Wednesday, 25 January 2012
I had to knock dungeon design for Castle Bastard on the head for a week or so. Mainly because I was in such a creative groove that spending an evening pencilling down ideas and generally being lost and happy in the process of sub-creation meant that my mind was running amok when I retired for the night and I wasn't sleeping. For somebody prone to insomnia this is obviously Not A Good Thing.
In an ideal world I could have just have stayed up until the small hours to get everything down on paper but unfortunately I have to spend my days doing databasey stuff in order to pay rent, put petrol in Porker, fill freezer etc. etc.
This seems to be a recurrent irritant in my life - my natural hours are generally two hours behind the rest of the world. If left to my own devices I'd get up at 10 and go to bed at 2 and probably feel a damn sight better. I blame this being out of phase with the real world for my periodic insomnia and lost Saturday mornings.
Anyway, back to light grade megadungeon sub-creation.
I'm ripping off Steve Jackson (UK) for the "in" of my megadungeon. Castle Bastard isn't really very accessible (it squats on top of and spilling over the edge of dangerous cliffs above a violent sea and the surrounding land is claimed by hostile Bugbear tribes) so the PCs will be teleported in and out.
In "Orange Book" Fighting Fantasy the second scenario is called Shaggradd's Hives of Peril. This a fun-house dungeon under a hollow tree. FF runs a real-time clock (if it takes n minutes of real time to sort out an encounter then it took n minutes in the game world). This is used in this scenario to impose a time limit. The "hook" is that elderly Black Elf old woman Shaggradd owns the land above the dungeon and claims ownership of the dungeon through extension of this but is too elderly and frail to even think of descending down and claiming the loot. So she will offer a time limited teleport spell to adventurers in exchange for a split in the takings.
There is something a bit, well, rubbish about the plausibility of this but the utility of the idea has always struck me as excellent. That's why I've expanded the idea of Shaggradd out to becoming an entire religion of the Black Elf culture and now she is a Grandmother-like deitic figure. Her priesthood can offer a timed teleport to adventurers in exchange for a 25% cut. I'd like this to be a bit more mysterious than simply "we do this because we get easy money" so that somehow adventurers running amok through the dungeon is somehow helping the machinations of the cult. Not sure how yet but it probably doesn't matter.
On first visit of course you'd be teleported to the traditional Room #1 of the dungeon after deciding the upper limit of your "dive time". I quickly decided that it would be better for a megadungeon campaign if the party could later teleport to deeper locations. So the Black Elves will now give you a pot of magical purple paint and if you can paint a sigil of Shaggrad somewhere and if you can envisage it at a later date, you can be teleported from the upper world to that point. This then leads on to the party discovering the sigil's left by other parties and using them as teleport entry points. Which then leads onto the idea that in between sessions, 1d6 sigils could appear in random locations as other party's daub them on the dungeon walls.
So this would be the deal offered by the priesthood of Shaggradd, Grandmother of Black Elves.
1 - We take 25% of cut in gp value(*). If you stiff us we will know and you will be in serious trouble laddie and our tribe is spread across the entire world in a great Black Elf diaspora.
2 - We agree in advance the duration of the teleport enchantment.
3 - When the enchantment expires living party members are returned to the upper world. Dead party members are left behind unless they are being carried by a living member at the precise moment the enchantment expires
4 - We will teleport you to the opening chamber unless told otherwise
5 - To be teleported elsewhere in Castle Bastard you must be able to envisage a purple-painted sigil of Shaggrad that you have seen or created in the dungeon in a previous expedition. Purple paint and a Bristlebeast-bristle paintbrush provided free of charge.
6 - We cannot and will not cut short the teleport enchantment.
7 - If you end up leaving the dungeon through other (non-DM anticipated) means you still owe us the money. See Note 1.
In real world terms this has the ability to, what an old boss of mine called in fluent businessbullshitlingobingo, "timebox" a session to a definite deadline ("We'll play until 11") and makes each session a discreet expedition therefore allowing for a changing roster of players and PCs.
(*) XP still scored for this 25%