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RuneQuest dungeons?

posted Feb 14, 2013 13:50:48 by DanTrue
Hey guys.

So far, all games I've run with MRQII/Legend and RQ6 have only had small dungeons (like single room tombs, three-room cave systems etc.) or have been more loosely described (like the Catacombs beneath Paris in Ex Cathedra from Deus Vult).

So, just to get an interesting discussion up and running. To what degree do you use dungeons in your RuneQuest/BRP games? I can imagine there were dungeons back in RQ3's days?
What makes these dungeons different from dungeons in other games? - other than the obvious ones (like not having a deadly encounter in every single room - I'm looking at you d&d!).
What do you like to see in your RuneQuest dungeons?
If you have experience running dungeons, what is your experience on the size? Initially one would think small dungeons are best, but do anyone have experience with mega-dungeons (Mines of Moria or Castle Greyhawk and Undermountain from d&d) - I've never run such dungeons, but they have a huge appeal with me.

And just to clarify: I mean dungeons in it's broadest sense.

Come one and come all :)

- Dan
[Last edited Feb 14, 2013 14:25:12]
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26 replies
RangerDan said Feb 14, 2013 16:38:33
The only dungeons I've run for RQ that could be considered large are from modules - The Rainbow Mounds (from Apple Lane) and Snake Pipe Hollow. (Both of these are great modules by the way).

To me these dungeons were different because they were much less a series of random encounters ('encounter zoo' as you say) and more a 'realistic' location that fit the rest of the setting. The inhabitants of those dungeons had lives and goals that players could intersect with in interesting ways, and it wasn't all about killing everything in sight to maximise xp. Admittedly I don't have many d&d dungeon modules to compare to, but too often when I played d&d NPCs just became xp pinatas in a way that I did not experience with RQ.

But I tend to not run dungeons in RQ (or any other fantasy game for that matter), probably out of laziness :-). Large dungeons need maps, and keys; whereas urban and wilderness action can be as memorable with a lot less preparation :-).

I recently bought the Spider God's Bride for Legend, and there's at least two large-ish dungeons there, though they seem to be only partially keyed and described. There's plenty of small tombs, temples, catacombs, etc. Maybe the small dungeons are more in line with sword and sorcery type play, which is closer to RQ's DNA than to d&d's.
Dreameister said Feb 14, 2013 16:51:57
Hey Dan,

Well, like you, I've only ever ran small dungeons like tombs and small caves. Unlike you, it was because I've never really liked the concept of huge dungeons (why would an ancient stronghold of the dwarfs become a colony of goblins while all the old traps still functioned was a pet peeve of mine in most campaigns that I've played in with D&D and one that never really got a satisfactory answer).

So most of what I used were things that made sense considering their purpose, so tombs were never bigger than a couple of rooms and a few of tunnels where panic attacks and claustrophobia were the real dangers because they were very tight places. Come to think of it, most larger caves I used were very loosely described, too (for more evocative effect than gaming pleasure).

However, I must admit that ever since WFRP 2nd edition Career Compendium published a Tunnel Warden career (don't remember if that was the actual name of the career) and especially since playing Torchlight I've been thinking on and off about doing a mini campaign in a ancient city setting, where the city has been built so long ago that layers upon layers of forgotten older cities and catacombs exist one atop of the other and all manner of critters and wonders can be found there.

The PCs would be part of a guild of lower class, menial workers and petty magicians who patrol the tunnels and prevent said critters from coming to the surface, reclaim lost wonders for a finders fee from the Temple of the God of Knowledge and of course stop "pesky adventurers" of the bored elite, professional mercenaries or downright desperate sort from entering the tunnels to seek riches and excitement.

Sort of like "Dungeon Punk" treated as a realistic affair :)

I think RQ6 with it's gritty rules would be a perfect fit for it.

jjwdrake said Feb 14, 2013 17:08:54
There's a reasonably-sized dungeon in my Age of Treason: Iron Companion - but it is actually a 'location' and up to the GM to decide who is lurking around in it, if anyone, and that is likely to change regularly. there's also one going into Shores of Korantia, but really - less than a dozen rooms. RQ2 and 3 had plenty of dungeons -Balastor's Barracks, Troll strongholds, Puzzle Canal, and some really nasty ones in the RQ3 Shadows on the Borderlands - was is Dyskund Caverns? Lost one of my favourite PCs to a gang of rather nasty broo there. Another is to be found in Pavis Rises, not played that one. Anyway, except for some of the early glories they are usually smaller in terms of number of rooms and more contained both because, as Primeval has pointed out, there tends to be be a governing rationale both to the location and its denizens.
PatHenry said Feb 14, 2013 19:23:39
Great idea for a thread; hope it receives much comment. I’ve suspected that, freed from the levels and related conventions (XP) of DnD the form is also freed from the need and purpose for mega-dungeons. RQ has never been big on random encounters and slaying for the sake of treasure; that's not what it is "about." Or it could be that the people who are drawn to RQ are also in some ways rejecting the classic forms of DnD. And I don’t mean this as criticism or commentary on a classic game I’ve played and loved.

In any case, dungeons’ve never been central to any RQ I’ve played or ran, although I have run a couple of extensive scenarios underground (very much like the D1-2 modules, and actually using those maps, although populated quite differently and leading to something quite different). Natural caverns, it seems, are less problematic than the construct of a dungeon warren and its (absentee) architects (Marko's pet peeve above).

“The city” seems more the classic RQ warren, IME.
Thalaba said Feb 14, 2013 23:34:34
I'm not big into D&D style dungeons either. I enjoy them as computer games, but I'd rather not spend my precious face to face gaming time slogging through one underground room after another. The only RPG megadungeon I'm familiar with is the Temple of Elemental Evil. T1 (village of Hommlet) was the first D&D module I ever bought and I had to wait for something like 10 years before T2 (Temple of Elemental Evil) came out. Man was it a disappointment. It was the last D&D product I bought, if I recall.

That said, I've used small 'dungeons' a few times in our homebrew campaigns.

One was a temple that the PCs snuck into via a submerged tunnel to rescue someone. They mostly explored the lower level and found the person they were looking for, along with many other prisoners. They wanted to rescue them all, but ended up tipping off the guard and had to fight their way out. Just when they thought they had accomplished their task the PCs encountered the temple guardian and were so scared they fled like rabbits into the tunnels. Afraid they weren't going to make it out, they ushered the large majority of the rescuees up a stairway that they hadn't explored as a diversion, then ran the other way. They eventually made it out intact, but their excape rout took them through the bottom of a well into which body parts were being thrown, so one assumes the people they tried to rescue didn't fare as well.

A second 'dungeon' was an old ruined tower made of lead (inspired by the picture of the Tower of Lead from the Dorastor book). They entered through caves in the basement and explored the place. There were some spirits (one PC got possessed) and many traps, but no monsters. One of the PCs accidentally summoned a rook of Zuba (similar to harpies in our campaign, but with the heads of dogs instead of women. The Zuba circled the tower on the outside in a frenzy, barking like mad, while the PCs explored the inside nervously. Then one of them accidentally set off an alarm which drew the Zuba inside and they had to fight them off. In all this tension, they forgot about the PC who got possessed, and he brought the malevolent spirit back home with him.

The most recent one was a simple tomb exploration. This had 3 chambers, each one hidden from the one before it. It had a spirit trap and a mechanical trap and some skeletal anthropomorphic crocodile guardians. They escaped the guardians with the look they were after, but once again the spirit spread disease among the group and played with them all the way home. I wrote this scenario (which spanned 2 sessions) up in more detail here:

I'm very tempted to try out the Broken Covenant of Calebais for our Ars Magica Campaign.

lawrence.whitaker said Feb 15, 2013 00:23:16
Like Thalaba and others, I'm not a fan of dungeons any longer. I enjoy the odd dungeon crawl and designed a few small ones (the one in Pavis Rises, for example), but they no longer fit my style. These days I get far more enjoyment, as a GM, presenting the players with a situation and seeing what happens. Dungeons require management, and I just don't have the patience for room-to-room, or cave-to-cave slogs any longer.

That said, RQ can do dungeon crawls very well, as long as characters have access to healing and/or rapid escape routes so they can go and get healing should they need it. The classics like Snakepipe Hollow, Rainbow Mounds, Dyskund Caverns and Balastor's Barracks showed that with the right context and ecology, dungeons and RQ can mesh very well indeed.

But for me, nah. Give me character and plot interaction, rather than player and room interaction, any day of the week.

He says, noting that there are no less than three dungeon-esque situations in 'Book of Quests'... :-)
MikeSchulenberg said Feb 15, 2013 04:44:55
What a great time for this topic to come up. I'm currently considering using RQ6 for a homebrew campaign setting I'm interested in developing in which I'd like to use dungeons. I'd like them to be larger than the 2- or 3-room affairs, but certainly not to the scale of the D&D-style dungeon crawl. Originally I was going to use a D&D retroclone for the setting, but it looks like RQ would work better with the setting out of the box, as well as being more malleable. Plus, I've never played RQ before, though I've owned different editions of it and always thought it looked pretty cool, so why not try it out?

Anyway, I'm currently reading the RQ6 rulebook and wondering how well it would work for the style of dungeon adventuring I'm thinking of. I'm considering a low-magic setting where sorcery and theist magic are the only disciplines available, but both are rare and more likely to be in the hands of the characters' enemies, rather than the characters themselves--at least in the beginning. Faster-than-natural healing might be handled by poultices, salves, and maybe the odd potion or two--just enough to keep the game playable and fun, while hopefully maintaining a somewhat gritty swords & sorcery feel.

I'd like to do dungeons where there's a logic to why they were built in the first place, why they've fallen into ruin and become the home of monsters, what monsters actually live there, and what they might be up to when the adventurers show up. I don't think I'd do random encounters, but I'd try to be mindful of possible event chains that the adventurers might set into motion once they start raiding the place. There would be the possibility of treasure, but not to the extent I remember from D&D modules, and I'd put some thought into why that treasure was there in the first place. I'd like to have some traps too, but in many cases they'd probably more likely be crude affairs set by the dungeon's current inhabitants, rather than the original ones left by the builders long ago, unless there was a reasonable explanation why they might still be active.

So it seems like RQ6 would be a good choice to deliver the sort of game I'd be looking for, but I'm interested in hearing about any difficulties I might run into, since I know it's a grittier game than D&D, which is certainly one of its many selling points. Any thoughts?
Dreameister said Feb 15, 2013 08:06:27
Well, like Loz said above, RQ and dungeons can mesh quite well if the characters have healing abilities and/or potions and can avoid a fight either by escape or a non combat tactics.

You should probably pay close attention to the part of the GM chapter concerning combat (page 421 and onward) as most of the advice there is even more important in dungeons, namely pace the encounters, make sure there are at least some non-combat ways to deal with opponents (and that the players are aware of that fact), make sure the PCs remember they can use luck points (maybe even hand out a couple more) and consider numbers of opponents (I'd use the rules for rabble and underlings for any horde monsters like goblins and such if I'd intend to use them at all), environment (how high is the ceiling, how far away the walls, how weapons interact with them) and how the PCs can utilize them to their advantage.

I'm sure more people will come up with lots more suggestions.

Skoll said Feb 15, 2013 09:35:28
For MRQI there was released a book named Ruins of Glorantha. There were general instructions and ideas there as well as some pre-generated dungeons, though the pre-generated ones were quite small. Nonetheless, if you manage to get it in your hands, it might provide some inspiration. (It doesn't seem to be available at through RuneQuest Archives.)
DanTrue said Feb 15, 2013 11:24:22
Awesome with so many views. Keep em coming :) It's very interesting getting a discussion about these things,

I just want to clarify - when I mean dungeons, I mean good dungeons ;) If taking all dungeons written for d&d most of them are just horrible and inconsistent. Traps not having been set off after 10.000 years, gelatinous cubes simply waiting in an empty corridors behind a secret doors (i.e. where food rarely arrives), encounters seemingly not affected by the grave-robbers you're chasing having passed by them... eck.

I don't like dungeons as the key gameplay element - dungeons should be rare, dangerous and interesting. I'm currently developing a "castle on the hill"-style dungeon, of a fair size, with numerous reasons to adventure to it (more than just "uh, stuff to kill and treasure to steal") with various new inhabitants vying for supremacy. I like this type of dungeons, where they have a profound effect on the world around them and aren't simply areas to go get treasure in. They should also allow character development - perhaps give the characters some hard decisions, reveal secrets forgotten by history which can lead to the downfall of kings or perhaps test their moral choices when dealing with sentient beings.

I have Apple Lane 1st edition, Griffin Island and Pavis Rises, I have Ruins of Glorantha and Snake Pipe Hollow on the way to me. But I think I'm saving these for a future Glorantha campaign when RQ6 Glorantha material and the GtG comes out - I wan't to try to run the classic stuff to get a feel for the world.
[Last edited Feb 15, 2013 11:24:44]
Skoll said Feb 15, 2013 11:36:39
While classic, Snake Pipe Hollow isn't exactly introductory material. It's designed for very experienced characters and is possible the cause of more PC deaths than any other module.
MikeSchulenberg said Feb 15, 2013 18:34:31
I've just been skimming various parts of the rulebook so far, but I remember seeing the advice on combat pacing in the GM chapter. Sounds like the way to go might be smallish dungeons with more of a focus on exploration and the promise of danger than combat; one major fight that awaits the adventurers at the end of the dungeon, with a sprinkling of smaller combats against weaker foes that build up to it, without weakening the adventurers too much; alternatively ways of dealing with monsters as suggested above; and dungeon hazards that require player thought and adventurer skill to defeat.

Ruins of Glorantha sounds like it might be work a look, and I've found where I can get it for a reasonable price, so I might take advantage of that.

redcrowkp said Feb 18, 2013 17:58:17
I'm not a fan of 'mega-dungeons' at all, but I have used castles, catacombs, tombs, etc. whenever its appropriate to the campaign. Typically though, the characters have a specific goal other than merely exploring and looking for treasure. I also like to play on feelings of isolation and claustrophobia as well as giving environmental 'home-field' advantage to anything/anyone the characters may encounter there. That is usually enough for the players to dread just the idea of going into a dungeon and when they do go in they certainly don't want to hang around any longer than they have to.
DanTrue said Feb 18, 2013 22:36:03
I also like to play on feelings of isolation and claustrophobia as well as giving environmental 'home-field' advantage to anything/anyone the characters may encounter there.

That is actually one of the reason I really like the idea of mega dungeons, and would like to run one at some point. The idea of being deep down in the bowels of the earth, needing to camp in old dugouts made for an unknown purpose, gradually it becomes clear that now the adventurers are not simply exploring or doing some quest - the goal has been to get out alive. The point where they dread killing enemies they meet, simply because it's the only company they've had for days. All the while the weird sounds of the deep, the toll continuous dangers put on them becomes evident, lack of proper light and rations ... all of it :D

I don't know, it has some weird appeal to me - but I've never seen a published mega dungeon which made sense, and wasn't just another random encounter table together with pages upon pages of mapped out rooms to fill with traps and monsters.

I'm leading my campaign up to a point where they will likely need to enter one, and it needs to be a memorable experience :) But it's pretty far away. Until then, I'll stick to a single average-sized dungeon and otherwise play on the intrigues going on in the nearby town.

- Dan
martinnomad said Feb 23, 2013 23:06:05
Two dungeons that I didn't see mentioned are Balastor's Barracks and the Puzzle Canal. Both set in the Big Rubble, which is itself basically a huge dungeon with open and underground areas.
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