First Rule of Dungeon Crafting

It never fails. Spend a late afternoon designing a module/dungeon/adventure, watch the players take the right turn at Alberquerque, and wind up in a part of the world where you didn’t expect them to go. Ooops.

Oh, and then have your players ask — no, no… demand to play the following night. “Oh, no,” I say. “It takes me a week to get ready to do this sort of thing, and I have more stuff to do this week than you can possibly believe. You do not get to waste my time indiscriminately. That’s my job.”

Some positives:

1. I have a gaming group again.

2. They’re refreshingly naïve. Instead of listening at doors, they just barge right through, on their quest for a kidnapped little girl from their village. Their sorceror wastes his light spells by casting them on arrows and having their ranger shoot them down hallways. They’ve already alerted several different monsters in the place to their presence, all by blundering about. Makes life interesting for them, and for me.

3. They’re woefully ignorant about moral codes. The paladin suggests shooting arrows blindly into the darkness when they come around corners, and the other two players look at him like he’s mad. “What if we hit the girl?” one suggests. The paladin blithely says, “Then we tell them back in the village that we found her that way.” This is where I stepped in with a pithy comment or two. The paladin disavowed his earlier remarks. More specifically, he attributed them to the ranger, rather than himself. And we wonder where our politicians get it from… Ah, well. Behold, teachable moments!

4. Figuring out appropriate challenges for two fighters and a sorceror — if I don’t want them to go someplace, I just put in a trap. They were totally freaked out by the swinging scythe trap at the door of the library, and my sound effects weren’t bad, either. Someone could make a tidy bit of egoboo by making a set of mp3 soundtrack files for dungeon-crawling. Heck, they probably already exist.

18 comments

  1. Yeah, I suspect there is such a story behind all bitter, rebellious CG characters.

    I’ve attached the Code of the Paladins to this journal entry’s comments, if you want to come back and take a look.

  2. All that sounds good…

    I’m finding that I’m designing dungeons now around the principle of guard posts near the edges of a weak humanoid tribe’s territory… around having a variety of challenges, from spiders and centipedes to humanoids, with some undead in the mix… around having defined territories for different creatures that sometimes overlap… it’s been good. With two fighter-types and a rogue, I concentrate on battles, though I’ve used a couple of obvious traps to keep them out of areas I’m not ready to have them visit yet.

    Here’s the code I found online, and adopted/adapted more or less wholesale for my game. It’s clear the paladin does need a code in this particular instance.


    CODE OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE FOUNTAIN OF LIGHT

    To Live life so that it is worthy of honor and respect by all. Live for freedom, justice, good and order.

    Fair Play: Never attack an unarmed foe. Never charge an unhorsed opponent. Never attack from behind. Avoid cheating. Avoid torture.

    Nobility: Exhibit self-control. Show respect to authorities. Obey the law if it does not supercede the rights of life. Administer Justice tempered with Mercy. Protect the innocent. Respect elders and women.

    Valor: Be courageous in word and deed. Avenge the wronged. Protect the weak and innocent. Fight for an ideal, like freedom. Fight with honor. Never abandon a friend or ally.

    Honor: Always keep one’s word. Always maintain one’s principles. Never betray a brother Knight, confidence, or comrade. Avoid deception. Respect all life. Always aid a fellow Knight when called upon. Help the poor and those trodden down.

    Courtesy: Show manners. Be polite and attentive. Be respectful of host, authorities, and civilians.

    Loyalty: To the elders of the Order. To one’s allies and those who place their trust in you. To the code of chivalry.

  3. *bahahahahaha*

    I’m going to cast magic missile into the DARKNESS!!!

    that’s awesome…I hope it is a lot of fun for you…you can teach them to not learn bad behaviors!

  4. *bahahahahaha*

    I’m going to cast magic missile into the DARKNESS!!!

    that’s awesome…I hope it is a lot of fun for you…you can teach them to not learn bad behaviors!

  5. Paladins are really hard to play well without them becoming either a.) a complete goody-two shoes or b.) just another amoral adventurer.

    Y’know, I happen to have the complete Code of the Knights Templar. If you’re going up to Amherst this Friday, I could let you borrow it. Perhaps if you told your player “Here are the rules real Paladins lived under, what you should do is take this as a loose guide and come up with three Rules, Vows, etc. Stuff like ‘I won’t harm an innocent’ or ‘I’ll always follow the word of my superior’. As long as you always uphold those three vows, you can use your hoopy Paladin powers. If you break a vow, you lose the powers for awhile. The catch, is that every so often, I’ll engineer situations where it’ll be really difficult or inconvenient to follow the rule. Also, I have veto power on the Vows so you can’t pick something super-lame.”

    The advantage to this is that you let him pick his moral high ground. If he doesn’t have a particular code against stealing, then he can steal stuff. More importantly, it gives you a chance to poke at the things he *does* think are important. And that’s good.

    As for coming up with an appropriate challenge…ambushes and surprise attacks will work, but it’s hard to call it a challenge since that’s Rogue territory and they’ll probably always fall for it. Here’s a good challenge: the undead. You use a few corporeal baddies (skeletons and zombies) to hold up the fighters and some sort of evil cleric on the far side to run/buff them. So now the fighters are covering the sorcerer, who’s taking shots at the cleric to try and shut him down. Once the Paladin can start effectively turning, you’ll have to come up with something else, but that should be a good fight. Just beware of using undead that are incorporeal or that are otherwise really tough to deal with unless you’ve got a cleric or lots of magic.

    Another really good challenge is one where the bad guys have fortified their part of the dungeon. It isn’t loaded down with traps, it’s loaded with barricades and obstacles. Now the PCs can survey the area, make a plan of attack and try to breach the defenses. Have a mob of really weak monsters on the inside (goblins). Storming the gates is something fighters are good at and having the sorcerer along to provide covering fire makes everyone useful.

    later
    Tom

  6. Paladins are really hard to play well without them becoming either a.) a complete goody-two shoes or b.) just another amoral adventurer.

    Y’know, I happen to have the complete Code of the Knights Templar. If you’re going up to Amherst this Friday, I could let you borrow it. Perhaps if you told your player “Here are the rules real Paladins lived under, what you should do is take this as a loose guide and come up with three Rules, Vows, etc. Stuff like ‘I won’t harm an innocent’ or ‘I’ll always follow the word of my superior’. As long as you always uphold those three vows, you can use your hoopy Paladin powers. If you break a vow, you lose the powers for awhile. The catch, is that every so often, I’ll engineer situations where it’ll be really difficult or inconvenient to follow the rule. Also, I have veto power on the Vows so you can’t pick something super-lame.”

    The advantage to this is that you let him pick his moral high ground. If he doesn’t have a particular code against stealing, then he can steal stuff. More importantly, it gives you a chance to poke at the things he *does* think are important. And that’s good.

    As for coming up with an appropriate challenge…ambushes and surprise attacks will work, but it’s hard to call it a challenge since that’s Rogue territory and they’ll probably always fall for it. Here’s a good challenge: the undead. You use a few corporeal baddies (skeletons and zombies) to hold up the fighters and some sort of evil cleric on the far side to run/buff them. So now the fighters are covering the sorcerer, who’s taking shots at the cleric to try and shut him down. Once the Paladin can start effectively turning, you’ll have to come up with something else, but that should be a good fight. Just beware of using undead that are incorporeal or that are otherwise really tough to deal with unless you’ve got a cleric or lots of magic.

    Another really good challenge is one where the bad guys have fortified their part of the dungeon. It isn’t loaded down with traps, it’s loaded with barricades and obstacles. Now the PCs can survey the area, make a plan of attack and try to breach the defenses. Have a mob of really weak monsters on the inside (goblins). Storming the gates is something fighters are good at and having the sorcerer along to provide covering fire makes everyone useful.

    later
    Tom

    • All that sounds good…

      I’m finding that I’m designing dungeons now around the principle of guard posts near the edges of a weak humanoid tribe’s territory… around having a variety of challenges, from spiders and centipedes to humanoids, with some undead in the mix… around having defined territories for different creatures that sometimes overlap… it’s been good. With two fighter-types and a rogue, I concentrate on battles, though I’ve used a couple of obvious traps to keep them out of areas I’m not ready to have them visit yet.

      Here’s the code I found online, and adopted/adapted more or less wholesale for my game. It’s clear the paladin does need a code in this particular instance.


      CODE OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE FOUNTAIN OF LIGHT

      To Live life so that it is worthy of honor and respect by all. Live for freedom, justice, good and order.

      Fair Play: Never attack an unarmed foe. Never charge an unhorsed opponent. Never attack from behind. Avoid cheating. Avoid torture.

      Nobility: Exhibit self-control. Show respect to authorities. Obey the law if it does not supercede the rights of life. Administer Justice tempered with Mercy. Protect the innocent. Respect elders and women.

      Valor: Be courageous in word and deed. Avenge the wronged. Protect the weak and innocent. Fight for an ideal, like freedom. Fight with honor. Never abandon a friend or ally.

      Honor: Always keep one’s word. Always maintain one’s principles. Never betray a brother Knight, confidence, or comrade. Avoid deception. Respect all life. Always aid a fellow Knight when called upon. Help the poor and those trodden down.

      Courtesy: Show manners. Be polite and attentive. Be respectful of host, authorities, and civilians.

      Loyalty: To the elders of the Order. To one’s allies and those who place their trust in you. To the code of chivalry.

  7. ” More specifically, he attributed them to the ranger, rather than himself. And we wonder where our politicians get it from..”

    Heheh, awesome.

    I keep wondering why everybody seems to despise paladins and paladinesque NPCs…I’m guessing there’s a story like that behind every bitter CG character 😉

  8. ” More specifically, he attributed them to the ranger, rather than himself. And we wonder where our politicians get it from..”

    Heheh, awesome.

    I keep wondering why everybody seems to despise paladins and paladinesque NPCs…I’m guessing there’s a story like that behind every bitter CG character 😉

    • Yeah, I suspect there is such a story behind all bitter, rebellious CG characters.

      I’ve attached the Code of the Paladins to this journal entry’s comments, if you want to come back and take a look.

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