Monday, April 13, 2020

Lair of the Lamb

I've been reading Conan again, and his mighty thews have inspired me to write up an old dungeon.  Basically, you were locked in a dungeon as a sacrifice to Something Terrible and now you've got to escape.  Get it

It's meant to be an introductory dungeon, suitable for newer players.  It's a level 0 funnel, so its not very friendly, but I think it teaches all the lessons that dungeoncrawling has to teach, and it teaches it in only 21 rooms.

One of my favorite things about funnels is that you can have awesome, lethal elements right next to the more mundane ones.  Or put another way, it's the only time you'll see a cabbage farmer hit a godling with a brick.

Since you start as a naked level 0 peasant, you don't have any items, much less any abilities.  So writing this has been an interesting study in minimalism for me.  They can't bring any torches into the dungeon, so how many torches should I stock the place with?  Where should I put them?  It has some of the same calculus as a survival horror game, I think.

A lot of the lethality is theatric.  If the Lamb stops and eats every one of its kills, the party can easily escape it, with only a single loss each time.  That will never incur a TPK.  It is still disruptive, though, and hopefully a little bit horrific.

I'm pretty proud with how many people there are to talk to in those 21 rooms.  One friendly, one antagonistic, one greedy, and one hungry.  The greedy one is a merchant on the surface, who will sell you items at a high markup, passing them through a tiny crack in the ground.  I don't think I've seen that one in a dungeon before.

There's also the pools from B1, because I liked those pools.  Only four mysterious liquids, though, which I think is a more reasonable number.

There's also breadcrumbs for characters to become a cleric or warlock after leaving the dungeon.

I'm worried that the environment might be a little too claustrophobic and confining, but we'll see.  There's only one loop in the dungeon (although there will be more once it links up with part 2.

The items may also need some rebalancing, but again, we'll see.

This is also a big departure from my usual approach, where I don't write up a PDF until I've playtested something 3+ times.  I've only run this dungeon once, a long time ago, and in a very different form.

I still intend to revise it though, so if YOU run this dungeon, let me know how it goes.  (Consider it to be payment for an otherwise free PDF.)


  1. Aahhh, fresh new Goblin Punch dungeon! And chock full of nasty imagery to haunt players with. Tons of hooks for further adventure. *immediately wants to run it*

    I love how easy you've made this on the DM. Little helpers like the mini maps, or text clues like "leads to 12 MOUTH MURAL" instead of 12, to prime our memories and allow us to narrate ahead. I do think that extra loops would be fun - perhaps some extra secret passages, for instance between 4 & 7, 9 & 20, 12 & 18?

    Reading through the pdf, a couple of things caught my attention. Easily handled by the DM at the table, but since you're thinking of revising anyway...

    page 3, Dungeoneering:
    - should lanterns be handled under light sources, because it's probably the first source the players find?
    - measure --> measures

    page 4, right column, last paragraph:
    capital W for "we will learn..."

    page 7, under 6 TUMBLERS
    - first bullet point: "door to 6 THRONE" --> "7 THRONE"
    - "The password is 1-2-1-2: might consider adding "See 9 FOUNTAIN" and perhaps a mural clue routed in Vandoh doctrine for those who think to ask Akina?

    page 8, under 9 FOUNTAIN
    - "...the weight of their armor"
    perhaps make it clear that this is part of the vision (I was caught thinking "where'd they get armor from?)
    - "catching dungeon slough"
    sounds horrible! what's it do?

    page 8, under 10 BONE PILE
    - add "of" between "amount" & "searching"

    page 9, under 13 MURAL: perhaps point the reader to 15 CRACK?

    page 9, under 15 CRACK
    "A second bite bite" --> one bite is enough, thank you ;)

    page 10, under 16 MOLD
    perhaps spell out that PCs who partake of the fungus can choose to become a cleric? (and add a nasty side-effect of course ;)

    page 11, left column, last sentance:
    "will all of..." --> "with all of"

    page 11, right column, third bullet point:
    add damage to the acid

    page 13, under Davok:
    next to last paragraph: add "it" to "capable of destroying."

    last paragraph: "if they chose to ..." --> "choose" fits the tense of the rest of the paragraph. And does the thrall have to travel with Davok (and out of the campaign), or can they become a PC?

    1. Corrections have been made; thank you.

      I'm going to avoid adding more loops into the map (although it did have a path between 9 and 20 in its first iteration) just because (a) I want to keep the Lamb threatening, despite being slow, and (b) I want them to treasure the loop once they find it, and work to preserve it.

    2. But seriously, thank you for giving it a read-over.

    3. No prob - I hope it didn't come off as too negative. Seriously impressed with how much detail and flavor you manage to cram into so few words.

      I raced through the pdf this morning and found myself immediately making notes. Will probably start a campaign from the Lair. Every session, the group starts halfway down yet another delve or dungeon.

      Thanks for explaining why there's just one loop! I'll stick to that when running the lair :)

    4. A second loop might be more desirable. I'm just guessing, just like everyone else.

      Let me know if you run it!

    5. Okay, Part 2 is mostly written and there are like, 10 loops in there, so that should open up the party's options a lot.

  2. You know Conan's a tough guy because he wears his thews without any thockth.

  3. Ok that's a pretty good one, Alec, speaking as a Dad.

    This was horrifying. Really good stuff-- it starts out the of the mill dungeon scary, and then the slow reveal of the Lamb fruits and the rest of the repulsive Lamb based ecosystem really pushes the creepy and will add to the "get out" pressure.

    Only 2 comments on the read through that haven't been caught

    - in room 9 ( Fountain). The "breathing into their lungs" line is a bit confusing ( indefinite antecedent). I think you mean that the haunting doesn't affect subsequent characters and that affected character can be kept alive by breathing into his out her lungs.

    - a VERY lucky party could use the liquid hole to get through the portcullis ( as I read it). I'd this the intent? What lies beyond ( or that may be left as an exercise for the DM)


    1. Good point. I'll rewrite room 9.

      The portcullis connects to the SW-most crypt in the second second. It's sketched, but not written.

      Also, liquid hole will never cut an object is half--it would just make the portcullis bars resemble swiss cheese. (I'll rewrite that entry as well.)

  4. This is terrific and horrifying.

    Assuming a party of four, is there an expected mechanism for replenishing the party from the pool of 11 (er, 9, after the Lamb has devoured two people) remaining peasants in Area 1 when a PC is killed? The three survivors wouldn't necessarily have a non-metagame reason to trek all the way back to Area 1, risking another run-in with the Lamb, just to cut one more person free. And if they do, I can imagine players demanding to know why they can't just cut EVERYONE free, and get all hands on deck.

    Maybe we just assume that in the intervening time, someone else has managed to wriggle out of their burlap sack, and happens to cross paths with the party 1d4 rounds after a PC death?

    1. I'd think the idea is that they'll know or hear the other prisoners and free them as a group.

      That could happen immediately in a terrified rush as the Lamb consumes it's first victims, or later if they fled first then stage a rescue when they're more resourced.

      It's a pretty cold action for the PC with the knife to leave others in his bowl behind, at least. And the adventure depends on the knife wielding pc not being a totally selfish bastard.

      The DM can always adjust the starting scenario to how the PCs play it.


      If they run off, assume 1 knife per bowl. Then there's another party that freed themselves a bit later wandering around. If they meet, they may put 2&2 together that the PCs left them, which could be interesting, since the optimal pay would be to join forces.

    2. And who slipped the knife in? Agents of the mushroom God? Lots of fun threads to pull on...

    3. I would run it as "You control three characters. Two of them are tied up." and give them the character sheets. That's usually motivation enough for people to want to rescue their other selves.

      I should probably type that sentence in the PDF.

    4. That works, thanks for the perspectives on it. Can't wait to run this.

  5. Great adventure. Looking forward to part two.

  6. Damn, it's like The God That Crawls, except not boring.

    1. Yeah! I first wrote this one after I heard about God That Crawls, got excited, read it, and was disappointed.

  7. Ok so having keyed intersections with smells? Pure gold

  8. read this module while listening to Blackbird Raum, which i highly recommend. i think i'll try to run this when halloween comes around.

  9. Three things on this:
    First: Damn, this is so awesome it might just become the second ever dungeon/adventure written by another person I ever run.
    Second: On page 4 it says "19 Heavy Door".Should that mean 21?
    Third: Where does the bright light on b second intersection originate? Can that lightsource be used as an obstacle for the Lamb?

    1. 1. What was the first one?
      2. Fixed. Thank you.
      3. It's just a torch on the landing, it's not bright enough to scare off the Lamb (just make it uneasy). I'll update that in the next version. Thanks.

    2. It was Hapyshaft by Dunkey Halton:
      Loved it.

  10. Ok, so I ran the first section of this for my group last night. It’s my first time running a straight up dungeon crawl like this, and it was their first time playing one, though we’ve all been playing tabletop games for more than a decade together. It was super fun to run!
    Things that worked well for us:
    -The use of smells at intersections was extremely good. Honestly I’d love to see more of that throughout the dungeon.
    -Starting with absolutely nothing except a knife (which they quickly lost) was great. It really made the chicken-seller an important feature of the dungeon. It also made inventory management way more important, since without a pack, they could only bring what they could carry in their hands with them. They ended up fashioning a makeshift harness for the goat and having it carry some items for them.
    -Having just one monster, and having that monster being big and scary. It makes the whole dungeon feel so coherent. Also, I used descriptions of the Lamb’s sounds (snuffling, wet sounds) a lot, and I think that really helped drive home what they were up against.
    -Akina as both a source of practical and flavorful information (“I always hear the Lamb going into that room to the north, be careful!”) and also as a short term quest to free her from the pit.

    Things that I changed on the fly, or that didn’t land for my group:
    -A bunch of the rooms to the south are “just one thing” rooms. This was especially noticeable with the mural rooms, where it was MURAL (with treasure) > MURAL (with trap, and only one way forward or back) > MURAL (with crack+NPC), then a room that’s entirely empty except for a fungus pile. I think by the time they reached the mold room, one of them commented kind of incredulously about how sprawling and empty everything was starting to feel.
    -I suspect this is because it was our first dungeon crawl, but even after I tried to draw attention to the fact that the shaft room went up further than their light could reach, and even after they realized that the thing there is an elevator, they didn’t bother trying to see up further than their torch. But I suspect missing things like that is totally fine for a game like this.
    -Because this is going to be a one-shot for my group and not the start to a campaign, I changed the rings in the sarcophagus to be magical. The white one changes the hand that wears it into a small, sharp lobster claw of a white pearlescent material, and the black one changes the hand into a large, black, heavy crab claw. Both function as weapons (like a dagger and short sword, respectively), cutting or bashing tools, and not hands. Magic save or the change is permanent.

    Quick question about your intention for exploration, did you intend for it to take a total of two exploration turns to move into a new room and explore it? I consolidated the act of moving through a new room with exploring it, and that worked pretty well for my group.

    Hopefully this is helpful feedback, and I can’t wait for the second part!