With this latest upload, the first level of Stonehell, my Moldvay/Labyrinth Lord megadungeon, is now complete. You can get your hands on Stonehell: Level 1D here.
Let me state for the record that I’m not a big fan of the common kobold. When it comes to less than one HD humanoids to throw at a party, I’m a goblin-type of guy. I much prefer the stinky, flat-footed orange-green goblins to the rusty scaled kobold when I need something to challenge the 1st level party. That being said, however, the kobolds of Stonehell have grown on me. Largely this is due to my decision to make them a little something other than just walking experience points for the party to grind on at the beginning of their exploits. I like that the kobolds have another useful purpose in the halls of Stonehell and look forward to revisiting them in later levels as they serve in their capacity as custodians, trap repairmen, provisioners, and go-between for the bigger, stronger races.
But before I could say farewell to the scaly buggers for a bit, I really wanted to emphasize their role in Stonehell in a way that the potential party wouldn’t soon forget. Thus sprang to life the concept of “Kobold Korners.” Every party eventually comes to the point where they need to resupply and recoup. Usually this entails a trip back to the nearest town and a visit to the local tavern. While that option certainly exists for the explorers of Stonehell, I wanted to explore other options.
It started simple enough. The idea of a “scaly Casablanca” came to mind. I wanted to introduce a place where a tentative peace exists for the purpose of stimulating trade and to provide a safe haven for the various denizens of Stonehell to pursue recreation and cut deals and agreements. As the kobolds are the go-betweens for the races, it only made sense that their section of the dungeon would serve such a purpose. Readers familiar with the Forgotten Realms Undermountain megadungeon will recognize that Skullport served a similar function in that locale. But rather than wait until the 3rd level down to introduce such a place, I figured I’d introduce it much earlier.
The reasons that I decided to introduce this safe haven early are as follows: One, I wanted to demonstrate the unique role that the kobolds play in the dungeon. While the adventurers might run into them as they carry out their other duties on this level, I think once the party gets a look at Kobold Korners (which is of course not what the kobolds call their home), they’ll have a better understanding that the little guys might be more than they anticipated. Two, I wanted to make the players realize early that their actions in the dungeon have long-term effects. If the party has been in full-on “stabby mode” through the earlier sections of the dungeon, they’re about to find that all those dead kobolds left in their wake had a lot of friends. If the players have been a little more “old-school” in their exploits, occasionally parlaying and dealing with the kobolds in a less lethal manner, they’ll find that they have access to a somewhat safe place to rest and resupply.
There are hazards to relying on the Kobold Korners for safety and resupply, of course. Equipment might be cheaper than back in town, but you get what you pay for. There is a tentative truce between visitors to this section of the dungeon, but that’s not guaranteed. Even the gang of bugbears employed by the kobolds as a police force/goon squad can’t always keep the peace, and the dead body of a murdered shopper has more than once shown up for sale in one form or another in the market.
Of course, being the kind soul that I am, the party can avoid Kobold Korners completely during their exploits. There are at least four other means by which they can access Level Two besides the grand stairs in Kobold Korners, so enraging the kobolds isn’t a complete roadblock in their path of exploration. But it will mean that the party won’t a get a crack at a forgotten section of dungeon that waits to be discovered and has a few useful goodies for the taking. Oh well. Such are the consequences of rash actions in the dungeon depths.