Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ambition & Avarice Session Recap - Closing the Door on Dwimmermount

Martin McKenna
We literally just wrapped up tonight's session of Ambition & Avarice using the first level of Dwimmermount as the dungeon location.

First, the highlights:

Last week we added Mike G from Occult Moon Games to the group and this week we added David P from White Haired Man. They're a pleasure to game with and no, I'm not trying to stack the deck by adding game and adventure writers and publishers. I just happen to be lucky to know some creative types ;)

Ambition & Avarice is a really tight system. Nothing noticeably off balance (but I do know why Greg put extra attention to flaming oil in his game designed - it's come up in both session - heh).

Now for the rest of it:

We've closed the door on Dwimmermount, at least for now. By my best estimate, the party has completed about 35% of the first level and have found the stairs leading to the next level of the dungeon. There were two party casualties tonight - one in combat and one to a poisoned trap. Two out of five PCs, in just over 2 hrs of actual game play. A bit higher in lethality than I would have hoped for, especially as I allowed the players to start at second level.

The lethality would have been significantly higher if more than 21 of the 68 number locations had adversaries. While that is roughly 31%, and the AD&D DMG sets it at 25-30% (depending what you consider "special" to include), it's a much thinner population than other adventures I've seen. That, and the repetitive dungeon dressing was frustrating some of my players.

I will say this, the best gamer rant I've heard in a long time was to the effect of the following:

"What the fuck! 2000 copper pieces in a rats' nest? What the fuck are rats doing with 2000 copper pieces? Can they even count to 2000 copper pieces? Did Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser have to pick through rat shit to find 2000 rat shit cover copper pieces?"

Little combat and little loot leads to low experience points rewards. I've done low rewards in the past, but this was a bit painful. Under normal circumstances, I'd change and add things in advance and adjust to my group, but we were trying to playtest both A&A and Dwimmermount, and to be as true to both as we could. Currently, Dwimmermount is not a match to my gaming group's style of play.

Could it be they're more comfortable in the sandbox styled game I was running with ACKS? It's possible, but the last few sessions we played of ACKS were using Barrowmaze 1 and there the only concern was the sheer amount of undead. I've also put them through smaller dungeons without issue.

So, we're closing the door on Dwimmermount for now and moving on to a different dungeon adventure next week.

We'll see if the change of setting does the party good.


  1. Did you tell the player whining about the copper pieces that there is no crying in baseball?

    It is hard to comment about Dwimmermount since I don't have a copy, but a DM can rationalize most things in a dungeon and what they can't rationalize they can change. Outside of some early material, mainly by Gygax, I've always had to alter published campaigns to fit my groups style. That is no bad reflection on published modules but maybe modern DMs (Especially the breed that want to call themselves GMs because the letter 'D' somehow offends their poor sensitive souls) just don't understand that most published modules are meant to be changed and that very few manage to be all things to all DMs and need individual alteration.

    Read the god-damn adventure 1st. That's the DM's job, make changes that fit your own sensibilities and what you judge to be your players expectations for a fun, enthralling adventure. For some players, mainly those who haven't been sucking on WotC sugar-teat, high-risk, low reward is fun and challenging. It is what has kept some campaigns alive for years rather than the 6 month sugar high that players of modern editions seem to crave.

  2. A large number of "empty" rooms is fine if there are signposts (in effect) to populated areas, roaming patrols, and a good chance of wandering monsters.

    2000 cp is only silly in the accumulation of 2,000 of them, would the players really complain about 20 gp?

  3. @JD - I think the complaint was also - after 90+ minutes of play, their first loot was 2000 CP in a pile of rat shit.

    Truthfully, if it was 2000 GP, they would have said te same thing.

    @Jason - the exercise was to run Dwimermount "By The Book". As one of my players had played previously in a session with James Mal, apparently I did a good job in keeping to the original. It just wasn't a good fir for my group "as is".

    I houserule every game system I've run - I do the same with every purchased adventure. It's my nature. I didn't house rule A&A (as we are testing the rules) and I didn't adjust Dwimmermount (as the exercise was to play as is)

  4. As the ranter mentioned above, here are some more sober thoughts. As Erik said though, it wasn't the cp v gp, it was the sheer un-coolness factor of it all.


  5. As someone currently designing a megadungeon (for the lulz as much as anything), I see the following things that left me unimpressed.

    1. it was asked a few times, "Tell me again why if fuck we're here?"

    When the best answer we can come up with is "it's Saturday night", because there is nothing really to draw the PCs into the place and nothing to be gained except hopefully ditching George, it's a little weak.

    2. Generally our exploration choices were either tactical (check out each passage on the way past so hopefully we won't get flanked) or essentially random. With only a couple of exceptions it didn't matter which way we went.

    Since Greg said the adventure ran much as it did when James M ran it, I don't think it was a fault of Erik's playing. It seems to me this was a poorly-design dungeon with no rhyme, reason, or even sense.

  6. I don't know nuthin bout no Dwimmermount. However, I agree about houserules, especially if it speeds up play. Nothing derails a gaming session faster than looking up some vague, complicated rule that's rarely used. Unless, of course that's what the players like.

    I think I read years ago, that Gygax said ( don't hold me to this ) that the published books were great for tournaments and game sessions at conventions. That way everyone would be using the same rules, it would be fair for tournament particpants, some of which had prizes, and there would be no surprises. Not an exact quote, but I think that was the gist of it.

  7. Sounds like your players need to suck it up and roll dice.

  8. Well, to be fair, you are presumably talking about Room #46, which has 2000 cp, but also some jewelry worth 800 gp, 200 gp, and 30 gp

    So basically 1000 gp worth of treasure plus the coins if they really want it.

    Did your players come in through the cave entrance? That's a lot of treasure coming in the proper entrance (1)

    But at any rate, the very next room (47) has 6 orcs with 2000 gp plus a few gems (not worth much)

    I do think it's kind of odd how he always has even numbers, like 2000, 1000, and so on.

  9. 2000 CP seems strange to come across considering the rats have presumably been scrounging them up because they were shiny: 1948 copper pieces say, would seem much more reasonable to find, then have the DM handwave it as being "2000 CP". Or you could have a couple of rats running up to deposit coins at the start of the encounter, and then when it turns out to have 2000 at the end, it's one of those "Huh, what a coincidence we turned up just at that point" things.

  10. @Jeremy - 6 orcs with 2000 GPs? That's balanced?

    To my eyes, that's inflation right from the beginning, not just spending cash for the PCs but expo earned. Not much risk for 2k expo.

    The PCs entered through the proper entrance.

    @Craig - excellent and valid points, but my players wanted "Dwimmermount as James Mal wrote it" not "Dwimmermount as Erik Tenkar interprets it".

    I played the hand I was dealt with, which was unsatisfying for most of the party.

  11. When I'm testing a set of instructions at work (which is much the same as what Erik was doing here) I follow them exactly. I don't deviate from them because I know better how to do the task, I'm there to find out if the instructions work, and what they do if they don't work.

    Erik was testing Dwimmermount. As with the testing I do, you follow the instructions when doing this. That you would do something else if you were playing it for real is irrelevant.

    Erik tested Dwimmermount. It didn't work for us as written. That he could have made it better is not important, given that his intent was to test Dwimmermount.

  12. Sorry, I had realised that you were running "as written" and your purpose for doing so; my suggestions had been on ways of improving the written encounter, being in agreement with your groups feedback.

  13. One of the big challenges of writing and publishing a megadungeon is not burying the user in detail. A lot of rooms inherently have to be pretty bare-bones and are supposed to be fleshed out in their descriptions at the table, based on the general level notes and the DM's creativity; that usually works a lot better than putting multiple paragraphs of description into each room.

    That said, the bare-bones content still needs to have some imaginative spark; it has to give the DM and the players something to work with and an interesting skeleton to which to add that flesh.

    In this case it sounds like two issues- 1. The skeleton given isn't/wasn't very interesting, and 2. You did hamstring the DM by not letting him riff off of it. I suspect James deserves some criticism for not making his creation more interesting, but it does sound like part of the issue was not using it the way a megadungeon is made to be used.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition