Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Age Of Adventurers

Last week I started a digital game of How To Host A Dungeon, and posted the first few eras on this blog. Today, I'll continue that through the Age of Monsters.

Link to previous post.
Here's how the map looked after the Great Disaster that ended the Dark Elf Civilization of Kharsoum Leyban:

Everything is focused on the lower right of the map, and the Dark Elf palaces of Leyban, Kharsoum, and Silla are in a terrible shambles.

Now we start the Age of Monsters.

We had a few Monster Groups already on the map.

Descendents of the Rebel Elves: Officially these were Wandering Monsters, but I decided to fudge the rules a bit and make them Chaotic / Breeders. This seemed a good compromise to making them interesting and competitive without causing them to just repeat the mistakes of their kind. (If I’d made them Delvers like I proposed last week, they would have abandoned the colony at the end of the turn for lack of resources.)

Feral Slave Beasts: Straight-up Wandering Monsters. Nothing special about them, and I'm not entirely certain what sort of beasts they were.

The treasures on the map are mostly just random trinkets left over from the Dark Elf colonies, but T1 is a magic item named The Great Flail of Melancholy, and T2 is The Mithril Veil that adorns the statue of Dame Chaos in her Shrine in the ruins of Silla.

As we explore the timeline and maps of the Age of Monsters, we'll see that it's really the NPC Adventuring Parties that truly shape this Age.

Age of Monsters, Year 1

A variety of Monster Groups arrive and make their initial lairs. At this point, the turns start to get complicated.

The first to arrive is the Surface Kingdoms of man. They build a Keep atop the cliff, and name it Castle Laventhorpe.

Monsters appear at random starting locations, and as it turns out I rolled up one of the flooded chambers in the middle of the map, from when the river got redirected. When something like that happens you've got a couple options. You can reroll, you can assume they build a bridge or drain the room, or you can consult the optional water and magma monster chart.

I did the later, and got Merfolk. They count as Delving monsters, and will rework the natural caverns around them into architectural marvels... which I'll probably turn into simple bubble-shaped chambers to keep things quick(ish) and easy. Merfolk may leave the water, but they always flood the rooms they choose to live in.

Next up are Earthmen in the lower left corner. Not "bring us to your leaders, earthman", but presumably some sort of elemental creature. The rules are pretty short, and don't waste words on detailed descriptions of the races, but I picture them as little clay people with heads not unlike diminutive Easter Island statues. These ones are Lawful in alignment. They count as Breeders, but I've decided to have them smooth the natural rock where-ever they go. When I drew in the earthquake caverns I made it very jagged, and I'd like the Earthmen to use their supernatural powers to wear it down a bit.

Lastly, there's a Vampire in the old dry riverbed. I was rolling for an Alpha Predator, and got a 12, which is 'create your own'. So I had to make up some minor rules for him. His alignment is "Hungry" and works for the most part like any other Alpha. However, he cannot cros running water in the same tunnel or room that he's in. If he ends his turn on the surface (which is unlikely) he'll die from sun exposure. He has typical D&D vampire powers to turn into a cloud of gas or various rodents, or to meld with the earth, and regenerate. So if anything would kill him, he instead moves straight down until the next empty room, or makes his own chamber after a 1/2 finger's length of earth-melding. He only really dies if this puts them in water, magma, or off the bottom of the map. Vampires can pass freely through raw earth and rock, encountering targets within range regardless of the walls between them. Those targets cannot choose to encounter him on their turns unless they have a path to his current lair.

I could have made a case for taking full turns with the Rebel Elves and the Slave Beasts, but their turns would be pretty minor in this set up, so I let it go for now.

I did however add some minor cosmetic details to the map, like white foam on the waterfalls.

Age of Monsters, Year 2: 

The yearly event charts tell me a statue is discovered! I decide it's a Statue of the Earth God whose earthquake destroyed the Dark Elves. A huge Easter-Island-style rock head falls from the ceiling where it had watched them with contempt.
Each turn you roll on an event chart. Usually it generates some sort of monster group entering the map, but sometimes it does something else colorful, like reveal a previously unknown statue.
The Humans build a farm.
  The Elven Rebels accomplish very little. They breed, but then suffer losses to starvation. They expand their territory just a little, just past the edges of old Kharsoum.
  Slave Beasts from wander through the old Silla mines to the waterfall.
  Merfolk mine into the old mithril deposit, in an organized grid. They also smooth out their chambers and smooth/flood the areas on their doorstep. While this area had been previously mined, I figured having lava pour through it probably made the ore liquify and relocate. Getting one more ore out of deposit seems fine, but I probably won’t let them remine the other two parts. Let’s call this vein played out.
  Earthmen have no exits, so they get motivated and head towards the Statue of their Creator god at a rapid pace. They smooth all the rough stone they pass. They are skilled enough to mine past the waterfall without flooding the tunnels they connect to. They also technically breed and starve for net zero population growth.
  The Vampire hunts unsuccessfully, and relocates his lair to different cave in hopes of finding prey.
  The Elves and Earthmen seem destined for conflict, but it could be several turns off. The Merfolk are probably in the strongest position at the end of the year, despite their initial mine having dried up.

Age of Monsters, Year 3:

This year sees the arrival of Human Miners near the middle of the surface layer. They are separate from surface kingdoms, but I’m interpreting the intent that they are allied or at least at peace with the castle. The rules could probably be clearer there, but the games light enough I can just rule as I see fit.

Surface Kingdoms build a second farm.
   Rebels breed and starve.    Slave Beasts stay put.
   Merfolk create a series of locks and fishladders downriver from the city. 
   Earthmen slowly expand their territory, zero population growth.
   The Vampire, so hungry, returns to his original lair. The miners are not yet close enough for him to Earthmeld to them, but they will soon.
   Human miners dig down, unaware of the danger below them.

Age of Monsters, Year 4: 

Arrival of Trolls. Two immediately team up in the old dry river (their random placement put them adjacent to each other). The third shows up in deep caverns, and encounters Rebel Elves. The lone troll invader is immediately driven off, at the cost of half the elven numbers.
Humans build a third farm.
   Rebel Elves breed, and claim the Troll treasure. Bolstered by the captured resources, they restore their numbers and extend their perimeter closer to the Trolls they just chased out.
   Slave Beasts stay put.
   Merfolk extend east of their mines. They suffer some losses to slave beasts, but seal off and flood more chambers to expand their territory.
    Earthmen extend slowly. As breeders, they move fastest when there's only one direction to go, and spread more slowly when they border a lot of rooms or tunnels.
    Vampire was going to eat the miners, but since there’s now Trolls available, that’s a tastier snack. The trolls can’t hurt it. Literally half the trolls retreat, and then grow back their other halves.
    Human Miners break into tunnels, and encounter the Vampire. They recognize him to be Count Laventhorpe, the great grandfather of the man who built the castle. He eats one of them.
   Dumbstruck and still regenerating from the recent Vampire attack, the two trolls in the west do nothing. The troll in the east heads further away from the elven rebels.

Age of Monsters, Year 5:

A Party of Adventurers, three in number, enter the mines in search of loot and experience! They head down the mines, and “kill” Count Laventhorpe. The Count kills one of their party before going down. His Earthmeld power saves him. Per the rules I wrote up for it when I rolled the “12” that created him, he melds down a half-finger from his previous position, creating a new cavern there. This must be where his coffin was hidden. His zone of control is reset to the smaller cave.

The continue on to the Trolls, whom they dispatch and burn out. I roll on the Minor Features table, and discover the room where they built the bonfire for all the troll bits is forever after known as The Forsaken Chamber.

The fight leaves just a single Adventurer alive, so he gathers up the available treasure and leaves. He probably retires and becomes an innkeeper in some module somewhere.

The Rebel Elves actually increase their numbers, fueled by tasty Troll-flesh.
   Slave Beasts remain entranced by the waterfall.
   Merfolk expand their lock system further West.
   Earthmen expand in four directions, smoothing and expanding the tunnels as they go. They run into the Elves. After a brief hit and run skirmish, they steal the troll-goods from the Rebels.
   Count Laventhorpe melds through the earth in the shortest distance, and attacks the miners. It doesn’t go so well for the Count, who is driven off further down the halls. The area around his coffin is too dangerous, so he camps out in the smoke-stained Forsaken Chamber.
   Human miners dig out the large cavern that had been the Count’s previous rooms. They do not find his coffin.

Age of Monsters, Year 6:

Arrival of the Magma Spirits. They burrow up from deep below the ruins of Leyban, and create a new Magma Pool at their start point.

Humans build a fourth farm, and I put this one at the base of the cliffs near the old earthquake cracks. Then I noticed the use of “place” versus “move” in the paragraphs for the surface kingdoms. That subtle wording suggests that the process is different when creating a new farm instead of merely populating one that had been raided by monsters (which hasn't happened this game). I decide to keep going with the rules as I had been doing, but resolve to handle things the other (faster) way in my next game. For now, this means the knights still aren’t ready to raid the underdark.

Rebel Elves are feeling penned in by the Earthmen and Trolls, so they attempt to dig an escape route to the old ruins of Leyban. They are surprised to discover Leyban’s flooded status. The river briefly diverts into old Kharsoum, and down the Old Elven Road. In the Chaos, the Elves steal about 1/3 of the wealth of the Merfolk when it washes into them. They lose a lot of territory to flooding.
   The Merfolk go to war with the Elves, and recover their treasure. Meanwhile the Merfolk engineers build a dam and a reservoir system to bring the river and the flooding back under control.
   Earthmen raid the Elves, but find they no longer have anything worth taking.
   The Trolls are washed down the Old Elf Road by the flooding.
   Count Laventhorpe attacks the Miners, who abandon much of their tools and wealth to escape.
   Miners expand away from the Vampire for a while, but when that fails to turn up any ore or  gems, they eventually work up the courage to try to hunt the old Count down. It goes poorly for them, and many miners die or quit and move away.
   Magma Spirits expand up from their starting pool, and create a large temple to house the Earth God Statue.

Age of Monsters, Year 7:

I roll another Adventuring Party, but it's of minimum size (1 adventurer). A brave young soul from the farming village at the base of the cliff braves the caves near his home. Young Timothy falls down the well. Lassie the Feral Slave Beast runs off to get help. Or rather, as he is an Adventuring Party with only 1 member, and the Beast is a Wandering Monster, they destroy each other.
Any time the last of a monster group is wiped off the map, you can optionally roll on the Minor Features table to see what legacy they leave behind on the map. I rolled the Ever-Burning Flame, which I may place anywhere in the Feral Beasts former zone of control. Little Timmy must have brought a torch with him for light, and it probably sparked a natural gas explosion that killed the Feral Beasts. There’s some crack through which gas continues to flow and burn. That this is so close to the waterfall is unexpected, but not impossible (especially in a fantasy world).
A Treasure is left behind by the Adventuring Party. It’s some identifying keepsake, such as a locket with a picture of Timothy’s mother. I mark it on the map as Treasure T3.
The Humans at the castle organize a rescue party for poor little lost Timothy. This is, after all, the turn where they finally are supported and have 4 knights available. They head down the chasm at the base of the cliff and wander about for a while. The Excursion doesn’t find Timmy, or his locket, but they do find some decadent Dark Elf arts and crafts in the ruins of one of the old Silla palaces. They call this a rousing success, and the exciting rumors of buried treasure attracts more humans. The city of Drowfalls is founded before the end of the year. The local well, and city hall’s dungeon, both open into the underground river.

It's a year of war and daring raids. Rebel Elves retake a tiny bit of territory lost to the flooding, and then turn their attention to the Earthmen. Their raids recover the troll-wealth. The Merfolk push west, extending their locks right down to the Earthmen habitat. The resulting border dispute has high casualties. Earthmen then attack the Rebel Elves, and the battles are quite bloody. Both of these civilizations are getting very small, and the merfolk aren't that far behind them.

Count Laventhorpe eats the last miner. (As this is the last of the miner group, I again roll on the Minor Features chart.) The place where he died is forever after supernaturally cold.
Troll stays put and do nothing. Stupid troll.
Magma Spirits head up the hall towards the Mithral.

Age of Monsters, Year 8:

   Yet another adventuring party comes to the dungeon. (This is the third time I’ve rolled a “6” on the yearly event chart, having done so on turns 5, 7 and now 8.  Our dungeon is running a little low on monsters and treasures at this point. This is very different from the game I played on paper.) This adventuring party has 4 members.
   The Adventuring Party travels from Drowfalls Dungeon through the underground river to the old Dark Elf Exploratory Shaft (instead of the waterfalls) down to the river again, and then over to the Merfolk dam. The Merfolk are Lawful, so they give the party a Quest instead of fighting them. The adventurers are guided through the flooded tunnels to battle the Elvish Rebels in the ruins of old Kharsoum. The Adventurers slaughter the remaining Dark Elves, and take their Troll-Goods. The return for the quest rewards, so the Merfolk pay them a Treasure.
   Setting out again, the adventuring party follows the Old Elf Road toward Leyban. The Troll on the route kills one of them before they destroy it.
   The Troll had been holding up in a place called the Misty Vale. It’s apparently a cavern that had eroded when the area had flooded in Year 6, rendered steamy by the magma pool just below it. (This was created by the Minor Features Chart).
   So then I remember that I needed to roll a Minor Feature for the Elvish Rebels, too. The roll produces a “Bed Chamber”. How very Dark-Elven. No wonder the rebels failed to spread their culture or do much of anything but breed. They converted one of the ancient houses of Kharsoum into a giant orgy pad. I expand the size of the room a bit, and give it a vaulted ceiling.
   The adventurers head over to the Magma Spirits, who are surprisingly lawful, and so they give the Adventurers a Quest, too. They are sent to attack the Merfolk, whom they’d previously done quest-work for. That’s player characters for you. Killing every NPC they meet. The adventurers commit mer-genocide, and loot the fishtanks. They do lose one of their own in the process, reducing their group down to 2 adventurers. The Magma Spirits fork over some treasure in payment.
    The two quests, and all the back and forth involved, has resulted in the Adventuring Party traveling through the narrow, rough tunnel connecting the Merfolk and Rebel Elves areas a minimum of five times.
    I roll on the Minor Features chart for the third time this turn, and end up with a the result “A Cask of Amontillado”. This classic Poe reference is not actually on the default chart, but was added as a consequence of a previous play session. Every time you roll on this particular chart, you’re encouraged to cross out the entry you use and replace it with an entry of your own devising. I’d seeded this one onto the chart during my first play of the game on paper last week, and am surprised to have it show up again so soon. So I cross it off, and add it to the map. The merfolk managed to seal an adventurer in a trap room and flood it. I place this just off the narrow flooded passage they went through so many times. It seems like a good place for an ambush or trap.
   Next (and finally) the adventurers head though the Torture Pit into the old Temple to Dame Chaos in what’s left of the ruins of Leyban. They get their hands on the Great Flail of Melancholy. This is pivotal. They’ve now gained six treasures in the course of this adventure, which is enough to trigger the transition to the Age of Villainy. I’m thinking they probably get corrupted by the horrible things they’ve seen and done. We’ll deal with that in the next installment.

The transition ends the Age of Monsters before the turn is finished, so the Earthmen, Vampire, and Magma Spirits all lose their turns for this year.

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