Random Things you might encounter in the Underdark

Mushroom_(PSF)These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game,in this article we are taking a look at that most infamous of realms the Underdark, a realm of sunless seas and lightless caverns deep below the known world. The Underdark is home of the evil Drow, the Kuo-Toa and other abominations that dwell in the deep far from the light of the surface world.

When you need some inspiration just roll a D20 and consult the table. Continue reading

Making use of Fate Zones during Dungeon Crawls in Dungeonworld

Now i’ve never been a particularly big fan of the stereotypical dungeon crawl in RPGs for a number of reasons, mapping out a sprawlingly huge (often unreasonably so) underground complex has never really ticked my roleplaying boxes, I find a lot (not all) dungeons to be a little ill thought out and normally have no real logic behind them behind being a large space for a GM/writer to cram full of bizarre traps and monsters that seldom interact with each other in anything resembling an eco-system (despite all living in close proximity to each other).

In fact i’m such a non-fan of the traditional dungeon crawls that one of the earlist RPG Bugbears videos I did on my Youtube Channel dealt with this subject (I have embedded the video below for anyone interested in seeing some more of the details behind my dislike).

However, i’m currently at a point in my Dark Sun Dungeon World game where the players have trekked north to the dwarven city of Sandstone, Sandstone was once a watchtower of a much larger dwarven city in ancient times, however, now it is little more than a single tower containing a shanty-town of tents where the malnourished dwarven occupants (descendants of escaped slaves from the city-state of Arrakis) huddle together.
The players have discovered (through various means) that Drakkar, the dwarf slave who lead his people to reclaim Sandstone, discovered an unholy creature described as a demon of water lurking in the old mineworks and catacombs beneath the tower, according to the dwarven legends Drakkar called for the services of 10 loyal warriors to serve as eternal guards for the beast, he then descended into the depths with these warriors and none of them were even seen again. Given that the ancient water works under Arrakis have been sabotaged by the competing city-state of Pharn, the players are keen to locate this demon of water in case it can help with the current plight of the city and have ventured down into the depths.
This leaves me with an interesting dilemna, I don’t want to forbid the player characters from exploring the ancient and partially collapsed caverns that compose the remnants of the ancient dwarven city (after all, helping the dwarves to reclaim their homeland could gain them valuable allies and potential a home base for future operations), however neither do I want them to have to slog through a massive dungeon crawl where they slowly and meticulously trawl through the vast network of subterranean passages, clearing them out and making them safe for habitation.
So what do I do about it?
One possible solution occurred to me when I was reading some posts on G+ where a question was being asked about the use of zones in Fate; for those who don’t know, a zone is effectively a way of conveniently labelling and splitting up and area, used in combat in Fate it saves having to keep track of square by square grid movement, allowing PCs to travel between discrete areas.
A more detailed explanation of zones in Fate can be found on the excellent Fate SRD website: http://fate-srd.com/fate-system-toolkit/zones
This seems to me a great way to represent the undercity of the ancient dwarves without having to capture a ridiculously large amount of detail, I suppose it’s a little like when you’re looking at the street view on Google Maps, if you zoom out the overall map stays the same but a lot of the fiddly details disappear.
I think that using zones, combined with the travel rules and making custom moves from Dungeon World will allow me to capture the broad strokes of a dungeon without having to do extensive mapping.
A more detail explanation of the travel rules from Dungeon World can be found here: http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/moves#TOC-Undertake-a-Perilous-Journey

Essential journeys are measured in the number of rations consumed and dangers faced, the group picks a trailblazer, scout and quartermaster. Each character with a job makes a Wisdom roll and can achieve various effects on a success such as reducing the amount of time it takes to reach your destination, spotting any potential danger and reducing the number of rations consumed during the journey.

For each area I will write down the consequences of failing these rolls; i’d probably come up with something like the map below (please note: this is only an example, not my final design, and uses a map taken from this website – http://henchmanabuse.blogspot.co.uk/2011_03_01_archive.html).

Each of the zones would be a journey requiring a number of rations (depending on the distance) and would have a list of hazards associated with it for if the Scout fails their roll.
For example I might have something like the following list of encounters:
Catacombs Below Sandstone
  • The PCs encounter a party of Sandstone dwarves attempting to excavate in the ruins of the catacombs.
  • A desert creature has entered the catacombs through a tunnel/collapsed section.
  • The characters comes across some old mineworks that allow them excess the the ruins of the dwarven city at a reduced ration cost (but they must make a roll to avoid a collapse).

Ruins of the Dwarven City
  • The degenerate remnants of the original dwarven settlers still live here, a savage raiding party attacks.
  • A clutch of mantis men have colonised several of the tunnels.

Lair of the Water Demon
  • The characters encounter one of the Magmin guardians, intent on preventing anyone releasing the demon.
  • A lesser water elemental spawned by the demon attacks.
  • The rock in the area is weakened by the aura of the demon and collapses.

Obviously these are just a few examples, but I think this system will allow me to highlight a couple of key encounters in each zone and maintain the feel of a dungeon crawl without having to resort to the sort of dungeon crawling that I dislike.
Plus, it combines two of my favourite systems (Fate and Dungeon World) – looking forward to giving this a try in my next game 🙂