Friday, January 16, 2009

Stonehell: The Quiet Halls

Playing around with the Crabaugh Method got me a little sidetracked over the last week, so I hadn’t had much time to get back to exploring more of Stonehell. I had the next quadrant drawn up and a few notes sketched out, but that was the extent of it. On Wednesday, I got a comment from The Grand Wazoo, who happens to be an old friend of mine from college (and one hell of an artist as well). He’s been running a regular game group up in the Saratoga Springs area of New York and it seems that he’d recently thrown his players into the first section of Stonehell. If I may indulge in a little personal back-patting, here’s what he had to say:
“I just ran a 4 character party through Stone Hell, and they loved it. Players exclaimed it had a real classic feel, and tread very carefully through its halls.”
And
“The format presented is very easy to use and leaves enough to improve… Love it. Love it. Love it!”
Whether these comments were intended to get me back to work on the next section in time for this coming week’s game session, I refuse to speculate. In any case, I did go back to work and have uploaded the next section, Level 1B: The Quiet Halls, for public consumption. You can get it here if you so desire.

Since my thoughts are posed in this direction anyway, I wanted to elaborate on two of the monster-types that show up in the corridors and chambers of Stonehell. I’ve not gotten a chance to write up a general introduction to the dungeon for potential referees, but there’s something I should mention in light of the fact that people are currently exploring its halls (A fact that gives me a heck of a lot of girlish glee). Whether or not the referee wants to take this into account is up to him or her.

The Kobolds: The various bands of kobolds that currently occupy Stonehell are the direct descendents of the tribe that was imprisoned there as part of one of the vizier’s “adjustments” to his grand experiment (as mentioned in the history). The only reason these kobolds managed to survive in such a hostile environment is that they quickly identified and occupied an open position in the prison’s social hierarchy. The kobolds became the custodians and general menial workers of the prison, a role that they still maintain to the current day. The kobolds are responsible for resetting sprung traps and cleaning up the carcasses that the various oozes, slimes, and other members of the “cleanup crew” haven’t devoured, as well as repairing dungeon features and performing general upkeep of the place.

After the prison was liberated, the kobolds have stayed on in this capacity. When bands of fiercer humanoids moved in, the kobolds kept themselves from being wiped out by demonstrating their usefulness to their stronger fellow residents. In fact, the kobolds have expanded their duties to include serving as messengers for the other humanoid tribes, as well as operating as traders and provisioners to the separate groups throughout the dungeon levels.

It should be noted that this function hasn’t turned them into goody-two-shoes or bumbling comic relief (unless that’s the way you want to play them), but the kobolds of Stonehell are more likely to be fearful and subservient to any potential threat they encounter, rather than chucking javelins first and asking questions later. They understand that in order to survive as a species they must appear to maintain an aura of servility and neutrality. Neutrality most of all, because if any tribe of humanoids thinks that the kobolds have taken sides with an enemy, they’d most likely be slaughtered for this perceived betrayal. As such, the kobolds are very careful as to what information they divulge about Stonehell and its residents. They can be bribed, threatened, or cowed into submission, but will always attempt to preserve their neutral status in the eyes of their fellow dungeon denizens.

And since it’s bound to come up sooner or later, each band of kobolds in only familiar with certain small sections of the dungeon, being whatever area they serve and maintain on a regular basis. So charming one kobold is not the key to learning the location of every single trap, secret door, and waiting enemy in the entire place. As a rule of thumb, the kobolds are familiar with the layout and occupants of whatever quadrant they are encountered in, but have sketchy knowledge of anywhere else in the dungeon. Unless of course, the referee decides otherwise.

The Berserkers: Although they’re listed in the dungeon key as “Berserkers”, one shouldn’t consider them frothing at the mouth, Scandinavian warriors. The berserkers of Stonehell are the degenerate descendents of the prison’s original inhabitants. Hirsute, unkempt, and raised on a cannibalistic diet, they equip themselves with the cast-off weapons and armor of the other denizens of Stonehell and prowl the corridors looking for their next meal. Their bonus to hit and willingness to fight unto death comes from the madness and hunger that affects all of their kind.

I hope to finish up Level 1C over the weekend, weather and personal matters providing. If I do, I'll have it up on Monday. So until then, keep them from going south, Jim!

11 comments:

Mr. Scratch said...

That treatment of the kolbolds is fantastic and adds a refreshing realism to the old-school feel. How is that trap still working after all these years? Someone reset it, someone who was doing their job

thanuir said...

It also kinds of fits with the image of kobolds as earth spirits living in mines; they make certain things work. Angering them might hurt, a lot, especially since they could tell rumours about a given group to others...

Brunomac said...

>this function hasn’t turned them into goody-two-shoes or bumbling comic relief<

Well, the typical Kobold function is as fodder for 1st-2nd level characters, no? Poor suckers usually seem to know too.

If I'm reading your Crabaugh Method right, I think it might be more appropriately called "The Hargrave Method." Dave was the king of wildly varied (and sometimes head scratching) character classes.

Sham aka Dave said...

Another great addition, Mike. Glad to see the format being put to use!

Amityville Mike said...

How is that trap still working after all these years? Someone reset it, someone who was doing their job

That was pretty much the intent. Fill the plot holes with whatever putty I could scrounge up.

Angering them might hurt, a lot, especially since they could tell rumours about a given group to others...

I figure if you've got 1/2 a HD you have to work smarter, not harder. Yeah, you can kick their tails, but don't let 'em start spreading the word about you.

Amityville Mike said...

If I'm reading your Crabaugh Method right, I think it might be more appropriately called "The Hargrave Method." Dave was the king of wildly varied (and sometimes head scratching) character classes.

I call it the Crabaugh Method after the system, not the hijinx you can get up to with it. I don't see myself cooking up much in the way of Arduin-type classes, but if I did, the Hargrave Approach might be a decent term for it.

Amityville Mike said...

Another great addition, Mike. Glad to see the format being put to use!

Thank YOU for paving the way. And yes, it's nice to see that the format not only works, but can be picked up and run by someone who doesn't have all the little bits & pieces you might have about in the dungeon in your head and not written down on the page.

Mr Baron said...

As an aside, Saratoga is the August place to be! That is my hometown, and it is a great place.

Amityville Mike said...

As an aside, Saratoga is the August place to be! That is my hometown, and it is a great place.

I heartily agree. I spent a summer inbetween semesters during my college years living in Saratoga and tending bar there. Beautiful in the summer time, but as a downstater the Hoth-like winters leave a little something to be desired ;)

The Grand Wazoo said...

well, the party has just made it through the doors leading to the "quiet halls", and turns running and screaming like little girls.

Amityville Mike said...

Was in the phantoms in room 11 of Level 1A that had them running away or was it something about the Quiet Halls themselves that had them screaming into the night?

You're so going to have to send me a complete account of their adventures in an email one of these days. The snippets are fun, but I'd love to hear more.