Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Twist In The Dark - The Impact of The Mega Dungeon In Old School Campaigns Through Actual Play

'They're all around us' 'I think they're coming out of the walls', these were two of the statements from our group during last night's game with a bunch of us jade & experienced dungeon masters. Yeah, I went back for further punishment in my own kitchen sink game setting. Tom was running through my Ancient & Accursed Terra setting set  in his 1600's African inspired setting that's a spin off of the main setting. We knew there was an Umber Hulk in the mine. The tunnels twisted down into the Earth & miners were coming up dead by the boat load. There was a large reward for the capture or murder of the beast. Well you can read about it here
There were still artifacts coming out of the nearby mountains of gold, precious metals, etc. but where were these coming from?  But according to rumors heard in the company taverns & store from the miners & the scuttlebutt things were changing. I grabbed a 6th level  thief (specialist) by the name of Michael Mc Cready from one of the other DM's & got Tom's approval.

So down, down into the Earth we went & we had all of our usual tools of the trade including pick axes & we went really deep into the unexplored regions of the twisting tunnels. It was really hot & several of us found the Umber Hulks tracks and several freshly cut tunnels hollowed out into the rock. We readied our blunderbuss & pistols while watching the Earth around us. We walked right into the tunnels, everyone was on tender hooks. And nothing!?

We examined the sides of the tunnels & there were the beast's claw marks along with bits of slime left from the long claws of the monsters but the tunnels went lower into the Earth. We found a finger, the occasional tooth, or other remains but then the trap was sprung on us. It started with our lamps. One by one they began to wink out; then there was this roiling cloying smell of brimstone & ozone that filled the tunnel as an unnatural darkness filled the space. We didn't know what it was but we began to run as two of our number went down & guns went off. My PC caught a knife blade & started into the beady eyes of something inhuman, monstrous, and very dangerous! I did manage to wound it with a very lucky roll! In the unnatural darkness we got turned around and fell quite literally down another side tunnel! And now we were deep crap as a party because we found ourselves quite bad circumstances. We were in a series of artificially worked up tunnels, we were in their realm.. Christ could we even get back to the surface?

We knew were in deep crap because at any moment they could come pouring out of any shadows or hidden bits of rock or anything else. So we began to trace our way back along the walls not making a sound in the darkness if possible. Even the fighters were quiet now. These were not men at all. Not even human as we knew them, they had been down here for thousands of years in the darkness & had been changed by it. And that's when my PC stumbled upon 'it', a small metal object not much more four inches long & unnaturally very sharp. These items my PC would later on learn had been enchanted with powerful magics.

Image from Welcome Images

We made it back to the surface after another two hours of nail biting play. And during smoke break I was a bit pissed! There are several reasons for this; Tom was using my own dungeon master  techniques against me. Let me explain I don't like to use Drow from the Fiend Folio especially in sword & sorcery or sword & black powder games. They've become far too standardized with Dungeons & Dragons three point five & Pathfinder even becoming a PC race. This is fine for those folks who play those systems. So in my games I've used Dark Creepers & Dark Stalkers from the Fiend Folio from AD&D first edition  to replace the Drow. One of Tom's PC's was killed by a dark creeper back in a 2013 game I ran. What Tom has done is to take the Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters to fill out the Dark Creeper  settlements we were going to run into.

This also meant something else, it meant that Tom had introduced  in a back handed method the ACK's version of Dwimmermount into Ancient & Accursed Terra!? You've got to understand that for the last two years I've been hemming about introducing this megadungeon into my world. The opening of this mega dungeon becomes a central theme to campaign setting. This has the importance of Undermountain in the Forgotten Realms or Temple of Elemental Evil in Grayhawk or the Temple of the Frog from Blackmoor. Once Dwimmermount opens it means a whole different set of parameters for a campaign.

Tom being Tom smiled evilly as we wrapped up our little foray into the recesses of his homebrew and there were several things that I took away from this game:

  • Tom's contribution to my upcoming game is going to alter the destiny and flow of the campaign setting. The elements of  Dwimmermount have already been let loose & the other DM's knew about some of those before we began play. 
  • Dwimmermount is going to impact the societal & economic fabric of the world setting around it. There will be multiple world entries throughout Ancient & Accursed Terra setting. This is something that many traditional old school DM's have done with mega dungeons throughout my years of playing.

     Now that Dwimmermount has been introduced into my world is it going to be the only megadungeon? Will there be more? Is there enough room for Slumbering Ursine Dunes, Misty Isles of the Eld, Strange Stars & how will this impact my wanting to use OSR materials ? Mega Dungeon ecologies are funny things  & there's got to be enough room to wring the DYI impact of the materials. There's lots to consider but its very exciting at the same time. There's lots of implications. 

    So I'm I really mad? Umm no but it was a fun game & there's lots of things to think about now folks.  

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