Solo Skald |||

The Cryptorum - Session 1

I’ve still been doing some solo play, including some abortive attempts with Maze Rats (which I’ll try again in a different way). But inspired by Solo Dungeon Crawler and Bandit’s Keep, I really wanted to try some dungeon exploration with OD&D. In this case, that actually means Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised, which is a retroclone of OD&D.

Back in Cinderheim

As previously, this game will continue in Cinderheim, which allows (and even encourages) all the ancestries and classes from S&W Complete without devolving into vanilla medieval high fantasy” (which I find boring).

While I’d like to expand S&W to include additional ancestries and classes, I want to start with the material as presented in the book and stick to it closely at first. This also means that, as with my previous mini-campaign in Cinderheim, I’ll start in Koraaz where the demographics (largely elves with some humans and dwarves) match the available ancestries fairly closely. At some point, I might look for (or create) minotaurs and goliaths as they are residents here too.

Additionally, within Koraaz, the Cryptorum is a vast, underground dungeon” used as a prison. It also seems reasonable that the Sundered Temple could have lower levels to explore, but for this (mini-?) campaign, I’ll focus on the Cryptorum as the primary locus of adventure.

To organize the campaign, I want a guild or patrons. Since this setting is organized around personalities” (the warlords that rule each permanent encampment, though to some extent the demon lords imprisoned beneath them as well), that seems like the most natural place to start.

Andastros The Butcher” Qualenethi, elven war criminal, rules Koraaz. He commands a warband and employs a warlock (Nordak Rumna) to uncover potential threats to Qualenethi’s life”. It seems easy to imagine Qualenethi ultimately as the true patron, perhaps starting with Rumna as his representative.

What kinds of threats does Rumna believe exist, or at least have concerns about? Perhaps he wants updated scouting information. This would allow me to use an existing map (because the Cryptorum is a known structure) while stocking it on the fly.

Setting up procedures

S&W does not have specific quantitative guidance about stocking dungeons, nor does the Tome of Adventure Design (from the same author). Instead, I’ll refer to The Strategic Review” Volume 1, Number 1, which has an article, Solo Dungeon Adventures”. Since I’m effectively playing OD&D, a roughly contemporary source seems appropriate.

Because I’m using an existing map from Dyson Logos, the tables on doors, side passages, and so forth are not useful at this time. However, the tables for Room Contents” and Treasure” definitely are! Similarly, the table for Tricks / Traps” doesn’t necessarily work in this context, but after a bit of digging, I went back to the Ruins of the Undercity supplement by Kabuki Kaiser, where p. 32 has a useful Traps” table. Results that seem nonsensical in the context will be reversed (“42” becomes 24”) or rerolled if needed.

S&W does indeed have lots of monsters, though, and I’m going to use the tables on pages 76-77 to populate monsters as they’re encountered. As a note of interpretation, any intelligent creatures (kobolds, dwarves, etc.) will be assumed to be prisoners of some sort, thrown into the Cryptorum and forgotten. Treasure associated with monsters will be per the Random Treasure Hoard” tables in S&W, unlike other room treasure from the Solo Dungeon Adventures” article.

Finally, each surviving adventurer will be awarded 2 gp per scouted room, increasing linearly with each additional room. For example, the second room scouted will be worth 4 gp, the third 6 gp, and so forth. Rumna is no fool; awarding this on a per-party basis could lead to backstabbing and other shenanigans. His objection to that is purely pragmatic: skilled adventurers are hard to come by!

The procedure in each room will be as follows:

  1. Roll for wandering monsters (1-in-6 chance).
  2. Roll for room contents (SDA, RotU, and S&W tables).
  3. If there are monsters:
    1. Determine whether they are in their lair.
    2. Determine their reaction (roll 2d6 if it’s not immediately obvious).
    3. If there is combat, go to that procedure.
  4. If traps are present, determine how they are triggered. Normally traps have a 2-in-6 chance to be triggered.
  5. Determine each adventurer’s actions: search, listen, rest, etc.

I may end up adjusting the above if it turns out I’m missing some key element. Surprising to me, the dungeon rules in S&W are not centralized in a single place in the book, so I’m putting much of this together after a full re-read. And there are (intentional) gaps that I’ll need to decide how to fill once I encounter them in play.

Delve

The party consists of four adventurers, randomly generated. I decided class and ancestry based on what seemed to fit, then generated gender and names randomly. By sheer coincidence, I have two male humans and two female elves. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a choice on my part; I decided on the humans and elves, then rolled a d2 for the gender of each.

  • Menat, Fighter 1 / Mage 1, female elf. 8 AC, 5 hp, wielding a staff and darts. She has prepared the Sleep” spell for this delve.
  • Kang, Mage 1, male human. 9 AC, 1 hp, wielding a staff, dagger, and darts. He has prepared the Charm Person” spell for this delve.
  • Omolora, Thief 1, female elf. 7 AC, 3 hp, wielding a bastard sword, shortbow, and dagger.
  • Yash, Fighter 1, male human. 6 AC, 6 hp, wielding a polearm and hand axe.

They are escorted to the entrance to the Cryptorum, given the password to be allowed to exit, and ceremoniously locked in the entrance.

Turn 1

The party descends a set of parallel stairs heading east. Their marching order, two abreast, is Menat and Omolora in the front rank followed by Kang and Yash. Menat is carrying a lantern, though she and Omolora both have darkvision out to 60 feet, where they can see a long, 20-foot wide hall stretching out into the darkness.

No wandering monsters are present. The room contents are monster and treasure”. This is 1d2 CL2 monsters and 1d6 CLB monsters: 2 gnolls and 6 goblins. This is a shared lair for them both. The reaction roll is 4, which is hostile” - they attack! Neither party is surprised. The group is 60 feet apart, so the humans cannot yet see the monsters since that’s outside the 30-foot range of their lantern.

  • Gnoll: HD 2 (10, 8); AC 5; Atk bite (2d4) or weapon (1d10); MV 9; S 16; ML 8
  • Goblin: HD 1 (2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 1); AC 6; Atk weapon (1d6); MV 9; S 18; ML 7

Neither group is casting spells this round. The adventurers win the initiative roll. Menat and Omolora whisper to the humans, Over half a dozen prisoners behind a barricade, and they’re attacking!” That’s too many, and those gnolls are particularly nasty. However, the gnolls are wielding two-handed weapons, and the hall is only 20 feet across, so they can’t all attack at once. The gnolls are in front, with the goblins behind. I decide it’s 50/50 whether the goblins are armed with ranged weapons: they are, and so the elves can see the glint of arrowheads being readied on shortbows.

The adventurers decide to flee. There’s a small side passage to the southeast, not much more than a crack in the wall, with a few steps leading up. The party doesn’t know what’s up there, but chances are it’s not quite such a fearsome force. They’ll escape into the next room.

Do the monsters pursue? Given that the side passage is hidden from their view, and this is the very entrance (where soldiers and guards wait at the top of the stairs to repel any escape attempts), I decide they have a 1-in-6 chance of pursuing: they do not.

Turn 2

The party finds themselves in a smaller chamber, 20’ x 30’, with debris inside. No wandering encounter occurs, but there is treasure here; 1000 silver pieces. Coins are heavy, weighing 10 to the pound, so the party decides to split them up. Yash has a sack that can carry 30 lbs, so he takes 300 sp. That puts him up to the next weight category, so his movement rate is decreased from 12 to 9. Omolora has a pair of those sacks, so she takes 600 sp which reduces her movement rate to 6. Menat puts the other 100 sp in her backpack, which is not enough to affect her movement rate. If they can return with this treasure, they’ll earn 100 XP each.

The two elves listen at the door to the south; they succeed, so if there is anything in there, they will not be surprised. I decide that each door has a 3-in-6 chance to be stuck, so this one is not.

Turn 3

This larger room (40’ x 40’) has a raised area at the back and two small alcoves, perhaps some sort of shrine or maybe an area for briefings when it was actively guarded. There are monsters here, 2 piercers (CL2, with 2 HD each). Piercers resemble stalactites, hanging from the ceiling, but since this is a constructed room, they are noticeable to the elves in front. (This isn’t due to the listen rolls, since piercers just hang silently.) The reaction roll is 7, which is neutral”, meaning they will wait to see what the party does. But the party isn’t attacking them; perhaps the piercers have already eaten recently?

Regardless, the party is not going to wait around in here any longer than necessary to map the place, and they’ll take care to avoid walking directly beneath the piercers. There are two other doors in this room, one back to the north on the same wall where they entered and the other to the east. Filling in the map seems like the right approach here, so they’ll check out whatever is to the north.

Again, the elves listen at the door: one of them succeeds. But the door is stuck! As the strongest characters, the two fighters (Yash and Menat) will try to force it open. Neither succeed; Omolora also fails. Whatever may lie beyond will know that they’re here!

Turn 4

The group decides they might as well give it another shot. Omolora will use a crowbar (which I judge increases her chances to 3-in-6), but that doesn’t help. Yash and Menat also try again and she (Menat) succeeds. They spill into the room; it’s a 20’ x 40’ chamber with shelves along the west wall. However, the room is empty, making all this effort for naught.

Turn 5

The group goes back to the platform room where the piercers are resting above. There’s a door to the east, and that one is stuck as well. Omolora and Yash both give it a try (including using Omolora’s crowbar), and the crowbar does the job as the two more or less fall into the next room.

This is quite a large chamber, irregularly shaped, 120’ x 100’ in a sort of L. There are some lower areas within the chamber and a single lonely table near the center of the L; otherwise the room is empty. But wandering monsters have come in here as well: a lizardfolk and 5 kobolds! Their reaction is likewise hostile, as they are patrolling this space. The adventurers forgot to listen at the door, so I roll surprise: it’s the monsters who are surprised this time. However, Omolora and Yash don’t get to act in the surprise round due to falling into the room. The two groups are 50’ apart, so the humans can’t see the monsters yet.

  • Lizardfolk: HD 2+1 (13); AC 5; Atk 2 claws (1d3), bite (1d6); MV 6; S 16; ML 12
  • Kobold: HD 1d4 (2, 2, 2, 1, 4); AC 7; Atk weapon (1d6); MV 6; S 18; ML 7

As before, I decide it’s 50/50 whether the kobolds are armed with ranged weapons: not this time. But this seems like an opportune time for Menat to cast Sleep, and in OD&D, this spell is really powerful. She can put 10 creatures of HD 1 or less to sleep (all the kobolds) plus the lizardfolk, and I judge they’re far enough away (50’ in a large chamber) that she can do this without affecting her own party. No save is allowed for this spell, as she quietly invokes the name of a spirit who swirls around her enemies, touching their heads and dropping them to the ground. This is a total of 30 + 5*5 = 55 XP for the party.

The adventurers could choose to move on quietly, leaving the enemies to their enchanted slumber”. No, that’s not what’s going to happen here; leaving this group behind them would be dangerous. Attack rolls are not needed to end the lives of these horrible creatures.

This room has four other doors, plus a passageway that leads north to the large hall where they’d seen the gnolls and goblins. One of the doors to the north might lead to another passage to that hall, but this other northern door seems to lead in between the passages. They’ll take their chances with that door.

Again, the elves listen: as a Thief and Elf, Omolora succeeds. (She does indeed hear monsters.) This door is not stuck, and so they enter in their agreed-upon marching order.

Turn 6

In this room, 40’ x 40’, there are some empty worthless frames on the wall. But also: a shrieker and 6 skeletons! The monsters hesitate, looking up at the part of adventurers to gauge their reaction.

Shriekers are huge mushrooms with tough, fibrous bodies. They do not physically attack, but if light shines on them (or within about 30 feet) or if anything moves near them (within about 10 feet), they emit a high-pitched shrieking noise. This noise causes 1 hp damage per round (saving throw applies) to anyone nearby (within 30 feet). The true danger of shriekers is that they tend to summon wandering monsters. If they are attacked with missile weapons, they attempt to shuffle away, although they do not move very fast.

The wandering mushroom alarm, which unfortunately is only 20 feet from the party, immediately begins to shriek due to the lanterns carried by the adventurers. None of the group succeed on their saving throws, so they all take 1 hp damage. This is enough to reduce Kang to 0 hp! This drops him unconscious, but the group closes the door immediately and pulls back before it can do any more damage to them.

Based on the description, I go ahead and make another wandering monsters check, but it’s negative.

Turn 7

This sort of damage is temporary, in my judgment, and so Kang needs to rest this turn to recover. While he’s doing so, Omolora listens at the main door to the east (she succeeds) and Menat listens at the door on the southeast corner (she fails, though of course she doesn’t know that). Hearing nothing at the southeast door, the group decides to try that one. Yash will guard Kang here.

This unstuck door turns out just to be a closet, though, and an empty one at that. Maps are updated, although this is not going to count as a room” for the purposes of the scouting reward.

Turn 8

Pulling themselves back together, they try the door to the east, but it’s stuck. Omolora forces it open with her crowbar, where she sees a long corridor heading east into a 50’ x 40’ room with several slim square columns in it. Just before the room is a set of steps leading to a passage on the north. This room has treasure in it, though: another 1000 silver pieces worth 100 XP. Kang takes 200 sp in his backpack, filling it but not reducing his movement rate. Menat can carry another 100 sp in her backpack plus 300 sp more in a sack, but she’s pretty strong and this doesn’t drop her movement at all. Yash fills his backpack with 200 more sp, and his movement rate further drops to 6. Omolora checks and realizes she can carry the other 200 sp in her backpack without affecting her movement rate any further.

However, their bags are full, and nobody has died, so they’re going to make their way back the way they came in.

Turn 9

I’ll still roll wandering monster checks, but no further need to check for room contents. They get back to the large L-shaped room, which I imagine was once a dining hall for the prisoners. Laden with treasure, this takes them a full turn to cross.

Turn 10

This turn is spent crossing the former dining hall. No wandering monsters come around this time.

Turn 11

They get back to the long hallway; do the gnolls and goblins see them at this distance? I check the map, and it looks like that side passage enters the hall more than 60’ from the barricades where the gnolls and goblins have set up, so they’re not seen. The party makes it back to the entrance without further incident.

Rewards

The party earned 200 XP from treasure, 55 XP from monsters, and 56 XP from the scouting rewards, for a total of 311 XP, or 78 XP each (rounding up). They also split 256 GP among the four of them for 64 GP each. Next time, they’ll need to hire some people to carry treasure - and perhaps a few strong sword arms to take out those gnolls and goblins.

The explored portion of the map, with gnolls, goblins, and piercers marked The explored portion of the map, with gnolls, goblins, and piercers marked. Cartography by Dyson Logos.

Come to think of it, since they are imprisoned in a place that (further down) also holds a demon lord, I would like to have a table of corruption effects showing the influence of Raaz upon the other prisoners.

Other lessons

Working from an existing map reduces the need for some tables to determine other room contents (dungeon dressing), although I might look for one anyway to use here and there.

Also, I’m not sure I like using the same table of wandering monsters as regular encounters. I think it might make more sense to draw one up specific to this dungeon and level. That may be just prisoners and something abyssal to reflect the demonic nature of this whole land.

Up next Cinderheim - Session 4 The Cryptorum - Session 2
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