Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 1: You Will Play My Mega-Dungeon or Else!

I finally did it.

I told everyone in the Trollopulous group they were playing a straight-ahead dungeon delve with new characters regardless of everything else that was happening in the campaign at the moment.

For us, this is really crazy. The #BrOSR is so committed to the principles of TOTAL PLAYER AUTONOMY that this really is unthinkable, even. But I’ll tell you, there is a qualitative difference between our game sessions during 2020 and those from 2022. If I had to pin it on just one thing, I would venture to say that it’s the drop in average session time from six hours to about four hours due in part to where the players are located.

I hate to say it, but we just don’t have as much time to dedicate to playing everything by ear like we used to. If we open a game with an hour or more discussion of where we want to go and what we want to do, I am afraid it’s just not going to work. There is just too little actual PLAY there!

I’ll tell you the thing that pushed me over the edge, though. SOMEBODY said that you cannot run a megadungeon with a four-hour session. Well, challenge accepted, monsieur! In fact, I will even go so far as to run TWO DELVES on the same night. Which I did. Take that, skeptics!

There was some pushback on this little coup d’etat, I won’t lie. However, it all evaporated when I showed everyone this letter I had been saving back for a long while now. Check this out:

It is by my order and for the good of AD&D that the bearer of this has done what he has done. — Gary Gygax

Incredible!

But I’ll tell you what. Being able to sit down for a few hours and work up a brand new one-page dungeon that I could be absolutely certain would get used? WOAH! I can’t tell you how satisfying this was. We have already demonstrated that we can improvise in the face of whatever dumb thing the players have decided to do, sure. If the players are particularly inspired, this is often a better idea than whatever I would have planned for the game anyway. By the same token, playing “stump the DM” just to prove a point can get tiresome. Especially if the players have a habit of not making any effort to plan at all!

Some things we discovered:

  • An 11-room one-page dungeon is sufficient to support two delves if you stub out another level with a fat “monster and treasure” encounter to give the players an excuse to go back to town rather than continue exploring something you haven’t built out yet. (Not sure who came up with this first, but dang it sure works!)
  • A first level fighter in AD&D can function as a sergeant and thus lead up to ten hireling men-at-arms when nobody else is even able to take on henchmen, yet. He must pay to equip them, pay their monthly wage, and may not take them past level three in a dungeon. We insist that they make reaction rolls when ordered to do dangerous stuff and to definitely make morale roles in battle as is normal.
  • A party with three PC’s and ten hirelings will struggle to face challenges in a first level AD&D appendix dungeon. A party with seven PC’s will be able to blitz down to second level easily if they have the right combination of classes.
  • The rarely used XP adjustment rule is a modest though significant encouragement to the players to not simply go back to town after their first encounter.
  • The empty rooms from the random dungeon generation rules really are essential to giving the sense of a dangerous dungeon environment. Plenty or room for wandering monsters to pull off jump scares!
  • “Bas relief” is most definitely pronounced “bah relief”, I don’t care what the internet told you.

We never really agreed on where exactly to place the proceedings. For now, all we know is that a group of PCs are stranded at a village by the ongoing crisis of the blood snows and the sun going out. The leader of the village became chief when, as a boy, he entered a cave complex and returned with a patented FROBOZZ MAGIC SPACE HEATER which he uses to keep his teepee warm and dry. If the players could bring back some hot loot like that, who knows! The village may just survive the village. And some lucky PC could get next in line for the throne by getting hooked up with the chief’s very eligible daughter.

The opening session with only three PC’s worked surprisingly well. A half-orc fighter climbed up a 60 foot rock face to get to a platform where four short monsters broke off from a group of nine to go do him in. We used a “move to engage” option for the monsters due to the presence of the ledge. The men-at-arms refused to come to the half-orc’s aid. His dice were hot, killing two of these short, bestial creatures while the druid got into position to “entangle” the rest with a piece of plant-monster from an underground stream. Very tense fight made up from a few interesting components. Also elite play on the part of all.

The follow-up delve started off with a dry encounter between the group and six more bestial things. The party risked many attacks that could have killed a PC before the half-orc finished the things off with a grapple attack that really couldn’t have missed due to the height and weight differences involved. The players were taking risks they didn’t need to. The players explored a little more, smashed a small group of hobgoblins, then got lured into a lower level where a larger group of hobgoblins would have a chance to smash back. The entangle spell turned out to be an “I win” button again. The one PC that got dropped was saved by a suggestion that he retroactively add one to his constitution due to the age adjustments which he had forgotten to take. Foiled again!

An enjoyable session for me– and I hope for the players as well.

If we plan for the follow-up session to be played two weeks from now, I’ll easily have time to work up a few more one-page dungeons that will also have the luxury of getting used while they are still fresh. Looking forward to it!

Session notes:

Delve 1:

Featuring: Ur(HO-F), Moonshine(D), Hugo(F)

Adjustment factor = .9
Monster XP = 121.5
Treasure XP= 393
Total XP = 514.5 x .9 = 463.05

XP Share: 154
Moonshine XP Share = 874 due to druid scroll (Control Temperature 10′ Radius, Repel Insects)
Gold Share: 131

Delve 2:

Featuring: Ur(HO-F), Bob(F), 10%(HO-F), Moonshine(D), Gregworth(D), Hugo(F), Helvetica (MU/T):

Monster XP: 718
Gold XP: 1068
Total XP: 1786

XP Share: 255
Gold Share: 152.5

Helvetica = Fair grade as MU, EXCELLENT as Thief

Bob was dropped to zero hit-points and must recover.

Most valuable player: Ur for playing so aggressively and with such system mastery that the players dominated the monsters.

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