Off the rails in the Undertavern

This weekend I had the rarest of game-related things, now that I’m older: a Saturday night game!  I’m happy with the mid-week campaigns I’ve been playing and running but there is a nice bit of nostalgia when you play on a weekend like a student.  More or less out of the blue, one of my old friends from back in high school suggested getting together for some gaming, so four of us used to be in a gaming circle gathered to reminisce, catch up on our respective stories, and do a little gaming.

I ran a one-page dungeon when I realized, at the last minute, that we hadn’t really talked about who GM or what we’d play.  I ran it in ACKS, my regular group’s current flavor of D&D, and used Telecanter’s “The undertavern”.   (Go ahead and check it out.)  I loved the central idea of a monster chained to a track that limits his mobility, but I had never read it through and unfortunately I realized there is a lot that DM needs to fill in … all the reasons for the bizarre scenery and NPCs.  Why all the blind baby mice? Why the straw dummies and model tavern?  What the hell happened with the beached behemoth?  What the hell is the undersky? (The Word version, also at the link above, is more detailed with NPCs etc. but never answers my questions either.)

If this had been more than a one-shot adventure for us — if I were going to run a campaign with this as an early side-adventure, I might have liked this more.  For one thing, the undersky area would be a neat entrance to a mythic underworld type dungeon.

However, I thought the whole thing was a little unsatisfying as a one-off, and really failed to work as a one-page dungeon, at least for me, since I expect OPDs to save me some time as DM.

The session was fun, despite a number of complications.  Since this was a one-shot, I unabashedly railroaded the party into taking the bait and going under the tavern.  I hate railroading but in the circumstances it was ok.  Another complication was the early PvP conflict, which changed the nature of the adventure considerably, though in a fun direction.  Also, the party was badly mauled by the main monster but managed to defeat it early on, so that the tension of having Gulo chase them did not work out.  In hindsight Twitch might have been a good ersatz pursuer (I should have just made him wear a straw cloak and drag the chain along the tracks to scare the PCs away).  In the event though I used a lot of the victims/prisoners as sources of replacement PCs, and good thing I did — two of the starting PCs had to be replaced early on, and a third replacement was needed a little later.

We certainly had fun, and I’d run the Undertavern again, but only with some careful planning to provide some veneer of explanation as to what all the rat references were about!

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Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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