The central element of The Carnival at Nal Sagath is a random dungeon crawl, and it occurred to me over the holidays that this meant it should work well solo; so I decided to try it out. If it worked well, I thought, I’d try it on my players, and if they liked it too, I could abandon dungeon maps altogether. I wish I’d thought of this idea in the 1970s.
Reading on may spoil your enjoyment of this scenario as a player, although it might help you as a GM.
Setting Rules: Jokers Wild; Multiple Languages; No Power Points.
Attor and Veon descend into the tunnels beneath Nal Sagath in search of a damsel in distress. Group Tracking rolls are needed to follow her kidnappers, and are made every 20 minutes. Neither of our heroes actually have Tracking, so this could take a while. I note that group rolls (SWDE p. 63) are one trait die and one wild die, which doesn’t seem to offer any advantage over what a PC does normally; I decide the author must have meant co-operative rolls, and use those. This post is about the dungeon generator, not the saga of Attor and Veon, and I don’t want to give away the nature of the opposition; so I shall be reticent about what they encounter.
Turn 1: Blundering around in the darkness, our heroes accumulate no tracking points. They need 12 of those to find the missing girl and the boss monster. I draw an event card and discover someone is following the pair; a contest of their Notice against the follower’s Stealth reveals they notice this, but a further contest of Stealth vs Stealth to catch him fails. So, Attor and Veon know they are being followed, but not by whom. Since this card was a Joker, the GM gets an extra benny to the common pool.
Turn 2: Attor succeeds with a raise on his Tracking roll, impressive considering it is 1d4-2, and gathers 2 points. The event card is a secret passage; alas, our heroes notice their torches are flickering, but fail to notice the passage, and press on as before.
Turn 3: No points this turn. The event card reveals that the group are pursued down a staircase by a large boulder, which is resolved using the Chase rules. Just before they reach a large room where they could escape it, it rolls over the pair of them. Attor suffers two Wounds, but soaks one; Veon suffers one, which he fails to soak. Both heroes are now down one benny.
Turn 4: One point, new total is 3. The heroes encounter a fungus-filled corridor, but easily save against the effects of the fungal spores. Just as well.
Turn 5: One point, new total is 4. The party comes upon an ancient bronze chest, and luckily Attor notices the trap before they try to pick the lock. They decide to leave well enough alone, since neither has a Hindrance that forces them to take the risk, and move on.
Turn 6: A roll of 20 on 1d4-2 is not to be sneezed at, and gathers the pair 5 points. New total 9. The card draw shows that their mysterious follower is again noticeable; Veon wins the contest of Stealth this time, and drags out into the light a townsman who has been following them. Attor gets a raise on his Persuasion roll and the townsman explains that he, too, wants to help rescue the girl; they decide to join forces.
Turn 7: No points, but the event card triggers an attack by a many-tentacled Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know, which lashes out and coils a tentacle around Veon. Veon’s enormous Fighting skill means that he wins the ensuing grapple with three raises, escaping its coils. He acts next and stabs it with both swords, doing no real damage though. Attor unloads the full might of his Bolt spell, frying it. "Calamari, anyone?" he asks. Veon cuts off a piece and chews thoughtfully. "Needs salt."
Turn 8: 3 points, thanks to a repeated card draw – new total 11.
Turn 9: One point. New total 8. According to the event card, Veon is again singled out for attack by a lone albino rat. It does no real damage, and a reaction test for Veon shows he doesn’t return the attack, so the trio moves on.
Turn 10: One point. New total 9, and another repeated card draw.
Turn 11: No points, but the card shows an ambush by a group of dungeon denizens. Displaying the finely-honed sense of danger typical of wizards, Attor spots them as they try to sneak up, and a stand-up fight ensues, which the party win handily.
Turn 12: One point, new total 12 and we find the boss monster and the missing girl, four hours into the quest. The boss has six lackeys, and there is a hazard too, equally dangerous to all present. Veon and the townsman charge the monster group, intent on fighting their way to the girl. Attor fires a maximum strength bolt cluster into the boss, which burns off most of his bennies if nothing else. The monsters countercharge and get into melee with the townsman, who made a better running roll. In the second round, the minions mob the townsman and make short work of him, while Veon shakes one in exchange, and the girl recovers from her Shaken state and decides to run for the exit, avoiding the melee. Attor closes range and blasts the boss again, killing him outright this time. In the third round, Veon stands alone against four minions, being Shaken and Wounded twice, while two peel off to deal with Attor; he fries one with an ungodly 44 damage, and the other with 16; meanwhile, showing a remarkable turn of speed, the girl scoots past Attor. In round four, Veon is incapacitated before he can strike back, and a vengeful Attor kills two of the minions and Shakes a third; the girl makes it to the door and disappears through it, running screaming into the tunnels. Round five; the Shaken minion staggers towards Attor, slowly, and the uninjured one charges him; he Shakes himself with a backlash and is out of bennies. Oh dear. Round six, and the shaken minion recovers before running up to Attor. The untouched minion misses Attor, who fails to recover from Shaken. Round seven; Attor again fails to recover, and is now up against two minions and is incapacitated for his pains.
Hmm, that looks a lot like a Total Party Kill. However, since this is a point-buy system and Our Heroes have no experience, I can recreate them exactly as they were and try again; in effect, they respawn at the dungeon entrance. Given that, I may as well recycle the names as well.
- The Bolt power is vicious under No Power Points; you can churn out three 3d6 bolts per turn until you fumble. However, it’s easier in play as there is no book-keeping of power points. Before I adopt it at large in the game, I will try it in a few more solo adventures; it feels like it unbalances play in favour of spellcasters, but that said, the whole party did get whacked, so it didn’t help them.
- The way the encounter deck is set up to handle duplicate cards is more useful than I expected, since the longer you have been going, the faster you want to get to the climactic battle. There are a number of encounters I didn’t draw, so this scenario would bear repeated play, or at least the deck could be reused.
- This approach would work as well in other RPGs, or other environments. One could easily run up a few encounter decks for a city, wilderness travel, different dungeon levels or areas, and so on.