Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bitten by the Megadungeon bug

It's no good. I think, somehow, it's encoded into the gaming DNA.

I'm about 2 years older than the people I most regularly do 'gaming stuff' with. One result of this is that I was one of those weird hybrid players who started with the Moldvay Basic D&D but the Mentzer Expert. Everyone else I know uses Mentzer Basic. There probably aren't so many differences, but it's a generation thing I think.

Anyway, I regard myself as a bit of a hybrid in terms of gaming style too. Part-megadungeon-basher, part-ecological-dungeon-explorer, I have over the years given fairly free rein to the urge to create wildernesses with lairs in them, with only occasional (unsuccessful) forays into the lost art of the megadungeon.

But, buoyed up by the panoply of discussions about OD&D and the art of the megadungeon (for example, over at Beyond the Black Gate), I've decided anew to give it a go. And, what's more, I've realised I've got a perfect excuse.

Part of what I've been researching recently is an interest in old British gaming. I'm an old British gamer: I have many classic issues of White Dwarf, from before the days they were only going to feature Games Workshop's products. Unfortunately for my plans to use them, so have my gaming buddies, we're all pretty much the same age (unless I end up doing the retro campaign campaign with my son's mates... which is still on the cards).

What my friends don't seem to have is old copies of Imagine. This was the TSR UK magazine produced approximately 1984-87. It featured a campaign setting called 'Pelinore', which included a city called 'The City League' in a county called 'Cerwyn' in a world... well - if you go to Phil Gyford's website, there's a pdf of a huge amount of collected material from the Pelinore setting - and my hand-copied version of the map of The City League (without adventure locations) which is the basis of my new city-campaign is right here:

What isn't included in Phil's pdf is one of the Pelinore-compliant adventures that was published in Imagine, of which I have a copy from around 1985. Now, I didn't have many issues of Imagine and certainly there's much more in Phil's pdf than I ever had - and so, some of it hasn't been incorporated into 'my' version of the City League (shorn of its wider setting, of which I knew little until downloading the pdf). But what I do have gave me one of the fundamental parts of the 'ancient history' of my campaign.

In my campaign world, Dwarves are an exiled race. Big deal; Dwarves are exiled in The Hobbit too. But, in my campaign world, taking a cue from this adventure published in Imagine, the Dwarves are exiles not because a Dragon (or Goblins/Lizard Men, a la Warhammer/Oldhammer) invaded their city, but because the last Dwarf King, Karyl, was corrupted by an evil power (a servant of one of the Gods of the Pelinore setting) into waging war with the human neighbours of his kingdom. I took a decision (because I happened on another bit of information about Dwarves from a different source set 400 years in the past) to make this event 400 years ago in game time (a couple of Dwarven generations). This, in the adventure, is little more than a hook to hang a quest on. In world-building terms, it's gold.

There are more or less two sorts of Dwarves in my campaign world; Dwarves who are ashamed of Karyl's actions, and blame him for the destruction of their home and their banishment, and Dwarves who are resentful of the situation they are now in, and therefore blame the humans, and by default whitewash Karyl and his actions. The former tend to seek redemption for themselves and their race by becoming crusaders and monster-hunters; the latter tend to be grumpy blacksmiths and tavern-keepers who spend their time hating their jobs, their clients and burning with rage any time a miserable human looks down on them (pun optional).

Anyway; because there is a 'Last Dwarf King' there is also an 'ex-Dwarf kingdom'. And in the 'ex-Dwarf kingdom', are one or more 'former Dwarf cities'. Now, what could offer a better megadungeon environment than a former Dwarf city? I mean, really, we're talking Moria-like megadungeon potential here, in terms of scope, but because the plot isn't 'city falls to marauding Orcs', there's no necessity for a vast number of one type of monster (as there probably would be were one to actually try to run Moria as a megadungeon, say). Essentially the city was vacant (or was it? Are there still Dwarves inside? Are the shades of the Dwarven dead, or the ghosts of their innocent victims, haunting the depths?) and so it was colonised by squatters. And those squatters can be anything at all...

So, yesterday, instead of doing anything about The City League, which I really should be working on, I sketched out the entrance to Level 1 and the Main Hall of Level 3, and drew a complete map of sub-Level 2a (the Guard Level) of Silvergate, fallen capital of the Dwarf Realm...

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