1/26/15

Duncan: "King Me!" (Tonight's Gaming Session)

Session 46 of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign ended with Duncan (Dan's character) becoming King of the Gnomes (by popular acclaim). The quest to return a group of rescued gnomes to their subterranean was completed with the surprise royal ending.

We are going to take a break from Montporte to do some other things with our Monday night gaming sessions. Next up is Rob Conley running some D&D 5e sessions. We'll come back to Montporte at some point in the not too distant future.

1/25/15

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 45 Notes

Peter D (Dungeon Fantastic) had a nice summary of this session in his blog post, 5e D&D - Montporte Megadungeon - 1/19 Summary of Play.

Cast of Characters
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the Second Circle (Half Orc, Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Breena Honey-Badger Warrick (Gnome, Barbarian): Joshua (Tales of the Rambling Bumblers)
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Rogue): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Nosphryc Azurecoat (Human, Fighter): Douglas (Gaming Ballistic) [Played this session by Peter D (Dungeon Fantastic)]
Duncan Kern (Gnome, Rogue): Dan
Marcus Aurelius (Magic sword): NPC
Benn (Human): NPC
Lucky (One eyed, three legged blink dog): NPC
13 Rescued Gnomes (Abel; Dilrod; Dwemmon; Ernst; Evinrude; Fern; Fernando; Gemflower; Happenstance; Homer; Priscilla; Rosepetal; Zelma Lynn): NPCs
Abakarkabasharaba (5 Githzerai): NPCs
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The last session ended with the brave adventurers taking a long rest in Room 1 (Map A above). They heard a scream in the distance in the middle of the rest but it was otherwise uneventful. The player characters were at least 28 miles below the world's surface, although the distance was only an estimate as their exact location was a mystery (thanks to a teleport in Session 37).

After the long rest, the party moved north to Area 2 (Map A above). Here they found two eviscerated hobgoblins, with a trail of blood and guts leading east up the steps (Area 3 on Map A). The party had a brief conversation as to whether they should follow the trail of blood east (Area 3), explore Area 5, or head west down the stairs (Area 4).

They opted to head west and down, using the stairs in Area 4. They wanted to to complete their quest and deliver the rescued gnomes back to their homeland (which they believed was west).

The party descended west down the stairs. This proved to be another long descent. After descending 7 vertical miles (and heading west 7 horizontal miles). The party met five humanoids, who spoke strangely, but were not unfriendly. They turned out to be 5 githzerai (3 monks and 2 zerth), who went by the name of Abakarkabasharaba. They asked about Allindrihl, the elf mushroom farmer living on Level 2 of the Montporte Dungeon, and the player characters let them know where he lived. In turn, the githzerai let the adventurers know that they were on the right path to the gnomes' homeland. At the bottom of the stairs, the adventurers were told they would find Benn and he would be of help to them. The player characters and the githzerai each said their farewells and moved on.

The party descended another 7 vertical miles and found that when they reached the bottom of the steps, they were also entering a large cave. The party noticed that they had entered a mushroom forest of some kind. They followed a path that led them to Benn (a 7' tall human), Benn's blink dogs, and two small sturdy cottages with a larger house in the distance. Benn was friendly rustic type who complained about trolls and hobgoblins. Some of the gnomes knew him, which convinced the wary adventurers that he could be trusted.
Map B--Benn's House
He invited them to stay in his two cottages and brought a pork & mushroom dinner to them, prepared by his wife (who, according to Benn, was in the big house).

The two cottages each had a very sturdy door, lots of garlic, and an ample supply of wooden stakes. He warned them not to invite anyone into the cottages and then bid them a good night.

The party had another uneventful long rest and were furnished with a tasty breakfast. Benn told them that they would need to pass through a mushroom forest, inhabited by stone giants, to get to the gnomes' home to the west. They should stay on the path, only fight if attacked, stay away from the sticky black cave moss, and the green slime. The stone giants would let them pass so long as the party followed these rules. As a dubious bonus, the party (Duncan, actually) acquired a one-eyed three-legged blink dog, named Lucky, from Benn.
Map C--The Mushroom Forest (1 hex = 1 mile)
The party then set out into the dark, subterranean forest. They traveled quite a distance from Benn's house (Area 6 on Map C above) to Area 7, where they encountered several giant glowing (red) boars. Some of the boars moved towards the party in a slow aggressive manor. The rest of the boars stayed back, nervously watching the encounter unfold.
Map D--The Boar War (1 hex = 5 feet)
Eventually, a few of the boars moved close enough to the party to charge. Luven darted south and led a group of boars on a long chase south and west. The rest of the party closed ranks as a few more boars that moved towards them.

The boars chasing Luven were, for the most part, unable to get close enough to attack. One boar managed a fire breath attack that did considerable damage to Luven. This also betrayed something of the boars' true nature (they were giant fire boars). Luven had 5 giant fire boars chasing him while another 2 boars eventually attacked the main body of the party. A remaining giant fire boar fled slowly to the north.

Luven led the boars chasing him into a patch of black dungeon moss, where 3 of them became mired. The remaining 2 fled north. In the meantime, the rest of the party dispatched the 2 other giant fire boars, although the player characters were wounded in the process. The 2 dead giant fire boars immediately cooked themselves and each had an apple appear in its mouth.

The party hustled quickly to the west as the 3 giant fire boars trapped in the moss slowly extricated themselves. The 3 other giant fire boars continued to move north out of sight.

The party moved to Area 8, where they found their westward path intersecting a path from the north. Here the party opted to take a long rest and we ended the session.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 2 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 3 (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level A (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level B (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down A (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down B (1 square = 5 feet)
28 Miles Down (1 square = 5 feet)
42 Miles Down (1 hex = 1 mile)

1/21/15

First Glimpse of the Montporte Deep Dark

The brave adventurers descended 42 vertical miles or so from the Montporte Dungeon deeper into the earth. They found themselves in a forest of pink and orange mushrooms, with black sticky dungeon moss and lots of green slime. It turned into an old fashioned hex crawl, except that it was dark. Here is the players' hex map. It looks a bit like a caterpillar black light poster. Each hex is one mile.

1/20/15

Giant Fire Boar--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

GIANT FIRE BOAR
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Tusks (2d6+2)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: Charge; Flaming Breath; Instantly Cooked
Move: 18
Challenge Level/XP: 7/600

The giant fire boar is a large magical creature that inhabits large remote caverns of the Deep Dark, feeding on mushrooms. They are black in color, except for a pulsating dim red glow that surrounds their neck and shoulders. From a distance, it looks much like the embers of a dying fire.

COMBAT: Giant fire boars are very territorial and can be quite aggressive. They usually will stump, snuffle, and snort as a warning to unwelcome intruders before defending their territory. As they are not predators or carnivores, they will flee when hurt or when faced by dangerous natural predator.

CHARGE: If the giant fire boar has at least a 20' straight avenue in which to run at its opponent, it will charge. By charging, the giant fire boar gains a +1 to attack and does an additional 2d6 to its tusk attack.

FLAMING BREATH: The giant fire boar can use a flaming breath attack once per day. It is a cone 10' long and 5' wide of intense flame. It does 4d6 of flame damage (1/2 damage if targets make their saving throw).

INSTANTLY COOKED: When the giant fire boar is killed, it instantly cooks itself, and an apple appears in its mouth.

1/19/15

Systems Matter: Exploration, Encounters and Intent in the Megadungeon

Dungeon Explorer
I am a firm believer that the "3 E's"--Exploration, Encounters, and Extraction--do a pretty good job of capturing the essence of megadungeon play. There are plenty of rule sets that will support 3 E megadungeon play: The various editions of D&D (and its clones), GURPS, Tunnels & Trolls, and Savage Worlds are just a few of the many rule sets that will do more than an adequate job supporting dungeon play.

This being said, rule sets are not interchangeable (this, as my college physics textbook says, "is intuitively obvious to the casual observer"). Some rule sets better support tactical choices in combat while other rule sets support quick play and exploration.

Of the three, extraction seems like the least affected by the rule set used. This leaves exploration and encounters. Of these two, encounters are directly impacted by the rule set used while exploration is indirectly impacted.

Gibson Explorer
Let's assume that a dungeon-based gaming session is going to last 4 hours. Those 4 hours are going to be made up of two primary activities: Exploration and encounters. Exploration is typically a systemless activity. Player characters move through a dungeon and, regardless of system, can cover about the same amount of distance on a map per hour of session time. I am sure that there are some exceptions to this, but, in general, the speed of exploration is more a function of GM and players than it is a function of rule set and system.

This is not the case with encounters. Assuming that most encounters result in combat, then the speed in which a rule set decides an encounter determines how much time is spent on the encounter. Simple, abstract rule sets, like Swords & Wizardry, have short real time encounters. More complex tactical rule sets, like GURPS and Pathfinder, have much longer encounter resolution times. On the positive side, these rule sets offer players and GMs plenty of tactical options (I am true fan of GURPS in this regard). The down side of this tactical richness is the time it takes to resolve the encounter.

What this means for the 4 hour gaming session is that, with a more complex rule set, more time is spent on encounters. By default, less time is spent on exploration. Reducing the number of encounters is the only clear way to mitigate the impact of a tactically complex rule set.

This is where intent comes in. If the GM and players have a common intent within the dungeon campaign, then it becomes much easier to be select a rule set and, more importantly, be content with the strengths and limitations of that rule set after many sessions of play. If the intent is to maximize tactical choices for players in a dungeon setting, then GURPS is the way to go in my book. If the intent is to maximize the amount of geography covered so that it is feasible to explore a really really big dungeon, then a simpler rule set like Swords & Wizardry Core would be my choice. In each case, GM and players have to be content with what they have and also what they give up. After all, it is entirely possible to revisit the same dungeon with a different intent and rule set.

I have been thinking about rule sets and intentionality from time to time, just because I think about things like this. More recently, I have been thinking about this since we have switched to D&D 5e. It is a slick, well-designed system...I like it a lot. However, it is slower than Blood & Treasure, our previous rule set, when it comes to encounter resolution. In turn, this has taken time away from exploration. And, D&D 5e doesn't have a lot of tactical crunch in combat, thus leaving our tactical crunch guys yearning for more. There is a lot of out-of-combat decisions that the players must make--which was one of the goals of D&D 5e (perhaps the subject of a future post).

As for me, my intent in creating the Montporte Dungeon was to focus on exploration, by creating a huge dungeon that would be too big to completely explore. And this dungeon would also have lots of connections to the Deep Dark...more connections to what lies below than to the surface world.

1/18/15

Attunement: Montporte Dungeon Campaign House Rule

Some Other House Rules
Here is the house rule we will use for magic item attunement in the current Montporte Dungeon campaign.

Overview
When magic items are created, the creator of the item melds the elements contained in the item to the energies coursing through the universe. This involves magical skill and the force of will by the creator. Generally, magic items are attuned to the creator, unless the creator specifically creates a magic item otherwise. When someone other than the creator seeks to use the magic item, the prospective user must first be attuned to item through a short simple ritual that also involves the force of personality (Charisma).

Provisions of House Rule
All magic items require attunement. The two general exceptions are alchemy items (potions, powders, oils, etc) and scrolls. Many gnome devices, clockwork or otherwise, do not require attunement (e.g. finder's lens). Some other items may be created with instant attunement, but these items are rare.

There is no limit to the number of items to which a character can be attuned.

Some items, particularly intelligent items, may have the power to unattune other items in the character's possession. Once such an item is unattuned by another item, the character can no longer attune to it.

Some items may only be attuned by a particular class or race. Or there may be limitations placed on its use when a particular class is using it.

Attunement to one item can be done during one short or one long rest. A few items may be created with the feature that it instantly attunes on contact or some other specific predetermined condition, as noted above.

Most items require a die roll for attunement. The Difficulty Class for low power common items is 10 (easy). Characters add their Charisma modifier, plus their proficiency bonus, to the die roll. If the die roll succeeds, the character is attuned to the item. If the die roll fails, then the attunement fails...and, more importantly, the character can never attune to that item (short of a wish spell or divine intervention).

Characters may opt to attempt an "instant attunement" as a free action. The die roll is done at disadvantage. If the item is otherwise unattuned, then the DC is 12, with a critical failure on a roll of 1. If the item is attuned to another living (or undead) creature, then the DC is 15, with a critical failure on a roll of 1 or 2.

Limitations on Magic Item Use
We will follow the AD&D 1e rules regarding limitations on number of items used at any one time: 2 rings, 1 set of armor, 1 magic cloak, 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of gloves, etc. This is not part of the attunement rule per se, but it is related to it as it applies to magic item use (thanks to Peter D for the reminder on this set of AD&D 1e guidelines).

Implementation of House Rule
We will assume that the player characters have successfully attuned to all of the items that they currently possess.

We won't worry about the current bags of holding and portable holes for now. I don't want to waste precious game session time on figuring this out. We will just hand wave it for now.

I can think of two items, the Chalice of Doluth and the Lens of Melnar, that we need to identify an owner for attunement. Attunement will be automatic, once the owner is selected for each item.

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 44 Notes

Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic) has an excellent summary of this session in Montporte 44 - Attunement and Grimlocks.

The Cast of Characters
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the Second Circle (Half Orc, Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Breena Honey-Badger Warrick (Gnome, Barbarian): Joshua (Tales of the Rambling Bumblers)
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Rogue): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Nosphryc Azurecoat (Human, Fighter): Douglas (Gaming Ballistic)
13 Rescued Gnomes (Abel; Dilrod; Dwemmon; Ernst; Evinrude; Fern; Fernando; Gemflower; Happenstance; Homer; Priscilla; Rosepetal; Zelma Lynn)
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
At the end of the last session, the brave adventurers were counting the contents of the piles of gold and silver bars they had obtained after defeating two of four hobgoblins and two trolls. Two of the hobgoblins had managed to teleport away, but the party still came away with a lot of gold and silver [solidifying the reputation of hobgoblins as the ATM machines of the Montporte Dungeon].

The party decided to further explore this level, which was at least 28 miles below the earth's surface. They were not sure of this as there was a teleport involved in Session 37. Since teleporting, the party is not actually sure of where they are or how to return to the known area of the Montporte Dungeon and the earth's surface.

Starting in Area 1 (Map A above) the party moved south and into Room 2. Here they found a shallow pool of very clear water. Using the Lens of Melnar, they determined that the water was not magical, but the stone forming the pool basin was enchanted. The stone had the ability to purify water, so the party used the opportunity to fill up on drinking water.
The party continued to move south into Room 3 (Map A above). This room had 6 rusty eye bolts built into the walls, about 3 feet above the floor. There were three bolts on the west wall and three bolts on the east wall. While investigating the bolts and looking for secret doors, the party noticed that the floor was quite worn underneath each eye bolt. They finally determined that this room was used as a stable for mounts and pack animals of some kind.
The party then moved back north to Area 1 (Map A above) then west to Room 4. This room was thick with dust and cobwebs, but there was a clearly identifiable foot path through it from Area 1 to Room 5, with the appearance of a lesser amount of traffic towards Area 13.

The party moved through Room 5 to Room 6 then south into Room 7. They could still see evidence of considerable foot traffic heading into all the corridors and rooms they encountered. The party moved into Room 8, where they were attacked by eleven grimlocks. The grimlocks had a well-conceived, but poorly executed, ambush waiting for the party. Grimlocks have lots of stealth but little smarts.

As melee ensued in Room 8, with the grimlocks being overmatched (despite their numerical superiority), a second wave of ten grimlocks swarmed towards the rear of the party from Area 9 through Room 7 (Map A above). The party was surrounded but this worked to their advantage, as it allowed all the party members to unleash their attacks on a larger number of foe. Had the grimlocks individually been tougher, the brave adventurers would have been in real trouble. Instead, the two front battle just sped up the process of dispatching grimlocks.

At the end of the battle, the remaining four grimlocks tried to flee, triggering some attacks of opportunity. Two more grimlocks went down, but two fled the scene. Luven was able to track down the final two in Area 10 (Map A above), with Nosphryc coming along behind him.

Besides a lot of small sacks of nasty meat, the grimlocks had a pink diamond (worth 5,000 gold pieces) and a mind flayer stuff doll of unknown use. The party couldn't figure out if it was a toy, a religious item, or something else.

The party continued into Room 11 (Map A above), which turned out to be a long irregular room with a vaulted ceiling. They guessed that this was the actual lair of the grimlocks, based on the amount of fecal matter along the east wall.

The party moved through Room 12, back into Room 8. Here they decided they would spend a long rest, with a pile of grimlock bodies serving as a partial barrier in the narrow corridor heading east out of the room. The long rest was uneventful, except for the distant scream heard during the second watch. The party had determined that, once the long rest was completed, they would explore Area 13, which appeared to be the only unexplored area on this level.

This is where the session ended.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 2 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 3 (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level A (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level B (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Below A (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Below B (1 square = 5 feet)
28 Miles Below (1 square = 5 feet)