Sunday, August 18, 2019

That's where the ____ lives

One of the things I here while the players are going over the map of Felltower is "that's where the ____ lives" or "That's where the ____ is."

That's not always true, though, and it can mean the players are put off of their plans when they arrive and it or they are not there.

The architecture is really the most fixed element in Felltower. Even that's a bit changeable.

With a megadungeon I feel like you need a good base of consistency, but that consistency can't mean that what's in one room when you arrive the first time will forever and always be in that room. While the orcs may always be in one area, the undead may congregate in another, and that one area always seems to be plagued by rats and slimes . . . that doesn't mean you won't find those things in other places.

And it doesn't account for wandering monsters or reactive monsters.

A good example of that was the werewolves. They were dwelling in one area until the PCs showed up and cut down a lot of them. They went back to finish the job and they were gone. Well, yes. They'd taken some very heavy casualties and moved to a lower-risk area (at least as they perceived it to be.) They didn't move far enough, but it may be that something was keeping them in that area instead of another.

Sometimes you can make the mistake of thinking that where you ran into something was where something lives. That kind of error is why "the Lord of Spite's apartment" actually turned out to be stairs down to a whole level where the Lord of Spite actually seems to "live." Turns out he was out for a stroll, not living behind that one door.

Plus the state of monsters changes. The dragon isn't always sleeping, the orcs are always on alert by the main entrance, and so on.

The terrain is largely consistent, much more so than the monsters, but even so . . . sometimes hallways are blocked. Sometimes they're open. Doors are open or they are closed. Bars get installed. New tunnels get dug, by animal-intelligence monsters and sapient dwellers alike.

You can depend on many things in Felltower, but over time things change. You can't always expect to meet or find the things you met or found where you met or found them. Usually you do, but you can't bet your trip on any one thing being as it was. Or especially on all of the things beings as they were.


  1. I moved to random numbers of monsters in a room (and yes, random can mean zero) to keep the players on their toes. They once visited a room four times and had four different states to the room: an empty room (the monsters dwelling there were all out wandering), some doomchildren (the monster listed for the room), more doomchildren, then a wandering monster (I forget which one).

    Predictability is bad for our games.

    1. That sounds like a good approach. I'm a little less mechanistic than I could be, but I don't like the idea of a wholly static dungeon. Or wholly static monsters. I prefer the idea that there are opportunity costs for "check it out and come back another time."

    2. The opportunity cost of futzing around is the wandering monster table (although far be it from me to discourage other shenanigans.)

      Do you make the players proceed cautiously through cleared areas or can they pick up at the inner boundary of the map?

    3. In order:

      You're right about the wandering monster table being one of the costs. But this isn't really about futzing around - it's about expecting things to be the same. The post I linked just above is about futzing around. I prefer there to be more concrete costs than "there might be another fight." In GURPS, fights don't always come with lasting costs . . . and players often seen the "cost" of another useless fight as being superior to the perceived cost of being wiped out because they didn't go cautiously.

      Also, with wandering monsters I've seen both going to slow and going to fast and loud as bringing out wandering monsters. So if going too hard and fast can kill you with wandering monsters and "fixed" encounters you're unready for, and going too slow and being too cautious can kill you with wandering monsters but generally spares you "fixed" encounters's you're unready for . . . slow and cautious wins.

      As for the second part: They have to more through everything, and wandering monsters appear sometimes in that process. Nothing "cleared" is truly cleared and empty. Those places are generally conduits from one area to another within the dungeon or from without to within and vice-versa. So things move around there.

    4. Thanks. Incidentally I read all your posts. I just don’t have a ton to say. Thank you for consistent content.

    5. You're welcome. Thanks for the comments you make, as well. I love the interaction I get from a good post!

      Incidentally, I'm bummed that I didn't work in a I Know Where the Tarantula Lives reference in this blog post.


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