Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Claim Thee in the Name of the Toad!

I was reading Ryan’s SVP post today and just remembered I wanted to recount something.

About five weekends ago I journeyed into an abandoned (by civilized folk) dwarf mine in the guise of the B/X cleric Diomedes. The session log can be found here.

However, for whatever reason the dungeon itself really resonated with my character, a priest of a “Toad God.” After completing the exploration of the upper level, I decided that the place would make an ideal location for a temple-stronghold.

Sure, it would take a little work to get it up and running (a rickety bridge would need to be replaced, new furnishings added, kicked-in doors re-built). But for the most part, the place was of good dwarvish construction, had its own water supply, was located only a day from civilization (a little out-of-the way from curious travelers, but not inconvenient for obtaining supplies). Plus the waterfall and underground pond/river, and the small pool outside all said, “great-place-to-worship-amphibious-deity” to me.

I staked my claim and told the other players I fully intended on re-furbishing the place as a new Toad Temple. Once the place was completely cleansed of “infidels,” that is.

Unfortunately, Diomedes died during our last session, and my new wandering wastrel thief has no intention of settling down anywhere, at present.

But the incident raised the question: why SHOULDN’T PCs claim empty dungeons as strongholds?

After all, strongholds are expensive to build…both in time and treasure. Plus (from a player point of view), the damn thing has to be designed, and I’m not much of an architect. If an existing dungeon is in serviceable or semi-serviceable condition, why not clean it up and hang your flag out the front door?

As kids, whenever we completed a dungeon (not all that often), we would generally collapse it, blow it up, or burn it down. The place would be in shambles…fireballs and lightning bolts destroying support structures, blood and guts strewn everywhere. But one would think that with the money saved in construction costs, you could hire a cleaning crew, right?

Now of course not every dungeon makes a good fortress-stronghold. Cave warrens are terrible, dank places, fit only for folks of orcish blood. Many ruined cities are far off in the middle of no-man’s land, too far away from civilization to be of use (X1 and I1 I’m looking at you). Other dungeons may already fall within the domain of a ruler (usually the same ruler that hired you to clean out the complex in the first place).

But others are downright perfect. The hidden fortress “Q” in B1: In Search of the Unknown is an excellent example; heck, it was designed BY adventurers FOR adventurers (just hope said adventurers don’t return after you set up shop). The dwarf mine was excellent. The moat house from T1 and the haunted keep from Moldvay’s Basic set might work as well, once their exterior damage was repaired.

The secret lair of the Veiled Society in Specularum (module B6) would make an excellent hide-out for a gang of thieves; after all, this is what it was for the Veiled Society! The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief might seem a bit on the big size, but one could probably install interior walls and smaller doors…the other giant lairs are probably a bit too far from civilized lands.

Anyway, this idea JUST dawned on me a few weeks ago (as I said, in the past we never worried about cleaning up the blood and bodies), but you better believe that from now on I’ll be scouting the real estate value of every dungeon I delve. A fellow PC of our on-line campaign “claimed” the second dungeon we explored in Session 2 (a tower and stable about a day’s journey from the dwarf mine) and I can see this as a trend of things to come. For those character types that build strongholds, why not build on the remains of ancient ruins?

Isn’t that the idea behind mega-dungeons anyway? Multiple owners/inhabitants building layer after layer of dungeon? The PCs have now joined the Campaign Ecology!

: )


  1. Claiming dungeons as HQs was pretty much standard fare for us. It got to the point that most of the DMs (myself included) included a variety of secret entrances and exits from most dungeons so they couldn't really be secured safely in the long term.

    But nonetheless, we've had fortresses established in Quasqueton, in the Caves of Chaos, and several other classic modules, including a high level party who rebuilt the temple on the taboo island on the isle of dread for their own use (a chaotic cleric and magic user working together on spell research during down-time).

  2. After reading this I'm really sad Dio died and won't be founding his temple. Because you won't have this happening sometime in the future.

    Hey, ya heard 'bought the Toad temple up North?

    No. Toads huh? Sounds Evil.

    Oh yeah. Nothing worse than toadlickers.

    We should get some guys together go up there and clean it out.

    Yep. Bet they got themselves some treasure too.

    Sure thing. That's what temples are for.

    Yep. We're sure gonna kick some *ss!

  3. @ Stu: If you don't think Dio is going to be showing up as an NPC antagonist in a future B/X campaign *I* run, you've got another thing comin'! Don't worry, someone, somewhere will one day have a chance to raid Temple Toad...
    : )

  4. But the incident raised the question: why SHOULDN’T PCs claim empty dungeons as strongholds?

    They should, but for the purpose of having them stock the now empty map with henchmen and hirelings and co-DM while you rampage through with a party (or three) of mid-HD Monster 'Delvers'.