Froghole Dungeon Part One

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

Around March of 2013 I began a "by the book"campaign dungeon project as an outgrowth of the "Setting up a Proper Dungeon" article published in issue.

The idea was to use only the random tables in OD&D, and to use random maps generated from a mishmash of dungeon geomorphs (the intent was to have an artist I knew from the ski resort I worked at redraw the whole thing once numbers, stairs, and other changes were finalized, but now I will just release as is).

To generate the monsters and treasure I used dice, for the most part, but for the especially tedious task of rolling gems and jewelry I used a computer program.  Anyone who has ever attempted to roll up a by the book dungeon using dice will certainly know how incredibly time consuming it can be. 

The monsters were hand picked from lists made according to the number of Hit Dice, and I tried to pick them according to a theme chosen for the level.  Because my monster lists were not much expanded beyond the monsters of the original game, there wasn't always a whole lot of choice, but for the most part it was doable. 

The backstory of the dungeon was entirely flexible and could be changed without a whole lot of fuss.  I settled on a placement withing the Great Swamp of Blackmoor and the following story:

"Three thousand five hundred and forty four years before the founding of the Great Empire, the first magnificent civilization of the Northern Marches died a grisly death. For a millennium a highly intelligent and delicate amphibious race, the Groda, had raised wonderous stone spires, ziggurats, and cities surrounding broad plazas, throughout the great swamp of Mil. 

They had developed magnificent magics, arts and architecture, but their greatness became their downfall, as they began to reach out, seeking new territories and colonies, the discovered something else, a plague which ran through the populace like wildfire, killing millions. 

They had long attracted the attention of dark and sinister forces, the Baledraugs, who sensing their weakness, began to attack them. One by one the Grodian cities toppled. The Groda turned to dark magics to try to save themselves. They bred new warrior races, the Sar-Aigu and the Gator men, to fight the Baledraugs, but these new servants were easily corrupted, and often as not turned on their masters. The Groda soon were no more.

Their cities crumbled, leaving only the occasional ruin poking out of the fetid swamp.  Most of their underground structures have likewise collapsed.  The old faded map in your hands, however, claims that one such great dungeon remains intact, carved into a low jutting hill of black rock somewhere deep in the swamp."

Deep in the swamp lies many a mystery. Ancient ruins, barely visible rising from the muck and covered in verdure, surround a low hill. In a broad opening on the hill, a strange pyramid like ruins seem to guard a passage leading into darkness.....

From time to time between other postings, I'll share what I created for this dungeon.  Next up will be Level 1 maps and key, and maybe a bit about the swamp itself.

Leveling Up in the Dungeon! Boardgame

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

Those familiar with David Megarry's Dungeon! boardgame know that the game wasn't designed with character growth or "leveling up" in mind.  Dungeon! is a simplified representation of an early 1970's dungeon crawl - minus the referee and the role-playing.

Recently I was reminded of an email chain I participated in just over a year ago, and I want to share here and expand on some of my thoughts from that discussion.  

We were talking about the seeming randomness in the OD&D experience point tables, and the point was made that Dave Megarry had put a great deal of thought and effort in determining a balanced number of gold pieces each character type needed to win in the Dungeon! boardgame.  It doesn't take much imagination to see a parallel between gold pieces and points, and winning and leveling up.

So for fun, I looked at the numbers in Dungeon! for each character type to win, and it looks like this:

Elf: 10,000 GP
Hero: 10,000 GP
SuperHero 20,000 GP
Wizard: 30,000 GP

That's a lot of "points" of course and we only see what it takes to go up one level, so to speak.  

However, here is a curiosity that strikes me as an interesting way of looking at Megarry's numbers.  The Beyond This Point be Dragons manuscript has a rule regarding XP from treasure, that the fighter class can use GP on a "10 for one basis" for experience points.  If we apply a similar 10:1 ratio to all the Dungeon! GP goals we get this:

Elf: 1000 XP
Hero: 1000 XP
SuperHero 2000 XP
Wizard: 3000 XP

Remember the discussion (HERE) of Greg Svenson's 1972 game notes with his comment "become super hero if you kill 1000 points of anything"?  

One tenth of the 10,000 XP from treasure for the "Fighter" classes in Megarry's Dungeon! and the 1000 XP from killing things being equal "leveling up" numbers could certainly be coincidental, but it looks less so when we also toss in the XP charts from the original "Guidon" draft of D&D.  In the GD&D draft, 1000 points are what the Fighter and Magic-user originally needed to go from level 1 to level 2.

Sound plausible? Thing is, the numbers I gave are for the published (1975) Dungeon! game.  They are altered by Gary Gygax, and not David Megarry's 1972 originals.  They reflect Gygax's perception of how the numbers ought to be.  Megarry's original numbers from 1972 are:

Elf: 12,000 GP
Hero: 15,000 GP
SuperHero 20,000 GP

Wizard: 25,000 GP

Megarry's numbers are more customized and also not as far apart as Gygax's, otherwise they aren't so very different, suggesting a generally accepted ballpark of what were appropriate goals for each character type. 

So what about the poor Wizard, who, at a 1/10 ratio needed a full either 2500 or 3000 points to level up?  Well the thing to realize is that the Dungeon! Wizard is a more powerful character, not some flunky starting out.  In D&D terms we would call this a "Name Level" character, and needs more points to win (level up), just as the superhero needs more than a hero.

Interestingly, even at this early stage, David Megarry recognized how unequal to the other classes a high powered wizard character would be.

Whether Dungeon! really reflects a 1000 XP to level meme in the pre-D&D era or not is hard to say.  That may not even be the most important thing to note, however.

Megarry's gold coin totals establish something else that translates to the D&D tables, and that is that higher levels require more points - not just a straight 10,000 for everybody.  Thus a superhero "level" character needs twice as many points and a Wizard even more.  It doesn't seem much of a stretch to see the architecture of the D&D XP tables being pioneered in Megarry's Dungeon! goals.

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Game Archaeologist/Anthropologist, Scholar, Historic Preservation Analyst, and a rural American father of three.
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