In my ongoing experiments with lightweight solo dungeon crawling, I dug out a supplement I haven’t used for years: Ruins of the Undercity (RotU) by Kabuki Kaiser. Technically designed for Labyrinth Lord (LL), RotU generates dungeons on the fly in a sword-and-sorcery setting. As the name suggests, the dungeon is really a massive space under the city of Cryptopolis, with a vaguely western or central Asia feel.
RotU includes systems designed to generate challenges roughly on par with the party’s level, and to generate loot and treasure. The mapping is quite granular, the sort that says “30’ x 40’ rectangular room with three exits”. This is a big change from the more narrative style I used in my recent games.
My goal with this experiment was to determine how well RotU holds up, as it was originally released ten years ago in January 2013. I also wanted to see how well the Labyrinth Lord stat style would work for Searchers of the Unknown (SotU), as LL is a bit heavy for my tastes.
This time, I didn’t use the 1974 Style Rules, but instead pulled up Here’s Some Fuckin’ D&D by Dustin Ratliff. It uses the same basic concept: use the regular old B/X creature stat block for player characters, but a bit more modern in the sense that it has more races (including tieflings) as well as basic spell casting rules.
Character creation involves grabbing the generated character from http://whothefuckismydndcharacter.com, finding your race and class, choosing equipment, and writing it down. I used the following characters:
That’s literally the entire character sheets for all three of them. (I really love SotU!)
Rather than mess around in town the way RotU wants me to, I just started straight away in the ruins.
I’ll stop the exploration here for the combat. These monsters come from RotU rather than the LL bestiary:
Small hunched & naked hairy humanoids. They howl, shout, and chatter insanely. Henchmen roll for Loyalty or flee when meeting them. Shun bright light and fire. Always fight to the death.
Converting them to SotU took seconds:
RotU has a few other bits for things like XP, treasure, alignment, and saves, but I didn’t need them.
Initiative order is Yorthilax and Jeras (tied), gibberlings, Thurmor.
Round 1: Yorthilax breathes fire, does 7 damage. I rule that this is an area attack that does a total of 7 damage among the enemies. This defeats 4 monsters; the others fear fire and won’t attack him in melee. At this point, I realized he didn’t roll his daily spells: read magic and magic missile. Sling vs AC 10, miss. Jeras leaps in with spear, hits, 6 damage, kills one more. Gibberlings (4 remaining) split attacks between Thurmor and Jeras; all miss but 1, dealing 8 damage to Jeras and killing him. Thurmor swings hammer and deals 3 damage. Party fails morale roll, -1 to all rolls.
Round 2: Yorthilax breathes fire again, does 3 damage, killing 1. Sling vs AC 10, misses. Gibberlings attack Thurmor (all three), one hits the dwarf for 7 damage. Thurmor swings hammer in reprisal, dealing 7 damage and killing one. Morale ties.
Round 3: Yorthilax’s breath weapon finishes the gibberlings.
Jeras’s body is a bloody mess. We’ll need to recruit another when we go back up in the city, but we have not found any treasure yet.
In this room, 3 exits:
Yorthilax successfully picks the lock on the door to the right.
Room (from right exit): 20’ x 30’ rectangle, 1 exit right. Slime patches. Monster only: level 2 (at minimum HP), quantity x 1/3. Coffer corpse x1, in lair. Again this is a RotU-specific monster:
Foul and tough zombie. Rises again when killed with normal weapons and strangles its victims…. You need a +1 weapon or better to hit it.
With a party of 2, neither of whom have a +1 weapon, they decide to get out of there. Yorthilax’s breath weapon might do it, but this just seems like too big of a risk.
Yorthilax sees the monster and hurriedly tries to close and lock the door: success!
At this point, I got tired of rolling up the dungeon on the fly. The above involved a LOT of dice rolling and looking up results on tables, some of which have just enough minor errors to make the tedium even worse. I decided to end this particular experiment here.
I re-learned a fundamental OSR lesson: Don’t get overconfident in combat. If you have to fight, make it as unfair as possible (in your favor). Jeras was the object lesson here; the group should have backed out against such numbers, or perhaps found a way for Jeras to do a sneak attack (although that would not have made a significant difference in this particular combat).
Additionally, Here’s Some Fuckin’ D&D was really great. It solves the problem with healing nicely:
Characters recover up to their max hit points after one full day of rest, or up to half total hit points rounded down after resting for 4 hours.
I don’t really love D&D races and classes, so I may alter this slightly for a future run. The rampant profanity in the document greatly enhances it for me, but of course your mileage may vary.
More to the point for this experiment, generating dungeons at this level of detail is very tedious. If I want this level of granularity in the dungeon, I’ll either pre-generate it using something like the Random Dungeon Generator on Donjon or take an existing dungeon map and stock it. Alternatively I could use a fully pre-designed dungeon altogether.
Perhaps I’ll go back to a more narrative style of dungeon generation that doesn’t measure in feet and have highly detailed dungeon dressing tables. That could be going back to Perilous Wilds Revised or One Page Solo Engine, or a different system entirely such as that found in Scarlet Heroes.