One of the risks that you run as a Referee when undertaking a sandbox campaign is that the work put into creating dungeons can go for naught if players interests take them elsewhere. Personally, I deflect much of this by copius use of random tables — they severly cut down on prep time and not only offer up an interesting concoction for my players, but challenge me as a Referee which makes things interesting for me.
One of the curiosities of this campaign has been the way my group has largely ignored the tent-pole megadungeon (as James over ar Grognardia likes to call them). Although the campaign started out with several forays into the megadungeon, they have gone out of their way to avoid it ever since they delved too deep and ran into some things beyond their capabilities. This has resulted in making the place even more dangerous (sans an adventuring party to keep the forces of Chaos in check, they have slowly been able to accomplish their goals and grow in power). Instead, this campaign has largely been outdoor exploration with the occasional dungeon delve when lairs are found.
I find myself asking whether or not the megadungeon concept is at fault, that this group (having largely learned the game with 3.5) just isn't used to the idea, or if my version of a megadungeon just doesn't hold together very well.
This session I got burned a little bit. Ever since the party left Xerxes, the NPC Magic User, behind when they travelled to Trisagia, I have been planning a betrayal, a theft, a murder and a fun house dungeon. Upon returning to Headwaters, the party found out that Fr. Taggert had been murdered, the Golden Mask being kept at the Church had been stolen and the Eye of St. Gabriel had been gouged out of Fr. Taggerts' eye socket. The prime suspect is Xerxes, since he hasn't been seen since the murder and thefts.
The party went to his room at the inn to investigate, only to be welcomed by a taunting magic mouth informing them that if they wished to get the Eye back, they would need to follow a map buried under the corner stone of Hamlen's father's barn (which happened to lead to a good 'ol fun house dungeon I've been piecing together for several weeks). However, the party decided to go (yet again) in an unexpected direction.
Earlier, they had encountered what they thought to be a dragon (which had killed one of the PCs). In its possession was a vial of a silvery liquid they needed in order to give Grak an artificial arm. Thus, instead of puzzling through my fun house, the party decided to take on a dragon and forced me to take out a map I'd drawn a couple months ago which at that time was ignored. What ensued was a brilliant use of a Shrinking Potion and a Bag of Holding.
Unbeknownst to the party (and to their great benefit) the said "dragon" isn't a real dragon, only dragon-kin. It has no breath weapon, though it is poisonous and regenerates like a troll. After getting its attention by massacring a number of its goblin minions in an ambush, the dragon killed the party's horses and dogs and then proceeded to roll horribly and get itself "killed" (by the Halfling, no less); however, the regeration meant that the party could not kill the dragon with conventional weapons. Thus, when they had knocked the dragon out, they forced a shrinking potion down its throat, tied him up and threw him inside a bag of holding. I was stunned. I thought the move so brilliantly cool, that I allowed the maneuver. Now the party has a dragon stuck inside a bag of holding with no way out (the potion has since worn off and it can't fit through the small opening of the bag) and it is starving. It will be very interesting to see what the party manages to do with it.
As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised by one of my players (Arkmed the Dwarf) who thanked me for running Labyrinth Lord. He confessed that he liked the system better than 3.5 — it was quicker, freer and allowed the party to accomplish a lot more in a shorter ammount of time. It seems that you don't have to be a grumpy old man who's played since the 70s to appreciate the old ways. Thank God.
2 days ago