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Author Topic: The Labyinth: A D&D Campaign Setting  (Read 2221 times)

Posts: 15

« on: February 21, 2009, 09:36:50 PM »

Hello all,

I've recently joined a nearby gaming group, played a good session, and I'm starting to work on a new campaign of my own.  Its setting, the Labyrinth, was created in the forgotten past by who-the-heck-knows.  The prevailing belief among denizens of the Labyrinth is that it was created as a prison, though other theories do exist.  Apart from the structure itself, the only evidence of the Creators' intentions is the beings known as "The Warders", horrible fiends of immense destructive power which periodically devastate whole sections of the Labyrinth.  The only good thing about the Warders is that there aren't very many of them (I'm thinking ridiculously high CR golems or outsiders).

The Labyrinth is made up of "mazes" and "nodes."  Mazes vary in their size, physical laws (time might flow differently, gravity might work differently, et cetera), and composition (one maze could be a library, another an actual hedge maze, another a strange mechanical construct of immense scale).  Nodes tend to be smaller than mazes, and are generally more hospitable (mirroring the old D&D split between town and dungeon).  They are called "nodes" as they contain one or more portals to different parts of one or more mazes.  It is unknown how many mazes and nodes exist in the Labyrinth.  All that anyone knows is that no one has ever found "the exit" (some believe it doesn't exist).

I'm aiming for a really disorienting and bizarre adventuring experience.  As such, I've made a few calls as DM as to how things will work:
-Magic is commonplace.  I may make the PC races all have access to gnome-like cantrips, or reduce the level of certain spells (I'd like restoring limbs to be fairly easy healing, for instance, and I may introduce a critical system or called-shot rules that allows for a lot of limb removal).  "Everyday" magic is a common sight: tables that eternally overflow with foodstuffs, bags of holding, torches that ignite only when there are people in the room...  Most NPCs, if they are not simply wizards or sorcerors, will probably multi-class to get some arcane magic.  Divine magic is slightly less common, but still visible in most communities of any size.
-Perhaps as a part of the Creators' design, "forgetting" is commonplace.  Everyone has trouble remembering things in the Labyrinth.  What this means in game terms is that if the party leaves an area for an adventure or two, when they will return they will find that minor details are different than they recall.  The same goes for NPCs.  If the party is gone for long enough, they may encounter the same NPC, but I will give them a different name and description, indicating that the party has actually completely forgotten this person.  If the players cotton on, then it represents the characters' recognition, "You remind me of someone I knew a long time ago..."
-Nothing is as it seems!  In contrast to my previous adventures, in which sources of danger are pretty clearly marked (he's got a sword) and straightforward (he's going to stab you), I'll be loading up the Labyrinth with traps and devious magical opponents.

I'm hoping to create a play experience in which players feel constantly lost, and mistrust their environment at every stage.  That being said, it is of course only through interaction with the environment that the PCs will be able to survive.  I'm curious to see how players react to this state of affairs, and what strategies they innovate.

Advice I would like:
-ANY nasty DM tricks involving traps or spellcasters.  As I've said, I don't have a lot of experience with this kind of stuff so any and all tips would be much appreciated.
-Regarding "Forgetting", I realise I'm breaking one of the core tenets of the DM-Player contract: the world is consistent.  How can I put bounds on this?  My first thought is that forgetting takes time.  If players operate out of one node for several adventures, exploring various mazes, then they may only find that the door of the inn is red instead of green this week.  This gives them at least some short-term stability.  Another thought, that I haven't figured out how to resolve, is that characters with high wisdom or intelligence scores might be less prone to forgetting.  Perhaps a check or save should be allowed to "remember" certain details?
-Whatever else you can come up with, naturally.

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2009, 11:19:48 PM »

Given your setting and play idea, you may find The Dungeon as a Mythic Underworld an interesting read.

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Posts: 15

« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2009, 12:43:50 AM »

Great article, thanks grey!  I have to admit, I started designing this wanting to get "back in the dungeon" as I have been running outdoorsy, city, or political adventures lately.  My first thought was "What excuse would I have to stick them in any kind of dungeon whenever I wanted?"  The answer in the article, which I quite like, seems to be "Absolutely none!  It's magic!"

Posts: 83

« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2009, 09:31:51 AM »

I think that your Labyrinth idea is fantastic and would be interested to know what types of random tables you have created for the ever-changing mazes.

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. You might track down a copy of Philip Jose Farmer's The Dungeon series from the 1980's. It's a six-book adventure where the main character is wandering through this labyrinth-like place that changes a lot, and it might give you some inspiration as to what kinds of people and places to stock your labyrinth with. Some of Farmer's ideas are just plain strange (to me) and I got tired of the series before the end, but perhaps there are some good ideas to be mined therein.

2. You might think about changing eras of time in addition to space. In other words, the "dungeon floor" could turn into wooden boards if you have the characters in the 1800's or some sort of tile in the 1900's or maybe metal in a future setting or even simply dirt in an ancient time. Also, think about whether or not you want technology to be found and/or work in various settings. Would a Wild West six-gun function in a midievel maze? The TORG RPG (West End Games) mixes several genres together and has rules for characters trying to impose their will on the surrounding reality in order to make technology function in places where it shouldn't. (I love the concept of TORG but not the MasterBook rules system.)

3. If you want to expand to other eras of time, there are some D&D compatible resources out there.
* You didn't mention the version of rules you are using, but there are sourcebooks like d20 Past and d20 Future that can have some good equipment items and maybe some charts for your use.
* If you're using an older version of the game, the Gamma World and early Metamorphosis Alpha rules sets are pretty good, and the Buck Rogers RPG is extremely AD&D-like in its rules presentation. The TSR version of Empire of the Petal Throne is very much old-school D&D with an odd scifi/fantasy blend. There are some "retro clone" rules called Mutant Future that are a free download through Goblinoid games and they are very similar in feel to D&D.

Anyway, I'd love to get a look at the charts you develop and get some playtest reports on how this goes because I'd love to run such a game. Thanks for giving me the idea and hopefully I've given you some as well. :-)

Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * DFRPG * ADRP
I'm mosty responsible for S&W WhiteBox
OD&D Player since 1975
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