My gaming group is comprised of mid-twentysomething-to-mid-thirtysomething gamers who love role-playing, who enjoy delving deep into the intricacies of a plot, running down leads, fleshing out a setting, and generally immersing themselves in the campaign. Yes, there’s hacking, and yes, there’s slashing, but we’re just as likely to spend a night doing nothing but role-playing.
Sometimes though, we just want to crawl. And that’s what Maure Castle is for. Published in Dungeon Magazine #112, Maure Castle is an updated version of Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure by Robert J. Kuntz and Gary Gygax. It’s been updated to the D&D 3.5 ruleset, new encounters have been added, and a new level was thrown on.
And it’s all hideously lethal.
Beyond Elemental Evil
Maure Castle serves several roles for my gaming group. It’s our back-up campaign if one of our main campaigns — Dark City or Soul Stones — can’t run that week. It’s also a sort of thematic sequel to our long-running Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign, which involved a bunch of Blackrazor Guild redshirts trying to save the universe from the threat of the dark god Stan. (ok, his name is really Tharizdun, but no one in their right mind says Tharizdun, so…). It’s also our token Blackrazor campaign — the game involving characters belonging to the adventuring guild that defined our campaign for so long.
So it fills a lot of niches, and not the least of these is the desire for a good dungeoncrawl, which in this case means powerful enemies, exceedingly dangerous traps, and the sort of 1st edition lethality you just don’t see much of nowadays.
The Dead Pool
What do I mean by 1st edition lethality? I look at it like this: under 3.5, and most modern games, I can kill your character. It may be through massive amounts of physical or magical damage, it may be the instantaneous effect of a spell like disintegrate, but it’s largely straight forward. With a first edition-style death, things are much more memorable — it’s not so much a question of dying really, as how you go about dying. A good first edition death will have people talking for years afterward.
Maure Castle is crawling with these sorts of death-dealing opportunities.
WARNING: LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
So far in Maure Castle, the party:
- Fled in terror from a cocktrice-whip wielding, fire-breathing, flying iron golem who turned their best fighter into a stone statue (and who was happy to have been turned, since then he couldn’t take any more damage).
- Saw their cleric of the god of good and light donned one too many cursed magic items and had his sex changed to female, his alignment switched to chaotic evil, and developed a murderous psychosis. She promptly betrayed them, and was cut down by the rest of the party.
- Had their best rogue trapped in a room with trapped holes that he was compelled to drop his magic items into, where they were promptly crushed out of existence. He snapped out of the fugue before he could do too much damage.
- Were nearly killed when their party’s loremaster found a flying carpet with a pin in it, and pulled the pin … which was the actual magical force behind the carpet, and which — when pulled — released an elder air elemental.
- Witnessed the self-same rogue peal back a tapestry to reveal a symbol of death, which promptly killed him and the party mage (the mage having been rolled up to replace the now-dead psychotic cleric)
- When raised, had the aforementioned cleric decide to jump into a bubbling pool of acid just to see what was in side it. He though his protection from acid spell would protect him … and it did, but only barely.
And mind you, this is all just on the first level, and about one-quarter of the second one. Still, no one’s complaining (or at least not complaining that much) because hell, this is what a first edition dungeoncrawl is about: unexpectedly deadly traps sprung on party members when they least expect it (as anyone who tried to crawl through the hole in a certain demon’s mouth in The Tomb of Horrors can attest to).
As a DM, I love throwing these kinds of challenges at the party, and as a player, I love the stories that a dungeoncrawl like this spawns. Ordinary crawls can yield memorable tales, but a place like Maure Castle, well, that’s were gaming legends are spawned.