Rules

Running the Campaign

We’re almost ready to play. We’ve covered everything that happens in the depths. Left for us now is to consider what happens when our adventurers are outside the dungeon.

I want only to cover aspects critical to the scenario. I intend to run The Deep Halls as a solo game, which also serves as an impromptu pick-up game for friends. In such games, the action is focused within the dungeon’s twisted corridors; “Base Town” is for rest and resupply, sometimes—as dictated by the scenario—with a loose connection between the two, which allows for further development in play.

“It isn’t so much the wealth as what the characters might spend it on that poses a problem. Assuming they invest it to ensure the success of further explorations, the obvious acquisitions are hirelings and spell scrolls.”—from “More XP for Treasures”

One critical aspect, in the case where treasures are generous in the closed dungeon, is that we may desire to minimize the impact of over-wealthy player characters. The following points are intended to accomplish that by extracting some gold and putting pressure on the characters to return to the dungeon.

Even with normal treasure amounts, such as when using the default Flying treasure sequence: 2-1-½, the following points are worth considering, if only to preempt the occasions when the party recovers large and valuable treasures. Such windfalls are not rare in the game, and you don’t want to surprise players with a sudden necessity to convert found coins to the king’s currency at a high rate.

We want to allow magic-users to make scrolls—it’s a special capability of the class and augments the magic-user’s often limited arsenal. But we don’t want them to be too comfortable while they do it.

Likewise, a few non-player characters round out the party’s range of abilities and give the party more tactical options. Not to mention the entourage is part of the old-school experience.

Though the treasures are well hidden and often trapped, adventurers should still find them, and though the gold is reduced by fees and conversion rates, the characters should ofttimes retain great wealth. All the while, there must remain a sense of wonder in its finding and a sense of satisfaction in its judicious spending.

Reading Map

Treasures, Hidden, Trapped

“…augmenting the whole by noting where and how the treasures are protected and/or hidden.”—Monster & Treasure Assortments on the disposition of treasures

Reading “protected” as trapped or guarded by a monster, a complacent DM might be satisfied to hide or trap treasures not in close proximity to an alert monster and leave treasures with monsters otherwise unprotected. This may be a mistake in any adventure and, in a game with extra treasures to be found, is sure to lead to “no challenge, no thrill…”

I have mentioned before that M&T provides tables  (reproduced in the AD&D DMG) to assist the DM in this regard. I suggest that most—if not all—treasures should be hidden or trapped and many hidden and trapped, especially those without monsters. Leaning heavy on the tables to begin, the DM will learn, I should think, to invent other interesting containers, insidious traps, and imaginative hiding places before the tables’ options become too commonplace.

Restocking the Dungeon

Monsters reinvest a cleared room in one to four weeks. You might inform the players of this fact or let the characters learn the frequency over the course of a few return forays.

One to four is 2.5 weeks on average. A party might risk one week, maybe two, for magic-users to make scrolls. By the third week, the party is likely to be anxious to get back. To increase this comfort zone, the DM may lengthen the period by rolling more or different dice, say d6 (mean 3.5) or 2d4 (5 weeks).

We might also say that when the party passes through a previously-cleared and still-empty room the period is reset.

Base Town

A brief interlude to discuss the other critical aspect concerning the scenario as a pick-up game, which is the development of the party’s operations base. We assume the adventurers return to a town or city to recuperate between dungeon expeditions. They find there the usual necessities: inn, tavern, markets, church or temple, magic-users and thieves guilds, and a local authority. For our purpose, other than exploiting any obvious connections between town and dungeon, the “Base Town” needn’t be further described.

Organic Base Town

organic adjective

2 c : having the characteristics of an organism : developing in the manner of a living plant or animal

—Webster’s

A DM may add details before play begins as he or she sees fit or allow the base town to grow as the campaign progresses. That is, add details to the town only as necessary and only in play or as a direct result thereof.

This latter approach, in addition to reducing preparation time, allows the base town to be different only in ways that relate to the campaign and to the player characters. Moreover, ideas may come from elsewhere in the table’s brain array. The players then feel some agency in the base town’s development, and it becomes as much home as base.

Whether mundane or fantastic, if an element departs from the ordinary for a medieval fantasy town, it is somehow important to the story. This is not a rule but the result of the guideline: add details only as necessary in play.

The Church Connection

An obvious connection between Base Town and The Deep Halls we might make from the beginning is the local religious authority. To allow the seed to grow, we keep this connection loose. Let’s say the local clergy knows only that a sect of priests constructed a dungeon in the wilderness. The clerics do not know the dungeon’s exact location, the nature of the sect, or its goals.

Church or Temple

I use “church” for the local religious authority. In my mind, a church is dedicated to a monotheistic deity—or at least the chief among lesser gods—and a temple is dedicated to a pantheon of gods or a single god among a pantheon. The DM, of course, may use church or temple and define them as desired.

Wealth Extraction

“If the Gentle Reader thinks that the taxation he or she currently undergoes is a trifle strenuous for his or her income, pity the typical European populace of the Middle Ages.”—Gary Gygax, Advanced D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (TSR Games, 1979)

In the DMG’s chapter on “THE CAMPAIGN,” Gygax devotes a section to the careful extraction of excess wealth from the game. Under the summary heading “DUTIES, EXCISES, FEES, TARIFFS, TAXES, TITHES, AND TOLLS” (90), he covers the diverse taxation practices of medieval Europe and gives examples from a town in “the typical fantasy milieu.” We may apply a few methods to our scenario.

The purpose of the Gygax tax is to remove some wealth—once we’ve got the XP out of it. To avoid tedium, we consider only methods that take large sums. We don’t mess with a few coins here and there or even percentages in the single digits. We target rather the tithe level and above, and we institute the methods from the first town visit. The extraction should seem to the characters normal and become routine. Players may learn to envision 90% of the great mound of treasure as they shovel coins into large sacks.

Parenthetical amounts below are suggestions only.

Magic-users Guild: An annual fee (100 g.p.) gives access to spells when gaining a level as well as access to a research library for free (10 g.p. per visit for non-members). At 9th-level and above, the fee is ten times the base rate (1,000 g.p.) and also grants laboratory space.

Thieves Guild: A thief character is expected to pay the annual fee (100 g.p.). Any who are not aware of the custom are reminded by a group of the guild master’s thugs in ungentle fashion. Among the typical benefits, a member may hire adventuring thieves and inquire about potential buyers for particularly interesting and valuable treasures. All “benefits” come at the price of bribes, payoffs, and kickbacks (100 - 1,000 g.p or from 10 to 50% of the transaction).

The Church: The devout, including most clerics, attend services and rituals, purchase holy water, and regular tithers may consult the small collection of religious texts. Regular tithers, moreover, may receive, at higher levels, special consideration when in need of healing or other forms of clerical aid, such as cures and curse removal, up to restoration of life.

Restorative Spells: The progressive degrees of clerical aid are freely available to all faithful followers of the local religion. This, at the discretion of the clerics, who reserve their daily spells for the devout and hard-working local folk who don’t put themselves in harm’s way in dark places. Those who do not tithe, or who are less than devout, may receive such aid at the cost of a donation (1,000 g.p. × spell level or 1,000 g.p. × caster level or as high as 1,000 g.p. × the square of the spell level; raise dead then requires a 5,000 to 25,000 g.p. donation).

Money Changer: Assume any precious metal pieces hauled out of the dungeon are not “coin of the realm” but foreign and ancient monies. These are not accepted in local shops, for there is a steep fine (50%) for possession of foreign currency. To avoid the fine, holders of such coin, upon entry to the town, must declare the illegal tender at the gate and proceed immediately to the money changer’s office. The two are in close proximity. The money changer takes 10% for the local authority.

Buying and Selling Gems and Jewelry: Gems, jewelry, and other such valuables can be bought and sold at the money changer’s or at the markets. A luxury tax (10%) is exacted.

Robbery: The innkeeper advises against storing wealth in a “secret place” at the inn or elsewhere and declares the establishment free of responsibility. Assume that any treasure so hidden—and unguarded—will be robbed in the character’s absence 20% of the time.

Bank: More secure than under the mattress, renting a coffer at the bank is just as sure to be safe as it is to have a cost (10 g.p. per month for a small coffer—holds up to 300 coins; 100 g.p. per month for a large coffer—1,000 coins; and 300 g.p. for a chest—10,000 coins). The banker assures the characters that the vault, as the property of the local authority, is guarded by men-at-arms and magical wards. Any robbery attempt should prove the vault secure and put the criminals in another dungeon or under the executioner’s axe.

Upkeep: Taking as examples the Travelers Inn and the next-door Tavern from The Keep on the Borderlands, we may fix daily upkeep at one gold piece for lodging, another for food, and a third for drink. We might round that off to 20 g.p. per week, then raise it to 30 g.p. per week per character to include incidentals.

The Complaints Department

If players complain about the dwindling trove, you might simply explain the meta-game rationale: the dungeon is full of treasure to allow a clever party to gain enough experience to be viable opponents against deeper-level denizens; excess wealth is extracted.

If characters complain, you might give a name to the local authority, to whom they may direct their ire.

Hireling Health and Happiness

The number of hirelings is limited to some degree by the characters’ Charisma scores. Still, at five non-players for each character, we have a large troop blundering in the dungeon.

Hiring

“The player wishing to hire a non-player character ‘advertises’ by posting notices at inns and taverns, frequents public places seeking the desired hireling, or sends messengers to whatever place the desired character type would be found (elf-land, dwarf-land, etc.). This costs money and takes time…” (Holmes, 8)

Holmes proposes 100 g.p. × the roll of a six-sided dice for the inquiry alone. I have balked at this figure for going on 40 years. In the case where the player characters are in possession of such wealth, though, it seems not unjustified.

We might say, without getting into great detail, that each class type is found in different venues: fighting men at the inn or tavern, clerics at the church, and magic-users and thieves from the guilds. Further, to enable Holmes’s reference to elf- and dwarf-lands, let’s assume those races are not common in the immediate region and that adventuring hobbits are likewise scarce.

Holmes goes on to suggest 100 g.p. as a minimum incentive to join the party. If we borrow the HOSTILE/FRIENDLY REACTION TABLE (Holmes, 11) for the purpose (as in OD&D but not specified in Holmes), offers of 200 g.p. and higher garner a bonus on the roll, and “uncertain” reactions require the hiring character to “make another [higher] offer” before another roll is made.

Reputation

The party with a reputation for good pay and decent treatment finds hirelings when desired. A generous party or individual characters may find that hirelings seek their employ. Conversely, if the party earns a poor reputation, the hireling pool may run dry—the minimum offer doubles and trebles and penalties on the reaction table accrue.

Pay and Bonuses: In addition to the initial incentive, hirelings should be rewarded with an equal share of treasure. Extra coin and magic items are considered bonuses and increase the employer’s reputation.

Party Success and Hireling Survival Rate: An oft-ignored factor in considering a party’s reputation is their overall success in adventures and how often they return with a lifeless hireling over a shoulder or, worse, without the hireling at all. Adjust enticements and reaction rolls accordingly.

How Many Hirelings Too Many?

As long as everyone is having fun, it isn’t too many. Two points to be aware of are overcrowding and combat encounter length.

If the group enjoys a good long melee, they are well served by a large entourage. There is, however, a point of diminishing returns. As party size grows, so does the number of monsters per encounter. Space, determined by map scale, limits the number of party members that can get in the room. The party that cannot bring its full force to bear against the larger number of monsters loses the melee—though the door is well guarded.

For melee-loving groups, consider a larger map scale. Not by coincidence, at 30 feet per square, the scale becomes ten yards, and The Deep Halls a battlefield. The dreaming priests in their reverie now command an army, and your old copy of Chainmail gains new life.


Rules and Supplements

The Flying Dungeon Stocking Table reflects the stocking methods given in the Holmes edition with supplements Monster & Treasure Assortments and Dungeon Geomorphs. The idea that gets me further than the head voice saying, “Bluebook D&D!” is to use M&T for random monsters and treasures.

Basic D&D (1977) only goes to 3rd level though, and you might have another rules preference. These are my notes on using other old-school editions1 with the Flying Table.

The Bluebook for Higher-Level Play

Should your dungeon-level configuration go down to Level 4, rules for 4th-level characters are easily extrapolated from the Holmes edition. For deeper halls, the tunnel branches in multiple directions. One might recreate the experience of playing Holmes through the 3rd- and into 4th-level of play then switching to AD&D, as Holmes suggests, or adding the D&D Expert Rulebook. To ensure continuity with all these options, continue using the Flying Table with M&T.

Another alternative, beginning with the Bluebook, is to extrapolate rules for higher levels oneself. You might draw on OD&D and its Supplements I-IV in addition to your own inspiration. For suggestions and guidelines, if such are necessary, we needn’t look further than the Zenopus Archives. There, we find that many others have explored these tunnels before us. Zenopus links a number of resources on the Rules Expansions page.

Other Editions

Among old-school D&D editions, the rules don’t change so much the nature of The Deep Halls as do the contents-stocking method and the monster encounter tables.

OD&D

“Original” DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (1974) is Holmes’s source for Basic D&D, and the Monster & Treasure Assortments were made for the original edition. Therefore, the Flying Table meshes with OD&D as well as it does Holmes.

AD&D

With the Advanced edition (1977-79) you might use the Flying Table without risk of falling. For to get all the goodness out of those rules, though, consider using the AD&D DMG’s Appendix A, which provides a similar stocking method. Since you have the map already, ignore tables up to TABLE V. F.: CHAMBER OR ROOM CONTENTS (171). Rolling on that table leads you to other tables and other appendices to fill the rooms.

Random Treasure in the DMG

TABLES V. H, I, and J are copied word-for-word from M&T’s TREASURE IS CONTAINED IN, GUARDED BY, AND HIDDEN BY/IN tables. Only the dice roll and chance for each, adapted to a d20, is modified.

When I say “consider” above, I mean “consider carefully.” Where one roll on the Flying Table indicates basic contents, Appendix A requires a short succession of dice rolls.

More importantly, TABLE V. F. produces contents in proportions much different from the Flying Table. Fewer monsters inhabit the dungeon, for example. Furthermore, only 5% of rooms contain a “Special,” likewise for “Trick/Trap,” and fully 60% of rooms are empty. There is an echo in these Deep Halls.

DUNGEON LEVEL X

If you’re tempted by Appendix A, check out the DUNGEON LEVEL X encounter matrix (DMG 179) and consider a deeper configuration for The Halls. What might the priests be doing with demon princes, liches, and elder titans in the halls on the lowest level?

B/X

The Flying Table swoops within a few percentage points of the adored tables in Moldvay’s section E. STOCK THE DUNGEON (B52). Using these rules, either stocking method works with monsters and treasures from M&T.

B/X’s Wandering Monsters tables present different inhabitants, though they are not strangers to each other. It’s in determining treasure where B/X may present a problem. If you’re a DM winging it for a group, all those rolls on the treasure table plus division for smaller encounters can slow the game. On the other hand, if you’re flying solo, generating treasures can be an exciting part of the experience.


Notes

1 I refrain from a recitation of the litany of old-school “retroclones,” available thanks to Wizards of the Coast’s Open Game License. Popular clones include Swords & Wizardry (Frog God Games, 2008—for OD&D), Blueholme (Dreamscape Design, 2014—Basic D&D), OSRIC (Black Blade, 2013—AD&D), and (for B/X) Labyrinth Lord (Goblinoid Games, 2009) and Old-School Essentials (Necrotic Gnome, 2020). To all these, my notes for their source edition apply.

Holmes Basic  Monster and Treasure Assortment  Dice  and The Deep Halls Map by Dyson Logos
All You Need to Adventure in The Deep Halls: Holmes Basic D&D, Monster and Treasure Assortments, Dice, and the Map by Dyson Logos.

Adjusting for Party Size

Previous experience-point calculations are based on a party of three. Larger or smaller parties must earn 2,171 XP—more or less—to advance an experience level.

I lead with a summary. Explanation and math follow. After a look at how a clever party of six makes up for fewer stocked XP per character, I close with examples.

Having been warned of the dungeon’s nature, we are not surprised when our Deep Halls explorations stray into uncertainty. “Twisted and nightmarish” as it is, we are thrilled at the risk.

Reading Map

Summary of Adjustments

  • For each additional character above three:
    • Add a single monster per encounter.
    • Add one treasure roll for each double and single treasure.
      • Do not add rolls to “half” treasures—those without monsters.
  • For each character fewer than three:
    • Remove a single monster per encounter.
      • Do not reduce the number of monsters below the given range.
    • Remove one treasure roll for each double and single treasure.
      • Do not reduce treasures below the default sequence: 2-1-½.

Larger Parties

For parties over three, we add single monsters and treasure rolls to double and single treasures.

Monsters

According to Holmes (10), we add a single monster (not a roll) for each additional character. The average XP value for M&T’s Level One monsters is 25. Don’t ask.

(22 room + 8.5 wandering) × 25 XP = 762 additional XP from monsters

Thus, 30.5 additional monsters add 762 XP to the count.

Treasures

Subtracting the monsters XP from the total additional XP necessary, we need 1,409 more XP from treasures, which comes to ten treasure rolls.

2,171 − 762 = 1,409 additional XP needed from treasures
1,409 ÷ 143 g.p. = 9.85 rolls

Looking again at the pertinent factors of the familiar equation, no matter which treasure sequence we use, adding one roll to each magnitude—double, single, and half treasures, yields 15.5 additional rolls.

(5 areas × t) + (8 areas × t) + (2.5 areas × t) = 15.5t

In other words, since an average of 15.5 areas on Level 1 contain treasures, one more roll for each treasure adds 15.5 rolls to the total.

We want ten more rolls. We could add one to the single and half treasures for 10.5. It’s awkward, though, since the half treasures are not guarded by monsters, and the double treasures, guarded by double monsters, should be more impressive in comparison.

In these uncertain tunnels, I think it not too generous to add one roll each to double and single treasures for 13 additional treasure rolls. At the risk of having my “badge of honor” revoked, I suggest we leave half treasures unadjusted.

Smaller Parties

Adjusting for smaller parties is much the opposite of that for larger parties with minimum limits.

Monsters

Following Holmes’s “roughly equal numbers” advice for balanced encounters (10), we subtract a single monster from the encounter for parties of two and two monsters for lone adventures. Though Holmes stipulates that the number of monsters “should not be reduced below the lowest number shown” in the range.

Treasures

Reduce by one roll per character, for smaller parties, any treasures to which you would add one for larger parties. Do not reduce the number of rolls below the default sequence: 2-1-½.

A Clever Party of Six
A Clever Party of Six is Better Equipped Against the Dungeon’s Challenges.

A Clever Party

We see in the example below of a party of six that more adventurers must earn a higher percentage of the stocked XP to advance. Despite the challenge, larger parties have several advantages over smaller.

Wider range of special capabilities: Of the four classes and three races with special capabilities, a party of three draws on, at most, five types: elf with fighting man and magic-user capabilities plus any two of cleric, thief, dwarf, and hobbit. A party of five can draw on all seven types, and six can double up on one or more.

More tactical options: A larger force, properly maneuvered, presents a wider front and blocks wider corridors. It can flank or surround the enemy, enabling more often a thief’s “deadly blow from behind.” Wounded characters can withdraw from melee, while more healthy companions close the breach. And magic-users are better protected.

More players: As additional party members might be non-player characters, a larger party doesn’t necessarily mean more players. But when more brains surround the table, they tend to generate more—and sometimes better—solutions to problems.

Examples

To give us an idea of how these additional treasure rolls effect survivability, let’s look at two examples, for a party of four and a party of six, each using different treasure sequences.

For example sake, we assume a clever party indeed, who defeats all the monsters and finds all the treasures.

Example: A Default Party of Four

Using the default treasure sequence from the Flying Dungeon Stocking Table, 2-1-½:

Where t equals one roll on the treasure table or 143 g.p.,
(5 areas × 2t) + (8 areas × t) + (2.5 areas × ½t) = 19.25t = 2,752 g.p.

We add one roll to double and single treasures for a party of four adventurers. The modified treasure sequence is 3-2-½:

Where t equals 143 g.p.,
(5 areas × 3t) + (8 areas × 2t) + (2.5 areas × ½t) = 32.25t = 4,611 g.p.

Adding XP for monsters and treasures, each of four characters earns 1,724 XP.

30.5 monsters × 75 = 2,287 XP for monsters
2,287 + 4,611 = 6,898 XP total
6,898 ÷ 4 characters = 1,724 XP each

While a party of three earns 1,425 XP each.

1,525 + 2,752 = 4,277 ÷ 3 characters = 1,425

Example: A Thrilling Party of Six

Using the thrilling sequence: 9-4-1.

Where t equals 143 g.p.,
(5 × 9t) + (8 × 4t) + (2.5 × t) = 79.5t = 11,368 g.p.

For a party of six, we add three rolls each to the double and single treasures. The sequence becomes 12-7-1

Where t equals 143 g.p.,
(5 × 12t) + (8 × 7t) + (2.5 × t) = 118.5t = 16,945 g.p.

Adding XP for monsters and treasures, dividing among six characters, each earns 3,459 XP.

30.5 monsters × 125 = 3,812 XP for monsters
3,812 + 16,945 = 20,757 XP total
20,757 ÷ 6 characters = 3,459 XP each

While a party of three, using the thrilling sequence, earns 4,297 XP each.

1,525 + 11,368 = 12,893 ÷ 3 characters = 4,297

The results show that, using the default treasure sequence, each member of a party of four earns 300 more XP than members of a party of three. While in a party of six, using the thrilling sequence, each member earns 838 fewer XP than if they were only three. Twisted and nightmarish.


Reusing Magical Arrows

The Bluebook recommends the Dungeon Geomorphs, boxed with early printings of Holmes Basic, to DMs saying they “contain many suggestions and will prove very useful.”

ENCOUNTER KEY EXAMPLE

“5. False door which fires an arrow directly out when it is opened. The arrow is magical (+1), and if it fails to hit it will be usable. After the first magic arrow, it will fire only non-magic ones which will break whether or not they hit.”

Dungeon Geomorphs Set One  ENCOUNTER KEY EXAMPLE  Room 5
Dungeon Geomorphs Set One: Basic Dungeon (TSR Hobbies, 1976).
A precedent for the reuse or not of normal and magical arrows.

Monsters are Coming

In preparation for the next age in the Wyrm Dawn campaign, I made monster group cards for the primordial wyrm, each wyrmling, and living statues. I also made a cosmetic change to the Kobolds card and added new actions, used by the new monsters.

Wyrm Dawn

Wyrm Dawn uses Tony Dowler’s How to Host a Dungeon to create back story for an upcoming B/X campaign. How to Host a Dungeon is a solo procedural dungeon building game, available on DriveThruRPG. See Dowler’s latest projects and support the creator on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/tonydowler/.

New Actions

Guard A guarded treasure or epic treasure cannot be stolen or otherwise removed from its place.

Wake Roll 1d6. On a 6, the active group explores. Otherwise, it stays asleep and prepares.

Touch Handle touch as steal. In addition, no matter the results of the conflict, the target group (in our case, the Dragon) adds the following instructions to the bottom of its card.

Wyrm-touched: The Dragon has the same bonus to dice rolls as the Wyrmling who touched it. A wyrm-touched Dragon cannot be so touched again.1

New and Modified Monster Groups

Symbols:

Population:
Treasure: ❍
Epic treasure: ⛭
Special bonus: ★

Kobolds (modification)

Remove the draconic tag from the Kobolds card.2

Living Statue

In addition to the three initial monster group cards, the Living Statue card begins the Age of Monsters in play. By default, its type is Magma, but you may decide otherwise or roll for it. Place its counters with 1 ⛭ in the Hall of Living Statues.

The Living Statue guards an enormous stone tablet. This epic treasure is called “The Stone of Living Statues.” Made by the Throrgrmir dwarves in their renaissance, the tablet describes how to create a living statue. It is immovable and, so, cannot be stolen or otherwise removed from the Hall.

If the Wizard or the Blue Wizard finds the tablet unguarded, add the following action to the wizard’s card:

❏ Build Living Statue (req cyrstal, iron, or magma).3

On its turn, the builder—and only the builder—may deactivate a Living Statue. Deactivation is not a separate action. When deactivated, the Living Statue card is removed from play. Given the required materials, a wizard may build multiple Living Statues, but only one at a time may be in play.

Living Statue Denizen Wyrmdawn

Crystal ●●●
Iron ●●●●
Magma ●●●●●
Treasure varies

Construct, Mindless, Magical

Constructed by the Throrgrmir dwarves or a powerful wizard, a living statue is a formidable guard.

LIFECYCLE

Always Guard.
IF it has not interacted with any monster group in the last turn, the Living Statue prepares and takes no additional actions.

A Living Statue’s type is determined by the resource of which it is made. It takes its turn immediately after the wizard who created it.

Primordial Wyrm

The Primordial Wyrm begins the Age of Monsters in her lair, which is the ancient city of Throrgardr, now in ruins. Place 6 , 6 ❍, and 2 ⛭ in Throrgardr.4

The epic treasures in the hoard are Lyngheid’s Prize and the Seventh. When yielding treasure, whether through theft or otherwise, the Primordial Wyrm gives up normal treasures first. Only when she has no treasures remaining does she sacrifice Lyngheid’s Prize. The Seventh, being her last unhatched egg, cannot be removed from the hoard while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.5

Primordial Wyrm Alphapredator Wyrmdawn ●●●●●●❍❍❍❍❍❍⛭⛭

Unique, Primordial, Aquatic, Draconic, Hoarder

The primordial wyrm sleeps in her lair unless disturbed…

LIFECYCLE

Always Fight any group that has made me the target of any action.
IF I have not interacted with any group in the last turn, prepare and take no additional actions.

Healing: If the Primordial Wyrm has fewer than 6 , roll 1d6 when she prepares. On a 1, add 1 to the Primordial Wyrm. 

Apathetic: No matter how many or ❍ she gains, the Primordial Wyrm never rises to villainy.

Die for the Seventh: The Seventh, being her last unhatched egg, cannot be removed from the hoard while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.

Wyrmlings

There are six unique Wyrmling cards. Wyrmlings are named by order of birth. Fighting over treasure during the Age of Civilization, they now abide by an established hierarchy. Stronger Wyrmling cards, higher in the order, have a bonus to all dice rolls.

Wyrmling, Name Denizen Wyrmdawn ●●

Unique, Aquatic, Draconic, Wandering

A wyrmling seeks treasure. She does not know nor care that her touch effects dragons. She just wants the treasure.

LIFECYCLE

IF I am asleep, wake.
IF I am near a Dragon and it has treasure, touch it.
Otherwise, always explore.

Steal.

Hoard bound: When she acquires a treasure, a Wrymling returns immediately to the lair, adds the treasure to the primordial wyrm’s hoard, and sleeps.

Wounded: A sleeping Wyrmling with fewer than 2 cannot wake. Instead she prepares, adding 1 instead of a ★.

Protected: In the lair, a Wyrmling cannot be the target of any action while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.

Wyrmling Hierarchy:

Wyrmling Name Bonus to Dice Rolls
Delta +2
Epsilon +2
Zeta +1
Alpha +1
Gamma +1
Beta +0

 


Notes

1 The touch action and the Touched instructions might also be used in a demon-centered campaign—renamed as taint and Tainted.

2 Wyrmwyrd, the follow-on campaign, uses the B/X “rules as written.” Though compelling, the kobold association with dragons was introduced in a later edition.

3 Crystal may be exploited from the Crystal Caverns, iron from the dwarven Smelter, Foundry, or Power Plant (considered as biomes), and magma (also a biome) from the magma chamber.

4 During the Age of Civilization, the primordial wyrm acquired (through her treasure-seeking offspring) nine dwarven treasures. Using the average treasure type values, I converted nine dwarven treasures to four dragon treasures. These are in addition to the two treasures the primordial wyrm previously possessed.

5 I don’t see in the rules that the (optional) epic treasures can be stolen at all. I’m making up the “yield normal treasures first” rule.


The Pale Blue Book

“These are the rules,” said Garth. “You don’t have to know them, but this’ll give you an idea about the game.”

I had to study the monochrome cover to make out the image. A dragon—fangs bared, wings spread—narrowed its serpentine eyes at an armored bowman and a bearded man in a pointy hat. The man wore a robe with stars, comets, and crescent moons all over it, like the hat. He pointed a magic wand at the dragon. I could tell it was a magic wand, because magic—in the form of glowing blue flame and tiny stars—was shooting out of it. The bowman, who wore a shield slung over a shoulder, aimed an arrow at the dragon. The dragon sat on a mound of coins and jewelry, chests and vases, and swords that stuck out at angles.

Inside the book, the text was small, the pages yellowed, which gave the impression of age. Black and white drawings depicted medieval characters, who were armed and fighting mythic creatures or hordes of grotesque humanoid monsters.

Thumbing through its leaves, I read long headings in block capitals: TIME AND MOVEMENT IN THE DUNGEONS and TRAPS, SECRET DOORS, SURPRISES, WANDERING MONSTERS and EXPERIENCE POINTS AND EXPERIENCE LEVELS. There were rules for COMBAT MELEE, MISSILE FIRE, and MAGIC WEAPONS, plus page after page of descriptions of MAGIC SPELLS and MONSTERS.

My thumb stopped. One whole page was delineated in rows and columns—the heading: TREASURE TABLE. Percentages showed the chances for coins of precious metals, including platinum, which I’d heard of, and electrum, which I hadn’t. The coins came by the thousands and were accompanied by gems, jewelry, maps, and magic.

I flipped back to the front to have a closer look. In the FOREWORD FROM THE ORIGINAL EDITION, I read a mysterious fairy tale. It began with “ONCE UPON A TIME, long, long ago…” and turned quickly esoteric. There were castles, crusades, and societies. There was a character named Dave Arneson and a map of a “Great Kingdom” and its “environs.” There was a bog and, in it, a “weird enclave” called “Blackmoor” in “a spot between the ‘Giant Kingdom’ and the fearsome ‘Egg of Coot.’” There were medieval fantasy “campaigns,” which were more than just a game. “Blackmoor” was one, another was “Greyhawk.”

The place names were unfamiliar, as were many of the words. They all came together in my mind like pieces of an insolvable jigsaw puzzle. But each piece glowed in blue flame and tiny stars.

I closed the book and looked again at the cover. “When do we play?”

Preface and FOREWORD FROM THE ORIGINAL EDITION
Preface and FOREWORD FROM THE ORIGINAL EDITION with Illustration by David Sutherland.
Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: Rules for Fantastic Medieval Role Playing Adventure Game Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures, edited by Eric J. Holmes, Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1977.

In the years since, I learned all the place names from the mysterious fairy tale and all the words too. I learned about the Castle & Crusade Society and their CHAINMAIL fantasy rules. I learned that Dave Arneson and the FOREWORD’s author Gary Gygax invented the game, of which the “original edition” was published in the previous decade—not so long, long ago. I have adventured in Greyhawk and Blackmoor and set scenarios for my own medieval fantasy campaigns in those worlds. And although now I know its origin and character, in my mind, the “Egg of Coot” remains fearsome.


Wyrmlings

Throrgrmir’s golden age ended when the dwarves woke the primordial wyrm. After the wyrm’s incursion, they rebuilt their civilization in a decadent age, which ended in civil war.

Meanwhile, the wyrm laid eggs. During Throrgrmir’s final era, the eggs hatch. While the dwarves struggle in the war’s aftermath, they must defend themselves against treasure-seeking wyrmlings.

Tinker & Tack

What’s fun about tinkering with rules in your own instance of a game is that they don’t have to work in every case. They only have to fulfill your present purpose. I tacked these additions on to the Age of Civilization. I present them here as an example of what you might do with your own game of How to Host a Dungeon.

Dwarves

When expanding and exploiting, dwarves prefer to move into dormitories and store treasures in vaults as far as possible from any active wyrmlings. They build, however, where they find space.

Wyrmlings

I name wyrmlings after the order in which they hatch, using the greek alphabet. From seven eggs, the wyrmlings are called Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta.

Following the dwarves’ building phase, the wyrmlings—all together—take their turn in phases as follows.

Incubation

Roll a d6 for each unhatched egg. For each 1 or 2, one egg hatches. Emerging wyrmlings immediately search for treasure.

Once hatched, a wyrmling may wake or search. Each of these actions may lead to subsequent actions, which are handled in the appropriate phase.

Wake

Roll a d6 for each sleeping wyrmling. The wyrmling wakes on a result of 1 to 4. Upon waking, it immediately searches for treasure.

Search

Wyrmlings seek gold and gems. As the offspring of primordial and cosmic parents, they have no affinity for epic treasures.

The wyrmling moves one finger toward the nearest dwarven treasure, excluding epic treasures. A wyrmling may move along waterways as well as tunnels.

If the wyrmling encounters a dwarven population, the conflict is resolved in the CONFLICT phase.

If the wyrmling encounters treasure, it returns immediately to the lair with the treasure, and its turn ends.

Conflict

When a wyrmling encounters a dwarven population, the conflict is resolved according to the rules for CONFLICTS AND ATTACKS in the Age of Monsters section, How to Host a Dungeon.

If multiple wyrmlings are in conflict with a population, they join forces and get a +1 bonus per additional wyrmling on the conflict roll.

The wyrmlings are young and, when outmatched, retreat back to the lair. Therefore, dwarves win all ties.

If the wyrmling wins the conflict, remove the dwarven population. The wyrmling’s turn ends.

If the dwarves win, the wyrmling retreats immediately back to the lair and sleeps.

The Wyrmling “She”

I don’t know yet if the offspring of the primordial wyrm and the World Dragon have a gender. Until we discover otherwise, I use feminine pronouns for the wyrmlings.

At the Gate

The dwarf gate blocks the tunnel from the Deepmost Caverns to the city of Throrgardr. Although no dwarven population is present, the dwarf gate is considered to be defended, unless occupied by wyrmlings. Defenders get the appropriate fortification bonus against attacks. From the gate, the dwarves also observe the waterway entrance.

A wyrmling at the gate may either attack the gate or sneak by it, swimming up the waterway. If more than one wyrmlings are present, they split into two even groups: some attack, others sneak. An odd wyrmling joins the attackers.

Multiple wyrmlings at the gate gain a +1 bonus for each additional wyrmling to the conflict roll if attacking, or if sneaking, gain a -1 bonus for each additional wyrmling at the gate. The bonuses apply to all wyrmlings, no matter in which activity they are engaged. One roll is made for each activity (attacking or sneaking) no matter how many wyrmlings are present. An example follows.

While a victorious wyrmling is at the gate, it is not defended. Dwarven defenders reinvest the gate at the beginning of their turn in which a wyrmling does not occupy the gate.

Attack

Attacking the gate is handled as a conflict, see CONFLICT above.

Sneak

Wyrmlings may attempt to get past the gate by swimming up the river. A 1 or 2 on a d6 indicates the dwarves do not detect the wyrmling. She immediately continues movement up the river. If the dwarves detect the wyrmling, she is repulsed and returns to the lair.

Example

Three wyrmlings are at the gate. Two attack, while the third attempts to sneak by. The two attackers get a roll with a +2 bonus, while the sneaker gets a roll with a -2 bonus.

The dwarves roll a 3. A +1 for fortification gives them 4 against the wyrmling attackers roll of 2, +2 for numbers, which is a 4. Dwarves win the tie. The defeated wyrmlings return to the lair and sleep.

The sneaker rolled a 3, which, with a -2 for numbers, is a 1—a success. The wyrmling continues her movement, following the river.

Sibling Conflict

When more than one wyrmlings find a treasure, they fight over it. Roll a d6 for each wyrmling. If the optional Wyrmling Hierarchy rule (below) is used, add a bonus according to the wrymling’s rank, if any. The elder (or ranking) wyrmling wins ties. Winner takes the treasure back to the lair. Loosers remain; their turn ends.

Wyrmling Hierarchy (optional)

I have the idea that it will be important to know the wyrmlings’ hierarchy in later ages of the How to Host a Dungeon campaign. I found it not too onerous to keep track of wins and loses between the wyrmlings in the manner described below.

It does, however, prove difficult to detail how it works. Feel free to fill in holes or come up with your own system. If you don’t use the wyrmling hierarchy, assume the wyrmlings are ranked in order from eldest to youngest, i.e., as they hatch.

When any number of wyrmlings fight, the winner, if she doesn’t have one already, earns a ranking. If she is lower ranked than an opponent, she may move up in the ranking.

In all cases, a loss is recorded for each looser.

No rank: If the winner has no rank and she has an equal or fewer number of loses than her highest ranking opponent, she assumes the rank of that opponent.

Higher rank: If the winner is ranked higher than her opponents, she maintains her current rank.

Lower rank: If the winner is ranked lower than her highest ranking opponent and she has fewer loses than that opponent, she assumes that rank. Otherwise, she climbs in rank until she has fewer loses than the wyrmling whose rank she assumes.

Slipping rank: When a wyrmling’s rank is assumed by another, she slips down in the ranking. Compare the loses with the next lower ranked wyrmling. The wyrmling with fewer loses gets the higher ranking.

Empty Nest

If all the eggs hatch during this age, the primordial wyrm sleeps. Beginning on the next turn, she might wake up. In the WAKE phase, roll a d6. She wakes on a 1, and attacks the dwarf gate (with any wyrmlings present) in the CONFLICT phase, adding 1 to the conflict roll for each of her populations. She begins with 3 populations.

If the attack is unsuccessful, any wyrmlings return to the lair, and the primordial wyrm loses 1 population (return 1 token to the Deepmost Caverns). The primordial wyrm remains to press the attack in the next turn.

She continues the attack until she is successful or all her population tokens are returned to the Deepmost Caverns, at which time, she returns to the lair and sleeps. Check each turn for waking.

If the attack is successful, she occupies the gate, and her turn ends. The next turn, she moves into the city and makes a new lair there. While the primordial wyrm lairs in the city, dwarves may not reinvest the gate.

The wyrm sleeps and does not wake unless disturbed. Returning wyrmlings deposit their treasures and sleep in this new lair.

Unhatched Eggs

At the end of the Throrgrmir civilization, any unhatched eggs become epic treasures. In a later age, or in the later campaign, a wyrmling might be coaxed from an egg through an arcane ritual.

Civilization Ends

If civilization ends by industrial accident or other catastrophe, roll a d6 for any wyrmling above the dwarf gate and not in the lair—the primordial wyrm is impervious to the damage, and she protects her young. On a 1 the wyrmling does not survive the catastrophe.

If the dwarven population is reduced to five or fewer populations, the remaining dwarves depart, taking treasure (but not epic treasure) with them, and the Throrgrmir civilization ends. If she isn’t there already, the primordial wyrm moves, with her hoard and any unhatched eggs, into the city.

Active wyrmlings return to the current lair and sleep. Otherwise, follow the rules for the dwarven End of Civilization, How to Host a Dungeon.

Wyrmlings at the Gate
Wyrmlings at the Gate.
At the gate (center), Alpha attacks, while Gamma attempts to sneak up the river. Having previously penetrated the gate, Beta (background) engages a dwarven population. Four eggs remain in incubation (right).

How to Host a Dungeon is a tinker-friendly solo game of dungeon creation by Tony Dowler. In Wyrm Dawn, I’m using it to create back story for an upcoming B/X campaign. The game is available on DriveThruRPG, and you can support Tony Dowler’s work on his Patreon.


B/X D&D 40th-Anniversary Game

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of my favorite DUNGEONS & DRAGONS edition, I’m starting a new B/X campaign. Wyrmwyrd is a solo campaign, and I’m using Tony Dowler’s How to Host a Dungeon to create some back story. I think of it as a prequel campaign—working title: Wyrm Dawn. I just finished the primordial age. The mother of dragons spawned in the deepest caverns.

Wyrm Dawn
Wyrm Dawn Campaign Map with B/X D&D and Host to Host a Dungeon.

The original edition of D&D, created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, was published in 1974. The edition known as “B/X” was edited by Tom Moldvay and David Cook with Steve Marsh and published as DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Fantasy Adventure Game Basic and Expert Rulebooks by TSR Hobbies, Lake Geneva, WI, in 1981 (first printing in January). How to Host a Dungeon: the solo game of dungeon creation by Tony Dowler is in its second edition (2019). The cross-section map is my own.