Friday, March 1, 2013

The Ever Expanding KILLER Dungeon?

Bluebear Jeff noted the following in the comments to my last dungeon crawl post:

23 characters have entered the dungeon.
17 are dead
2 left the party
4 remain active
And here's what killed the 17:
Combat -- 7
Pit traps -- 5
Gas traps -- 3
Dart traps -- 2

I thought I'd throw up a few more stats and other info in the interest of benefiting other delvers out there.

Character Generation:
  • All PCs begin with their maximum HP value +/- Constitution modifiers. 
  • PCs are rolled up in a variety of methods which I have so far failed to track: 3d6 in order, 3d6 b/x method, 4d6 drop lowest in order or via the D30 DM Companion.
  • 0-level Hirelings got 1d4 and whatever I rolled and sometimes that was pretty bad.

Class Breakdown of Those KIA:
  • Fighter -- 5
  • Magic-User -- 3
  • Cleric -- 2
  • Thief -- 1
  • Elf -- 1
  • Normal Human -- 4
Stat Averages of Those PCs KIA:
  • STR: 14.61
  • INT: 11.31
  • WIS: 11.15
  • DEX: 12.54
  • CON: 12.08
  • CHR: 13.23
So, in other words, the average party member is an attractive/likable individual stronger than average with a bonus to attack and damage, with most other abilities on the high side of average.

HP for those KIA:
  • Average hit points per PC -- 6.85
  • Average hit points per Fighter -- 7.83
  • Average hit points per hireling -- 1.75
And the Rest:

Of the two characters that left the party, 1 was an NPC that the party couldn't afford to hire again (and given Perceval's terrible charisma, wouldn't work for him anyway. Sister Linkat didn't have the money at the time, but he might work for her, as her CHR is better). The other was a thief, who, given her back story, did the right thing by leaving.

Of the four that remain active, two became part of the party last session, and one of those is an NPC, who may or may not stay on.


Four of those KIA were knocked out during adventures outside the dungeon, so that means the dungeon has only killed 13 characters. Only.

This seems rather high to me - especially because I make a habit of having the party run away rather than fight it out when they're outmatched.

But then, if you look, you realize that 10 of the 17 were killed by traps, and all but one of those were within the dungeon. Since I'm using the ratio monsters/traps/specials/empty suggested in Moldvay, I thought back on other games I've played, and rarely can I recall traps being so prevalent, especially pit traps(50% of traps so far).

And that points to my random generator, which, up to four times per deck, will yield a hall trap, 50% of those will be pits. Perhaps that's the problem. That and at least one pit claimed multiple lives, even after the PCs knew it was there.

It goes without saying that I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. And if you want any stat I didn't provide, but think I'm likely to have, please ask.

My own conclusion is that it looks like I may need to adjust the dungeon generator again, and employ more 10' poles.


  1. Far be it for me to criticize someone else's gaming . I figure if they are having fun that's what counts. And that's fun as they define it, not my definition of what's fun for me. There is no "one true way" to do these things.

    Having said that, I did think your adventures were much more deadly than I would want, and would likely scare off most adventurers as well. LOL

    I didn't realize the final causes of death ratios and how often your characters were running into traps, but it did seem like they often got the worst of it when encountering monsters. Combine the damage from monsters and a lot of traps and the result seems obvious in hindsight.

    But now you know, so you can adjust accordingly to have the kind of game you want. (one of the pluses of solo gaming is you can do this sort of experimentation and adjustment without anyone objecting or calling unfairness.)

    1. Fitz-Badger,

      I certainly understand where you're coming from. I have played some games, even posted on this blog, where the PCs needed to survive and not face seemingly random death at every new turn (my Annwyn Invetigations game, which was basically fantasy private investigators). The whole point was to play out a story of investigation, frequent cast changes would have destroyed that effort.

      In this situation, I'm OK with the death rate as a player - characterization is a side line of the exploration of the dungeon. But even so, I find myself thinking about how a group of players that aren't me would react to this pile of bodies. Especially with gamers used to more recent systems, with the focus on the story, or where characters have a high rate of survival even at 1st level, I think I'd have a hard time selling this kind of game as fun beyond a one-shot to fill a free afternoon.

      As a solo enterprise, the dungeon itself can become the main character, as Ricardo noted below. If it seems to be the primary villain, I'm ok with that too - I'm along for the ride in any case.

      In any case, I'll still be adjusting the trap occurrence in hallways, or the function of the traps that do occur per Rod's idea of summoning monsters to the PC's location, rather than being unavoidable damage. Changing the mechanisms in the middle of the game, is as you note, is one of the pluses of solo gaming - no one can cry foul.


  2. Actually although I sort of started this post with my stats, I don't really mind the "kill ratio".

    Oh, if it were a "social" game it would be a bit much . . . but I maintain that there needs to be a real threat of character death in order to maintain the challenge . . . or where is the fun? I'd much rather game in this sort of a campaign than a "Monty Haul" dungeon.

    By the way, I count six (6) dead fighters rather than five. Here's the list (with cause of death):

    Irongrim (gas)
    Inga Fireforge (combat - bugbear)
    Fayona the Hungry (combat - crag spider)
    Fendrick the Lovelorn Spelunker (gas)
    Fader “12 Fingers” (pit trap)
    Feldspar Greytooth (combat - mantis/men)

    Hmmmm, remind me not to name any fighter with a name starting with the letter "F" (that seems like a curse in your crawls).

    I do think that traps should be a little less frequent that they seem to be . . . but sometimes that's the way the die rolls.

    -- Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I really appreciate the time you've spent compiling some of these stats (and catching my error!). I think the conversations going on in the comments here are a sign that this is something people are interested in.

      As I mentioned above in reply to Fitz-Badger, I have a hard time imagining I could convince many players that this kind of game is fun for more than a one-shot. I don't want to make things too easy, but I do think the trap frequency is too high, even accounting for poor player skill on my part. That is, failing to use the 10' pole effectively.

      So, i'll be playing with trap frequency in the hallways - right now, it's on every draw of a 3 of any suit, which would only be 4x per deck, except that I reshuffle whenever I've drawn all four kings.

      When I get a chance to produce a suitable map for posting online, I'll be sure to count the pit traps - I'm not exactly sure how many were encountered (a few, as hard as it may be to believe, didn't spring).


    2. John,

      You might keep using the 3s . . . but make the black 3s deadly and red 3s only injurious.

      -- Jeff

  3. One of the questions that I do have for you is about "Room Contents/Inhabitants".

    I am presuming that you don't know what is in a room until characters enter it for the first time (otherwise where is the fun).

    So once they go through the door, how do you determine what is in there?

    -- Jeff

    1. Most of the time, I'm using the table from D&D basic (Moldvay ed.), page B52, under the section "Stock the Dungeon." Labyrinth Lord presents a similar table on page 124, the "Labyrinth Stocking Table." The latter uses percentile dice, the former, the d6, but in both cases, treasure is a separate roll. I've used both, but since the ratios are the same in both tables, there was no difference.

      FYI, Basic Fantasy RPG has a table on p 147 in the section "Stock the Dungeon" that uses percentile dice and incorporates the likelihood of treasure with the monsters into a single roll. I'll probably try this at some point.

      For monsters, I then use the D30 DM Companion for the 1st dungeon level, which automatically accounts for the possibility that 3rd level monsters like bugbears, might be on the 1st level, but in reduced quantities. Traps come from teh D30 DM Companion, lists I've found online, etc. Specials, I use the Labyrinth Lord AEC table, p. 148, "Special Encounters." I think I've only had one of those so far, but I'd have to go back and confirm that.

      The hallway trap probability is built into my home-brewed dungeon generator on the draw of a 3 of any suit. I roll 1d6 and on 1-3 it's a pit trap, 4-6 it's some other kind of trap. I think that's the real kicker. Traps spring on a 1-2 on a 1d6 per D&D/LL, rolled for each PC until it springs. If a party is using a 10' the pole itself gets a chance to trigger the trap.


  4. Very interesting analysis. I think that a high death rate is in the spirit of old dungeon delving games and solo games. I suppose that the dungeon itself is a "main character" in this campaign -- a villain that slowly reveals itself at the cost of so many lives.

    1. Ricardo,

      I think you hit the nail on the head here. I'm playing an old school game, where the death rate is high. Actually, I think my dungeon is less deadly than even the Goblin Lake sample solitaire adventure included in the T&T lite rules (available on DriveThruRpg).

      My intent when I started this, which I don't think I ever stated, was that I wanted to explore the idea of a megadungeon and develop a single giant labyrinth with many levels, many factions, and even its own economies, that would require multiple PCs/parties to venture into the dungeon to discover its layout, its construction, and whatever secrets it might contain.

      Plus, I wanted to smash down doors, kill things and loot their bodies.


  5. I would say it depends on the type of games and style of play one is looking for. I want to play a character (or even a party) and watch them develop over a long period of time. I don't want a huge turnover/death rate. I don't think that means it can't be fun or challenging. For me the fun and the challenge is in exploring, character development, how the world grows and evolves through the game. Even in my solo gaming I don't want to keep creating characters only to have them keep dying off. That doesn't mean it has to be a Monty Haul game either.
    I can see where some people might prefer a more "deadly" game. To each their own. There's room for all sorts of gaming. I don't really have anything against Monty Haul games either, if the player(s) have fun.

    Anyway, that's my take on my gaming. No judgement implied on anyone else's. :)

  6. My last campaign, I used the Trap/Treasure/Monster ratios from the 1e DMG and was averaging one character death per session. Over half were caused by traps. My players made a few sarcastic comments about it, but I had warned them in advance to roll up multiple characters, as this wasn't going to be a 'everybody advances' campaign. And I did adjust the ratios, so that more of the " traps" summoned monsters rather than were immediately deadly to low level PCs. Role-playing is consensual, you adapt so that everyone has fun.

    1. Well said, Rod.

      -- Jeff

    2. Hi Rod,

      "Role-playing is consensual, you adapt so that everyone has fun" : an excellent observation.

      One of my issues, is that although I'm playing solo, I keep thinking about how a group of players would react if they were running these PCs. I like your solution to have the traps summon monsters; at least with a monster, the party can run away.


  7. Comment 1: Yay! Stats!

    Comment 2: There is something wonderful and crazy happening here. It's a gaming experience that I doubt one could ever have with a group, but, as a solo pursuit, it really is intriguing. It tests one's commitment to an original concept while also testing a specific sub-sub-genre of the hobby. Ricardo's characterization above about the dungeon being the slowly unfolding villain puts a fine point on it, I think, especially since the title of this campaign project is, in fact, all about the dungeon. So, the real question might not be "How should the lethality be adjusted?" Rather, it could be "SHOULD the lethality be adjusted at all?"

    1. Hi JF,

      I think I lost sight of the dungeon as being the main thing - as I mentioned in my reply to Ricardo, this whole venture started out as my attempt to play around with the idea of the "megadungeon."

      Your question is quite interesting. While I've been siding with the idea that it should be adjusted, there is something to the idea that maybe this is just the way the dungeon is. In which case, I think the failure isn't one with the dungeon's generation, but how I'm approaching it when running the PCs. Indeed, I've made this argument several times to myself over the past few days - the 10' pole, scouts etc. have been largely neglected.

      But then, I keep getting bogged down in thinking about how a group of players, who aren't like me, would feel about this kind of game. Of course, it really doesn't matter how they would feel about it, because I'm running this purely as a solo game for my own enjoyment, but, like you, I tend to use my solo gaming to inform my social gaming, and so those thoughts creep in.