I thought I would take some time to talk about the game I am currently running, and how I go about doing it. I am currently running a campaign using Michael Curtis’s Stonehell megadungeon, I have set the dungeon in Amacuifrom the Points of Light II hexcrawl setting collection. Both Stonehell and Points of Light are written by old school bloggers. I am using the 1st edition AD&D retroclone, OSRIC as a ruleset. This ruleset is also a product of the old school movement. This means that, while Points of Light is published by Goodman Games, everything I am using is a product of the old school movement.
A megadungeon is really more like a campaign setting than it is like a traditional module. Stonehell comes with keyed maps and room descriptions, but they are very sparse. It is up to the GM to give the dungeon any sense of purpose, there is no script or even explicit hooks here. The same is true of Points of Light, it is a collection of numbered hex maps with short descriptions of what is in the hexes. I also rely heavily on random tables to flesh the world out.
This means I do not plan very far ahead. My game prep looks something like this: I read the section of Stonehell that they are likely to go to during that weeks game, I brush up on what is in the hexes they are likely to travel to, I roll up a few random events that could happen in town and flesh them out a bit, I brush up on what any key NPCs are up to, I start the game.
The game is pretty much a pure sandbox. I totally follow the players’ lead on what is going to happen. I developed several plot-like things early on but they are of two varieties. The first is the kind of plot that just lets me know what will happen around town if the players do not interfere, in this case a series of murders. Every time they get back to town they get some kind of update, they can choose to get involved if they want. The other is a plot that I let the players know exists but it does nothing unless they activate it, in this case it is a brewing slave revolt. This way we only spend time on those things if the players want to, if they want to go into the dungeon and kill stuff nothing stands in their way.
And the dungeon is fast moving and dangerous. I don’t pull any punches and I do a lot of my rolling in the open, including wandering monster rolls. There are monsters in the area that they probably cannot handle and need to be on the lookout for. OSRIC lets the game move fast. I use a system where every player has two characters, a secondary and a primary. The primary gets a full share of experience, the secondary a half share. They can choose to take one or both along each session, and can designate which one will be the primary for each session.
The players also have henchmen, right now they have two torchbearers. This means that, with 4 players, there are nights when the part alone puts 10 figures on the table. Even when they are dealing with 10-12 monsters we manage to get in 5 to 10 combats a night. This is amazing when you consider the speed at which newer versions of D&D run.
I am going to talk about Stonehell, Points of Light, OSRIC, and random tables more in upcoming posts.