Friday, May 27, 2022

Dubzaron Session 58: Shock Spider Soiree (how to make a megadungeon)

This session was played on 05/11/22 using 1 day. Actions can be taken on 05/13/22 after a day of rest.

Foreword

The saddest words of tongue or pen are "Jeffro was right, again."

Session Report

This session the PCs returned to Lamalla's Temple beneath the Patron controlled town of Turos Orn. This dungeon is my homebrew "kilo" dungeon. Kilodungeon is a word Alexander Macris, the creator of ACKS, coined for dungeons that are pretty big but not quite mega size. His own published dungeon Secrets of the Nethercity is his example of a kilodungeon. 


We have played Nethercity a great deal this campaign and the players, once they understood its layout and what sorts of doors and rooms signal big scores, began to enjoy that it was a somewhat reliable source of big treasure (thus XP) gains. I took a 5 week hiatus from DMing session play and this is primarily where the PCs had the substitute DM run them.

The substitute DM, however, began to balk at DMing "another mummy hunt". Some players privately implied that the sessions, despite being profitable, kind of ran together and were perhaps not that fun.

So on my return to the DM chair I dropped this new kilodungeon into the world, one that I had written up some months back but hadn't pushed for. It was given some new hooks thanks to the nearby Patron and players jumped in.

Now I can't say for sure if players are having more fun in this dungeon than the Nethercity, but I'm certainly having more fun running it. I'll elaborate in this session report.

The Party's plan, upon entering the dungeon, was to explore and clear level 1 of the dungeon. Palatine Drakon (Patron Fighter level ???) wants to claim level 1 of the dungeon with the warding spells the Tower of Knowledge was using to seal off the entry door entirely. He seems to have the plan of pushing the ward down down down level by level as the PCs "clear" the place.


So they took to scouring level 1 of the place. They passed through the magic music pool that plays "Aqualung" going down some natural 5 feet wide hallways. Down this passageway they came upon a mated pair of Giant Toads who (as per a goofy joke from a player) were licking eachother's back to get high. The party let arrows loose killing the female toad. The male toad was distraught and crying about his lost lady, his queen! But was killed upon charging (or hopping angrily) towards the party proper. With his dying croaks he reached out and took his queen's hand.

The narrow hallway went on for over 100 feet but eventually opened into a natural cavern with a mosaic depicting a woman on an unending beach. The same figure stood as a 12' tall statute in the center of the room with valuable rare feathers as her hair and pearls for eyes. The party had some scheme to use rope to topple the statue like a tripline with a PC on either side, assuming the statue would come to life.

Instead, upon being fiddle with, the statue shot laser eyes to try and disintegrate Kortes (PC Explorer level ???). Kortes made his save vs death and is quickly becoming the master of saving throws in this campaign.

It seemed the trap was a 1 time thing and the party plucked the feathers and pearls from the statue, copping solid treasure gains. 

The next room over had a tiled drowning pool and Acton (PC Cleric level ???) offered his henchman  Swolus Noginus 50 gp to drink from it. The fellow shrugged and figured why not and was then laid out on the floor screaming and grabbing his throat in pain. Seems the water from the evil drowning pool of a forgotten cult level drained him. Go figure. I asked if any other Players wanted to give it a sip but they decline. Sad.

After a bit the party came upon a small crypt where 24 skeletons climbed out of wall graves. Conor (PC Barbarian level 1) stormed into the room to wreck them with his bearded axe but was surrounded by like 10 of the skeletons and scratched up with angry boney claws. The party clerics rolled their eyes and easilly Turned Undead on the skeletons (with Xanthos the Cleric actually destroying them!). The wall graves were looted.

Delving deeper through natural cave hallways Xanthos fell into a crude pit trap with poisoned stakes at the bottom. He took some fall damage but saved vs poison and didn't die. Xanthos is one of the highest level PCs and dying in such a way would have been quite a setback for the party indeed! It would have been a bummer.

The natural hallways beyond the pit weaved and wound along but came to no other rooms. At a dead end the party checked for secret doors but found none. One their way back past the pit trap they found 2 giant spiders investigating the pit to perhaps make a nice nest there. 

The party had surprise on the spiders and softened them up before the melee engaged. As the fight raged on their realized these spiders coursed with electricity and each time they were hit in melee or bit someone in melee there would be a shock causing damage. The darkness lit up with electricity and Swolus the henchman fell before the spiders could be killed.

At some point the party also fought 5 iguanamen that are in my notes but I don't remember the details of when or how.

The party made about 3,000 gp in treasure from the feathers and pearls so for a level 1 dungeon this was a pretty good take.

Afterword

Jeffro and I argued all of summer of 2020 about whether or not a DM should use modules. I argued it was good and useful for an Elite DM who could put his stamp on the material. I still believe this to be the case but I concede that I much prefer running  Lamalla's Temple (homebrew) dungeon more than Nethercity (module) dungeon. It's simply MORE FUN.

Cynical PCs might claim this is because I didn't like that PCs were "leveling easily" with the Nethercity, that I'm having more fun because PCs aren't GETTIN PAID. Untrue. I'm fine with easy wins for PCs, earned or unearned. That's up to the dice. 

But there is something to putting some two word ideas onto a hastily drawn dungeon grid map of your own devising that gives you more claim to it. And gives it more of a real feeling in ones mind's-eye. It also gives PCs more claim to it. 

This was proven last session when a PC was killed by an electrical robot glove which he then grafted onto his own arm to become Power Fist Cleric. Sure this could happen in a published module but most DMs (myself included most of the time) would not let such a thing play out unless it was specifically spelled out in the module. What did I write directly onto the map for that room and encounter? "Shocking robot hand". That's it. That's all the prep you need for a great D&D memory.

So I promised in the title to touch you how to make a megadungeon and it's this simple. You can make a quick maze a few levels deep and not even stock it before the session. But what you really need is a bespoke random encounter chart. These will give the place personality and even if you randomly generate most of the dungeon before the session or even live in play the monsters will give the place flavor.

Also a simple theme will help you toss out ideas for all those "Unique"s that pop up when you're randomly rolling room contents. Lamalla's Temple is water themed because Lamalla is the evil goddess of tidal waves and such. So when I'm not sure what unique is in a room I just think of a statue of her, or a cult altar, or a drowning pool or something.

You can do the same. Come up with a theme, a bespoke random encounter table that goes 6 to 9 levels deep, draw a couple quick maps, and you're ready for PCs to create a megadungeon with you live in play.


Jeffro mentioned this in some private chats that a side view of the megadungeon but not laying out the grid for each level is the way to go. This could work I think. If you have a side cutout view of the megadungeon and a quick them scribbled on it for each level/section then you have a good enough idea about what is there and will have some conception about what is just below and above the level the PCs are on. Will help you be able to improv something when a monster from those levels arrives. 

Like the osr I hate admitting Jeffro was right. Unlike the osr I am honest enough to do so. He was. 

This time anyway.

Surviving PCs Present

Acton (Cleric)

Billy (Explorer)

Conor (Barbarian)

Kortes (Explorer)

Xanthos (Cleric)


Deceased

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Gundro (L2 Gnomish Trickster). Total XP: 2,575. Had his mouth and tongue bitten off by a lizardman ambusher in the dank sewers below Cyfaraun in Session 26.

Polydoros (L1 Fighter). Total XP: 0. Had his legs ripped off and eaten by Akira monsters in the dark canopy of the Viaspen Forest in Session 28.

Odrum (L1 Explorer). Total XP: 287. Javelin to the heart from the hands of weird vine goblins hidden in the walls of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Garvin the Nutless Wonder (L1 Mage). Total XP: 0. Fell off the side of Ferigno's lair 20 feet to his death in Session 30.

Blackmoon (L1 Assassin). Total XP: 768. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while stealing treasure from Ferigno's dragon horde in Session 30.

Xanthus (L2 Cleric). Total XP: 2,364. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while hanging out on the roof of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Lord Zyklon (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP: 0. LORD ZYKLON DISEMBOWLED LORD ZYKLON upon finding himself on the losing side of the Desolation of Turos Tem.

Turin (L1 Cleric). Total XP: 0. Eaten by Wargs in Session 32.

Rat Face (L2 Thief) Total XP: 1,577. Seemingly grabbed in the dark by a Xenomorph in Session 36. In a sinkhole your party can hear you scream! 

Smarticus (L1 Mage) Total XP: 0. Captured by a Xenomorph in Session 36 for all the party to witness. Taken deep into a sinkhole.

Hearticus (L1 Cleric) Total XP: 0. Gored to death by giant horned beetles in Session 39 after projectile vomiting all over himself from the stink of sewer sludge.

Mickey Mouser (L1 Thief) Total XP: 0. Gored to death by giant horned beetles in Session 39 in the happiest place on earth: the Cyfaraun sewer!

Aenes (Level 1 Paladin) Total XP: 62. Swarmed by giant flies in the sewer beneath Cyfaraun in Session 40.

Acianus (Level 1 Mage) Total XP: 0. Chopped to pieces in Session 42 by a six armed demon statue from behind and quickly forgotten about by his compatriots who saved MadEye and lamented Hardar instead. But I'll never forget you Acinanu nanu...nanite... nananaa...

Hardar (Level 2 Mage) Total XP: 2,832. Chopped up in Session 42 by a six armed demon statue as he held his Darth Vader Choking Grip spell long enough for his compatriots to escape an unwinnable battle. His dream to become the most evil being in the universe suffers eternally the indignity of being remembered for self sacrifice and laying his life down for his friends.

Nubbs (Level 3 Thief) Total XP: 4,017. Swarmed by scarabs which bored into his ears and brain in Session 45.

Grummz (Level 1 Dwarven Vaultgard) Total XP: 0. Ripped limb from limb by a throng of skeletons and their undead golem leaders in Session 46.

Grommzs (Level 1 Dwarven Vaultguard) Total XP: 2,168. Torn to bits and eaten by trolls in session 48

Rapunzel (Level 4 Priestess) Total XP: 11,540. Torn to bits and eaten by trolls in Session 48.

Schizo (Level 1 Mage): Total XP: 0. Frozen to death by an assassin's guild ruffian bard wielding a Wand of Cold in session 54.

Marteen (Level 1 Thief): Total XP: 0. Fell to his death in Lamalla's Temple upon a pile of dragon horde gold. Corpse eaten by Sheila the Beautiful, an Ancient Blue Dragon in session 56.

Alexa this is so sad play "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel

1 comment:

  1. Excellent session report, it really does feel like it was more fun for you to run this compared to nethercity given all the details you talked about here vs a NC session report

    One question, was it the cleric that tried to fuse with the shocking robot hand that died or a different PC? Or is that spoilers for a future session report?

    ReplyDelete

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