Whenever I need an adventure for a single session, I think of my favorite entries in the One Page Dungeon Contest. One of the first entries I keep thinking of is The Ruination Of Tenamen by Waysoftheearth.
It’s an orc lair with a pit in front of a throne à la Jabba the Hutt with an owlbear instead of a rancor, a medusa living in secret passages, an underground river and other exits. Excellent!
I needed a lair for an ogre called Jugular who was the third ogre terrorizing an elf village. The party crept in through a back entrance, defeated the two orc patrols that tried to hold them off (wandering monsters). One of the orcs escaped and warned the others. The party crossed the river using rope and the levitation spell, ended up allying themselves with the orcs in the digs (killed the single male in the first dig, talked to the females with kids and demanded negotiations after discovering that they didn’t like their boss, either), sent Bolgug (who had organized a defense of the digger orcs) to fetch the prison keys (he wanted to rule the tribe as soon as the ogre was disposed of), but he acted suspiciously (I had decided) and was thrown to the owlbear. The party heard his screams and came to his rescue. Behind the pit stood the super ogre! I had given him 6+1 HD which ended up being 29 hit-points. The party had surprise on their side and fired arrows, then they gained initiative and fired more arrows, threw a spear and the ogre was down to one hit-point (I tell my players their enemy’s hit-points if they ask). The dwarf wanted to reach the ogre with his axe. I told the player that her dwarf could jump across the pit and hit the ogre in the face—but if she missed, she’d fall into the pit and take 2d6 damage. She went for it, made it, and slew the ogre!
The paladin wanted to jump down into the pit and help their orc-friend Bolgug. I told her that if she’d jump down she’d take 2d6 damage and she said she wanted to land on top of the owlbear. I said ok, if you hit the owlbear, you can add 2d6 to your damage. If you miss, you’ll take 2d6 damage. She had 9 hit-points left and went for it, and hit. The owlbear had 17 hit points and survived the hit. With the help of lady Luck she survived the counter-attack and in the next round, she slew the owlbear.
What a finale! We then rolled for treasure and got 1000 gp for the ogre and five jewels (30, 300, 600, 700, 1400)—in that order. It was awesome.
The players were a very good friend of mine and his three kids and the oldest girl’s boyfriend who had played for the very first time.
Two players chose a character each from the list. J. picked the magic user and F. picked the elf. The framing story I had presented involved them searching for the secret stash of loot left in the prisons of Dis and they were going to try to enter the prison from the water—from the river Styx.
The game started in the region called Eternal Swamp. I didn’t have many notes beyond a few visuals. Predictably, the feedback was that the beginning of the adventure needed more of a challenge for players to overcome, or a riddle to solve, or a dark secret to uncover. Good points and something to keep in mind for the next session in 14 days.
Most of the time was spent exploring the Bubbling Stench. My take on the evening was the following:
- the boglings as described (“they fear and hate foreigners, too afraid to attack”) have no reason to interact with the party. The afterthought of “may act as guides” required me to ignore the first part, so that needs to be changed. Curious? Greedy? Want to lead visitors to the toad fane in order to be sacrificed?
- Lior had been writing up some developments based on the actions of the party. Basically the referee was to figure out whether the events deserve a label such as bloody or joyful leading to more specific random tables of events. I love the idea, but in play the connection between action and resulting event was too tenuous.
- Role-playing the important NPC at the fane was no problem, but I failed to tempt the players to sack the temple and loot it. It needs more flaunted wealth, or the priest needs to better insinuate the wealth.
- In fact, the areas need treasure just as much as they need random encounters. The bogling camp needs treasure. The dreaming tyrant at the bottom of the lake needs treasure. The toad fane needs treasure.
- The pregenerated characters need trade goods such as rings, bracelets, jewels, gold coins, and the like.
- Printing what little material I had (which I assume to be around 15%) I already needed 10 pages without the images! This is way too long. I’d fill all 88 pages of Fight On! with this dungeon. Not good.
- I really appreciated the lack of a solid spatial map. The simple sketch was good enough. Although I realized that the river Styx flowed in the opposite direction than what I imagined. Must place the toad fane at the other end!
I’m getting to play test my Styx Underworld with three friends. What sort of party should they bring along?
I rolled up seven arrays of stats and assigned them each one of the seven classes from the Labyrinth Lord book and gave them 600’001 XP. Then I went to the treasure tables at the end and rolled on some of the tables and assigned the magic items as I saw fit. After everything was distributed, I went over the stuff and gave little bonuses here and there.
My own campaign uses the house rule of rerolling all your hit dice when you gain a new hit die. So I gave them all the best of three rolls: 7 hit dice, 8 hit dice, and 9 hit dice except for the halfling who got one die less on each roll (the halfling level limit is 8).
My own campaign also uses the rule of limiting the spells known to the spells per day which is why they have open slots in their spell books. That’s where they will scribe new spells if they meet spell casters that will teach them new things.
work in progress
|plate mail (AC 3), shield, staff of striking (19 charges) w/ continual light 60’ radius, ring of fire resistance, decanter of endless water|
|special abilities: true oath, anybody holding a hand into a flame will not get hurt and only be able to speak the truth or not at all|
|spells memorized (cleric of Mitra): |
1. cure light wounds (memorized 4×), detect magic (memorized 2×)
2. bless, find traps, hold person, silence 15’ radius, speak with animals
3. cure disease, remove curse, striking (memorized 2×)
4. cure serious wounds (memorized 2×), neutralize poison (memorized 2×)
5. raise dead, cure critical wounds, commune
6. heal, stone tell
|royal dwarven plate mail +3 (AC 0), matching shield +2, dwarven axe +2 w/ continual light 60’ radius, potion of treasure finding|
|special abilities: trained to deflect arrows in Taipur, save vs. paralysis once per round to avoid an arrow|
|dwarven plate mail +2 (AC 1), matching shield +2, wolf bane sword +1, +2 vs. lycanthropes w/ continual light 60’ radius, ring of fire resistance, potion of speed|
|sword of the wild hunt +1, +3 vs. undead w/ continual light 60’ radius, elven plate mail of the crab +1 (AC 2, allows wearer to hunker down and look like a natural stone ⅔ of the time), matching shield +1, philter of love, spell book|
|spells known (student of the sea elf queen Gerdana): |
1. charm person, sleep, read magic
2. detect evil (memorized 3×), continual light (not memorized), (open slot)
3. lightning bolt, protection from normal missiles, water breathing
4. polymorph self (memorized 2×), remove curse, (open slot)
5. telekinesis (memorized 2×), (open slot)
|dagger w/ continual light 60’ radius, spell book, potion of ESP, wand of detect enemies, scroll of stone to flesh, reincarnation|
|spells known (student of Ubon): |
1. magic missile, light, read languages
2. invisibility (memorized 2×), detect invisible, continual light (not memorized)
3. lightning bolt, fly, hold person
4. polymorph self (memorized 2×), polymorph other, (open slot)
5. conjure elemental, contact other plane
|ring of x-ray vision, feathered spear of the sea elves +1 w/ continual light 60’ radius, elven leather armor +1 (AC 6), cloak of protection +1, potion of poison, lock picks|
|short bow, 3 arrows +3, 15 arrows +1, 22 ordinary arrows, sun sword of the sea elves +1 w/ continual light 60’ radius, plate mail (AC 3), shield +1, eyes of the eagle, potion of heroism (grants a temporary fighter level 10), thieves’ tools|
The party owns some standard adventuring gear as well: pots, trail rations, 4×50 ft. of rope, 4 grappling hooks, 20 spikes, hammer, 2 manacles, pick, shovel, ink, pen, 10 sheets of parchment, 6 vials of holy water, garlic, bedrolls, backpacks, several large sacks for treasure.
The party also owns a treasure map for the crypt of George Crowfeather, Vulture Lord of Rainburgh, who apparently escaped the dungeons of Dis but had to leave his mythical armor, sword, and helm behind. The map shows how enter the dungeon via the river Styx and where to find the secret stash.
A few days ago I revisited my Character Generation Shortcuts and added backgrounds and starting equipment for demihumans. A reader wrote me an email to say that he liked it and used it when he played with his kids. Awesome!
This mail also pushed me to add another four demihuman backgrounds to bring the number up to eight and add a starting spell to all wizard and elf backgrounds. I updated the PDF file, too. Unfortunately I had to reduce the font size to 12.
In an effort to fight mediocrity (read the intro to Greg’s review of Lamentations of the Flame Princess), please let me know if I can improve spelling, grammar, layout, or the entries themselves if they didn’t work for you.
There still is no thief class.
In my games, magic users and elves have as many spells in their spell book as they can cast per day. Thus, they start the game with a single spell in their spell book.
I really should add a license to the file. For the moment, this notice will have to do: The two documents are made available to you under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 license. The font used for the titles is Behrensschrift, free for non-commercial use; the font used for the body is Garamond No 8, also free for non-commercial use.
Update: This also appeared in Fight On! #12.
Last time Noah had learnt that his priest of the Iron God could remain at an abbey in Yellzurthi for a year and study to be great and gain levels. Apparently he had been thinking about this ever since the last session because he announced that this is what his character was going to do. Without missing a beat, the others handed him a new character sheet for the character he was going to play in the mean time. Awesome old school spirit, I say!
I started using my Character Generation Shortcuts. He didn’t know what to play with the stats he had rolled, so I asked him if he was going to be religious (cleric). He was not, and thus he rolled on the fighter table. The result was mercenary and I explained that the Swiss used to be fighting as mercenaries all over Europe. Immediately his character switched to a different Swiss dialect. We looked up pictures of halberds in a book I had bought (Weapon by Richard Holmes and others). We also rolled up some useful dungeoneering equipment (torches and chalk), a trait (vain, start with a mirror, razor, soap, perfume, kohl, and lipstick) (having lipstick resulted in big laughs all around the table) and being an explorer, thus owning a mule, a map, and being in debt (starting with -20 gp).
The map was immediately understood to be a map leading the party to the hidden fortress of the Mitra resistance in the area (remember we’re running this in Rob Conley’s Wilderlands setting from his book Points of Light.
The new character was called Voldemort. A bit later the name Tom Riddle was added to that. I said that Voldemort was obviously a forbidden name and that nobody should speak it aloud. The kids couldn’t resist, of course, and so I said that I’d be rolling a d20 and on a result of 20 something wicked was going to happen. Zeno said that they should be careful, but the kids proceeded to chant “Voldemort! Voldemort!” This happened while they were being attacked by ten pirates. I decreed that an Erynne (from the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book: 0e Reloaded) showed up in the middle of the fight.
To make a long story short, once again their daddy’s character bit the dust… And it was a Str 18 fighter, too! This is the second time the kids caused their dad’s character’s demise. I laughed.
I actually wrote a session report (in German).
Today I ran the first session of my new Labyrinth Lord campaign. The game uses the Sea of Five Winds map of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy (Necromancer Games). Our starting village is Oathcoomb. It says that there is a male human lawful evil wizard (alchemist) called Pimple Purbody. One of the missions I had offered to the players was to go and buy glass wares in the Greydowns. Check out the (German) player map for the campaign.
Since Pimple is lawful evil, I tried to play him like a little devil. He tries to trick you into signing contracts that will have you in debt, he tries to lure you into breaking contracts, etc. At first, the players were surprised that negotiations didn’t go smoothly. I suspect they felt that the negotiation was part of the prologue, not part of the game itself. I quickly introduced a new character mentioned in the village description, Esgarig the inn keeper. He warned the party of Pimple’s deviousness, and offered free dinner and drinks for a table of ten if they managed to thwart the alchemist in some way, or at least fulfill the contract without falling for any of his traps. I think this allowed the players to accept the challenge.
At the Greydowns, the players decided not to show Pimple’s introductory letter, figuring that maybe he wasn’t too popular. I decided that this saved them 10% of the price…
How much money to award for a simple trip back and forth, some haggling and dealing with the alchemist and the inn keeper, a session of three hours? I decided that 1000 gp was about right. Pimple gave them 1000 gp to buy the glass wares. Upon delivery of 1000 gp of glass wares, they’d get 1000 gp to keep. Since the players managed to get a 10% discount, they ended up with a 1100 gp reward.
If the players were really devious and managed to trick the alchemist on his own terms using forgery and the like, they could double the amount to be earned. If they felt like playing chaotic, they could just steal 1000 gp. If they messed things up, they could end up with a debt of 1000 gp. That seemed like a reasonable range.
I had prepared a thing or two for the forest half way to the destination, but the players decided to take the ship to Longbottle and travel from there, avoiding the forest. No problem, I’m sure there will be other opportunities. I improvised 2d6 (nine) bandits on the way back. They were taken care of by a single sleep spell. Apparently the spell allows no save!
Ok, what did I use at the table?
- I suggested that we try and do without the rule book at the table. The players liked the idea! Effectively those who still needed to buy equipment needed the book, and the elf looked up the details of the sleep spell when he needed it.
- Hopefully casters will write their own spell and prayer books. That would be cool. It’s what Claudia is doing in the Alder King game.
- Maybe I should produce a specific price list for the starting village and bring that as a separate sheet of paper.
- I did have four copies of the rulebook at the table, but they never got opened. How very different from my usual D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder RPG games.
- I had prepared two sheets of hirelings using the Meatshields website. Strange names, different backgrounds and secrets, fields of knowledge and equipment – just perfect!
- I had brought along a copy of JB’s B/X Headgear and my players loved rolling on the table.
- I didn’t use my Character Genration Shortcuts. It would have cut down on the time spent buying stuff, but I think my players expected to be rolling for starting gold and going shopping.
- One player with Charisma 17 decided to play a bard from JB’s B/X Companion. This player was a bit disappointed when he discovered that there was no random headgear for bards! We laughed…
- I had brought along a copy of JB’s 100 reasons for a relationship between player characters, but there somehow was no time to roll on it. The players were engaged and I went with the flow.
- When I needed stats for bandits I felt it was easier to use the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book instead of improvising. Shame on me!
- I had a copy of Micheal Curtis’ Stonehell Dungeon and Dyson Logos’ Dyson’s Delve and his Lair of the Frogs, and volumes #2 and #3 of Fight On at the table, but that was clearly overkill.
- I decided to stick a few tables to my DM’s screen for my players to see:
- a table with uses of the d6 (surprise, open door, hear noise, detect secret door, find trap, spring trap, avoid trap, disarm trap, sneaking, and exceptions for elves, dwarves, and halflings)
- a table with monster reactions
- a table with the morale table
- Trollsmyth’s Death & Dismemberment table
- We used the reaction table a few times, but none of the others.
- As we wrapped up, we talked about XP and gold. My house rule is that you have to squander the gold in order to get XP. No buying of useful things. Donate it to a temple, throw a party, that kind of stuff. Nine bandits gave them 11 XP each. Doing the mission gave them 250 gp each. Nobody wanted to spend the money on XP, though. Interesting…
- When I mentioned Jeff Rient’s Party like it’s 999 table, they really wanted to roll on it. I’ll have to produce a carousing table for next session! Roger the GS’ tables might be a good starting point.
Other people have written about one possible limitation for Magic Users in the reading of the B/X Rules: magic users and elves may only know as many spells as they are able to cast per day. Their spell book just cannot grow beyond this limit. I will still let magic users and elves start with two first level spells and one second level spell, however.✎
I’ll give the above limitation a try in the Labyrinth Lord campaign we’re running in the first half of 2011. We’ll see what the players think of it.✎
I’ve started to make a list of 9th level magic users (many of them inspired by magic users played by myself and others in different games in recent years) and assigned them their spell book according to the limitations discussed above: three first level spells, three second level spells, three third level spells, two fourth level spells, and a fifth level spell.✎
Learning about the spells at the disposal of the various magic users in the setting, searching them out and learning their spells is going to be an important element of gaining a level. Essentially these magic users are the magic schools available for player characters.✎
The campaign starts out near a settlement of elves sailing the sea ruled by their queen Gerdana. Her spells basically define the standard spells available to regular magic users in the area.✎
I’ve also tried to go through the collection of spells I gathered from the Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets blog, assigning these spells to the various 9th level magic users of the setting. That’s how I’ll introduce new spells. We’ll see how well this goes.✎
I’ve been running a biweekly science fiction campaign on Wednesday evenings. These sessions are short. We play from 20:00 to 23:00. We started out using Mongoose Traveller and switched to Diaspora. But I just never got into the science fiction groove. Even after seeing all the Firefly episodes, I felt a bit stumped.
This evening everything came together. I wanted to talk about the campaign in 2011, our mid term plans. Before I knew it, we were talking about our preferences, our dislikes, and made the following plan: I was going to run Labyrinth Lord in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy until the summer 2011. That’s going to be about 12 sessions. Then we’ll see. If we feel like changing, Harald might run some Earthdawn and Artesia inspired The Shadow of Yesterday.
I had already prepared a few pages on the new (German) campaign wiki, so I had already picked a starting location: Oakcomb on the Sea of Five Winds and Tlan map. I had prepared four missions:
- pick up some stuff from Oglepuss
- pick up some stuff from Greydowns
- guard a merchant on the way to Pillage
- fight a giant riding a huge mesozooic bird and wielding a gargantuan lance in exchange for half the kingdom of the acorn elves
The party decided to go to the Greydowns.
We also rolled up some characters. The two average guys decided to play a dwarf and an elf. The elf ended up with a single hit point. The third player rolled up a below average character with a charisma of 17. I offered the bard class from Jonathan Becker’s B/X Companion. The offer was accepted.
I am soooo excited to get this campaign started in 2011!!
About a year ago I wrote about character generation shortcuts and half a year later I provided an expanded list as a PDF file, and eventually a slightly modified version of it ended up in Fight On issue #10. Today I saw that the bitter ranting madman of Your Dungeon Is Suck reviewed it and said the following:
- ‘Fast Company’ – Useless: if your players’ creative abilities reach their limit during chargen, get new players.
In a sense, he’s right.
I think the table still works in a convention context, where you want to show off character generation instead of coming with a handful of pregenerated characters. Part of what I’m trying to achieve at a convention is show people how flexible the old rules are. You can go a long way with just three classes, and instead of saying it, I can have people roll on the tables and they’ll experience it. At least I hope they will.
Plus: I like the challenge of random character generation. As such, random backgrounds and traits are just one more trick to get my creative juices flowing, just like random hats at character generation.
I’ve been feeling inspired and worked on it some more. It is now available as a PDF.
Attention conservation notice:
- there’s nothing for demihumans (but see 2011-03-08 More Character Shortcuts)
- there is no thief class
Should I expand the tables on the last page or are they good enough?
I’ve called the entries “subclasses” – ie. bandit is a subclass of fighter, hermit is a subclass of cleric. Theoretically it would be possible to provide real class abilities for them all. I’m not sure this is required, however. Instead, I might eventually add one or two spells for each wizard and cleric to cut character generation time down even more.