It all started so well…

The first descent into Zenopus Tower was brief but a great learning experience.  The PC’s ran a small loop through rooms N, J and A then hightailed it back up the stair into Portown.  The initial probing into the corridors of the tower involved the MU and Thief pushing the Dwarf into a scouting role due to his infravision and trap detecting ability.  Luckily for them no traps were present as he failed all of his checks.

Arriving at the door of room N they spent a lot of time arguing over how to enter (having heard nothing from within), eventually settling on bashing down the door.  After 5 noisy attempts they much to break in where they were confronted by several angry giant rats.  The rats turned out to be easy pickings for the bow-armed Thief (2 kills) and the Dwarf (1 kill), while the MU quivered in the corner waving his torch about.  The noise of combat attracted a couple of skeletons  – again the Thief and Dwarf accounted for 1 each while the MU cast Shield and continued to hide in the corner.

The sarcophagi in room N proved tempting – they jewellery and coronet from sarcophagi no. 3 & 4 were pilfered, while the MU finally made himself useful and warned against touching the dagger in no. 2.

The constant trickle of giant rats from the tunnels of room N caused some anxiety in the PCs, so they fled through the western door, barricading the door behind the with lids from the sarcophagi.

Again the Dwarf was used as monster bait, advancing through the corridors to room J where he was leaped upon by the enormous spider hiding in the shadows.  Luckily his armour kept him from harm until the thief decided to pitch a flask of oil at the spider.  The ensuing conflagration not only forced the spider to the back of the room, it also fried the Dwarf who, beard afire,  subsequently fled into room A – right into a goblin ambush.

The MU and Thief swiftly followed into room A to help the sizzling Dwarf while the spider was hedged by the pool of fire.  One Goblin was gutted by the Thief but the remaining trio proved to have the dice on their side.  The MU mumbled threatening words and made significant gestures at the goblins, convincing them that he was conjuring something awful, but instead turning tail and, with the help of the Thief , dragging the cooked Dwarf out of the Tower.

The PCs headed back to the Green Dragon Inn and found a healer in Portown to treat the Dwarf (he was down to a single HP!).  He’ll be laid up for a while, but this will give the party time to plan the next descent.

The session went well – there was a good balance of tension and humour, and the rewards balanced out the dangers.  Each party member found a role to play – the Thief as eagle-eyed archer, the MU as coward and, eventually, saviour, and the Dwarf as cannon-fodder.

I also made this table as a convenient way to track time and resources.  Feel free to pinch it. Tone’s Holmes Turn Counter.

Cheers, Bogeyman

The Adventurers

The first party is now ready to enter Zenopus’ Tower:

 

Akka Warsmasher (Dwarf)

Lvl: 1                      XP: 0 (+5%)

HP: 8                      Alignment: Chaotic Good

STR

INT

WIS

CON

DEX

CHA

14

12

9

13

12

12

Languages: Common, Dwarvish, Gnomish, Kobold, Goblin

GP: 4

Equipment: plate armour, shield, sword, dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10’ pole

 

Hieronymous Worm-Tickler (Magic-User)

Lvl: 1                      XP: 0

HP: 1                      Alignment: Neutral

STR

INT

WIS

CON

DEX

CHA

11

15

5

11

6 (-1)

12

Languages: Common, Gnolls, Bugbears, Ogre, Hoboblin, Priests Cant, Warriors Tongue

GP: 4

Equipment: dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50’ rope, 2 vials holy water

Known Spells: Read Magic, Dancing Lights, Enlargements, Shield, Ventriloquism

 

Schüten Fest (Thief)

Lvl: 1                      XP: 0 (+10%)

HP: 3                      Alignment: Neutral

STR

INT

WIS

CON

DEX

CHA

8

9

7

13

16 (+1)

8

Languages: Common

GP: 20

Equipment: sword, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows, 6 silver tipped arrows, leather armour, backpack, waterskin, lantern, 4 flasks oil, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope

 

Magic-User languages were generated by rolling on the wandering monster table.  Starting equipment was generated randomly using Untimately’s great random tables.

More after their first delve… Bogeyman

Portown

Below is my map of Portown based on the snippets of information that Holmes provides in his sample dungeon in his basic rules.  I’ve also added ‘Ajax’ Expeditions Unlimited’ from Holmes article ‘Warriors for Hire’ in Alarums & Excursions 11 (text at the Hall of the Mountain King).  The street plan for the map was put together using Zak’s simple and excellent Urbancrawl Rules.

Portown Blog Map Scaled UpKey:

(1) Tower of Zenopus, (2) Thaumaturgist’s Tower, (3) Cemetery, (4) Sea Caves (dotted line is tunnel from Tower of Zenopus), (5) The Green Dragon Inn, (6) Palace of Lord Profane (father of Lemunda the Lovely), (7) ‘Ajax’ Expeditions Unlimited’, (8) Southern Caravan Route, (9) Ruined walls of ancient, unknown city.

Holmes also mentions catacombs beneath Portown but I’ve yet to decide where the entrance/s will be.

Anything that I’ve missed?

Cheers, Bogeyman

A New Beginning… Of Sorts…

Despite quite a bit of work, my Hollow Earth campaign has been set aside.  While they liked the concept, my players just want a chance to hit goblins and chase loot.  I can understand where they are coming from and the work will not be wasted.  So I’ve set the Hollow Earth aside for future development and instead started to put together a new Holmes Basic campaign with Portown and the Tower of Zenopus adventure as our entry point.  The silver lining is a lot less work on my part (my being over-ambitious undoubtedly contributed to the Hollow Earth setting not quite gelling with everyone).

We have our first dungeon – now I just need to put together a simple map of Portown and its immediate surrounds if the dungeon proves to hairy and we can go from there.  This will also give me a chance to put into practice more of the great info and advice that I’ve been given from the OD&D Forums.

More updates soon for anyone watching this space.

Cheers, Bogeyman

Hollow Earth – Demihumans

De-Ro (Dwarves)

Clothed in rags and dirt, hung over with scrap; an ill-shaped body, a humped back, their hair long, coarse, matted.  They are creatures of the Titans, stunted and warped by improper and reckless use of machines left to rust in the deserted, subterranean cities of their long-fled masters.  They die of age, cannot read or write, but they know the ancient warrens of this Hollow-Earth well and they preserve and manipulate the antique tech-junk of the Titan cities with pious purpose.

Atlans (Elves)

Once the ever-youthful, ever-living companions of the Titans, they are now the sun-touched and degenerate remnants of a star-spanning culture.  Abandoned, no longer immortal, they nevertheless see themselves as heirs and custodians of their lost civilization.  Still long-lived they cling together aloof in scattered enclaves, vainly striving to maintain their dwindling authority over the Hollow-Earth, pathetically aping the grandeur of their forbears.

Barinneans (Halflings)

A diminutive offshoot of the primitive human species that inhabit the Hollow-Earth, they infest forest and jungle-canopy alike.  They care little for the Titanic remains that dot the landscape, less so for the civilising delusions of the abandoned Atlans.  Frivolous, gluttonous, and self-absorbed, they crave celebrity and seek fame and fortune with a complete disregard for consequence.

Cheers, Bogeyman

Characters & Character Generation

Initial ideas only:

PCs are generated as per Holmes, except that of course they will be stone-age, primitive versions of Clerics, Fighting Men, Magic Users and Thieves (and obviously equipped as such, with an X% chance of possessing some arcane technological device of the Titans).

Demi-Human classes remain the same except for the following:

  • Halflings are primitive pygmies
  • Dwarves are albino troglodyte types
  • Elves are remnants of the Atlans

Alternatively, PCs may elect to be a Stranger in a Strange Land.

The premise:

  • All hollow-earth stories involve a visitor: someone who, either by accident or design finds themselves thrust into the earth’s core and subject to frequent and harrowing adventure.   Thus, the Stranger.

  • These Strangers may be drawn from the past, the present or the future (historic or imagined).
  • In ERB’s Pellucidar time is non-existent: the sun doesn’t move in the sky therefore a continual noon prevails.  I’m not sure I want to take my hollow-earth to that extreme, but I do want to impose temporal divergence and distortion between the inner and outer world (years in one world equal mere seconds in the other and vice-versa, i.e. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

Consequently, and with a nod to Holmes, the Strangers to the hollow-earth may be from any time period – Roman legionnaires, nineteenth-century prospectors, Elizabethan occultists, Byzantine cataphracts, Tech-city gang members, Tibetan mystics, or whatever.

Strangers may be of any human-class but may not be demi-humans.

Strangers come equipped as a ‘normal’ example of their type (to be negotiated between player and referee), but with restrictions:

  • Ammunition for any firearms carried will be strictly limited and the chances of finding more are slim (but not impossible…).
  • Any advanced technological equipment has X% chance of being broken/malfunctioning during the Stranger’s arrival in the hollow-earth.
  • Strangers will be at a disadvantage in terms of languages (a ‘common’ pidgin-tongue can be learnt fairly swiftly) and local knowledge (‘what is that hairy thing and why is it chewing on me?’).  I’m yet to decide if I want to pin these restrictions down or just deal with them on a case-by-case basis.  It may just be simpler to provide the primitive PCs with a ‘local knowledge’ skill advantage.

Considering how lethal Holmes seems to be I’m not too concerned about giving players a few initial perks.  Your semi-automatic will soon be nothing more than a funny-shaped club, and that fine suit of armour is only a bad case of heart-burn for a T-Rex.

Stranger-Fighting Men and -Thieves should work without too much trouble.

Stranger-Clerics that come from the outer world will need to carefully reconsider their faith: only Zeus, Crom, Set and Cthulu have any traction down here.  Otherwise, they may have to try atheism.

I’m still thinking about Strangers as Magic-Users and magic-use in general. I’ll get to this in a later post.

Cheers, Bogeyman