Running the Campaign
A Neutral Human Fighter

Opening The Deep Halls

The initial impetus, to run an impromptu pick-up game or a solo game in The Deep Halls, prompted me to make two conceits: One, we use random methods to stock the dungeon, thereby avoiding any preparation. Two, it is a “closed” dungeon campaign. That is, one in which we haven’t need to explore outside the dungeon, as all the experience points necessary to gain levels and meet the dungeon’s challenges can be found within it.

If awarding four times the treasure or experience points—or a combination thereof, turns your grognard stomach, you may of course abandon the second conceit and open the campaign.

In an open dungeon campaign, we are not obliged to chock The Deep Halls so full of treasure. We can use the default treasure sequence from the Flying Dungeon Stocking Table without fear of falling. Characters lacking XP for the next deeper level can find them in neighboring dungeons or in the surrounding wilderness.

In keeping with the campaign’s first conceit (random generation, minimum preparation), we assemble geomorphs as the party explores these other dungeons, and for the wilderness in which they are set, we use the original map board suggested for “off-hand adventures in the wilderness” (OD&D Vol. 3, 15).

Reading Map

Focus on The Deep Halls

While rumors and legends lead to other dungeons in the wilderness environment, the dreaming priests and their machinations in The Deep Halls remain central to the campaign. To accomplish that, we might adhere, however loosely, to the following guidelines:

  • Secondary adventure sites are small. Outside The Deep Halls, the party explores one-, two-, or rarely three-level dungeons. They follow up on the rumor or retrieve the MacGuffin and get back into the primary venue.
  • Most secondary adventures are tied to the campaign thread. The party might indulge in occasional adventures outside the focus for any number of reasons, to break the monotony not the least. Most often though, the adventurers achieve some goal related to Amon-Gorloth or fail in the endeavor.
  • The surrounding wilderness is not vast. By limiting the area, we keep the party within a few days’ travel back to the primary adventure site.
  • There are consequences to neglect. The dreaming priests are relentless in pursuit of their goal. If the player characters ignore them, the priests succeed.

One Deep Dungeon

What attracts me about opening The Halls is that we can stretch them back out to the seven levels as the cartographer conceived. We are, furthermore, not bound to Levels 1 to 7. Depending on party advancement as the campaign unfolds, we might skip levels. Monster & Treasure Assortments provide tables down to Level 9.

Geomorphs

Dungeon Geomorphs

The original “geomorphic dungeon levels,” Holmes notes, “contain many suggestions and will prove very useful” (39). Dungeon Geomorphs Sets One, Two, and Three (TSR Hobbies, 1976-77) provide tiles for Basic and Lower Dungeons as well as Caves & Caverns. Room density and lack of embellishment render the tiles unattractive to my eye. Yet these geomorphs have a particular feel to them1 unlike anything I myself would come up with and much different from The Deep Halls.

By my rough count of a few tiles, I get the following average numbers of rooms by set.

Set Subtitle Rooms per Tile
One Basic Dungeon 40
Two Caves & Caverns 10
Three Lower Dungeons 20

Using the Flying Table made for Holmes (33% of rooms contain monsters) and the Strict (per the sources) treasure sequence: 2-1-0 (where there is no chance for treasure in an empty room) on a dungeon level of 80 rooms (two Basic Dungeon tiles), the Deadly Dungeon Ratio is exactly 1:1. By “exactly,” I mean only 10 XP more than a 1st-level party of three needs to gain 2nd-level.

In the case where one purpose of a secondary dungeon is to earn experience, we may adjust the number of tiles, keeping in mind 80 rooms per character level.

Other Dungeon Generation Options

Walled City Geomorphs: For town and city adventures, consider also Outdoor Geomorphs Set One: Walled City (TSR Hobbies, 1977).

Dyson’s Geomorphs: The map god himself did a monstrous set of dungeon geomorphs. Available from Dyson’s blog, the PDF contains 102 ten-by-ten-square geomorphs. The size accommodates the smaller secondary dungeons, and the hand-drawn tiles have a delightful old-school feel.

Dave’s Mapper: Other interesting links on Dyson’s page above include Dave Millar’s Morph Mapper. Dungeons, caverns, dungeons and caverns, villages, cities, everything—Dave’s Mapper draws from a selectable database of geomorphs from a diverse array of map artists, including Dyson Logos, to create a whole dungeon level in a couple clicks.

AD&D DMG Appendix A: First published under the title “Solo Dungeon Adventures” in The Strategic Review, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 1975), these tables (contemporary with our sources) provide the solo explorer a means to generate a map on the fly. The system involves quite a lot of dice rolling, however—not advised when running a group.

Draw As You Go: This solo explorer has had much success making it up as he goes along. Draw the entrance and the first room, add doors and pose the question: “What do you do?”

Outdoor Survival Map Board

La pièce de résistance—Having a chance to use this old-school icon, one does not hesitate. Outdoor Survival, designed by Jim Dunnigan and published by Avalon Hill for Stockpole Books (1972) included a six-panel board depicting a map of a wilderness area with a hexagon-grid overlay.

In his “Campaign Map Notes,” D&D co-creator Dave Arneson writes that, after the “old bunch” was exiled from Blackmoor, “the game moved south and we then used the Outdoor Survival map for this phase of the campaign…” (First Fantasy Campaign, Judges Guild, 1977). The game’s usefulness warranted its mention under the heading RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT in D&D’s original edition (Vol. 1, 5).

Legend

As per the co-creators’ suggestions, “catch basins are castles, buildings [bases] are towns, and the balance of the terrain is as indicated” (OD&D Vol. 3, 15). I would add that food hexes (animal symbols) are monster lairs.

Scale

While Outdoor Survival’s five basic scenarios specify a scale of five kilometers or three miles, OD&D suggests five miles to the hex. At this scale, which matches OD&D movement rates, bases might be small towns. We have license to play with the scale. An obvious adjustment is to make hexes six miles across if you’re using movement rates in multiples of six, as in B/X.

If you’d like larger towns and a city or two, you might up the scale to 12 miles per hex. Careful that the area doesn’t lose its “wilderness” feel.

At 24 miles per hex the area covered approaches that of the corner of the continent presented in Dungeon Module X1 The Isle of Dread. The bases may well be capital cities. This scale is appropriate if you imagine The Deep Halls as only the beginning of a series of campaigns in the same setting.

At any scale, especially those above six miles, trails (through woods, mountains, and swamps) might be roads, and fords become bridges in various states of repair. We might assume other tracks through clear terrain to connect settlements via the depicted mountain passes, swampland causeways, forest trails, and fords. Note, not all settlements need be connected by a single road network. Further, I see Base No. 5 (center), surrounded by woods, is not accessible by any thoroughfare and, therefore, must be long abandoned…

Portown

Using Holmes Basic, we might imagine the Northern Sea off the board’s upper side and assign Base No. 8 as the “busy city linking the caravan routes from the south…” (41). In that case, the campaign might begin beneath the ruins of Zenopus’s tower. A scale of 12 miles per hex is suggested unless you scale down the settlement to town-size.

The Curious Array of Settlements

It might bother some of us that the towns are arrayed in symmetrical fashion around the map’s center. If so, generate your own version of the map or, more simply, ignore it and assume the settlements are positioned on the map in a schematic relationship to each other. Alternatively, you might create some reason why the settlements are so aligned—best if the reason has to do with Amon-Gorloth.

Place the Dungeon and the Base Town

Between the two options for “the convoluted mausoleums,” I would chose the middle desert for the location where “Amon-Gorloth sleeps and dreams.” Placing The Deep Halls in any hex at the southern edge of the northern mountains puts it within a couple hours walk from Base No. 2, which becomes Base Town.


Notes

1 Compare a couple tiles from the cover of Set One: Basic Dungeon to a level of Gary Gygax’s Castle Greyhawk.

A 1st- to 9th-Level Campaign
A 1st- to 9th-Level Campaign Using Holmes Basic, Monster & Treasure Assortments, Dungeon Geomorphs, the Outdoor Survival Map Board, and The Deep Halls.

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