Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Redesigning an Adventure

What do you do when the players return to a lair/den/dungeon/ruin several times?  What do the inhabitants do?  What changes are made from visit-to-visit?  In my current 1st edition campaign the players have been tasked with finding and clearing a goblin warren.  The first attempt the players (Boog, a half-orc fighter and Grim, a halfling thief) entered they fought two goblin guards near the entrance and had to return afterwards due to Grim's injuries.

They came in from the north and just managed to get around the first two turns.

The second time the players entered the goblin warren (this time they had Corum, human cleric along).  They didn't notice anything different.  The first time around they hid the bodies of the goblin guards hoping to not alarm the whole den.  This time they got into a huge fight of ten goblins, one of the goblins alerted the area by pounding on the alarm. But an unfortunate event occurred, Boog critically hit Corum in the head with a mace.  So again, the party had to leave.

The room is where the battle took place.

In their most recent return to the Goblin Warren the players found it very quiet.  The bodies of the goblins had not been moved.  After a short time they did encounter a dark goblin better armed and better armor.  They were able to explore more.  They entered the small room to the north explored it and to end the session Grim torn down a curtain.  The result, Grim and Corum had a small shower of rot grubs fall on them.

You can see the players have only explored a small section of the dungeon. 

So the players have entered the dungeon three different times.  The original adventure was designed for the party to go in and do their damage.  Now I have to rethink the encounters.  What has changed?  I can't discuss in detail what I did since the players are continuing their adventure next Monday, but changes have been made from the original.  One of the things I needed to do was go through each room and see what population remained.  See what rooms would be changing and which ones would remain the same.

As a DM, I always enjoy these kind of challenges, when things don't go as planned.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the players have been great.  Their enthusiasm and excitement for the game makes me want to go the extra mile.  I think all of us are enjoying the process of rediscovering the system that got us into this hobby in the first place.


  1. I'd love to give you some excellent DMing advice here, but my players HATE having to leave a dungeon and return; especially in scenarios like you have described here, because all I can ever think to do is the logical thing tactically for the humanoid tribe, which is usually go on alert and upgrade your defenses which make return expeditions ever so much harder; more guards, traps and maybe some hired help and/or guard pets. Sometimes, with less intelligent humanoids, I'll just have them assume that the attack was a fluke and their defenses were up to the challenge, so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" style. Occasionally after repeated assaults diminishing their numbers I'll have a weak tribe just abandon their territory, taking their treasure with them. That can actually be kind of creepy if it's just abandoned and you set the tone right, you can throw in just a couple of encounters with things that live in abandoned places too; or you can have another group just moving in when the party comes back, that can be fun too. Sometimes I have them get a new tougher boss (or bosses), like Orcs or Hobgoblins move in and take over the Goblin tribe as a slave or client group. AD&D's humanoids live in a tough Darwinian world, the strong rule the weak or the weak die off.

  2. Good ideas, Jagatai. This is the sort of stuff I love, because it turns the dungeon into a dynamic and believable environment.

    Another idea is to have the tribe get fed up with having their lair invaded and go on the offensive. This could mean having scouts track the party back to their resting place the next time they leave the dungeon or, if they are too impatient for such "kunnin' taktiks", just go raid the nearest settlement and burn it to the ground.

  3. Oh yeah, those are cool plans too. Once I chased a party out of the entrance of a Goblin lair they had pretty well depleted of it's warriors with a programmed illusion trick/trap. That was fun. For me. They weren't so amused when they realized they had fled from an illusion into another tribe's ambush zone.

  4. Sounds like a fun set of adventures.