Tuesday, July 28, 2020

FIRST ADVENTURES IN DUNGEONEERING (by Gary Gygax, USA) - Peter's Comments

Here is an example of play from D&D I've never seen before.

Thanks to Zenopus Archives for linking to this earlier this week, and Allen "Grodog" Grohe for posting the transcript on another site

Reading it prompted a few comments of my own.

Here it is, assembled from Allan Grohe's two posts, so you don't have to hop around.

FIRST ADVENTURES IN DUNGEONEERING (by Gary Gygax, USA)

You have been thoroughly hooked on Dungeons & Dragon (D&D), and during the last few days every spare moment has been spent happily preparing several dungeon levels. Great care and thought have been employed to do things just so - and of course you have spent a bit of time laughing fiendishly at the thought of what the hapless dungeoneers will encounter in choice areas! Actually, you certainly don't want your players to get killed, for then they'd miss seeing just how cleverly you've set them up! They don't want to buy the farm either (unless the dice were unkind indeed). Think about that.

A good referee does not wish to deliberately set his players up for certain death in the game - although there are sometimes one or two players who... Anyway, by the same token you should not set out to aid them either. The whole purpose of the game is for the players THEMSELVES to face the challenge presented by the dungeonmaster's maze, to defeat it, or be defeated by it without help or hindrance. If they are clever they should survive and gain great rewards, and if they are stupid they should finish themselves off rapidly. This implies that you have located and numbered monsters carefully, so that the players can usually fight them on even terms, outwit them, or run like hell, i.e., one doesn't put invisible stalkers on the first level. If there are errors they will quickly be spotted on the first adventure, and they should be corrected before the next! In fact that is why I urge that a separate key listing monsters and treasure be kept for each level, rather than writing the information right on the map. With all this in mind, let's move on to the actual game.

Several players are gathered in some secluded place, and you have a good spot set up where they cannot see your dice rolls or map. It is a good plan to give them at least a half an hour to get everything together. Magic-Users will have to decide what spell they are going to take. Everyone will be selecting basic equipment, figuring costs and encumbrance. Although spell selection always takes a bit of time, we have pretty much settled upon the following as 'standard equipment':

dagger, 50' rope, 10' pole, 12 iron spike, small sack, leather back pack, water/win skin, lantern, 3 flasks oil, holy water/vial, quart wine, iron rations.

Your players can simply compute the price of what they set out as standard and save much time and effort. Additional items and encumbrances can then be noted aside as additions to the standard.

Your players will also have to appoint their leader and mapper. At this point everything is all ready for the first descent into the deepest dungeons! So let us move on to a typical account of a first trip, assuming that the players have moved outdoors to a ruined city which is reputed to have dungeons beneath it. The ‘dungeonmaster’ will be indicated as ‘D’, the party of the players as ‘P’.

D: “You have found the ruins of the deserted city of Detresed. You can see that there are streets going northeast, northwest, and north. Most of the ruins are nondescript, but due north you note that there are several larger structures, one or two of which are in less disrepair than the others.”

After going northwards a few hundred feet, and getting complete descriptions of the ruined edifices visible to them, the party selects a ruined structure which appears to have been a temple, and they enter cautiously. After thorough exploration they decide to ignore a set of steps they have located, for a vast stone idol hid a narrow shaft penetrating very deep beneath the temple. The latter would not normally have been located, but careful checking and perseverance found a secret door in the idol’s back. The party descends some 40’ into a large, circular arched chamber. It is 30’ in diameter and has eight doors.

P: “There is no sense debating, let’s take the door to the west, for it seemed that there were more ruins above in that direction than in any other direction. One member of the party will carefully try the door to see if it will open normally. All others will have their weapons drawn and ready in case there is someone or something behind it!”

D: “Door opens normally (without ANY sound, in fact), and beyond you see a 10’ wide corridor going north.”

P: “The door didn’t make ANY noise when we opened it?! Hmmmm. Examine the hinges.”

D: “They were oiled – greased lock.”

P: “Oh, oh! Watch out! These doors are USED. Helmets off, everyone. Listen at all of the other doors.”

After some time spent so listening, noise is detected behind the door to the east and that to the southeast. And meanwhile the dungeonmaster has checked, but the party is lucky and no wandering monster has happened along during the interim. The brave adventurers ready themselves, creep close to the eastern door, and ready an attack. Two of the six will watch the southeast, one will open the east door, and the three with bows will have their weapons ready as the door is flung wide.

P: “We are set. Open the door!”

D: “You see, ahh ((die roll)) 4 hobgoblins attending some sort of cleric. They are dressed in black and blood red garments. Now, did you surprise them? ((die roll of 3)) NO! Initiative check – you are at plus 1 because you prepared. ((The check shows that the party is able to attack before the cleric and his servitors will be able to react at all.)) The enemy is approximately 15’ away, by the by.”

P: “Loose arrows, drop bows, draw swords, and charge. If I can manage to cast a Sleep Spell during all this I’ll do so, but I will be careful not to cast it so as to include our men in its effect. The two watching the other door will maintain position.”

The dungeonmaster now checks to see which arrows score hits, whom the hits are scored upon, and how much damage is done. Simultaneously, he determines if the magic-user who opened the door will be able to get a spell prepared and cast – about equal odd for and against due to preparation and positioning. It is successful, and 4 of the hobgoblins fall to the floor snoring. The cleric was not named as a specific target, and as he is a 4th level (Evil Priest) the general area spell doesn’t affect him. He shouts loudly, points, and an attack is struck by a Light Wound Spell. Undaunted they press on, eager to close with the cleric and slay him. The next melee turn is spent by the party closing, with the cleric backing and raising his finger to deliver another Light Wound. Just as the party is about to hack and slew this evil opponent they hear shouts from the chamber without: “Beware! HOBGOBLINS! There are more who serve this priest…”

P: “Two of the fighters will finish the cleric off as quickly as possible. I will go to the door we just entered, with the other fighter, to help the rest of the party, but while he goes directly to aid them, I’ll stop and kill the sleeping hobgoblins here.”

A general melee now ensues in the chamber and in the room where the cleric fights on. Seeing that the party’s two fighters and cleric are seemingly holding their own against 6 hobgoblins, the magic-user creeps up behind the badly wounded Evil Priest and delivers the ‘Coup de grâce’. This frees them all for immediate attack upon the remaining hobgoblins. Good thing, too! One fighter and the cleric are down, and there are three hobgoblins attacking the remaining man. After a long round of attacks and counters the party finally wins, although only three remain alive – the magic-user leading it, an elven fighter, and a fighting man.

P: “Well, let’s quickly check the bodies and the rooms for any treasure. The priest’s quarters will be searched especially well by the elf.”

D: “You find some silver pieces in the pockets of the hobgoblins ((a dice roll determines how many for each)), and in the robes of the cleric you find a pouch with 100 gold pieces. Nothing else is found.”

P: “Let’s all go check out that room some more… I am not satisfied that we’ve located everything. But to be on the safe side, let’s spike the door shut good and tight, and the fighter will keep an eye on it also just in case.”

Several turns are spent in this manner, and finally a small trap door in the floor is discovered. It is lifted to reveal a hidden trove – an alabaster idol worth not less than 500 gold pieces. As the party is in bad shape, they elect to return immediately to the surface. Their comrades are buried, their own wound treated, and before passing on the idol to some merchant, they minutely examine it. It too reveals a small magical compartment, and after several days the magic-user manages to open it. Therein lies a map to a temple on the 4th level – a place veritably stuffed with treasure, but strongly guarded by many hobgoblins and powerful men and monsters. Better still, there are some very valuable gems hidden in the compartment too! When the survivors share the wealth and experience, they are all well-pleased and rewarded, all going up a level. Time now for them to seek some powerful allies and many men-at-arms for a special expedition to that temple…

The above may not be exactly typical, for many first adventures are spent trying to figure out where the party is, for mapping CAN be a difficult task until you get the hang of it. Also, many first-timers take on monsters too powerful for them, or don’t use ‘hit-and-run’ tactics as they should. Again, I have had first time parties who had adventures just about like the one above.

This should enable you to ready your dungeons. How about a questions and comments section from all of you next time? And I’ll try to answer in the next…

Now, my comments:

- "This implies that you have located and numbered monsters carefully, so that the players can usually fight them on even terms, outwit them, or run like hell," - sounds a lot like using GM judgment to set reasonably balanced encounters. But that's not really news to GMs - you're always putting up obstacles but rooting for the PCs to overcome them somehow. Still, sometimes it feels like people think encounters being set up so PCs can fight them on even terms was a new school, gamers-gone-soft invention.

- The magic-user is in charge. That happens very, very often in my experience.

- "Helmets off!" - Yes, you generally need to take off headgear to listen at doors in my games, too. Although, everyone? Geez, guys, have some care. Keep a couple people ready to fight and everyone else listen.

- Rolling for the number of hogoblins encountered at the time of the encounter? It's an interesting choice. It could be that he's just determining how many are there out of a larger, fixed pool, but nothing indicates it's not just determining how many exist only at the point of contact. Clearly, that's the case for the silver pieces later on.

- The +1 initiative for "preparation" is interesting, and not something I've ever seen elsewhere. It's potentially problematic in play, though, because people will want to know what counts as "preparation" and then do that 100% of the time. You'd also want to determine what monsters are "prepared" and thus negate it. A +1 on the roll wouldn't mesh well with AD&D segment-base initiative as I understand it to be played (or how I personally run it.)

- "“Loose arrows, drop bows, draw swords, and charge. If I can manage to cast a Sleep Spell during all this I’ll do so, but I will be careful not to cast it so as to include our men in its effect. The two watching the other door will maintain position.”"

So it's "If I can manage" - Would this count as conditional action, or as taking the chance the spell goes off or is "lost" because of interruption? It sounds like the former.

- The GM rolls for to hit and damage for missile fire and spell effects. Maybe melee as well . . . it's not stated either way.

- That magic-user gets a lot done - casts Sleep (careful to avoid including his friends, not an issue in all versions of the spell), killing the priest from behind, and slitting the throats of four hobgoblins. He cuts those throats faster than a proverbial Klingon.

- Combat is as lethal as always in example fights in early edition D&D books.

- "The priest’s quarters will be searched especially well by the elf." - I read that as "searched especially carefully and thoroughly" but it sounds like what one of my players love to say, "I (fill in the blank) with ease." "I slay it with ease." "I open it with ease." "I disarm it with ease." Etc.

- Who the heck is shouting "BEWARE!" in this example? Am I misreading something? It sounds like a third party - not the PCs, not the priest's buddies (why would they yell that?)

It's pretty interesting for all of that. I do really want to play some very old D&D at some point, not just AD&D. I may have to see if any of my players are like-minded and free at the same times I am to get a few games of something in.

18 comments:

  1. I roll for number appearing in a room at time of encounter as well. A little more background on that: I have a maximum number appearing in the room, then roll the dice to see how many of them are actually there at that point. The others are out wandering. I make a Per check to see if the others show up as reinforcements at some point, though combats in GURPS are so short in time that it becomes a second encounter, albeit with the PCs down FP. It's not good to be an ogre under these circumstances, as their low Per (from low IQ) makes them more likely to be picked off in small groups. I have a couple of blog posts on this from way back:

    Reinforcements:

    https://gurpshexytime.blogspot.com/2019/06/hue-and-cry.html

    Random number of monsters:

    https://gurpshexytime.blogspot.com/2018/08/dynamic-dungeons.html

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    1. Thanks for linking those.

      I have encounters that require rolls to see if monsters are there, if they're awake or busy, and even how many are currently in position . . . but never to see how many exist. They all exist, it's just a question of the current state. The initial reading I had of the above was that it was how many exist, much as the number of coins was not determined until they were rolled.

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  2. One thing that you missed but stuck out to me is that part of the treasure was a map. That's pretty common in OD&D, at least as written (I've never played OD&D), as 25% of rolls for magic items will be treasure maps. The destination of this map sounds like it's in the same dungeon, which is possible using the tables in the DMG but isn't the usual state (80% of treasure map destinations are outdoors by that table). It might have been the usual state of affairs in OD&D since there's no such table in Monsters & Treasure, or it might have been how Gygax ran things (he didn't seem to be that interested in outdoor adventures).

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    1. Maybe it's because I use them myself, or that I've played plenty of old adventures where maps were part of treasure. That didn't really jump out at me as anything really exciting.

      That and I didn't have anything to say except, see, you can give them a map as loot and they'll probably follow it. I once had an evil wizard who was trying to kill the PCs give them a map, and they followed it. This group is ~33% comprised of the same players, so the whole map thing didn't seem so exceptional. :)

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  3. "- "Helmets off!" - Yes, you generally need to take off headgear to listen at doors in my games, too. Although, everyone? Geez, guys, have some care. Keep a couple people ready to fight and everyone listen."

    Gary was soft on them. That's right, I said it, he was a big old "new school" softy... :P


    "- That magic-user gets a lot done - casts Sleep (careful to avoid including his friends, not an issue in all versions of the spell), killing the priest from behind, and slitting the throats of four hobgoblins. He cuts those throats faster than a proverbial Klingon."

    Well, he does get a whole Turn (which is like one whole minute)... but mostly you're conflating a whole bunch of Turns...

    Remember it goes:
    Turn 1: (3) Fighters loose arrows, drop bows, draw swords, & charge; MU casts Sleep; while two 'others' (a Fighter and Cleric) remain in the 'outer chamber' to watch the 'other door'.

    Turn 2: The next melee turn is spent by the party closing into a general melee between Evil Cleric and (3) Fighters, 4 hobs asleep. The two in the 'outer chamber' shout a warning “Beware! HOBGOBLINS! There are more who serve this priest…”

    Turn 3: MU and a fighter moves to door they entered; 2 fighters remain to fight the Evil Cleric; the 'moving' fighter continues into outer chamber to aid the Fighter and Cleric there against 6 hobs; MU starts slitting throats.

    Turn 4: MU sneaks up on EC and 'coup de grâces' him; hobs in the outer room kill the Cleric and Fighter.

    Turn 5: MU and Fighters pile out into the outer room to join the melee there (a Magic User getting into melee? Madness!)


    "- "The priest’s quarters will be searched especially well by the elf." - I read that as "searched especially carefully and thoroughly" but it sounds like what one of my players love to say, "I (fill in the blank) with ease." "I slay it with ease." "I open it with ease." "I disarm it with ease." Etc."

    I read this as "The elf will spend as much time as needed to get all the bonuses possible"


    "- Who the heck is shouting "BEWARE!" in this example? Am I misreading something? It sounds like a third party - not the PCs, not the priest's buddies (why would they yell that?)"

    Answered above.


    OD&D was a different beast (as well as AD&D 1 & 2), back when Magic users were expected to swing daggers and get into the thick as well... and died in droves...

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    1. In OD&D level 1 fighting men and level 1 magic-users appear to use the same to hit tables. "Men attacking." AFAIK.

      I mostly meant the wizard is very busy, not that he's acting very quickly except in the case of the hobgoblins. Moving, killing four opponents - even if helpless - and then getting into another action in one round (not turn, to be pedantic) is still quick.

      And I think on the elf, it's just thoroughness - there isn't any roll to make to find stuff in white box D&D, unless it's a secret door. So they're not fishing for bonuses but describing particular care in doing something.

      I briefly had a search-thoroughness rule set up for DF based on the time spent rules, but I abandoned it when the players always, always, always chose the maximum level of search. Literally 100% of the time. It doesn't help that they mostly seen wandering monsters as a fun distraction, and a potential source of "loot" in the form of monster parts, and not a cost. That's fishing for bonuses.

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  4. "This implies that you have located and numbered monsters carefully, so that the players can usually fight them on even terms, outwit them, or run like hell,"

    The last part, "run like hell", suggests that he is not averse to too-difficult encounters, but that the setup allows (a) the party to guess they are outclassed, and (b) the party a reasonable chance of avoiding the encounter as a result.

    'So it's "If I can manage" - Would this count as conditional action, or as taking the chance the spell goes off or is "lost" because of interruption? It sounds like the former'

    I took this as a question to the DM as to whether there was enough time in the round to attempt this.

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    1. I figured someone would point to that end bit. It's true, but the core idea for me is that you have a chance - to win by fighting, to win by outwitting, to evade by running. Since your options on all three are really level dependent, ultimately, it's really saying that balanced decisions about appropriate encounters are part of the basic job of the GM. It's not a numeric system like you'd find later for BECMI D&D, but it's still help up as a basic element of dungeon design. It's still on the continuum of balancing risk and reward and capabilities of the PCs that ends in scaled encountered.

      It's beyond a question - the player has put the answer in the GM's hands. The GM rolls to see if it's yes or no. On a failure, would that have been a partially prepared spell that was interrupted or the magic-user doesn't even try?

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    2. Yes, I didn't mean to suggest I disagree, I think a telegraphed, escapable not-level-appropriate monster combat encounter is actually a level-appropriate non-combat encounter.

      As for the latter, I expect the answer depends on the exact question, and EGG's current thoughts on how to handle it: this description is not consistent with his comments on p. 71 of the 1e DMG.

      In any event I consider EGG to be an unreliable source of information about how he ran his own game. He is sufficiently inconsistent in describing his game that I expect he was inconsistent in running it, so the player may well have been trying to figure out if the attempt was even worth it - managing the DM, rather than the situation.

      If he was DMed by p. 71 DMG EGG, he would have been out of luck, because EGG would have allowed him to declare and start the action without letting him know that there wasn't enough time in the round to finish it.

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    3. Yeah, shockingly, Gary Gygax gave us rules to play by that he didn't use himself. Heh.

      Lich Van Winkle put up a whole post about that.

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    4. I can't speak to Gygax, but I do know that Arneson constantly fiddled with the rules of his wargames. However he would print them out so people could at least read them.

      I strongly suspect that was simply the way of it back then, and those two just carried forward with that SOP ever after.

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    5. Fiddling is fine - but that same person wrote essays (and had people write essays on his behalf) that said you had to follow the letter of the rules as written or be playing wrong. Not only wrong, but in a manner that was ultimately going to break the game and not be fun.

      I tinker constantly, even beyond what you guys see here, but I never say you can't do the same. That's what drives the annoyance over GG's attitude. He could change things, but if you did, you were wrong.

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  5. "In OD&D level 1 fighting men and level 1 magic-users appear to use the same to hit tables. "Men attacking." AFAIK."

    Yeah... I'm mostly thinking of the Moldavy/BECM set (which followed the two "Basic" D&D books), that's old school to me. MUs with d4 HP and d4 damage... where (after just digging out my OD&D and leafing through it again)...

    There is only one difference between Fighting Men and Magic users at level 1, and that's 1 HP (depending on rolls). They do the same weapon damage, and I can't find any restrictions on mundane armor...


    On Turns/Rounds/Steps. In "D&D: Men & Magic Volume 1 of 3 Booklets" they're still using Chainmail rules... which used Turns and Steps.

    The above example play has the Party firing and //charging//, which isn't allowed (for non-cavalry) in Chainmail, so either gary was playing very fast and loose with the rules, or he was using rules from some later OD&D (but probably not yet Basic D&D).


    "I briefly had a search-thoroughness rule set up for DF..."

    That plagues me too. if I ever come up with something clever besaide just rolling on the Wandering Damage Chart*, I'll share.

    * Like a Wandering Monster Chart, but with zero chance of there ever being treasure. ZERO CHANCE. Only things that are either useless as treasure themselves (sublimating ectoplasmic slimes) or have such a terrible weight:value ratio that it will probably cost money to carry it out (generally if it drops below $2:1lb, unless my PCs have a cart and nothing but time and complete safety, they leave it).

    Yes, I have a Player who made a spreadsheet that has common item's weights and values pre figured for resale (40%) and if they're Cheap. Long Knives are surprisingly valuable...

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  6. Always interesting. But, man, that writing style... Wow. And not just the descriptions, but the alleged player quotes, such as, “There is no sense debating, let’s take the door to the west, for it seemed that there were more ruins above in that direction than in any other direction.“ Really?

    Other than that amusement, it is interesting—pretty abstract, player deaths are pretty casual, a ten-minute workday (they basically explored one room).

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    1. Back in the day the concept of "Party Leader" was basically like that. I remember suffering through a few groups with pushy individuals who demanded to be Party Leader and acted just like that, and when called on it, they pointed out the way examples were written in the books...

      I'm glad I haven't encountered that since the 80s. I stopped being as tolerant to that nonsense when I hit HS.

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    2. I was more astonished by the “for it seemed” thank the party leader taking charge. Who talks like that?

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    3. The kind who thinks "funny voices = roleplaying".

      I have friends who refuse to roleplay because that's what their first D&D game was like, and they found it boring to the extreme.

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  7. >> So it's "If I can manage" - Would this count as conditional action, or as taking the chance the spell goes off or is "lost" because of interruption? It sounds like the former. <<

    To me it sounds like the player is unsure of something his character would know: how much time the spell takes to cast compared to closing distance and the frequency of attacks (how long is a round). Since this appears to be OD&D played the combat system was barely described until Eldritch Wizardry introduced a revised, segmented initiative system. Before that it was "use Chainmail if you like" and consulting that said an exchange of blows takes a minute, give or take. So OD&D rounds were a minute long and consisted of one telling strike or one spell, but there was a LOT of leeway for the DM to allow more or less or assign risk to attempting too much...in which case the player is being wise by seeking the DM's opinion before stating he commits to an action (I heard Gary was very mean about tricking or trapping players that stated things rather than asked for clarification first).

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