Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Follow Up on This Current Dungeon Crawl

In response to my recent Labyrinth Lord dungeon crawl posts, both Fitz-Badger (of Soweiter League) and Erik (of Wampus Country) asked if I was having fun.

Indeed, I am having an absolute blast!

While writing my reply to Erik, I realized the "why" behind my answer:
I really need to do a better job conveying my emotions because I'm having a blast! I love dungeon crawls generally, but this is the first I've run in awhile where the only intent is to explore. There's no prince/ss to rescue, no object to find, no raid to thwart. It feels a lot like the D&D games I played as a kid.
While I have enjoyed each of the many solo dungeon crawls I've run in the last year or so, this one is perhaps the most fun I've had.

It's hard to precisely recollect feelings from 25-30 years ago, but it feels to me that this is the same excitement and fun I had playing when I was 10 or so, and had just discovered D&D b/x. Except for pre-published modules, we went into dungeons because it was the unknown, there were purported riches to be found there, and it begged for exploration. 

Of course, later (not that much later at that), influenced by commercial adventures, I would use the traditional objectives for a dungeon crawl for my own creations: rescues, item retrievals, thwarting plans, etc.  Still later, I realized that the rules can support a different kind of game entirely - crawls, hex or dungeon, are just one facet of what they can do.

But, as much as I enjoy stretching the rules beyond crawls to investigation type games, for instance, there is something liberating about going into a dungeon solely to explore, and to find fortune, adventure and fame.

It's as if the game was designed for just such a thing! (said while smacking forehead)

A dungeon crawl is not as complex as an investigation game, at least on the surface (no pun intended), but there's a many-layered story to be told here too. Who lives in this dungeon? Who built it? Why did they build it? Are they still here? Will they return? What are the relationships between the creatures in here now?  What about between the levels? Do they have contact with the surface world? To what extent and to what ends? Who are these characters stomping about to find loot? What acts of greatness or cowardice will they commit?* 

All of this begs to be discovered or, dare I say, investigated. Every new square of the map revealed, every encounter survived, is a thrill. And, survive or not, it's all fun.

*This, by the way, is why I'm flabbergasted when someone says they don't like dungeon crawls.


  1. I haven't had a good dungeon crawl in ages! I think they can be quite fun if not taken too seriously. Your reasoning and questions sound good to me. Trying to figure out the how and why of a particular dungeon, especially a randomly generated one, can add to the enjoyment of simply exploring to see what's there, to have some encounters and combat, find some treasure, and all the other things that can crop up, like the stuff in your adventure here.

    1. I can't seem to get players (or find a dm) interested in dungeon crawls, so running my own is the only option. You know what they say, if you want something right, do it yourself!

      I think the how and why questions, and trying to answer them, are the kinds of things we do on a regular basis as solo wargamers. Although I've done no study of it, I imagine solo gamers are more prone to this type of narrative justification for otherwise random rolls of the dice, than those participating in a game with at least one other person. In an rpg especially, from the player-side of the table, ideally, the events don't appear random, but a natural result of their character's action.

  2. I can recall my very first D&D character back in the 70s, Dlift the Delft, a first level thief with one (yes, only one) hit point . . . and 0 meant dead.

    Boy was he careful with traps. And, of course, he was the only logical "point man" for the party.

    He did live to make 2nd level . . . but the tension of those first few games was palpable for him.

    Glad you are having fun . . . and I'm tempted to try a crawl using your mapping system and the D30 tables (I went to RPGNow and bought it on your recommendation).

    Glad you are having fun, sir.

    -- Jeff

    1. Congratulations for getting him to second level! I find there's a lot of fun to be had in playing low level characters with low hit points. My friends who started playing D&D with much later editions don't understand why I would want to be a 1st level magic user with 2 hit points and just one spell.

      Please do give the mapping system a try if you have a chance. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

      That said, you might want to wait a bit before you do, as I plan to post a revised version in the next few days - the room sizes were just coming out too big way too often for my tastes.