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.