16 April 2012

Pen and Paper Play: How to Host a Dungeon

A short interruption to my World-Creating series, this post is going to be a bit different, whilst being more of my usual fare: A let's play post of the aforementioned How To Host A Dungeon. I have just found my notes from my very first playthrough of it on my old laptop and thought I'd translate and share them with you. Sadly, I am missing the actual dungeon map but, as I am horrible at drawing, it's not to much of a loss. I've set it all up so it is the history of a dungeon before a player-group enters it. Enjoy!

Once the land lay barren and empty, beneath the earth a long vein of gold, a subterranean river connected to a subterranean lake as well as a sinkhole on the surface, and a deep set cave where Gargarax, a wyrm from the old age slumbered for millennia. Then came the dwarves.

Hagrards Bunch, a dwarven tribe built their mines into the ground, working the gold vein and ever expanding their cavernous mines. Their population was thriving and prospering, their civilization blossoming. They created great architectonic feats under ground, such as the Great Hall of Yaldrick the Dwarven King, which his son expanded and his grandson added a great library to. At the height of their civilization, Hagrards Bunch carved the Great Dwarven City of Yaladrakkia from the base rock and despite having to pay tributes to the great wyrm Gargarax, they were still rich enough that, according to legend, the great Treasure Hall of Yaladrakkia, which has never been found, was splendid and filled with riches beyond ken. But the dwarves dug to deep and to greedily...

The God of the Deep looked at them with anger when they breached his domain, sending earthquakes rumbling through the ground, cracking the earth and ruining the dwarven settlements, leading to chaos and eventual downfall of the dwarven civilization. As the gold vein had been exhausted and their city lay in ruins, the surviving dwarves left the tunnels. The age of dwarves, after twelve generations, had ended.

Human settlers arrived on the surface above, Count Sandcell having received the area as his fiefdom for him and his family to rule over from now on. At the same time, unbeknownst to the humans above, new inhabitants arrived in the former dwarven mines and caves: In the lowest crack ripped open by the big quake, a tribe of dark elves called Shalayanas Sisters came climbing from the unknown depths, carved themselves a chamber and settled in it. In the old dwarven mine, a group of goblins seeking fortune in the form of left over gold had arrived. Also a minotaur known as Grebold the Terrible took over the old living quarters of the dwarves, setting up camp within them.

Things went peacefully for two generations. The human fiefdom grew and prospered, Gargarax used his pile of treasures to feed himself via commerce instead of hunting. The dark elves moved into the dwarven city of Yaladrakkia, fixed up the surrounding tunnels and plundered any treasures left behind by the dwarven empire. The goblins were rather luckless in the dwarven mines, as the dwarves had thoroughly exhausted the gold vein. Grebold the minotaur found vast riches in Yaldricks great hall and used these to hire an architect, who turned his lair in the dwarven barracks into a complex labyrinth, the ways through which only Grebold would know, as he ate the architect upon the finishing of the renovations.

Peace would not last forever though, as the hunger drove the wyrm Gargarax out of his depths, while Grebold the minotaur left his lair in expeditions to the depth, also foraging for food. In between them were the luckless goblins, who served as a source of food for both monsters for two generations, before being completely extinct. About this time a fire giant moved into the old hall of Yaldrick, finding and plundering the riches from the old dwarven library. The humans from the surface also sent out the first expedition into the catacombs below the castle, which was connected to the dwarven barracks. In the labyrinth, the knights stumbled upon Grebold the Terrible, who let them exhaust themselves in the labyrinth, killing all of them, one by one.

Gargarax the wyrm, foraging for food, met with the wrath of the dark elves a while later. Being massively outnumbered, he was driven from his original lair, deeper into the cracks of the earth, while Shalayanas Sisters expanded their influence throughout the lower tunnels. The minotaur attacked, driven by his hunger, the fire giant who was at this time living off plundering the human farms on the surface surrounding an entrance near the dwarven hall. Grebold and the fire giant fought a terrible battle in the ancient dwarven throne room, which Grebold lost. Yielding to his superior foe, he was forced to move out of the labyrinth and into some more run-down dwarven barracks. As this new habitat was connected to the surface through one of the great quakes cracks, he attacked a farm there to feed himself, which the current count Sandcell didn't take to kindly. Something needed to be done against these terrors from the deep.

The darkelves, meanwhile, had issues with a group of orcs who had installed themselves in the central shafts of the old dwarven mines. The dark elves killed the orcs, adding their treasures to the immense pile of riches they had accumulated by now. They also fought off the hungry wyrm Gargarax several times, ultimatley forcing the wretched creature, a shadow it its former self, down into the deepest recesses of the caves. Around this time, the count of the surface-dwelling humans hired a group of adventurers to find and kill the fire giant, who had by now completely depopulated two villages. At the same time the knights of the count would once more go down into the catacombs beneath the castle and find and slay the minotaur Grebold, who was out of his labyrinth now and thus without home-advantage. The knights were successful, but the last one of them, although he was able to kill the minotaur, was to badly wounded to ever get back to the surface. The threat of the minotaur attacking the surface was banished, but the entire expedition had died once more. The group of adventurers was able to defeat the fire giant in an epic showdown in the dwarven hall. They took the fire giants treasures and, driven by the greed inherent to all adventuring parties, wandered further into the depths, hoping to find the legendary treasure chamber of Yaladrakkia. They only found death, as when they noticed the dark elves lurking beyond the light of their torches, they were already surrounded by a vast number of warriors, all pointing arrows at them. None of the adventurers survived the massacre.

A little while later an insane wizard set up shop in king Yaldricks now empty Great Hall, to rule over the subterranean maze as a dungeon master. He didn't last long, as he quickly had to find out that the dark elves of Shalayanas Sisters didn't like his attempt to seize power from their queen. His body was never found and it is rumored that they ate him alive at a blood-feast.

And this is the status quo the dungeon ended up with: The fiefdom of Sandcell has just recovered from the attacks of the monsters below but is well aware that there is something down there, growing and preparing. Gargarax the ancient wyrm lives in a remote part of the dwarven mine, soon to be evicted even from there by the army of dark elves which is ever expanding, either driving him closer to the surface kingdoms or finally killing him. Shalayanas Sisters, having established themselves in the old dwarven city of Yaladrakkia are by now outnumbering the humans above, with a rising tendency. They will soon realize that the riches of the caves are exhausted so may god have mercy for the humans living above. The secret treasure chamber of Yaladrakkia remains undiscovered.

The fiefdom is by now ready to send down another expedition to find out what is going on in the vast system of catacombs and tunnels. What will they find?

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