This one’s for Rick Devonshire (Hi, Rick!): How to do a WHAA dungeon crawl without figures or terrain. This is a didactic post with very little in-character dialogue. At the bottom of the post is the final dungeon, just as I scribbled it during play; one 5mm square to the tabletop inch.
Visually, this approach is not very attractive, but it has advantages:
- It’s dirt cheap. The price of the rules and some dice, and you’re away.
- It’s extremely portable. Anywhere I have room to set out the rules and a pad of paper, and roll some dice, I can do this.
- You can make bigger dungeons than if you were using figures and terrain. Just use a smaller grid on the graph paper.
- I can stop at any time if interrupted, and pick up where I left off.
I’ll use the Brass Dragons as the PCs (blue pen), and arbitrarily select undead as the opposition (red pen), although I could easily have diced for what they’re up against. I set W = 2”. The Dragons form up outside the entrance:
- Front rank: Johann, Gervaise
- Second rank: Ispitan, Gottfried
- Third rank: Beatrice
- Fourth rank: Sir Charles (grumbling about not being in the van), Jean-Paul
Blue numbers show where the characters are at the end of each exploration turn; red numbers show where PEFs and undead are at the end of the turns. “A”, “B”, “C” are the three PEFs, “S” = Sentry.
“Turn” for this report refers to “exploration turn”, with combat being detailed within that as necessary.
A roll of 2 on the Lair Entrance table (p. 59) tells me we start with a passageway. Further rolls in section 5 tell me it’s W wide and 4” long, with a left turn at the end. A roll on the Traps table (p. 58) shows there is no trap.
Same process as for turn 1, as this is another passageway around the bend. No traps yet, and the passage is as wide as before and 10” long, ending in a single door. A roll of 5 tells me it is locked; Gottfried to the fore, and he rolls 1, 3 vs Rep 5 to pass 2d6 and pick the lock. The Beyond the Door and Special tables (p. 61) and a roll of 1 on each, show me we have stairs down. A check on the Passageways table (p. 54) shows these are W wide and 7” long; because I’m running off the edge of the page, I decide they run off at a 90 degree angle.
Alas, as Johann steps through onto the stairs, he triggers a level 4 trap. He rolls 1, 2, 3, 5 vs Rep 4 and passes 3d6; the trap rolls 1, 2, 2, 5 vs Rep 4 and also passes 3d6. He is unharmed, but the trap remains dangerous. (If I were writing in character, I’d decide what the trap was at this point, but mechanically it doesn’t matter.)
Gottfried moves forwards as the party “specialist” (Rep 5) and I roll again to see if the trap springs a 6 means it does, and the trap randomly affects one explorer; that turns out to be Ispitan. The trap rolls 2, 2, 4, 5 and passes 3d6′; Ispitan rolls 1, 2, 2, 4, 5 and passes 5d6, disarming it as he has more successes.
The party descend to the second level.
At the foot of the stairs, they find a passageway 9” long and 2W wide. At the end are three doors, one on each side and one directly ahead. There is also a level 5 trap. It rolls 2, 2, 3, 3, 4 vs Rep 5 and passes 5d6. Johann, in the lead, rolls 1, 3, 5, 6 vs Rep 4 and passes 2d6. Johann is struck as if by a missile weapon of Rep 5 and Impact 5. I find the Firing Table in the Adventures QRS; Johann rolls 4d6 vs 3 (1, 2, 3, 6) and passes 3d6, while the trap rolls 3, 4, 4, 6, 6 and passes 3d6. As both scored the same number of successes, the trap misses him.
After rereading the trap rules several times, I decide this means it is disarmed.
The party quickly discuss their options and decide to try the east door. It’s locked, but Gottfried quickly deals with that. Alas, it proves to be a false door thanks to rolls on the tables on p. 61.
South door, then. This also submits to Gottfried’s lockpicks, and beyond lie stairs up to the first level. I’m certainly rolling a lot of specials today. These are not trapped, and end in an unlocked door.
Beyond the door is a chamber, 6W in area, with one other door in the west wall.
On finding the first chamber, I roll on p. 62 for the Lair Alertness. Rep 3, –1 because this is the first chamber, +0 because we have broken 0 doors down so far; 3, 6 vs Rep 2 is pass 0d6, so there are no sentries, but there may be occupants.
I set aside three PEFs, and roll 1d6 for each: 4, 5, 6. Since none of these is a “1”, none of them are in the first chamber.
The other door is locked, and this time Gottfried is unable to persuade it.
Knowing full well that breaking down the door increases the chance of encounters, the explorers backtrack down the stairs to the door they haven’t checked yet.
Gottfried has more luck with this. It opens onto a chamber, 12W in area, with one other door in the north wall. I roll 3, 3, 6 for the PEFs; as none of these are 1 or 2, there are no PEFs present.
(At this point, I have to pick up some visitors from the train station, so I put down the pens and graph paper. This is why I mark the end of turn positions; I can pick up where I left off, maybe days later.)
(It is indeed several days before I can return to this skirmish. I open up my notebook, feeling smug, and carry on. I’ll speed up a bit, though, as you should have the idea by now.)
More stairs! No trap though. At the bottom is a left turn, just as well as otherwise I’d go off the page. We’re now underneath the original entrance corridor. A right turn next does take us off the page, so I resort to my usual stand-by of a cave-in blocking further progress.
Nothing else for it; back to Chamber 1 and break down the door. Ispitan mutters “Stand aside!” and breaks down the door by rolling 2d6 vs Rep (5), scoring 4, 5 and passing 2d6. A spell of mighty puissance, no doubt, since the door is now broken. Beyond is a wide corridor, at the end of which is a T junction. To the right, a short passage ending in a right turn (you can see I got the width wrong, but who cares?); that would end in a door, but it would be too complex to draw, so I make it a dead end. To the left from the T junction, a slightly longer passage ending in a door.
Beyond the door is chamber 3, which contains PEFs B and C (the room number counts as 5 now we have broken down a door). A couple of quick rolls on the tables on p. 54 reveal both PEFs are false alarms; the skeletons here are the plain vanilla, non-animated kind.
It’s been pretty uneventful so far, hasn’t it? I decide Gottfried can take a Difficult challenge test on p. 64 to find a secret door in chambers 1 or 2, or the wide corridor from turns 11-13. The consequences of failure will be that he triggers a trap in each case, 50/50 for a level 4 or 5 trap. A Difficult test reduces his Rep by 2, so he is rolling against an effective Rep of 3. Corridor first; 3, 6 vs 3 is pass 1d6 – I opt to roll again, and get 1, 4. This would normally count as pass 1d6, but is reduced to pass 0d6 for the retry, meaning a trap is triggered. I roll 1d6, with 1-3 counting as a level 4 and 4-6 as a level 5 trap; level 4. The trap rolls 4, 5, 5, 6 and passes 1d6; Gottfried rolls 1, 2, 3, 3, 4 and passes 5d6, easily disarming it.
It’s the same story in chamber 2, except with a level 5 trap. The trap passes 5d6, Gottfried passes 4d6 and gets a Shield Die – a 6 – which negates one of the trap’s successes, so no harm done but the trap is still dangerous. The party misses a turn, composing itself.
In chamber 1, though, Gottfried finds a secret door. Beyond is chamber 4, which contains PEF A. This is the main body of the enemy forces; 1d6+6 gives a result of 12 on the “How many of them?” table, or 54 CV. I now dice on the Undead army list in the quick reference section until I get at least 54 CV of opposition. This proves to be 3 chariots, one of which is the Big Bad, 5 cavalry, 7 archers, and 24 infantry. Using the table on p. 10, I determine that the Big Bad has no particular advantages, just the usual ratings. They’ll probably be enough.
“Mummy!” cries Gervaise.
“Errm, no, actually,” says Ispitan. “Just skeletons… Oh, I see what you mean. That is rather a lot of skeletons, isn’t it?”
This is why dungeoneering parties are usually small.
Finally, a fight! Note that this is both good news, because we can hope to find loot now, and bad news, because now more PEFs will start turning up.
The two sides are well within 12” of each other, so a Test of Wills is in order. The skeletons have a Rep 3 leader, and Ispitan is Rep 5; but the skeletons are Undead, and so automatically pass 3d6, and inspire Terror, so Ispitan rolls –1d6 for that; he scores 1, 1, 6, 6 vs 3 and passes 2d6. The skeletons have passed one more d6, so test to charge. Since Undead always pass at least as many charge dice as their enemies, and Ispitan can choose how many dice he passes, he can’t pass more d6; he opts to score the same number of passes, so that as defender he can fire and cast, and then the skeletons will charge home.
Ispitan opts to cast Dazzle. He rolls 2, 2, 5, 5, 5 vs Rep (5) and passes 2d6; the skeletons resist, rolling 2, 4, 5 vs Rep (3) and passing 1d6. For the first time ever, Ispitan succeeds in casting a spell; the skeletons halt in place and can only defend using 1d6.
“Kill them! Quickly!” shouts Ispitan “Before they recover!”
“Are zey not already dead?” mutters Jean-Paul.
Nonetheless, the two crossbowmen open fire; Gervaise rolls 1, 2, 2, 4 vs Rep (4), and Jean-Paul rolls 1, 2, 3, 4 vs Rep (4); both pass 3d6. The skeletons, being dazzled, roll only 1d6 each; 1 and 6 vs Rep (3), so one passes 1d6 and the other 0d6. The crossbow’s impact of 7 at close range (less than 6”) easily pierces the skeleton’s AC of 2, and with rolls of 2 and 4 on the Firing Damage Table, both are Out Of the Fight. Two down, 37 to go.
Note that I don’t play melee exactly as in the rules; I resolve the entire combat by the first round of die rolls.
Sir Charles and Johann now wade into the fray, followed closely by Beatrice and Gottfried. It’s a big room, so I figure they can face off against three skeletons each – this is important, as in WHAA melee successes (probable this round) count against all figures in combat. (You’ll notice I haven’t needed to lay out figures or terrain yet, and I don’t plan to, either.)
Sir Charles, Rep 4, has sword and shield; Johann has Rep 4 and a halberd, but being a Star he ignores such constraints as fighting room. The skeletons each roll 1d6, as they are dazzled: 1, 1, 3, 1, 5, 5. Sir Charles rolls 1, 4, 6, 6 and passes 1d6; Johann rolls 4, 4, 4, 6 and passes 0d6. All are evenly matched, except for skeleton #4, which passed one more d6 than Johann; Johann is pushed back 1” and loses 1d6.
Beatrice is Rep 4 with a sword; Gottfried is Rep 5 with a dagger. Bea rolls 2, 3, 5, 5 and passes 2d6. Gottfried rolls 3, 4, 4, 6 and passes 1d6. Their 6 skeletons roll 4, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5. Bea renders two skeletons OOF and pushes one back; Gottfried pushes back all three of his. Two more down, 35 to go; but now things start getting more complex, as the skeletons have a chance to recover from being dazzled as per p. 30.
Activation dice appear for the first time. The party rolls 6, the skeletons 3; only the skeletons activate.
There are 35 skeleton figures left in the fight. On average luck, 25% of them (let’s say 9) will recover, 25% won’t, and 50% will roll again, of whom 25% will recover. I reckon that makes 13 skeletons active, and 22 still dazzled. However, those in melee already can defend themselves at full dice now, so for simplicity I’ll say those surviving 9 are the 9 who recovered, and all the others are dazzled. Those who are active and were pushed back close up again.
Melee is already in progress, so we repeat. I won’t bore you with the die rolls; Beatrice kills her third opponent; Gottfried drops one, but is rendered OOF by both the other two; Sir Charles holds his own against two, and pushes back a third; Johann pushes one back, holds his own against a second, and is struck a telling blow; his armour is pierced, and he is OOF. However, as a Star, Johann now takes a Hardiness test against his Hardiness of 3. He rolls 2, 3, 5; passes 2d6; and is merely startled.
(At this point I again draw proceedings to a close for the night.)
The activation dice are 5, 5; doubles, so another PEF appears on the map – we’ll call it “D” – in a random direction, 2d6” from the party. This implies a secret door in the north wall of the corridor where they appear.
The melee continues in chamber 4, while PEF D closes in on them. We’ll gloss over the die rolls, as this is getting long enough.
Ispitan dazzles the skeletons again; Beatrice heals Gottfried; the crossbowmen drop another two, Johann rolls amazing dice and renders three skeletons OOF, Sir Charles disposes of another two at the cost of losing 2 Rep.
Then, PEF D barrels into the back of the party and starts laying into Ispitan – at least, until they resolve as a false alarm. Ispitan dazzles the survivors of PEF A for the third time, and everyone lays about them with a will, slaying 10 skeletons. Johann and Beatrice each lose another point of Rep (now on 2 and 3 respectively), though.
Ispitan continues to dazzle the foe – he’s on a roll here – and the others finish off the remaining infantry, and follow through into the cavalry, killing two.
More dazzling and hacking follow, reducing the enemy to two whole chariots and half a chariot, before the party fails to activate in turn 25, allowing the half chariot to recover – this one has had one of its two crewmen killed. However, Beatrice fights it to a standstill.
Ispitan’s luck finally runs out in turn 26, and he fails to dazzle the enemy, losing 1d6 from his spellcasting Rep into the bargain. However, the skeletons fail to activate, and by the end of the turn only one chariot crewman remains in a fit state to fight.
The lone remaining skeleton leaps on Gottfried, rightly discerning that he is the most dangerous thing within reach, but precisely because he is so dangerous, Gottfried demolishes him in short order.
Panting, sweating, and bleeding in roughly equal measure, the party look around them. Having cleared an occupied chamber, they can now check for loot, using the table on page 63. We get a modified roll of 6; some items of interest, but nothing special.
“Next time, “ says Johann, “I pick the dungeon.”
“Fair enough,” says Ispitan.
The fighters are pretty banged up, so the party withdraws in good order back to Acromerinth, and rolls for advancement, with the following results – changes marked in bold:
|Sir Charles Atain||Mtd Melee||4||2||Spear, Sword||6||12||Elite Trained||2||SS||4|
So, everyone except Johann is a bit richer, and most people have gained either Rep or Hardiness – except Johann, who gained neither, and Isiptan, who lost a point of Hardiness. Must’ve caught something in the tomb.