Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Tools of the Megadungeon

I am running a bit behind on the blog. Between the Kickstarter and Totalcon, I have been busy. I am hoping to start catching up. Today I am going to talk about how PCs use equipment in the megadungeon. I have included Swords & Wizardry's  equipment list for reference. (S&W is now published by Mythmere games, with a new printing upcoming).

A lot of the items listed in the rules are there for dungeon exploration. Some are ubiquitous, but some are pretty specific to the dungeon environs. Parsing the list:
  • Bell
  • Chalk
  • Crowbar
  • Lamp (and Lanterns)
  • Mirror
  • Pole (10 foot)
  • Spike, iron
Are all specific to the dungeon environment. Players can use these (and other items) in a variety of ways to increase their survival rate within a dungeon.

Bells are excellent for alerting the party when they would be otherwise unaware. Tying one to a door that the group didn't open may alert them to a danger coming through that door behind them. Doing the same in a room where they are resting may just wake them in a timely manner. Timely enough to avoid a TPK, anyway.

Chalk is most commonly used to mark where the party is going and has been. It works well on stone and metal, so it is great for the dungeon. It's also not heavy like paint or liable to destroy a spellbook like ink. Other uses players have used in my games include: using chalk dust to find invisible creatures (also done with flour), and using it to mark a large area (to see if/what kind of foot traffic flows through).

Crowbars are almost a necessity in dungeon environments. Stuck door? crowbar. Chest won' open? crowbar. Reach into a hole to pull a lever? Nope. crowbar. 

Lamp and lanterns (torch

Lewes Bonfire, used with CC

es too)
 are light sources, a very necessary thing within dungeon environs. Modern D&D allows nearly everyone to have darkvision. In the early games, only demi-humans had the ability to see in darkness, and even that was flawed (depending on the edition). Light = life in the dungeon.
Further, the lamps and their ilk are ready-to-go fire sources. Great for lighting that flask of oil or the strange fireplace within the depths. Fire is often the best friend of the adventurers, they should never leave home without it. 

Mirrors are one of the most important items an adventurer can have. Besides making a Medusa less deadly, mirrors allow adventurers to see around corners without sticking their neck out (literally). They can be used to trick opponents (by placing them where the enemy will see the reflection, as in Clash of the Titans).

10' Pole

Pole (10 foot) is the trap finder. Tap the floor, ceiling and walls ahead of you. The hope would be to set off any traps while you are still 10 feet away. Also useful for opening doors, chests and other things from a distance. Use to dry out clothes when they got wet. Truly an awkward miracle solution to all of the adventuring problems. 

Spike, iron are useful for keeping things open and shut, as the party finds necessary. Drive a couple into the plane (usually the floor) closest to the item in its desired position. 

Besides the items listed in the S&W book here are several more that my groups like to use when delving Mord Mar, Barrowmaze, Rappan Athuk and other megadungeons:

  • Sledgehammer (sometimes that wall has to come down)
  • Marbles or ball bearings (is this floor sloping up or down? Can I trip the monster?)
  • Small animal (canary in a coal mine. Used to detect dangerous/deadly air)
  • Grease (to quiet doors, or to make a slippery escape)
  • Wax (to clog holes, seal disturbed sarcophagi, use to block sound from the ears)
Old School D&D relied heavily on the dungeon. The equipment list shows just how much. Exploration was key to the game, and the tools players used facilitated that.

A quick reminder, Fantastic Geographic #3 is live on Kickstarter until March 14th. If you enjoy my blog articles, please take a look at the zine.

*While looking for a 10' pole image, I found it on this site:
It may also be of interest. 

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen the equipment list in Ambition and Avarice 2e? Just something you might find cool.

    Check out 4:20 in this video: