Making dungeons dangerous again!

25 04 2010

The old-school dungeon is not a healthy place to hang out. The party needs to get in, do what they came for, and get out. Doing so by the rules on page 44 of the Labyrinth Lord™ book requires risk-taking, resource management, and luck. We at Faster Monkey made our little Turntracker as our attempt to keep the element of time very much in the game and, we hope, make things lively for players and LL alike. Of course, the Turntracker is a one-page product without a lot of instructions, so I wanted to post about just how the LL can put it to use.

  • One trick is to use estimated half-turns, so that little bits of time-wasting add up. Nothing more precise is necessary; the TT pointer lies either right on the line, or between two lines.
  • Another option is to place the TT outside the screen, visible to players and LL alike. This can really make everyone aware of the passage of each turn, which makes old-school dungeoneering so dangerous, and shows the party the inevitable creep toward the next burned-out lantern or possible wandering monster.

Time and luck: The two things that run out.

Here’s an example using half-turns and a visible TT:

“OK! Down the stairs, into the darkness. You light your torches. Are you guys rushing, or mapping and poking the floor with your pole and all that? Being careful, got it.” The cautious group moves only 120′ every ten-minute turn. The Labyrinth Lord could reduce this for armor or encumbrance if he wanted to, but even at full speed, progress comes slow and risky.

“The corridor goes about fifty feet to a room with some knocked-over benches in it.” The LL rolls the Turntracker forward about half a turn (for 50′ of careful movement).

“Search the room? OK, it’s 20 x 30. Are all four of you searching? No, Ed’s on guard? Fine, then it takes you a while…” The LL advances the Turntracker two full turns: three people searching six ‘squares’. On the way he passes the one-turn mark and rolls for a Wandering Monster. Negatory, so he completes the advancement and stops with the pointer at around 2 and a half.

“After 30 feet you reach a T intersection. Oh, the elf checks for secret doors? Fine, that’s a turn.” This delay often gets forgotten in play, but a search is a search. Note: Even though there are four characters, it takes at least one turn to search anything closely. For this reason the party might choose to have more than one person check. It doesn’t cost any extra time.

As the LL rolls the TT forward for the ten minutes it takes our sylvan friend and his helpers to carefully examine a stretch of wall that the LL knows to conceal nothing at all, the pointer hits the Wandering Monster die. The LL stops there, at 3 turns total, and makes the roll. Sure enough, some orcs come down the hall to see what the noise and light are all about. The resulting fight takes only a few rounds; at 6 rounds per minute, there’s no reason to change the TT. Looting the bodies and casting healing spells, however, the LL figures to take at least five minutes, and that’s another half turn. The TT stands at 3.5, and the secret door check isn’t even done! The orcs interrupted it. The LL asks the players if they want to take the additional five minutes to wobble every stone and blow into all the cracks. They decline. Note that the elf doesn’t even get a die roll because he didn’t finish.

“OK, left? You go another 30 feet to a door.” Together with the 30′ of travel done before the secret door stop and orc fight, this would add up to about half a turn of just movement, but the LL understandably forgot the first bit. No problem! It’s gaming, not science. The TT remains at about 3 and a half.

“The thief checks the door for traps? OK…” Another turn, and another often-overlooked delay. The TT stands at about 4.5 when the thief declares the door safe. The party argues about who will open the door until the LL’s finger casually lands on the Turntracker dial. Suddenly they shut up and the fighter pulls the door open. Time is danger, and seeing the consequences of delay brings that home.

Thirty more foot of corridor, carefully traversed, brings the pointer to 5. Another WM check, with no result. “Rest time!” declares the LL. Groaning, the players watch the TT advance instantly to six turns: one hour since the characters entered the dungeon, but ideally, much less time for the players at the table, kept on their toes by the constant threats of this hostile environment. “As you sit in the cold tunnel, swigging some lukewarm wine and adjusting your bandages, your torches start to flicker and go out. Mark ’em off!”

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3 responses

26 04 2010
MrJoel

While the book isn’t explicit, moving through areas that have already been explored should go much faster. Using the Encounter Movement rate, a maximum of 40 feet per round, allows 2,400 feet in a turn. At that speed, it’s easiest to simply ignore the time spent traversing previously-checked corridors and rooms.

15 09 2012
Sandra

How does FasterMonkey’s TT work when torches and rest aren’t synced up?

15 09 2012
bighara

Interesting question!

To keep things simple, it’s assumed on the dial that a party has lit a light source at the beginning of their exploration, etc. A simple pencil mark can help track offset durations.

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