remaining giant badgers, and decided to get their treasure. The plan they hatched involved cooking the first badger in its own skin in order to gain a lot of badger oil, which they then used to light a big fire and scare the remaining the badgers away. After looting the cave, they returned and found the two giant badgers attacking their troglodyte allies and fought them, too.
In short, it was awesome. They loved the waterfall flowing upwards and thought about trying to dive in. They loved the invitation to the fungus god summoning ritual and participated heartily (sponsoring it with four hundred badger sausages).
The players loved the dungeon. “I don’t want to return to town, this dungeon is much more exciting!”
I think we will be playing here for a while.
We’re going through the issue article by article…
!!! Spoilers ahead !!!
- Post-Apocalyptic Crafting
- These are rules for crafting mundane items. If your game is about scarcity, this seems like a cool idea. The table says how many slots each item gets, and how many points you need to get for a particular item quality. Given that the rules allow you to make a craft roll when exploring rooms, vehicles, or looting, the “crafting” includes collecting enough raw material, being lucky, finding the missing component, etc. It looks like a fun little minigame to play on the side.
- A long linear sequence of weird encounters along an underground river. Maybe useful if you have a fabulous underground location that can be reached by following the river and you want to give your players a feeling of how far away from the surface it is and how weird things are turning out to be down here. Just reading through it, it seems to lack life, opposition, or an immediate goal for players. You will need to fill in the details. Perhaps in play this will resolve itself?
- Two Tribes
- A four page science fiction scenario about an isolated solar system divided into three factions with various hideouts each. Each planet gets a one paragraph write-up and each faction gets a longer write-up. There is a description and minimal stats for a corpulent imperator, his stressed assistant, a bitter revolutionary, a driven guerilla, and stats for the respective minions of the three factions. What I really like is the end of the scenario describing what the author’s players did. That puts things in perspective.
- The Temple of Thek
- Nearly five pages on a non-canon Tékumel temple. I find this article to be of little immediate use at my gaming table. I don’t run a Tékumel campaign, and there is no situation, there are no relations, no people to adapt for my own game. It’s all one hundred percent Tékumel background material. This is excellent if you haven’t read any Tékumel material and want to get a feel for it, or if you need a destination full of cultural differences for your players to explore after they suffer a magical mishap of some sort that gates them here.
- Random’s Assortments
- A selection of traps from the interesting to the insane. I liked the green slime powder. Add water and you get green slime! I very much dislike the cursed chest where upon opening all those who helped in the endeavor get to roll a d6 and a result of 1 indicates that your head explodes. Uhm, what? The other traps fall somewhere in between, if slightly on the gonzo side.
- Caverns of the Beast Mistress
- An eleven page tribute dungeon level inspired by the Caverns of Thracia and Night of the Walking Wet. It’s full of minotaurs, and there’s an alien psychic worm-slime pilot at the end. What’s not to like?
- Interview with Paul Jaquays
- This Fight On! issue is dedicated to the author of the Caverns of Thracia. I enjoyed this five page interview. Sure, these days you can read interviews and forum threads dedicated to the little stars of our hobby, but I had never read anything by Paul Jaquays before.
- The Balsphemous Shrine of the Tentacled God
- This is level 12 for the ongoing joint effort at building The Darkness Beneath. I love the Imp Machine, Space Ogres, Transporter Room including a handwritten sign by M. Scott, the last living Electroweak Elemental (immune to electromagnetic and weak force, double damage from gravitic and strong force attacks)… Did you guess who the author is? None other than Jeff Rients. And I have just read the first half of it!
- Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror
- Two well-written reviews, the first about Dragons at Dawn, a reconstruction of the game played by Dave Arneson. As an example, only three spells out of forty-seven deal damage. One of them causes a slow decay, and the other two are fireball and lightning bolt, respectively. The reviewer points these things out, provides ample reflection and discusses his own bias. I felt informed. The other game reviewed is Backswords & Bucklers, an Elizabethan England variant of Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox. The author discusses his dislike for d6 weapon damage, which is part of the whitebox tradition, and laments the lack of background material. As written, however, these omissions seem to be appropriate to me (just as OD&D itself provides practically no background material). That left me a bit confused.
- The End of the World, Considered as Prelude
- Four pages of fiction. I usually don’t read this sort of fiction because I have so many unread books I could be reading instead. In addition to that I have very little to compare this with.
- Witches of N’Kai
- A single page of role-playing game systems written as a tribute to Carcosa and Searches of the Unknown, which in turn spawned another dozen or more variants. That’s the Microlite20 spirit, right there!
- Grognard’s Grimoire
- Eleven illusionist spells. Many of them are variations of such spells as later edition Alter Self or Disguise Self, others allows targets to disguise targets as somebody else, disguise targets as a corpse, make targets look like shadows (a weaker form of invisibility). My favorite is the Phantasmagorical Blade that always hits unless the target saves, with Hallucinatory Army a close second. The army is very large, but only lasts until touched by an intelligent creature. I’m imagining interesting results.
- Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments
- Rules for the creation of six types of homunculons, and three types of elegant high-tech weapons suitable for a “mutated” age. I liked them all.
I noted several typos on a first reading, but having done some editing for free I know how boring it is and cannot get my self to complain about it. Sure, it’d be nice to fix them all, but I’m not volunteering!
I recently stumbled upon a review of Fight On! #10. I guess if we don’t write reviews, then we deserve what we get… I’m picking issue #9 instead of the very last issue #10.
The last Fight On! magazine I have available in print. The current one is issue #10, but where as Lulu said that my order of The Wilderness Alphabet Fight On! #10 shipped on October 15, they haven’t arrived.
Note: I was published in Fight On! issues #4 to #10. I like Fight On! magazine for its self-made look that invites me to contribute. It looks like a fanzine for people like myself, by people like myself.
Also note: A different review for issue #10 was recently posted on the OD&D board by crusssdaddy.
!!! Spoilers ahead !!!
Anyway, the articles! Here’s a short review of the first half of the magazine:
- Awesome, claustrophobic dungeon atmosphere!
- Top of the Class
- Feats for your old school fighters I don’t like, because I prefer my fighters to be simple to play. Even a simple weapon specialization will end up biting me, if I ever find a better weapon of a different make. A system to overmemorize spells and associated mishaps I don’t like because it complicates. I’m not sure this adds an interesting choice to mages. Does it ever make sense to memorize more than one extra spell? As for the advice on how to pimp your priest and the examples provided: I love it. The thief modifiers to the standard 1 in 6 or 2 in 6 rolls I’m divided on. I don’t like it because they complicate something that should be simple. I do like it because the table has some funny entries (“because I’m an elf” gives you a -1 penalty) and the thief customization is interesting.
- Bird-Men of Hyperborea
- I like the word “genonomous” but could not google it nor did I find it in my Webster dictionary. The geno prefix stands for race; the nomy root stands for system… Hm… Oh well. Anyway, servile, bickering, recalcitrant creatures that offer aerial transport, I like.
- Knights & Knaves
- I like the idea of NPC stats, because I have a hard time coming up with them myself. I think the description of the scenery and their demeanor is too long. Maybe a sentence per level is a good rule of thumb?
- Spellslingers for Hire
- I love these 10 NPCs. The descriptions are short and to the point. I’d love to use these in my campaign. The only thing not provided – and I have no short and succinct solution for this either – are spell-books. I often spend too much time assembling thematically appropriate spell-books.
- A twelve page city supplement! Amazing. It makes me want to play in Gabor Lux’s Formalhaut campaign. If I didn’t have a handful of excellent villages and cities to use as campaign bases, this would do really well. As it stands, I’m probably not going to use it for a long time to come. It just serves as an example of how other referees create their urban settings. What impressed me the most is that the first “room” description is for the Western Gate and it already comes with a cool adventure idea. Anyway, it’s very long and while it may be easy to drop into a setting I would think it is hard to drop into a campaign without making it the center point of the campaign for many levels. So yes, it’s awesome, but it’s scary, too.
- Inter-Session Events
- I like the idea of rolling on a random table for a significant event in between sessions if you’re in an episodic campaign. The only result I’d be wary of is “pauper” where the player looses all their possessions. How would you make this fun and interesting for the player? Maybe “wake up drunk and naked on the stairs of a temple” – now go find your equipment which you’ve pawned away to important NPC gamblers in town. I guess it might work, if the players know what they are getting into.
- Purchasing Potions
- Probabilities of finding a potion in a village, city, etc. Random table of effects when buying a potion… I dunno. If I allow my players to shop for magic items, I feel the game degenerates into out-of-character shopping, which is why I would never use it.
- The Hobgoblin God’s Crown
- A fourteen page dungeon! Wow, that’s long. A bit too long, maybe. I like the suitably interesting last rooms of the dungeon and the tricky situations the party finds itself in once it beats the opposition. Note that the image of a party fighting a beholder on the last page has nothing to do with the adventure.
- In My World…
- An excellent three page essay on how to gradually build your campaign setting, how to determine enough to make it real, and how to leave enough things open in order to adapt it to your players’ actions and interests. It’s a bit long-winded, but friendly and supportive. I wish I had read this a few years ago to show to those players who wished I had run a campaign in the Forgotten Realms. A feel-good essay.
- Den of Villainy!
- I was a judge in both One Page Dungeon Contests and nominated this one for Best Pirates. It doesn’t immediately suggest adventure. It’s more of a curious assembly of potentially dangerous people, weirdness, and some treasure. Finding and looting the treasure is going to take some investigating. I’d drop it in my current campaign if it featured any pirates.
- Education of a Magic-User
- This is a comic strip about a magic user wanting to bet on a race and a cleric foiling him. I’m not much of a role-playing comic person. I usually take way too long to figure them out.
- I chuckled when I read these one-panel jokes.
- The Singing Cave
- Another One Page Dungeon Contest entry. This one is a simple straight-forward drop-in cave with some surprise harpies at the end. I’ve already placed this one on my campaign map.
- The Contemptible Cube of Quazar
- Yet another entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest getting published. I love them! Short and to the point. This one is a little dungeon on the faces of a cube. The idea is awesome. I’m not sure whether it’ll be as impressive in play because three of the faces each connect to a fourth face, and two faces remain unused. Since there are so few interconnections, there is less confusion for the mapper. I think I’d love more complications since I usually do the mapping if I’m a player, and I love interesting maps.
- Central New Jersey After the “Big Whoops”
- The fourth and last of the One Page Dungeon Contest entries. This one is a little wilderness hex map with keys, not a dungeon per se. There seems to be no obvious adventuring hook to the region. Maybe if you know the region then just exploring it and finding out what happened to the various New Jersey settlements is entertaining enough. It would also work well as a setting for some other Mutant Future adventure. It still needs an adventure.
- Creepies & Crawlies
- Three pages of monsters. All of them are interesting and involve more than just a simple thing to fight. They have a background one could research, they have variations, hints of allies, and adventure seeds built in. I like it.
- Ten Dooms of the Icy Wastes
- Five or six pages (if you include a full page illustration) with ten independent encounters for any of your favorite icy waste hexes in the Carcosa setting or similar. Yellow men, white mutants, jale witches, robots, space aliens, spawn of Shub-Niggurath, you’ll find it all. It makes me want to run a Carcosa campaign, right now.
- The Yellow Forest
- Five pages for some random encounter tables and descriptions of dinosaur-themed jungle encounters. I don’t know. I’m not too much into dinosaurs and related dangers (quicksand, moths, jaguars, etc). It looks a bit like an encyclopedia of stuff, a “dinosaur alphabet” kind of list. These have their place, I admit. Maybe I need a Lost Island themed campaign arc to appreciate it better.
- Tables For Fables
- A table for how much time passed as the party investigated the dungeon, ranging from the negative (leave before your enter and meet your past selves) to a year per level. Very gonzo. Maybe if you’re really into the Mythical Underworld interpretation of dungeon exploration. Don’t pull it off more than once, I’d say. A random table with 20 morale statements. Interesting idea, but I think I’m fine with the standard morale check and some improvisation.
Apparently Fight On magazine is participating in yet another Lulu sales contest. And again hardbound compendiums collecting four issues each will be available. They usually are not. And apparently there’s free shipping within the US. But not for Europe. Grrrr!
- Fight On! Compendium, issues 1-4. Hardbound!
- Fight On! Compendium, issues 5-8. Hardbound!
More info on the boards: