Thursday, 28 January 2016

Looking at 'Escape from Zanzer's Dungeon'

Escape from Zanzer's Dungeon was the first adventure I ever played. It makes a kind of sense that it be the adventure that brings my group into a B/X campaign. So lets take a look at it...

Teaching Tool
Escape from Zanzer's Dungeon is at its core, a teaching tool. In each of the four sections of the adventure introduces a small number of rules and lets the players play with for a short while to get the hange of them

Part 1:  Covers basic role-playing, how attributes work, and the basic dice mechanic and basic combat mechanic (roll to hit, hit points, damage and Initiative).

Part 2: Covers classes(excluding the magic user),  Combat (including armour class THAC0, weapons and ranged attacks)

Part 3: Covers the basics of traps, magc, magic users, moral, saving throws and encumbrance.

Part 4: Largely gets the players to put everything they have already learned to use. On the Dms side of the table, this section takes some time to teach about stocking dungeons.

Given that of my players, I know of only one definitely having played B/X ever, and both of use having not played it in years and year, it seems pretty reasonable to start the campaign with this kind of scenario.

What's going on.
Zanzer is a slaver who has kidnapped victims, and stuffed them into his salt mines, where he intend to work them to death. Zanzer employs humanoids to defend his mine and dungeon.

It is a pretty minimalist plot, and yet by the standards of some of the B-series adventures, it is an epic in with regards to the amount of explicit narrative it contains. That said, I want the initial episode to be fairly light on plot. It should exists as a shared challenge, to help bind the party together into one.

That said, I want to tie this adventure into one of the wider plots, so on the corpse of Zanzer Tem, the party will discover a letter connecting Zanzer Tem to the conspiracy from plot 1.


Location.
Strictly, Zanzer's dungeon is set in thunder rift, but I'll be moving it to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.  In my campaign, the salt mine will be located beneath Stallanford, as a way to open up King's Festival as a possible second adventure, as well as assault on raven's ruin, which I intend to set near stallanford. That will mean I also need to place a Hook, in Stallenford, or the dungeon, to give the PCs reason to travel to Threshold, where I will be setting Castle Caldwell, and to give them access to the Caves of Chaos.

Agency.
The greatest weakness of this scenario is the lack of real agency on the part of the PCs which dominates this scenario. The it a very linier pathway through the first two thirds of the adventure, with very few meaningful choices to be made in the entire adventure. That could easily leave my players a little bored and frustrated. However, it is a pretty short adventure and the rails here play a useful role, in helping to teach the Player the rules. .

Gold
There is a startling large amount of gold availible in Zanzer's dungeon, and very little of it actually comes in a form that is interesting. So, before running this, I am going to need to cut down the amount of  available, while making the remainder more interesting.

Stock your own adventure
Rooms 24 through to 28 are left empty for the DM to practice stocking the dungeon. I am thinking Rooms 25 and 26 seem like strong contenders for barracks rooms for the dungeons guards, while 24 and 27 might makes a good place for an ambush or trap. Room 28  is weird thanks to the ways its doors are setup. I shall have to think about what to do with it.

Conclusions

Zanzer's dungeon might be light on a strong backstory, but the scenario in which the characters find themselves means that there should be a good emergent narrative. It is a really good teaching tool, and should make a cool kick off to the campaign.

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