Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting Equipment and Megadungeon Tropes

I think a great way to set the tone of a Megadungeon campaign is to prepare some starting equipment packages ahead of time. When I run demos of the Forsaken Halls, each pregen has a carefully selected pile of goodies in his backpack. While they are neat things to have on the surface, I have ulterior motives in putting them there - hoping to inspire and/or reinforce the exploratory nature of Megadungeon play. Starting equipment is also an easy way to add a little bit of flavorful campaign setting material to your games, as with Ming's standard equipment packs back in this old post (specialized Megadungeon equipment here).

Some good equipment to provide to inexperienced Megadungeon explorers includes:

Pole, 10' - This is there for a very good reason. And I don't mean to check for pits. Its there to remind players that every character class can (and should) check for traps. 1 in 6 isn't a bad chance, and its not unusual that I bump the chance to 2 in 6 with the right equipment, or just allow detection automatically when the player describes just the right way to detect that collapsing column or trip wire. As a matter of fact, I try and work in at least one "auto-success" even if I have to fudge it a bit - it's worth it to positively reinforce descriptive play over "roll" play.

Mirror, small steel - Here's another great item. Peek around corners or under doors. Reflect torchlight into hard-to-see places. Fight medusas and basilisks. For such a simple item, it certainly inspires a lot of descriptive and creative actions.

Vial, glass, empty - Fill me! Fill me! this little item screams. Fill me with acid to throw at monsters! Fill me with holy water to throw at undead. Fill me with Green Slime to pour on trolls. Fill me with a sample of the glowing blue water from the fountain on level three to take back to town for analysis. Fill me with venom from the dead giant scorpion. Fill me with ashes from the dead vampire to sell to the rich necromancer. Fill me!!!

Manacles - I don't know why, but my players have rarely been keen on taking prisoners, thus depriving me of the chance to rp orcs, slavers, assassins, and so on. But give a player a set of manacles, and they just can't wait to take a prisoner. Its kind of weird, really.

Pot, iron - Strike another day off the rations? Or cook up some of that dried meat from the storeroom on level two with chunk of mushroom from the Fungus Forest and some herbs from the mad wizard's laboratory. Like our good friend the glass vial, the pot just screams to be filled, and gives players something to talk about during down time while you're rolling for wandering monster encounters. It will also invariably be used to conk someone on the head at that point, and the roll-to-hit will invariably be a natural 20. I don't why, it just works out that way.

Soap - Adventurers stink. This helps monsters track and hunt them. Not a bad to take a quick bath in that underground stream (nevermind the blind albino crocodiles, they'll never notice, right?) and scrub off the funk from those troglodytes. It also makes a great lubricant for those stuck doors, heavy sarcophagus lids, and stubborn turnable statue bases.

Whetstone - Throw a couple of these at the players and they'll actually use them. Weird.

Empty Sacks - Another great "Fill me!" item. Plus it helps players keep those encumbrance rules in mind. You can also stuff them with flammable stuff like flour, cotton, or owlbear feathers and make handy fire hazards to slow down pursuit.

String - Repair torn cloaks, clothes, sacks, and sundries on the spot. Tie one to a heavy stone with a candle at one end for a time-able trap. Use them to mark your way through a maze. Drop torches down pits and wells for easy retrieval. Tie a holy symbol or vial of holy water to the end of your 10' pole to fish around in tombs with.


  1. Hey your 10' pole saved the day with those crazy teleporting books.

  2. I like the Paizo equipment cards ... I pass out a deck, and let the players select several items from it.

    That provides something tangible for them to refer to when equiping themselves.

  3. Another aspect to this would be dosing the megadungeon with a few magicked versions of these mundanes... A whetstone that temporarily imbues double-damage to edged weapons anyone? Manacles that Silence those shut in them? A hand-mirror that sheds light (as a bullseye lamp) on command? A 10' pole that automatically parts mundane webs, nets, and snare lines? Hmm...

  4. My usual trick with new players (I run a "cadet group" for new players once every couple of years or so, whenever enough non-gamers express an interest) is to scatter the odd dead adventurer around the place. Once they've found an empty vial, a ten foot pole or some other random gubbins such as a hammer and spikes, they invariably start to ask themselves: "What would an adventurer want with some of these?"
    Another trick I use is the one-armed adeventurer in the tavern. He doesn't just spread rumours about dungeons. He tells stories about the time so-and-so's mirror saved the party from Medusae.
    Like Al's method, it's a good way to get them thinking outside the box a little. It's great fun watching new gamers re-invent old tricks that way.

  5. I do something very similar...added to mine are a piece of chalk, a bag of 50-100 marbles and iron spikes.

  6. Folding 10' pole and shovel. Salt for salting meats..mmmmm..salted roper. And yes, fishing tackle, save my character and the party when we were in a mega-dungeon. Every mega-dungeon has that huge underground lake or sea.And last but not least, candle's and more candle's.

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