Friday, November 6, 2009

Quitting Quasqueton

Yeah, I'm done with it. I've decided that while "In Search of the Unknown" is a pretty classic module from the B/X days of yore it is uniquely unsuited as a whole for the style of play I find myself gravitating towards these days.

I tend to strip mine old modules I have on hand for material, particularly maps. I've used "In Search of the Unknown" as root stock for more than a few gaming sorties, and every damn time the group gets bogged down in the damn noodle pile of hallways, complex junction points, and switchbacks the first level of this module contains. It's not long before the poor shmoe who's stuck as the mapper is ready to stab me with their writing implement of choice. So yeah, I'm done with Quasqueton. I'll probably bust loose some of the more interesting rooms and seed them in other dungeons, but the module as a whole is going back on my shelf.


Okay. So what brought this on is that I got dropped into an impromptu old school game session at a party I was at last night. The invite said to bring any RPG game stuff we wanted, so I just crammed B1 into my bag figuring on the off chance that's what was called for, I could bash through it with Labyrinth Lord and dice. This was total "Stuck in an Elevator" style gaming.

Don't get me wrong, the session went pretty well all told, and there were some other tactical errors on my part unrelated to B1 and it's map, but the map excaberated the issues. I had five players, of varying levels of experience. We managed to bash out characters for all of 'em, plus a hireling torch bearer, in about 15-20 minutes.

I'd say my big mistake, aside from choice of materials, was over reliance on random rolls without adjusting for fun. Each room I came to I used Labyrinth Lord's dungeon stocking table, but kept coming up with empty rooms, so once the party got thru the tangle of hallways in the southeast quadrant, they just came to some rather dull room searching. I guess I can obliquely blame B1 for that, since the rooms are unstocked as written and it's up to the DM to stock 'em in preparation. But in honesty it was my fault for not just tossing a monster into every room and letting the dice fly.

I'd say my other error was the one encounter we did have I bulked up the monsters from two troglodytes to six, thinking the party would mow through two too fast (plus I figured they were itching for some smackdown after wandering the twisty hallways for the better part of an hour). Well, that probably would have been okay if my dice weren't so hot and the party's dice weren't so cold. I banged a lot of crits from the trogs' claw/claw/bite routine, which took its toll.

But enough negativity. There were some cool bits too. The best, I think, was allowing the players to hurl bottles of perfume they found in Roghan's mistress' chamber like holy water flasks to counteract the troglodytes' stank, and I had a pretty decent on the fly ruling for firing bows into combat (basically, rolled a d12 if the character missed his shot, with the first 4 numbers corresponding to characters and the rest indicating the arrows just clattered off someplace.) Thankfully, nobody got accidentally skewered, but the way the party's luck was running, they were expecting it. I also used Trollsmyth's "Shields Will Be Splintered" rule to good effect. Once again, Trollsmyth, my characters thank you for this simple, life saving measure. Wrecked up a +1 shield pretty bad, tho. (I allow a splintering for each +1 on the shield, so this one took two whacks to destroy.)

So lessons learned:

A: Come up with some small scale one shot stuff that's portable and ready to roll. Hell, I've got a couple things like that that fit the bill, should take a minute or two and get 'em ready to deploy. Maybe if another One Page Dungeon Contest happens I'll have something to enter.

B: or more accurately Not B, as in no more B1. I'm done with you, Quasqueton.

Dang. That was a ranty post. Ah well...


  1. Hey BF, getting some time in the holidays to actual take a deep breath and some game-related read/writes. Interesting post, I just played some Quasqueton two nights ago now.

    One of the notes I made for myself from that session is that indeed, I would prefer not to have the ultra-wiggly (and smashed-together) corridor designs from the game's early days. You see this both in B1 and things like the Dungeon Geomorphs package.

    Thing that occurred to me is (probably occurred to many others over the years): If there's no decision to be made (no branching), then there's no great good in spending time with wiggly this-way, that-way turns. I actually started omitting some of the kinks from my descriptions, and want to likewise avoid them in my own map designs.

    I also ran into some expectation for more monsters. Even if you do stock the dungeon in advance, you'll notice it only recommends 16-20 monsters in 56 keyed locations. That's actually very much in synch with early game dictums (OD&D, Basic, Geomorphs, DMG, etc.) that have monsters in about 1/3 of available rooms. That's sort of a deeper philosophical/ ecology thing that will definitely wierd out more modern game players.

  2. Hey, thanks for stopping by Delta.

    Yeah, I noticed that 1/3 principle kind of coming out in the Labyrinth Lord dungeon stocking table too, in terms of empty vs. trap vs. monster.

    I'm totally with you on your 2nd. to last paragraph here. Choice points are the interesting part of hallways. (Well, that and wandering monsters. I think traps in hallways are a negative, as they encourage the "inchworm" style of exploration, but I digress.) This is why cavern maps are kind of a boondoggle too. They look cool on a page, but really all the players care about are the branches, not how aestetically wiggly they are.