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.