retro Dungeon Delvin’ in the Crypts of the Pervy Lord Thule

Saturday evening, the second meeting of the Second Saturday Scrum club met in Langley Park, MD.  Namely, Jared, John, Francesco, me and my son Garrett were in attendance. We were caught up in a “dungeon crawl” using a mishmash of rules consolidated and augmented by Joe Procopio.  The core of the game is the Majestic 12 Ares system, with a little overlay of Songs of Blades and Heroes.   Joe did that one better by creating a system where the dungeon delve is created by cards and special dice.  The dice determine the size, composition and special features of the room, if any, and the cards amplify what’s found in the room.   It’s actually a pretty neat concept.  One big problem we had was rolling overly large rooms in a finite space; it became clear, quickly, that the map’s free space would be used up rather quickly if we relied on the dice mechanic as-is.  The rooms were just too big and we didn’t have infinite table space.  So we winged it and knocked the “room generation dice” down a few pips when rolling– or we would have a dungeon with lots of gigantic rooms that were having problems linking with each other.  The other part of Joe’s design that I personally liked was that we engaged as teams– Joe and Francisco played one team, Garrett and I another, and Jared and John the remaining team.  As teams made their way around the dungeon, all encounters were rolled (or pulled from the deck) by the team to the current player’s right.  This is a clever way to keep people engaged and preventing the game from going stale.

Our team was Sophia Irongrip of Felnore (some kind of fighter), Holford Stoutfellow (a cleric), Took Scratchbottom (a hobbit thief) and Archimedes the Grey (a wizard, whom I took to calling “Not Gandalf”).

There we all are, in our starting location on the map edge. We were about equidistant between the other two teams. That’s Archimedes and Took (whom I ran) in the foreground, and Holford and Sophia in the background.

We all started on convenient corners about as far away from each other as could fit on a large rectangular “Classic” Chessex dry-erase marker map, a map that gave the evening’s festivities a delightful retro feel. This is what I used to map D&D with when I was a wee lad.

These were our starting location templates. You can see where we started:

Our starting template (chosen by dice roll, natch) was top right. You can see it on the miniature view above. Photo from Joe P’s blog. Courtesy Ellen Procopio, used with permission

Our initial forays out of our start location led us to a couple of adjacent rooms. Oddly enough the choices that would have us moving to the West, and possibly connecting with tunnels that would lead to our dungeon exploring rivals, all ended in dead ends! So we moved out into areas we COULD explore, namely a room with a giant floor mosaic with a visage so hideous it would induce immediate vomiting. I decided it was a mosaic of a giant undead dolphin for some reason, probably just the comedic value. My hobbit dutifully blew chunks and moved on to the next door after searching the room.

The great chunks inducing Dolphin mosaic. Archimedes continues to search the starting area.

Initial efforts at searching didn’t turn up much in either the wandering monster or treasure departments.  We encountered a room covered with bones that made a rustling noise when we tried to stealth over it.  Not very stealthy.

On other fronts, the opposing team run by John and Jared encountered a lot of traps, and more random monsters than us.  Notably some trolls.

Encountering some random trolls. They put up a spirited fight.

Whoops, that could ruin your day.To be truthful it kind of did for that team, keeping them stuck in place and unable to fulfill their “background mission” cards.

An example of the encounter displayed above. The other team bumps into “querulous Trolls” and had to spend quite a few turns dislodging them.Credit: Ellen Procopio

The other team run by Francisco and Joe didn’t fare  that well either.

As we had to take over the duties of running the opposition encounters, we ran the Orc Captain and two archers that popped up in the next room to Joe and Francisco’s party. This little room with minor monsters in it became a kind of Hougomont for the other side– they poured their attention and focus into killing these guys and hardly progressed into the dungeon beyond two rooms.  Here we have the Orc Captain charging the Monk character solo with a polearm, which did some damage.

The game session went about six hours with a break for pizza included.  We had expanded the map to the point where most of the sections were JUST ABOUT touching, but there wasn’t a connection between areas on the map yet.

Jared and John’s view, other side of the table.  The map areas are almost touching, but not quite. The circular object is an improbably huge fountain in a tiny hidden room that got randomly rolled.

The capper of the evening was One of the advneturers on the Joe/Francisco team unearthing a “Major Room” with a large gang of undead orgy participants in a hidden room.

Yes, you read that right. An unending orgy of undead whose sole purpose is to suck weary travelers into the festivities and become NEW undead unending orgy participants. Erm.. yeah.

“Thule’s Unending Orgy” was about as close as we ever came to seeing the actual crypt of Thule which would have been nice.  We had a private mission to urinate on the crypt to earn ourselves 150 VPs, but we never found it.

At this point it was like 1030 at night and I had to beg my leave from our gracious host, as it’s still a haul to Northern Virginia.    Based on treasure count alone I suppose the victory goes to Jared and Johns’ team, who looted the troll bodies.

My team encountered some tiny critters here and there (Spiders, Death Scarabs) and generally dealt with them by shutting the door and going elsewhere.  Perhaps it wasn’t courageous but our fighter types kept wandering off and expanding the map, leaving the support staff (thieves and wizards) who weren’t the best fighters to bump into them.  My hobbit was a realist.  He just avoided them.

So that was my first foray back into old school dungeon crawling in a  long, loooong time.  I had great time, so did Gar.  It wasn’t so much the presentation (which was great), it was the retro feel, the friendly banter, and the overall great time we had doing a simple game much like ones I played in my youth.  I loved it.

Visit Joe’s Blog here to see an expanded writeup, nicer pictures (courtesy of Helen) and a lot more depth into his design process.

One comment

  1. So glad you enjoyed the game and camaraderie, and glad we finally got the chance to game together after meeting at last summer’s Historicon. Looking forward to more gaming nights in the future!

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