Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Black Pit

"All about them as they lay hung the darkness, hollow and immense, and they were oppressed by the loneliness and vastness of the dolven halls and endlessly branching stairs and passages. The wildest imaginings that dark rumour had ever suggested to the hobbits fell short of the actual dread and wonder of Moria."
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings (as if you couldn't already guess from previous posts).  Without those books, I would probably not have grown to love world building and high fantasy as much as I do.  That being said, I am still relatively new when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons.  The entire game has given me more than I could've ever asked for in a game, and for that I am grateful.  However, I was familiar with RPG's before this.  I was given my first RPG about 10 years ago, and from there learned the joys of what an RPG could give.

My first RPG was, in fact, the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game that was created and published through Decipher.

I remember diving into the box the day after my birthday, trying to figure out what exactly an RPG was.  The paper inserts did a good job of explaining all those things.  I then decided to delve into the adventure that game with the box set: Through the Mines of Moria.

There were also a number of post maps that came with it: the gates, a random room, Balin's Tomb, and the Bridge of Khazad-dum.

These maps can all be used in DnD (that's the great thing about finding poster maps from other systems).  However, what I found the most interesting re-reading the Through the Mines of Moria adventure is how that adventure could translate for DnD, and what a Moria adventure means to DnD players.

Let me explain.  I have found that most players tend to think that DnD encounters are made to be beaten.  There is no real danger in exploring/fighting, since they will always come out ahead (not so for those of us doing the DnDNext Playest).  My players seem to think that nothing bad will happen to them as they go into dungeon after dungeon.

Moria is no such dungeon.  In Lord of the Rings, everybody is scared of Moria.  The Fellowship sees Moria as a last resort.  They do not want to go in there.  Our DnD version of Moria needs to be the same kind of thing.

The Mines of Moria adventure really has three encounters, plus whatever random ones you happen to roll.  So, let's break these down into what they mean for our DnD Fellowship.

Encounter 1 - The Watcher in the Water
 This encounter has the Fellowship needing to get into Moria ASAP while the Watcher tries to snag and eat them.  For DnD, I would use Silt Horror monster (Dark Sun Creature Catalog) and give it some aquatic traits as well as a host of tentacles.  This is basically one big solo monster threat, with the party trying to make sure everyone escapes into Moria alive.

Encounter 2 - Balin's Tomb
This is my favorite encounter of the entire adventure.  It involves hoards and hoards of monsters, each arrive at the start of the turn, with the party having to run and fight in order to escape.  They also have to choose the correct door and then attempt to run through Moria.
In DnD terms, this should be an encounter with a tons of minions.  Throw 10 new minions at the part per round (or something like that).  Every once in a while, throw in a large monster that has hit points to track and is more dangerous than the minions.  I would suggest hook horrors, as they fit the underground theme of Moria.  Plus, you know somebody in your party will choose to say "They have a hook horror".

Surrounded on all sides
The goal of this encounter to force the party to expend resources and make them start to worry about how they will escape Moria alive.  Put some pressure on the group.  Make them roll knowledge checks to figure out the correct way to go.  Six doors leaves a lot of options.

Encounter 3 - The Bridge of Khazad-dum
 This encounter simply pits the party against a foe they cannot hope to defeat, unless through a major sacrifice by one of the player characters.  The goal here to is simple escape.  The party should feel as though they are over their heads, and that death may very well be imminent.

All in all, these encounters are to help shape the narrative.  Moria doesn't need countless random encounter after random encounter as the party flees the tomb to the bridge.  Skill checks and narrative descriptions do well to fill the void, and the group will already be weary from having to cut through all the minions.

I hope this gave some insight as I looked back at my first RPG, and things that I look forward to applying to my own games.  As always, be sure to leave comments below, and follow me on Twitter @artificeralf

On another side note, my first Dungeons and Dragons Insider article was published in Dungeon on Friday.  Court of the Stars: The Trinket Lord can be found here:

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