Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Megadungeon Playtest Without the Dungeon

Last Saturday in London we had a small meetup of variously 8-10 Old School gamers who couldn't wait for Dragonmeet (wait, Dragonmeet has an updated website and schedule in early October? Surely these are the last days and times...)

In the corner of a pub near Euston Station, it was decided that I should run the first game, an encounter with pregenerated 52 Pages first-levels going after the low-level bandits holed up in caves near the entrance of my megadungeon project, Manden Gouge.

A rough idea of the style
I haven't talked much about this project - preferring to show rather than tell, perhaps overcorrecting for the tendency of gamers to hype vaporware.  As of now I have about 120 areas written up, enough for the first installment, which now lacks only a bunch of connecting material. The design goals are:
  • Emphasis on exploration, finding out the history of the nearly abandoned castle Karthew's Legacy and the warrens beneath.
  • Setting-neutral - can be dropped into almost any pseudo-European fantasy world with few assumptions about the universe
  • Subverting cliches -- few things, be they monsters or treasure, are "by the book"
  • Detailed rather than general descriptions -- but detail for a purpose.
  • "Gormenghast" feel to the upper rooms and cellars of the castle -- a society of eccentric inhabitants, with mad and dangerous things lurking in the corners, left by a long line of previous weirdos
  • Run-friendly, with detail maps and monster stats on the same page as descriptions
  • Lots of goodies -- a menu table, social relations map, reference illustrations for the player, a dream dungeon-within-the-dungeon, family tree and heraldry
And that's all folks - no Kickstarter, no hype, no set date. You'll see it when it's here.

Anyway, following up a mission hook to deal with some bandits with the advantage of night-vision, the party decided to set a counter-ambush for the bandits and then lure them out of their cave, managing to bag the leader under a dropped goods cart thanks to Barry's creative abuse of the Featherweight spell. So the megadungeon playtest never entered the megadungeon. But I'll be damned if I railroad.

Eggs on a Plate Without the Plate - Salvador Dali
Then Barry took the reins for an adventure in Tekumel using Lamentations rules -- a really nice introduction to that exotic and hierarchical setting that had the party carrying out a tenement eviction, with rainy, moldy atmospherics that brought to mind a cross between The Raid and Se7en.

It was a great day with the opportunity to put faces to a lot of names across the British blogosphere and G+alaxy. I hope there's another such one of these days.