Sunday, 22 September 2019

Solo Dungeon Crawl #1: Concept and Prep

For domestic reasons I've been unable to go along to our RPG group for a couple of months now, and am unlikely to be able to in the near future.  I even had to abandon the Call of Cthulhu session I was going to run, despite having had quite some fun with the prep, which was a great disappointment to me.  But such is life.

So I'm going to try some solo gaming (in part inspired by the Roleplay Rescue Podcast, which I've been following for some time).  A lot of the most fun bits of RPGs can't be done solo of course, but some can.  I'm going to concentrate on an old-fashioned dungeon crawl.  .

I'm going to try a randomly-generated sandbox (so no theme - 'Temple of the Red Lich').  I've no idea if it will work or not.  It may just turn into "You walk into a room and see Monster X", but even that will be some practice at combat and will occupy me for a little while.  It may make me think a little about what lies beyond dungeon creation.

As regular readers will recognise, my initial thoughts are heavily influenced by my experience of Barrowmaze.


Lord Hamar  (Artist: Nate Hallinan)
Lord Hamar has decided to bring Civilization to the southern reaches of his domain.  Unfortunately, his predecessors haven't been so enlightened and allowed the South to operate as a number of semi-autonomous communities.  He has a large number of dissents waiting to be relocated and employed in agrarian pursuits, but before the expensive resettlement programme begins, various trouble-spots need to be cleared. 

The government has appointed several Factors in the region and have made it known that they will give adventuring parties licence to clear out a such trouble-spots.  Bounties may be paid, and adventurers will be allowed to keep any loot they acquire through their licenced activities.

The approach to Haybrook
A factory has been established in the village of Haybrook and our party has acquired the licence to explore the dungeon that lies beneath Stone Hill.

The Factor and his assistant

The Adventurers

Now I could create a party of mid-to-high level Heroes, well-matched and kitted out with all sorts of singing swords, but that isn't my style of play. 

I like the idea of PCs not being heroes, just people who for their own reasons (possibly heroism, who knows?) are going in search of experience and treasure.  If they survive, they may eventually be what we term as heroes, but at the moment, they're just getting by.  I rather like the concept of the Dungeon Crawl Classic 'Funnel' - that is an adventure where each player starts with a stable of 0 Level characters (butchers, bakers and candlestick makers), most of which are expected to die, but one or two of whom will survive and graduate to Level 1.  I may incorporate some DCC features into my solo gaming, but not yet.

So what I've done is to roll six characters using the B/X Essential rules (I'll graduate to Old School Essentials - the upgrade - once I get my hard-copy).  I've rolled 3d6 in order with no point transfer then chose classes based on the results.  I know that's harsh on the character, but I think that the inevitable weaknesses generated fit in with the 'ordinary Joe' concept.

I intend to keep a pool of six adventures, and for each crawl to (randomly?) select four.  When a character dies, I will roll another for the pool.  For the initial pool I stuck with the basic B/X Essentials classes.  I know I ran the risk of getting six consumptive magic users, but in the end I ended up with a cleric, a dwarf, a thief, an elf and two wizards.  Not a bad mix.  When a character dies (and regular readers will know that I experience that a lot), I will roll a new member of the pool.  With these new characters I will have the option of adding Advanced Classes.

Our starting characters

Saturday, 3 August 2019

CoC: Taking the Plunge

I've wanted to play Call of Cthulhu for a long while.  Last month I bought the CoC Starter Set, which does a very good job of introducing one to the rules.  But once one's done the solo scenario (being sacrificed by the villagers both times), what's a chap to do?

So, here' the plunge bit....

Working on the principle that the only guaranteed way to get people to play an RPG with you is to GM it, I invited the regulars in our group to play one of the introductory scenarios from the Pack, with me as Keeper.  Four have signed up to play 'Edge of Darkness'  on 21 August.

Being Keeper on my first CoC outing is rather daunting (especially as I haven't GM'd anything before), but as Old Friend of the Blog Jon Price said "The game's the thing. An enjoyable session beats strict adherence to the rules, so don't be afraid to busk it."  The stars are aligned as well: we'll be playing between HP Lovecraft's birthday and my own.

So over the last week I've been having fun working through the scenario, putting props together and creating NPCs that won't be needed.

And this morning a mysterious man in red bearing gifts knocked on the door...

Now we're cooking with gas!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Spacemen and Space Monsters

Back on Saturday I posted that I had just ordered some of Cold War Minis astronauts (to me, these are definitely Spacemen, and that's how they will be referred to from now on!  I don't know what the gender-neutral version of Spacemen is.)

Well they arrived this morning (it's Wednesday), and are rather nice.

Looking at them, it strikes me that they might make a good match for Statuesque Miniatures Statuesque Starport range.  Those may end up next on the shopping list...

And by a stroke a serendipity, this morning I spotted some suitable Alien Opponents in the charity shop.  Great, eh?

And yes, I do know the story of the origins of the Rust Monster et al.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Barrowmaze #12: Not There Again!

This may be obvious but these AARs contain spoilers for those wanting to go into the Barrowmaze.  The message is that if you're going to, don't take advantage of them.  They're called spoilers because they spoil the fun.  DON'T BE A DICK!

This was another day on which I left early (Real Life, eh?).  As such, I've only got the write-up for the first of the two delves that took place on that day.

Barrowmaze – 7 July 2019: First Delve 

Dungeon Master 


Decimus Stonehythe 

Level 1 
Character’s 7th delve 

Pet Badger – Dachs 

Cleric of St Ygg 
Level 1 
Character’s 3rd delve 

Hirelings: Lyrann, Level 0 fighter; Bregull Thatcher, Level 0 fighter 

Level 1 
Character’s 2nd delve 

Level 1 
Player and characters’ 1st delve 

The Plan 

To return to the Skeleton Room yet again (this must make at least half a dozen times!) and see what was behind the secret door discovered in the last session. 


The party assembled at the Galmar’s Estate.  A new member, Thrudd the Dwarf, had been attracted by the posters around Helix and volunteered his services.  It was hardly necessary to pour over maps to discuss the well-traveled route to the Skeleton Room, and there was little argument that extra muscle was required.  Accordingly, a visit was made to Merg’s Mercenaries, where for 10gp two well-equipped fighters were hired: Lyrann for 10gp per delve; and Bregull thatcher for 24gp per delve.  

A visit was made to the Church of St Ygg to procure Brother Othar’s blessing, but there was no repeat of the offer of free Holy Water, something that Wuss as a loyal follower of the Church did not press.  Moonwhisper enchanted the party’s lanterns so that they would cast Continual Light. 

Five hours into the trip to the Barrowmaze, the party were surprised by an Axebeak.  This eight-foot tall bird leapt out of the mist to attack Decimus, who evaded injury due to his small size and Gnomish dexterity, but succeeded in killing Bregull.  The party’s reputation as a poor bet for hirelings was again proving correct.  On defeating the bird, Decimus took the time to remove its lower jaw for Ambrose’s collection.  Thrudd butchered it and put the drumsticks in his backpack. 

The Delve 

On reaching the Barrow Mounds, it was decided to repeat our previous practice of undertaking some mound exploration before descending into the Barrowmaze.  

We went to a new mound (which we designated Mound 13 on our map).  The entrance to this circular mound was open, and Decimus sent Dachs in to report on what was inside.  Dachs reported that there was nothing of interest and Decimus – despite beginning to doubt the wisdom of relying on a badger’s sense of what is important – rewarded him. (What else was he to do?  A Badger is a Gnome’s Best Friend after all). 

Going down the steps, the rest noticed two slabs on the far side of the chamber with skeletons lying on them.  Tarrow took no chances, and slung a shot at one of them, at which it promptly sat up.  Both skellies were quickly destroyed by ranged fire.

Attention then turned to the chamber.  Decimus and Thrudd checked the slabs, which were covered with geometric designs.  Using his Dwarven cunning for such things, Thrudd triggered a secret drawer, which contained a wooden figurine of a woman, a silver dagger and a scroll. 
We then went on to the Back Door Mound, where we instructed the new members of the party in using the secret mechanism and entered the ‘Maze.   

We moved through the Crossroads of Death to the Statue Room, where we spotted a body.  Fearing a trap, Decimus fired an arrow into it, to no effect, before going forward to examine it.  The body was that of an adventurer and had already been looted.  Wuss checked behind the remains of the statue in case anything was cached there, but to no result.

We continued without incident to the Octagonal Room.  There we found a pile of half a dozen bodies.  Whatever had killed them wasn’t around, so Decimus, never one to leave a corpse unlooted,  went through the pile.  Towards the bottom he found a backpack containing what appeared to be notes on monsters encountered in the ‘Maze, some of which he recognised.  This was taken for further study.

The Skeleton Room had been reached, but it wasn’t empty.  Three shadowy figures of adventures suddenly attacked the party.  Tarrow cast Phantasmal Force, causing a wall of flame to seemingly emerge from the pit that one of the Shadows was floating above, destroying it.  

Heartened by this, Decimus cast Spook, which caused a second Shadow to flee, he then called out “They’re not Undead!”.  Despite this advice, Wuss put his faith in Holy Water, anointing his sling-shots.  These had no effect on the remaining shadow, as did none of the party’s other weapons, with the exception of Decimus’ enchanted axe, Deepshine.  Realising this, Decimus took up position against the Shadow, while the rest of the party watched for the return of the Spooked Shadow or any other danger.  This proved hard on Decimus, who was severely wounded, but fortunately Thrudd was able to recover Deepshine and demonstrated the axe-work for which Dwarves are famous, defeating the Shadow. 

Used to having prone members in this room, the party stabilised Decimus and left him on watch, guarded by Dachs, while they examined the secret chamber that was the goal of this delve.  The room was curious.  To one end was a tentacled altar, upon which sat an unstrung bow, beyond this was a sarcophagus with a crude inscription on the wall above it “Here Lies Reutsool”.  On entering the room, a voice cried out from within the sarcophagus, claiming to be a trapped adventurer, and calling to be freed.  The party were wary of this, promised to return, and left, taking the bow with them. 

On leaving the Skeleton Room and returning into the Octagonal Room, we found that the pile of corpses had attracted the attention of five Giant Rats.  Decimus used his knowledge of their language to attempt to parley passage through the rooms, an attempt that was held up by one particularly belligerent rat.  The deadlock was broken however, when Thrudd remembered that he had the Axebeak drumsticks in his pack.  Throwing these to the rats was enough to ensure that the party was able to pass through the room unmolested. 

The withdrawal from the ‘Maze and the return to Helix proved uneventful. 


Decimus required three days to heal from his wounds. 

It was determined that neither the wooden figurine nor the silver dagger were enchanted.  These were taken to Huffenpuff’s who valued the latter at 35gp.  The figurine was also taken to Hendon the Miller, to see whether his knowledge of the Old Gods would through any light on it.  He reported that it had been the practice of those buried in the Mounds to have representations of their loved ones placed with them, and that this figurine had no special significance or value. 

Mazzah valued the bow at 3,000gp, but after some discussion the party decided that the enchantment on it was so powerful that it was worth keeping for future use. 




Axebeak (x1) 
Bregull killed 
Defeated and butchered.  Lower jaw and drumsticks retained. 

Mound 13 
Skeletons (x2) 

Skeleton Room 
Shadows (x3) 
Decimus severely wounded 
Defeated by Illusionist spells and magic weapons. 

Octagonal Room 

Giant Rats (x5) 

Successful parley. 



Mound 13 
Wooden figurine  


Mound 13 
Silver dagger 

Allocated to Tarrows 

Mound 13 

Not valued 
Contains, LightBurning Hands and Shocking Grasp.  Allocated to Moonwhisper. 

Octagonal Room  

Not valued 
Added to the Library in the Lodge 
Secret Chamber 
Enchanted.  Is a +2 bow.  Added to the Armoury in the Lodge. 

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