Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dungeon Restocking and Rival Adventuring Parties

It was Dave "Sham" Bowman who first introduced me to random dungeon restocking -- the idea that, when characters return to the dungeon after having left it to rest and re-supply, there is a chance that formerly cleared-out rooms might again be occupied. Both Stonhell and Barrowmaze make use of a table that Sham presented for use with his Dismal Depths megadungeon. The table looks like this:
Roll 1d6
1 Monster
2 Monster and Treasure
3-6 Empty (1 in 6 chance of concealed treasure)
I really like this table because it mechanizes the process of keeping a megadungeon "alive," which is, I think, a key feature that distinguishes it from smaller, "lair" type dungeons. When I started work on Dwimmermount, I decided that, in addition to this table, I needed another one. The reason was that, while Sham's table is great for determining whether or not a room that once held six orcs whom the PCs slew has been re-occupied in the interim, it says nothing about the occupied rooms the characters haven't yet explored.

Why would that matter? Well, one of the premises of the Dwimmermount campaign was that the Thulian mountain fortress had been shut off from the world for several hundred years beforehand. The PCs are, for various reasons, the first outsiders to successfully enter Dwimmermount since the fall of the Thulian Empire. However, they wouldn't be the last. Once word got out that the PCs had done the seemingly impossible -- returned alive from the megadungeon and with loot -- it'd only be a matter of time before others followed in their footsteps. Thus was born the Rival Adventuring Parties table.

I roll on the Rival Adventuring Parties table every time the PCs return to town, but, unlike the restocking table, I roll once for every room the PCs didn't visit, modified by +2% -- it's a percentile table -- for every time they left the dungeon to return to "civilization." The table looks like this:
Roll d%
01-80 No Change
81-90 Evidence of other adventurers (e.g. footprints in the dust, used torches, broken weapons, etc.) is found amidst the room's other contents
91-100 One (1-3) or more (4-6) dead adventurers from a rival party is found in the room. If the room is trapped in any way, the dead adventurers' bodies provide clues as to the nature of the trap(s) therein. If not, their deaths can be attributed to the nearest monsters in other rooms/areas.
101-110 As 91-100, except that any monsters in the room have their numbers reduced by one-half.
111-120 As 81-90, except that any monsters in the room have been slain and their treasure (if any) looted.
121+ A rival adventuring party is currently in the room. If there were any monsters in the room previously, there is a 50% chance that they have been slain and their treasure looted, as in 111-120. Otherwise, the rival party is currently engaging them in combat.
Needless to say, I've never been religious in my use of this table, but I do use it. At least three rival adventuring parties were encountered by the Fortune's Fools PC group (two good-aligned and one evil) and their encounters with these rivals led to some interesting developments in the campaign that my players still talk about. Personally, I love rival adventuring parties and think they're an important part of any megadungeon-centric campaign, which is why I've included several already statted up for use in Dwimmermount, along with the tables I use for quickly generating them.


  1. Are tables llike this one, and this one for that matter, included in the Kickstarter books? Already a sponsor so just wondering.

  2. Roger Giner-SorollaApril 3, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Haven't gone as far as a table, but in one campaign I plotted out the maraudings of rival parties in the dungeon, dicing at decision points; in the more recent one I've done more stage managing, using them to give a sense of danger, exert time pressure, and eventually find things the party hasn't.

  3. I include NPC adventuring parties in most wandering monster tables of my megadungeon, and had two that the party actually met in the nearest town.  Some of the more memorable events were the result of encountering those groups repeatedly over many sessions (for example, one group of snobbish, petty noble adventurers treated the party like the low-born peasants they are.  Later, they crossed paths repeatedly in the dungeon, often coming near to blows.  More than once, one group would encounter the other  fleeing from some deadly encounter.  It got even nastier when they started setting traps for each other.  Finally, the players simply ambushed them, wiped out all but one who surrendered, and who eventually joined them for a time rather than be slain or left alone in the depths.  Fun stuff!)

  4. Peter V. Dell'OrtoApril 3, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    I like that table, it's pretty cool. I may use it or something like it.

  5. A nice and relatively simple way to handle something I've been wondering about for some time. Stonehell explicitly assumes that the dungeon is constantly being explored by rival adventuring parties but offers no way of determining how that exploration affects the dungeon environs, or of bumping into these rival parties. Now I can patch that hole.

  6. I'd be remiss in my duties as a shameless self-promoter if I didn't link to my own attempt.  
    http://dandy-in-the-underworld.blogspot.com/2011/07/vornheim-contest-entry-1-some-rival.html  One definite flaw in mine is a lack of dungeoneering results, as it focuses on activities in town.  Combining it with yours lets me cover both.

  7. I love things like these that allow the simulation of a sense of a greater world with some simple tables.

  8. Alexandre LancianiApril 4, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    Reminds me of the intial die roll table in RQ's early dungeon modules.

  9. I like it.  How do you generate your Rival Party?  with another table?

  10. The whole notion of being able to leave is something that I think separates the megadungeons of people who had the published modules from the people like myself who games with folks who bought supplements but never adventures.  In an early campaign I was in we entered the dungeon at first level and nobody saw daylight again until at least 6th level.

    I'm not sure if it's a generational thing but a dungeon you could *leave* was never part of my teen years. It's something I first discovered through your blog and it's kind of fascinating.

  11. Amusingly, this is the first time I've ever heard about anyone running a dungeon-based campaign where the PCs stayed there for long stretches of time. Did you know others outside of your group who ran their campaigns like this? I find the idea quite intriguing and would love to know more.

  12. It was the early 90s and for small dungeons there always seemed to be a sense of a time limit preventing going back to town.

    In a couple other groups I knew big dungeons adventures connected to the Underdark essentially putting towns in the middle of the dungeon.

    And my personal experience probably had to do with no older kids to initiate my friends into the hobby when we started and a literal interpretation of a dungeon as a place you get thrown and have to escape from.

  13. Maybe I'm just math-challenged but I don't understand how you get 101 to 121+ with a percentile roll.  Could you explain how you come up with the 100+ numbers?

  14. That's described above in this sentence: I roll once for every room the PCs didn't visit, modified by +2% -- it's a percentile table -- for every time they left the dungeon to return to "civilization."

  15.  My memory is not perfect, but I can clearly remember times when we overnighted in a dungeon. We'd pick an empty room with only one exit, usually something that the monsters hadn't bothered to populate, cast silence and spike the door shut. This is at least through 2nd edition, when we played "Temple of Elemental Evil" in the mid-'90s. We hardly spent any time in Hommlett, it was too far away, so we spent a lot of nights in the Temple.

    Our current style hasn't changed much.

  16. When I ran Temple of Elemental Evil my players did exactly this as well.  If I recall, Hommlet was a day or two away and Nulb was just as dangerous as the temple, so they just hid out in a secret or sealed room and I rolled about a million random encounters as they slept - and then had to figure out if any of the wandering monsters would be able to find their hideout.

  17. ToEE was already mentioned above; it immediately sprang to mind as the first module I recall including rules for restocking the dungeon, and indeed for the number of foes growing beyond those noted (through 'recruiting') if the PCs didn't dispose of them quickly enough...

    I remember wondering why I'd never thought of that before.

  18.  So you add 2% for each time they left? (ie. if they are returning for the third time you would add 6%?)
    Sorry, just want to clarify.

  19. I'm not quite clear how the table works. Do you roll each time the PCs enter a new room that they've never been in before? Is the +2% a cumulative modifier over the course of the campaign? If so, doesn't that eventually mean the PCs will find a rival adventuring party in every single room?

    I like the concept, and would like to find interesting ways to add rival NPC parties to my campaign, but I'm having a hard time visualizing how this table works in practice.

  20. The 2% modifier is per time the PCs leave the dungeon to go back to town and so is cumulative over the course of the campaign. Like the restock table, though, I only roll on the table when the PCs actually enter a room where it applies. That said, yes, it does pretty much guarantee that, eventually, they'll run into multiple adventuring party rivals in Dwimmermount, but that's by design.

  21. I've actually never used the idea of rival adventuring parties before, but after having read about it here on your blog several times, I'd already decided I was going to use it when I take my group through the old AD& D S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. That module seems like the perfect one to utilize the "rival party" concept. 

    I'm totally going to use this table for that!

    I'm not sure why we're never used rival parties before - I started gaming back around 1982 but I've never had a DM that included them.  It seems strange because I'm reading that most OSR types seemed to use them.

  22.  I've actually proposed running a megadungeon (and using Old School rules) to the group I DM for and the players were extremely skeptical (we all got our start gaming on 3.5) of the idea of leaving the dungeon for any reason before it's cleared.  "Why should I let monsters have a chance to repopulate or other groups get in and take the treasure? No, we're going in and not coming out until everything that isn't us is dead." was a sentiment explicitly stated.  Maybe I'm just not expressing well the fact that this dungeon is the size of Manhattan, and if they intend to stay down until everything's dead they're going to run out of supplies and resort to eating Morlocks, or each other. 

    The players do seem interested in giving a retro-clone a try, though, so maybe once it's clear that killing monsters doesn't give a whole lot of XP and treasure only gives XP when it's been taken back to civilization they'll come around to the idea. 

  23. I thought you were going to be talking about the problem of where all that new treasure is coming from!