The Megalo-Huge Dungeon Blog (Part 2)

It is time to start filling my first level dungeon with monsters. As I designed the level, I had already created special areas for boss fights and creatures I knew would be there. Some of these might be stronger than first level characters can handle, but I figure the players will need to make their own judgment calls on whether or not to fight. I also added several monsters that have rumors and quests associated with them. The characters would learn of them before entering the dungeon for the first time or after reaching a certain portion of the dungeon. They would be rewarded for finding and defeating them.

Now it is time to get down to the “every day” monsters, the ones that will fill the majority of the first level.

I went through the various monster tomes and created a list of creatures. I listed some as stationary and some as wandering. Some made both lists. The rules state you should roll for wandering monsters every hour or so. I decided against that. Instead, I am making wandering monsters more like traps. If you make loud noises (e.g., breaking open doors, smashing chests, or shouting at each other over which direction to take), I will roll for a wandering monster. These creatures do not have treasure. They are only there to weaken the party. I also placed a number encountered and a maximum number with each type, so it is possible to kill all the wandering monsters on the list and clear the dungeon of them, at least for a time. Over time, more creatures will arrive and repopulate the list. I figure once every two months of gameplay, I will roll randomly.

I want to mention that I also have wandering monsters that have no limit. Instead, they are removed from the list only after the characters have done something specific. An example could be a restless spirit that continues to haunt the dungeon until the characters find and bury its body. Even if they defeat the spirit, it comes back to haunt them again and again. Once the body is buried, the spirit is removed from the list, never to return.

I also decided to use molds and mosses that fill the dungeon rooms and corridors. Most are harmless so the characters get used to them and don’t always react to seeing them. Some release spores. I did not want them all to be straight-forward monsters, so the spores don’t always do damage. Instead, they may cause an illness that reduces a characteristic (e.g., strength or dexterity) for a while, a coughing spasm (which might attract a wandering monster), fevers that reduce “to hit” or damage results, a disease that might negate the benefits of natural healing, etc. I put a time limit on each one (rounds, turns, hours, days, or weeks). Characters who suffer from the more extreme versions may wish to seek healing from the temple in Thelsberry. A cure disease spell is not cheap, which will help spend the money they are gathering in the dungeon.

Lastly, I created a few of my own monsters (well, I converted them from the Forge: Out of Chaos role-playing game) so that the players can’t meta-game every encounter. I tweaked some rules so that monsters that damage metal (i.e., rust bugs) permanently affect any metal armor a character wears by reducing the AC by 1 per incident or damaging a weapon. Weapons damaged three times will break. The blacksmith in Thelsberry can repair a weapon for a fee, but there is no armorer in Thelsberry (well, not at the beginning) that can repair the armor. Armor and weapons would get saving throws. Magical armor and weapons (yeah, remember I am cheap) are immune.

I try to avoid putting lots of monsters near each other. I always get stuck on the logistics. What would stop the troll from opening the door and walking thirty feet down the hallway to eat the wild boar? So, I try to use diverse types of monsters. Giant centipedes only attack someone who disturbs the cabinet they are in, so they are monsters but also a trap that most creatures will ignore. There are a variety of creatures like that, and you can always create your own.

The first level of my dungeon has more than 400 rooms (this is going to be a small level), so there are a lot of monsters, traps, hazards, and puzzles to overcome. You want to keep things fun, interesting, and engaging without overwhelming the players. If the players are inundated with clues and hints they need to remember for months before using them, they will never remember them. I have given out lots of handouts with information that usually seems to end up in a pile and ignored. This begs the question. Is it better to give the information and let the players use it (or not) as they wish or avoid the time and energy such efforts take as a game master?

But that is a question for another time …