|Around the corner, you see...|
[Players wishing to adventure in Castle Morthimion: STAY AWAY!]
From the beginning, Castle Morthimion has been intended as a “filler” dungeon we could turn to when I was too busy to prepare for our regular games, or when we didn’t have a sufficient player turnout for campaign play. The great thing about OD&D is that you can play it on and off in gaps of time – for example, on a train.
Which reminds me, last weekend I was happy to welcome Santiago Oría (known on various forums as Zulgyan) in Hungary, and in between showing him the sights, and arranging a larger game in the City of Vulture with the gang, we had a three-hour train ride which we spent playing OD&D. You can play a pretty functional pickup game of OD&D in that fixed time period, and there was even time for a second expedition.
- Santiago rolled up Sondor, a second level Cleric, hired a torchbearer named Falco, and two henchmen named Gary and Dave, and went adventuring in the dungeons of Morthimion.
- Sondor, Adept of Law, was doing fairly well exploring the first level and avoiding attracting too much attention (mainly by avoiding stuck doors – battering those down could get noisy). OD&D’s pursuit rules, which take into account corners, doors and secret doors to break line of sight, were put to good use.
- This stretch of good fortune lasted until he snuck into the treasury of a bandit group through an unguarded secret door, and got promptly killed by trying to pick up a Chaotic sword (there is a less known OD&D rule to this effect).
- Gary and Dave, now left without a leader, quickly and silently collected the rest of the treasure, and left quietly. On the way out, they met a group of scary magic-users from the deeper dungeons, who threathened them to hand over most of their treasure or suffer the consequences. They did, and the M-Us did not press further, leaving them with some money and two potions (animal control, gaseous form). With this, they returned to the surface.
- Dave, who was the strongest of the group (with six whopping hit points!), used up 250 gp to promote himself from a henchman into a classed Fighting Man (+1 Hp), and assumed command. He hired two more stable boys (Bob and Targo), and a henchman named Alex. Thus outfitted, they returned to Morthimion.
- The company explored most of the central area, mostly avoiding fights with larger groups, and using the potion of gasesous form for reconnaissance 8which proved a smart move).
- They eventually found a room with spiders. Here, Falco and Targo were bitten by spiders with slow-acting deadly poison. This was also when we were getting close to the end of the ride, so the company had to roll on The Table of Terror, and the entire expedition was lost in the Underworld! So ended Santiago’s expedition to the dungeons of Morthimion. (I must say he is a careful and shrewd player – he did very well on the solo expeditions, and would have likely emerged victorious if our time had not been up.)
Two days later, we played another session with the regular group (and a new player). This was also a two-expedition game, but with a larger adventuring party, and thus more battle.
- The expedition consisted of Tumak the Shaman, 2nd level Cleric of Chaos; Brother Tivold, 3rd level Cleric of Law (who had levelled up after our first game); Xingar the 2nd level Fighting Man; and Fatalgor the Last Thief, 2nd level Thief (since we conclusively switched to LBB-only OD&D, no thieves exist in the world now except Fatalgor). The characters also brought one torchbearer/porter (Tiho) and five henchmen (Sanislo , Max, Mario the Peg-Legged, Miriam and Mao’nica the Barbarian).
- Miriam was killed by a servant zombie, and Mao’nica fell into a pit and died when trying to open a false door. The callous treatment of the companions almost triggered a small rebellion, but eventually, the matter was settled with promises of a fat bonus.
- In this game, the two rival Clerics – who were trying to convert each other – proved very useful, since they could speak to differently aligned dungeon inhabitants. Negotiating with the denizens – orcs, goblins, and rival adventuring parties – avoided multiple dangerous fights.
- Do not speak of the yeti! Fatalgor did, and I immediately rolled a yeti (“white apes”) encounter on the random encounter tables. These are dangerous critters from the lower levels, but they could be placated with a bunch of food found in a previous storeroom.
- They actually found the spider room where Santiago’s expedition ended! This time, they slammed the door on the spiders within before they could come out, and used an old drill found lying around in a storeroom to drill a hole in the door, which they then filled with oil to burn out the room. (…destroying a pair of elven boots in the process…)
- After returning to the surface, they visited Lodobar’s Tavern, a disreputable establishment in the nearby woods. Lodobar had a few special items for sale, including a portable hole costing a whopping 6000 gp. However, all they had now was a 500 gp silver rose. They used the proceeds to rest for a week, and recruit new henchmen, because Tiho and Max chose to retire with their share.
- In the second expedition, the henchmen were Sanislo, Mario the Peg-Legged, Richard the Rider, Rudolf (who had already been “down there”, and knew a thing or two about the dungeons), Renato and Roxana.
- This was a less lucky venture, although they found a few interesting places which will come handy later. They chose to break off the nose of a warrior-shaped column, which turned into a 3rd level Fighting Man along with two companions. These higher-level opponents made short work of poor Richard and Roxana.
- However, the company did find a collection of valuable masks, killed off a pool of electric eels with food treated with Tumak the Shaman’s foul food and water spell (a reversed spell he could use as an anti-cleric). This resulted in a good haul stolen from a group of orcs absorbed by playing a board game. They also learned about a group of cooks dwelling on the second level, and found a long, dark passage closed off with a barred gate and a mysterious “Castle Morthimion, Department of Construction” sign.
The first playtest in April gave Morthimion a more precise shape and focus. While some concessions were made to modernity during the first game (“Greyhawk” additions like differentiated HD, higher ability score bonuses, and the Thief class), I have since turned the game into a purist LBB-only endeavour. The 1d6 Hp hit die against the 1d6 Hp damage your weapons are doing is an interesting and neat balance, and the game has worked eminently well in this form. Indeed, LBB-only OD&D is proving a robust game of exploration, negotiation and careful risk management. I still do employ some house rules, adopted from Dungeons & Companions, a Hungarian S&W clone.
- Ability scores of 15 or higher come with a +1 bonus (yeah, I could not fully abandon this).
- Helmets stop one killing blow for player characters (but not companions).
- A natural 20 deals maximum (6) damage.
- Roll-under 2d6 morale is in effect for companions. Initial morale is based on PC charisma and a random factor. Morale tests permanently reduce ML by one point, which is mostly not possible to restore, so companions will eventually leave the company to retire or pursue their own interests. I find this morale system the most elegant I know of (and have published it in Echoes From Fomalhaut #01). I am also using a “companion quirks” table that will be released with Castle Xyntillan.
This is, however, it. The dungeons themselves also follow a LBB-only philosophy. If it is in the Original D&D set, I am using it without reservations. If there is a gap that needs to be filled (e.g. animal statistics, or a collection of flying monsters for The Sideways Level), I fill that gap with my own ideas. No Greyhawk material needs apply! I find that this special creative focus keeps me grounded, and anchors this particular creative project. It is very inspiring.
And now the goods! The dungeons have not been my primary focus these months, but I do have the second level ready, and am making progress on two more dungeon levels and “Domains of the Faerie Princes”, the wilderness section (which is a small hex-crawl instead of the forest maze I had originally planned).
The current download will include the first two levels. The first one was already available; the second adds The Servants’ Quarters. This is a larger and more “dense” dungeon section with more sub-areas per keyed location, about twice the length of the Dungeons (other levels will usually be smaller). The power level is also the equivalent of a first-level OD&D dungeon, but things are just a bit more risky, and the rewards just a bit better. There is a dragon-guarded treasury, a kitchen I am particularly fond of, and you can even meet the Faerie Princes… if you are sufficiently reckless or unlucky.
Additionally, things have been reformatted a little, including switching to the OD&D-specific Futura font, there is a new sidecut to reflect the dungeon’s evolution, and I added monster stats which were not found in the original download (these follow the pre-Greyhawk conventions). Fight On!
Download: Castle Morthimion - Levels 1-2 (3 MB PDF)
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I'm Santiago, the player of the "Sondor the Cleric of Law" expedition. That game was really amazing on so many levels.ReplyDelete
1. Character creation took less that 10 minutes and we were ready to go. That was great for a short 3 hour game. Physically the game also required very little space: we could play on the train perfectly well.
2. The non-linear nature of the dungeon map led to interesting and constant decision making. It felt like a real expedition of exploring the unknown, and so many areas and corridors were shrouded in mistery. That really gave the experience a sense of wonder.
3. Sondor actually died in his second expedition. After being sneaky and avoiding several encounters, plus a life saving turn undead vs. a skeleton squad that outnumbered us 2 to 1, I managed to return to the surface with 300gp. I used that to upgrade my hireling's equipment. All that hireling management and commanding was really fun and cool. It's an aspect of the game that has already almost disappeared once AD&D 1e gets started. I think that the simplicity (and elegance) of the OD&D rules really makes that entourage style of play shine.
3. Stuck doors have a supricing potent effect on gameplay. They make expeditions go in unexpected directions and force you to change plans rapidly, because there is a hard risk of attracting monsters by bashing them down. This makes players explore the dungeon taking different routes every time.
4. I was doing so well with Sondor! What a shame that he died. I got greedy when I saw that big unguarded treasure (it would have made me rich and even gain me at least a level up by OD&D's xp rules). The distracted guards were in the adjacent room drinking and singing. I wanted to get hold of the treasure fast and rush to the surface!! I was like "gime gime the treasure fast, whatever just give it to me" and did not inspect the sword closely before picking it up. It was a fun and unexpected but fair "trap". I enjoyed even my own death as a demonstration of a feature of the game. An iconic OD&D way to die!
5. The way Melan's dungeon is designed, mixing the mundane with the wierd really establishes a sense of verosimilitude but of wonder at the same time.
6. The "first pick of magic item" by the Castellan makes the player risk a longer exploration, so as to find at least more than 1 magic item before going back to surface. Otherwise the Castellan would keep the only item you have retrieved from the dungeon. It got me thinking that "Nystul's Magical Aura" would be a fun spell to trick the Castellan, so that you can maybe get away with more items!
Excepccionally cool game, it proved that OD&D has something unique to offer, that later editions of the game don't have in the same degree.
I really want to start my own OD&D dungeon now!
Thanks Gabor for the game.
7. Mapping the dungeon was part of the challenge and it was key to getting fast back to the surface. Gabor provided a very precise description of what I saw. It was almost like out the OD&D example of play in TU&WA.ReplyDelete
Sounds like great fun and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Gabor: Anything to say about running your OD&D dungeon with a thief(class)?ReplyDelete
You could - that's how we started it (and that's how Fatalgor is still around). No issues foreseen.Delete
Also, is XP divided between hirelings or only bewteen players?ReplyDelete
Only PCs receive XP. Hirelings get their gold... but isn't gold essentially XP?Delete
If players start 2nd level, that means fighting-men start with 2000xp, clerics 1500xp and magic-users 2500xp? Or maybe everyone starts with 2500xp?ReplyDelete
I used minimum XP, yeah (which may not be 100% fair). It is either two 1st level PCs, or one 2nd level PC.Delete
Is all that stuff about "don't kick the bucket" just a troll? Hahaha I really fell for it.ReplyDelete
That one is a mystery!Delete