my backup plan
So this weekend I’m going to run some D&D at a local makerspace (TheLab.ms has an open house Saturday evening for anybody in the Dallas-Plano area). I’m probably going to use “Searchers of the Unknown” by +Nicolas Dessaux or some variant thereof, because you can’t get much simpler and call it D&D. Microlite20 would work just about as well and for the same reasons. Several of the folks who have expressed interest in playing also noted they’ve never done this before, and the open house will almost certainly provide a fairly raucous environment.
I remain unsure about what dungeon to use, though. Here again, I’m partial to the simplest possible approach: here is a dungeon, go get the treasure and try not to die. Normally I’d go with “Goblin Gully” by +Dyson Logos for this, but my kids are likely to play and they’ve been through that one before (albeit not all the way to the end). So I think I will quickly stock an existing map or try to pick something simple from the One-Page Dungeon contest entrants in the past. Of course, any suggestions on this would be welcome, because I have a lot of level 1 modules in my archives and such but need to do this in a way that satisfies two conditions: (a) family friendly-ish (i.e. no Death Frost Doom even if I love it), and (b) approaching the platonic ideal of “old school D&D”. If it goes well enough, it could end up being an open-table setup where every few weeks I show up with another dungeon level or two, but one step at a time.
I’ve not yet had the opportunity to play an RPG that takes place in an urban environment. I’d really like to do that soon, however. To that end, I’ve picked up a few products to explore the ideas. This includes Vornheim, of course. But it already has a well-deserved reputation as perhaps the high water mark for RPG supplements of any kind, much less city-building, and I don’t need to spend a lot of time reviewing it here.
So this post is instead about Secrets of the Old City (found via OSR Today). It didn’t cost me anything, after all, and hopefully it could provide some inspiration. An earlier version of this dungeon won “Best of the Best” in the first One Page Dungeon competition in 2009.
The new version comes as two very short PDFs, one two pages long and one four pages. The cover has a map that lacks much in the way of organization. The keyed encounters, for example, appear scattered about the map randomly. I don’t recommend printing it, either, considering it’s mostly black and will kill your ink. The PDF does not include a player version such as what you might use in Roll20 or some other virtual table top.
In the encounter PDF, the map legend doesn’t match the map at all. It uses letters and symbols (like “*” or “?”) while the map has actual icons. The legend looks like a holdover from the 2009 version but did not get updated with the map. The urban dungeon itself includes a goblin invasion, a small and incompetent thieves’ guild, and several more significant monsters. Most of the encounters don’t have anything particularly new or interesting: an ogre has been cooking and eating children. The boots of the recently-eaten goblin does go in the right direction, providing a bit of dynamism. One encounter refers to “dungeon level 2”, but nothing else in the document does. I suppose the DM should use this as a hook for creating something else below the Old City.
With a little more effort, this could really shine as a starter urban sandbox. I hope the creators update the map for usability and the encounters for a bit of innovation. Now I’m really motivated to enter the contest this year.