Friday, 22 May 2015

LotFP solo dungeon crawl - Part I

So there I was in some lousy little human village, down to me last few silvers, and wondering just what I can possibly do next to earn a few coins before all me money's spent and I gotta go back to mercenary fighting. Not that I got nothing against it; it's a fine tradition what's claimed the lives o' many from me clan in glorious battle against, well, whichever o' them human armies is paying less. But I always thought I had a better destiny. But I didn't seem to find it at the bottom of me cup. So I thought I'd try another.

And as I was stumbling up towards the bar again, I hear this voice behind me. "Hey, dwarf!" it said. And I knew it must mean me, since I were the only of our fine folk in this crappy burb.

"What?" says I, turning about. There's this big guy standing there holding some rolled up scroll in his hand.

"My companions and I," he says, "have come into the possession of this treasure map. Fortune and glory await in the depths of the earth, for those bold enough to win them back from the forces of evil. And my companions and I are plenty bold, aye, but we're smart too. We know we'd stand a far better chance underground with a cunning dwarf to guide us. What do you say? There's an equal share of the treasure in it for you!"

Well, what could I say, really?

[Sometimes you just want to play a nice old-school dungeon. I'd come up with the germ of an idea about how to make solo dungeons more interesting, which on reflection will work equally well for an OSR game as it would a d% one. But it's much easier to roll up a D&D Basic party than it is to do one for a Chaosium BASIC rpg. And, if truth be told, something is pulling me back towards medieval fantasy at the moment. I suppose my non-gaming reading of late is to blame: medieval Latin poetry, a William Morris novel, a 15th century Danse Macabre, a 12th century grimoire... so, yeah, LotFP it is.

The idea is to make a party of brand new first level characters and send them into the dungeon -- and hopefully out again. Should any of them fall and the body not be recovered, I will note the location of the corpse and any equipment/treasure left therewith. That way, successive groups of adventurers can visit the same dungeon and perhaps benefit from those who came before (this post in Battreps' blog made me really want to do an iterative dungeon crawl like this again).

The party was rolled completely at random. I even rolled d8s on the Creating an NPC Party table on page B52 of the (Moldvay) Basic rulebook to determine class. Attributes were by the LotFP book: 3d6 in order, with the option to swap one pair of scores. They all rolled pretty low for starting equipment, from 70-120sp, but that honestly made it more fun. I was hoping for a bunch of down-on-their-luck types for whom a serviceable sword would count as decent treasure.

I'm not sure if this is in the same world as my other LotFP campaign or not. I'm running it with the same assumptions about monsters and magic for now.

This is essentially a field test of my DMG Appendix A modifications. I will share the charts & tables I come up with, though they will certainly change as I decide to tweak the numbers or refine the options. And rather than write up tons of rules in advance, I'm making them up on the spot. I've got a rough table with c. 50 results, some of which are probably duplicates, others which probably belong on the Trick/Trap table (which I also want to redo in its entirety). Once I have something even half-coherent to present, I'll make a PDF of it all to share. The core conceit is a an overhaul of Table V.F.: Chamber or Room Contents.

Die   Contents
1-4   Empty
5-7   Monster only
8-10  Monster & Treasure*
11-13 Monster & Environment**
14-15 Monster & Treasure* & Environment**
16-17 Environment** only
18    Special, or contains stairway up 1 level (1-5),
      up 2 levels (7-8), down 1 level (9-14), down 2 levels (15-19),
      or down 3 levels — 2 flights of stairs and a slanting passageway (20).
19    Trick/Trap (see TABLE VII.)
20    Treasure (see TABLE V.G.)

* Treasure with a monster is by B/X Treasure Type (LL Hoard Class). Monsters with Nil treasure use TABLE V.G. instead. NB. I reduce the coinage amounts to account for the silver standard of LotFP
** This is that list of 50 things I mentioned above, things that make it harder and/or more interesting to move through the rooms. I should probably make it so more of the empty rooms are environment only, but this is the chart as I have been playing off it for the first batch of delves. I'll post an updated version whenever I start using it. Along with all the environmental rules, at some point.

I'll be using Mythic as an oracle, B/X wandering monster charts for encounters and Best of Dragon random monsters when the charts steer me wrong (which is usually). As this is more about the dungeon exploration than anything else, the PCs will be a little less developed as people, and the combats will be presented in an abbreviated form (unless truly spectacular). Now, let's return to our dwarven narrator as he introduces the party...]

They was a desperate looking bunch, to be sure -- all cheap equipment and patched clothes. Well, I couldn't be too precious about my choice of companions. I weren't exactly wearing a fine coat o' dwarven mail meself!

Dwarf, Level 1, male
Cha 9 Con 11 Dex 8 Int 11 Str 14 Wis 13
Hit Points: 10
Armour: leather & shield
Weapons: warhammer, light crossbow & 10 bolts
Equipment: backpack, lantern, tinderbox, quiver, 2 flasks of oil, sack, 50' rope, grappling hook, 4sp, 8cp

The one what got me attention were a big, strong one, like what I said. Ardulan he were called. He were a soldier in the King's army -- formerly that is. With a beat up old shield an' a old iron-tipped spear.

Fighter, Level 1, male
Cha 13 Con 12 Dex 9 Int 10 Str 16 Wis 6
Hit Points: 8
Armour: leather & shield
Weapons: spear
Equipment: backpack, 50' rope, grappling hook, 11sp

Next to him were Kella, a warrior-girl in the old style, with her leather skirted armour and her little stabbing sword. Smart as a wizard, that one. Dunno why she weren't in charge.

Fighter, Level 1, female
Cha 10 Con 12 Dex 14 Int 15 Str 14 Wis 4
Hit Points: 8
Armour: leather & shield
Weapons: shortsword
Equipment: backpack, 9sp

Then there was Tleera and Izayne, a pair o' witches what was always finishing each others sentences. Creepy, but affable enough as witch sisters go.

Magic-User, Level 1, female
Cha 13 Con 10 Dex 11 Int 11 Str 13 Wis 12
Hit Points: 4
Armour: leather
Weapons: rapier, 2 darts, silvered dagger
Equipment: backpack, tinderbox, 2 torches, scroll case, pouch, vial, wolvesbane, garlic, 14sp, 5cp
Spellbook: Read Magic, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Magic Missile

Magic-User, Level 1, female
Cha 10 Con 9 Dex 10 Int 16 Str 10 Wis 12
Hit Points: 3
Armour: leather
Weapons: staff, light crossbow & 10 bolts
Equipment: backpack, holy water, 2 flasks of oil, quiver, 44sp
Spellbook: Read Magic, Feather Fall, Hold Portal, Bookspeak

Hostrick was a barbarian from across the big water. Nice axes he had. And a proper beard, too.

Fighter, Level 1, male
Cha 13 Con 10 Dex 11 Int 11 Str 13 Wis 10
Hit Points: 8
Armour: leather
Weapons: battle axe, 2 throwing axes
Equipment: backpack, sack, lantern, 2 flasks of oil, 19sp, 8cp

There were a holy woman called Sister Midge. Just out of the convent, and looking a bit gormless. But hers were an order martial, and they gave her a nice chain byrnie to go out into the world and do good, or fight evil, or whatever her gods were on about.

Sister Midge
Cleric, Level 1, female
Cha 11 Con 14 Dex 10 Int 10 Str 10 Wis 14
Hit Points: 5
Armour: chain
Weapons: shortsword
Equipment: backpack, wooden holy symbol, 3 torches, 8sp, 3cp

The last one were called Ethy. She were a wee slip of a thing, with a tiny little thin sword and a pack full of burglar's tools. I thought we were going to be doing fighting and not thieving, but I guess she proved her worth.

Specialist, Level 1, female
Cha 10 Con 14 Dex 14 Int 11 Str 8 Wis 11
Hit Points: 7
Armour: leather
Weapons: rapier, 2 throwing daggers
Equipment: backpack, specialist's tools, 2 torches, crowbar, 7sp, 8cp
Skills: search 3, stealth 2, sneak attack 1

So the next day we got our gear together and traipsed off through the forest following that old map. It led us straightaways to some ruins, just the base of an old tower, all overgrown and hid by the growing trees and scrub, but there was just visible a stone staircase leading down into the earth.

"The Vile Vaults of Valistraktis," says Ardulan. "Our destiny awaits."

I didn't say nothing. Honestly, I always heard the mad mage Valistraktis had really fine vaults built with the best materials [dwarfs all get the Architecture skill]. But I guess what humans really like their alliteration. Having seen them, I got to go on record: them vaults was top-notch!"

We didn't waste no time. Me and Hostrik lit our lanterns, and we all started real slow-like descending the steps. Ardulan and Kella were in the front rank, so we did our best to shine the lights around them.

Marching order (assumes 10' wide corridor):


[Room 1 - monster & treasure]
The first room at the bottom of those steps weren't so big. Couple exits leading out. And in one corner there was a couple of rusty iron coffers on the floor. And there was this green slime above them on the ceiling, and all dripping down over the lids, too.

[In retrospect, Green Slime is probably more of an environmental hazard or a trick/trap than a monster, but I went with it anyway. I always thought the lack of rules for fighting green slime that wasn't dripping over your head were annoyingly vague, so: when 'attacking' with a torch, save vs. paralyse to avoid getting slimed. Lose 1d4hp if you need to burn the slime off yourself.]

Kella lit a torch, and tried to burn off the slime, but just got it on her arm instead, and had to burn it off. Hurt her pride more'n her arm, I'll wager [attack & saving throw both missed; took 1 damage].

So Ethy says she went about it all wrong, and if she only had some oil and a torch she could solve it. Izayne gives her some oil, and she sprinkled it from the flask all over the slime and then lit it. Went up pretty fast too [Ethy made her save and attack roll. The damage killed the slime].

Ethy looked all chuffed with herself, and says, "See? Simple!" The she opens one of the coffers, and a second later a big iron spear shoots up from the floor and skewers the poor lass. Nearly Killed her, too. [Treasure is guarded by... table came up Spear trap. I gave it a +6 attack bonus; it hit for 6 damage, dropping Ethy to 1hp.]

Sister Midge cured Ethy's wound [cure light wounds restored full HP] whiles the rest of us carefully opened the other coffer and see what's inside 'em both. We found a hundred silver coins, and some scraps of burnt up parchment [100sp + scroll; Q: Was the scroll burnt? Yes (thanks, Mythic...)].

"Good work, genius," growled Ardulan. "You should have just left it alone."

"So you'd rather..." says Izayne.

"...we didn't have the silver?" finishes Tleera.

"Which way now?" says Kella, stopping the argument afore it got any worse.

We picked left. When in doubt, always go left. So I heard.

[Room 2 - monster only]
At the end of the hall were another little room behind a old wooden door. Inside there was four humans in leathers with cheap little swords [4 bandits]. They looked pretty tired, but otherwise whole.

[reaction roll=neutral; Q: Do they just want to be left alone? Yes]

They didn't have much to say, and we weren't looking to make friends or nothing, and they seemed mostly harmless, so we just left them there to their whatever and went back the other way. We went for a ways to a 4-way intersection [A], went left from there to yet another 4-way intersection [B], but this time kept on going straight.

Kella says stop all of a sudden, and we all stop. "Look here!" she says, and damn me if she ain't found a secret door all hidden like it's part of the masonry. So we opens it, and good thing, too, cuz it was a door made for avoiding one of those damn pit traps [C - Trick/Trap find secret door or fall in pit].

[Room 3 - trick/trap]
The secret door put us in a big circular room with a high vaulted ceiling and pool taking up most of the middle. Wasn't til we got inside near the pool itself that we even seen there's a sort of island in the middle -- with a great big treasure chest on!

[Note to self: pools should be able to occur in rooms other than just round ones. Maybe they should be an Environmental feature or something... be that as it may, I do love rolling up pools. This one came up Monster & Treasure. I may make some sort of Pool Qualities table too, as I had to ask Mythic--
Q: Is the water clear? Yes.
Q: Is it deep? Yes. 6+1d6= 11']

We looked in the water and didn't see nothing moving [failed Search roll x8], and Ethy even threw in a copper to see it there's be a reaction. Tweren't one, so Ardulan and Kella dropped all their heavy stuff, and waded in in just their leathers and with their spear and pokey sword, just in case. Good thing, too. Out of nowhere came this sorta giant, undead eel monster what tried to eat them!

undead giant eel monster
AC: 13, HD 4, HP 20, Move: 150', 1 constrict attack: 1d6+drown, ML: 12

It pulled Ardulan under the water, and Kella she just swum down after it. Couldn't really see what was happening, on account of the water and the darkness, but she killed it good with that stabby sword o' hers. She even pulled Ardulan out of the water without even thinking o' the treasure, but he were too far gone to make it. [no actual surprise, but it won the initiative and pulled Ardulan under on the first round. It reduced him to -3hp on the third round, at which point Kella killed it. The cleric was out of cure spells so Ardulan died in 1d10=5 minutes].

Kella went back and got their weapons out of the pool, then swum across to the island. The chest weren't trapped, but it were covered in some sort of filth. And inside were only coppers! But she took 'em all out and washed 'em all off in the pond, and threw 'em all across in a great big sack. [she also saved vs. Poison to avoid contracting a disease from the filth whilst collecting the 200cp.]

Sister Midge laid Ardulan out all nice-like by the wall, and said some prayers and stuff, and then we decided to press on out the door, which were big and clad in iron and a particularly nasty trap. Kella made to open it and the whole thing fell down on her. She just barely jumped aside and missed getting flattened [the Trick/Trap: save vs. paralyzation or take 1d10 damage as the door falls inward].

[Room 4 - Monster & Environment]
The doorway led right into another room, this one with a big, burbling fountain [the Environment feature] taking up on of the walls. And there was bones all over the floor. Human bones. Uh-oh, I thinks. And I think one o' my companions may've said the same out loud. And then, wouldn't you know, there go them bones, swirling round and coming together and standing all up-like. And they all got these little rusty swords and they come straight at us.

[the 7 skeletons win the initiative] We fight 'em long and hard [4 rounds] and we smash 'em all up in the end, but they smash us up pretty good too. On of the witches is down [Tleera has -2hp] and the cleric [-1hp] and the barbarian [-3hp; 6 minutes to live], and the rest of us is looking like we're near to joining 'em [F 2hp, E 4hp, I&K 1hp]. Then Ethy goes "What if it's a healing fountain," like any arsehole wizard's gonna put one o' those in his 'Vile Vaults', and afore anyone can stop her she's drinking the water. [Q: Poison? Yes. Save or take 1-6 damage and -2 to hit and skills for 24 hours from nausea and cramps; I need a fountain table, too.]

"I don't feel too good," says Ethy, predictably [failed save, lost 2 more hp].

Well, we was all feeling pretty shagged, and Kella mumbled something about discretion being the better part of running away, so we all decides to head back to the surface and lick our wounds.

[There were no encounters on the way out of the dungeon. I use a 1-in-6 chance for backtracking, checked at every room and marked space [A,B,C] on the map. I also asked Mythic if there were going to be a bandit ambush from the guys in room 2, or any trouble on the way back to town, but the answer both times was no.]

We supported the injured and dragged the dead, and we finally made it back to town. I confess I never enjoyed a human inn so much as I did that night. We all felt pretty bad in the morning still, 'cept the cleric whose god let her go first with the wound closing magic, but we was all excited for another go at the riches in them Vile Vaults. And so we made another plan...


  1. I started playing D&D back near it's very beginning (before AD&D came out) . . . and I still have a warm place in my heart for those early dungeon delves . . . so I really enjoyed this write-up. Thank you.

    -- Jeff

    1. You're welcome. There's more of this to come. At least 2 or 3 posts worth.

      I started with the Moldvay Basic set, then went to Expert when it came out. Then my friends and I started getting the AD&D books, and there was a slow transition between rules. I've been playing solo dungeons ever since I got the Best of Dragon vol. I, with the article that was later expanded into the DMG's Appendix A. I don't think I'd played one in about 15 years before starting this blog -- or slightly before starting it, when I got Expeditious Retreat Press' Unbound Adventures (Appendix A for Pathfinder) and used it with the LotFP rules I had just acquired. I have some 4th level characters from that who may make an appearance in my campaign some day...

    2. Wonderful! This really brings back memories . . . so feel free to keep going with it.

      -- Jeff

  2. I guess the dwarf was just a bone head afterall. Enjoyed the write up.

    1. We used to dock people XP for puns like that. But glad you enjoyed it.