One-way Dungeons

As both a player and a GM, I've always liked the "one-way" dungeon for a lot of reasons. First, let me define what I mean by "one-way dungeon". I've seen other names, but I don't know if there is an accepted term, and I like one-way dungeon the best anyway. This is a dungeon where the players start past the point of no return. They could be locked in, trapped by a cave-in, or wake up at the "bottom" of the dungeon. In all cases, the only way out is to explore forward.

Part of the reason that I like this sort of set up, is that some of the first dungeon crawls I played were set up this way. While I played some D&D games when I was a kid, they were not dungeon crawls, and my first exposure to this was games like Eye of the Beholder. More recently, games like The Legend of Grimrock and it's sequel give a similar setup.

No going back

Honestly, locking a person into a dungeon is the only reason most sane people would willingly continue down halls filled with monsters, traps, curses, and other means of a horrible end. It is a survival aspect, you HAVE to deal with these challenge or you starve in the darkness.

I also like the idea of a scarce resource environment where the players have to search, hunt, and deal with limited food, lighting, and other needs while still dealing with all the other hazards. This fixed ecosystem of supplies creates a tension that doesn't exist, if the players can just turn around and go back to town whenever they want.

Then there is the loot! It is interesting to have to make a hard choice between the gear you know, and what might be a much better sword/helm/whatever, but also having to deal with encumbrance, cursed items, and knowing that it might be a long time dragging all this stuff around.

Now, some players hate the idea of being trapped. It removes player choice and freedom. I get that. But every once in awhile, I want to feel trapped, to be pushed to explore deeper not just for curiosity's sake but as a means of survival.

What I think I like most of all though, is that the locked dungeon is just simple. There isn't the question of where to go, or if it is time to turn back. There is just the tunnel... and what lays beyond.


Recap: Nexus 5 - Raiding the Castle


Brother Pick - Arakun Initiate
Clink - Arakun Brute
Tion - Arakun Apprentice


The party decided to scout around the castle and get a good look at what there were facing. They left there extra gear and Pick's dog hidden in the woods and made a wide circle around the hill the castle was on. The hill was steep going on the north and south sides, But more gradual along the east west, where a path cut through the trees,

The path went along the southern edge of castle from the east. At one point it went under a walkway that connected the main castle wall to a small tower. Then the path split to a small trail that continued on to the west, while the main path turned north along the western side of the castle. It then ended at a set of large doors. Just before the walkway, a large portion of the wall had been destroyed leaving a pile of rubble to cross. This would have been easy enough to climb, but was right in front of the walkway, where the party spotted two goblins keeping watch.

After some discussion and throwing out various plans, the party decided to try and sneak up to the eastern wall, north of the path. One at a time they dashed to the wall, checking if any alarms were raised. Once there, Tion decided to tempt fate and cast Stone to Earth on the wall using ambient energy [I'm using Threshold-Limited Magery with the standard FP casting, but thresholds are 0 by default].

With his first casting, Tion made a one yard area into dirt, but the magical backlash will be causing nightmares for 21 days! After they dug out the dirt, they found there was still more stone wall beyond. So again Tion cast using the ambient energy. This time he gained Radically Unstable Magery for six weeks!

The party dug out the remaining part of the wall, but when they got through the found themselves in a large room facing an Ogre and two goblins. The Ogre was facing away, but the goblins saw them come through and demanded that they come out and surrender.

For the next few seconds, things were confused. The ogre and goblins readied weapons, Clink tried to bluff the goblins, Pick readied his weapon and shield, and Tion cast a Stone Missile. The demands to come out of the hole and drop their weapons continued. Clink throws down his weapon and shield, but the stand off continues.

The group then decides that it is best to make a run for it, so Clink grabs his gear and Pick grabs Clink and pulls him back. One goblin goes to sound the alarm, while the other enters the hole after the Arakuns. Tion throws his stone, and Pick attacks, as Clink re-readies.

The ogre tried to enter the hole just as the goblin was trying to back out, causing some issues. When the goblin did back out, the ogre reached in and took a few hits of his own as he tried and failed to grab the arakuns.

Once back in the wall, the players decided to not make a run for it, and thought they could hold off the attack, They started to push their attack back into the castle. Tion drew power again for another Stone Missile, and caused himself to have nightmares for an additional 22 days. But the stone hit and the ogre ended up backing off and passing out from his wounds.

A warg and another goblin came charging in a few seconds later. Tion drew power to cast Great Haste, but failed. Which became a critical failure [this resulted in a new -15 disadvantage Weirdness Magnet]. A second attempt at the spell worked, but the backlash left Tion mentally stunned.

While the party was holding their own at the wall, just about the whole castle was alerted and goblins came pouring out. While some came to the room where the party had initially tunneled in, most had gone outside the walls and circled around behind the party. Tion tried to hold off any attacks from behind with a rain of stones, but they could see archers setting up on both sides. And one goblin threw some sort of vial that broke and released gas into the hole.

At this point the Tion wanted to get Great Haste on the whole party and make a break for it, but he had tempted fate enough and was already in bad shape. The party threw down there weapons and surrendered.

The goblins were so upset and confused by all that had happened, that they didn't bother to question the party. They just took their weapons and tied them up. Then they threw them into one of the castle's towers to try and figure out what exactly had happened.

With all the confusion, the goblins weren't thinking clearly [failed IQ roll] and none of them were casters, One or two were magically attuned, so they knew that Clink's sword was magical, but didn't know how. So they began to argue how they "little rats" had managed to dig through stone.

Back in the tower the players found a large sack that was moving around. Sure enough, they had been thrown in with the seeker! After managing to untie their bonds, Tion rested up and casts stone to earth. Then rested again. Luckily the goblins decided to rest and wait till the morning to decide what to do with their prisoners, So, Tion had time to rest can cast again, then they scrambled out with the seeker.


Notes: Going in I wasn't sure how the players were going to approach the castle. They didn't have any skill at deceit (Fast-Talk, Acting), and were not particularly skilled in stealth. If they had just charged into the the castle courtyard and attacked, it was likely to be a TPK. Still, three heads are better than one, so I was interested to see what the players came up with.

I was not expecting them to just "punch through the wall". This was a good plan, but unfortunately, they picked what might have been the worse place to do it. The ogre was the "big scary guy" that the goblins kept in the back. The seeker would have been in this room too, if the ogre wasn't keen on eating it before it got delivered to the Shadow King.

Once in, and the bluffing was clearly not working, I figured that the party would make a run for it. Regrouping and trying a new approach. But there wasn't a clear plan of action, as the situation was evolving moment to moment.

A few lucky GM rolls did save the party from worse fate thought. The Goblins were more interested in Clink's sword than questioning the party, and they still wanted to keep them alive to answer questions in the morning (or feed them to the Ogre, which they would find amusing).

While the players made it out alive and found the seeker, they have had some major setbacks. They lost their carried gear other than armor, Tion has two new disadvantages. The nightmares will fade in 43 weeks, but that is going to be in play for the rest of this campaign. On top of that, he has Weirdness Magnet that he's stuck with (he can buy it off for 7 CP after two weeks). And his power tally is going to take some time to wind down.


Recap: Nexus 4 - To the Castle


Brother Pick - Arakun Initiate
Clink - Arakun Brute
Tion - Arakun Apprentice


With the revelation that the seeker was in the hands of minions of the Shadow King, the party needed to plan out their next move. It was very late, so they camped for the night outside the cave, and in the morning decided to head to the human town of Westgate. This town was in the same direction that the seeker was taken, so the party felt it best to head there instead of backtracking.

In town they resupplied provisions and Clink got the short sword identified. It is Short sword of Accuracy +1. Clink also resisted the urge to take a shiny new dagger from the shop, knowing that humans are not too kind to "shoplifters" especially arakun ones.

After town, they decided to waste no more time and began again heading toward the seeker. On the second day of travel, they came upon a camp of ratlings. Once again, they tried to sneak up, but found that they are not stealthy as a group.

The ratlings charged and Tion smashed one with a stone missile. The other ratlings ran, and the party seemed to think things were over, but a second later the ratlings turned and renewed there attack. This continued for a bit, Tion used rain of stones, and more stone missiles, Pick smashed with his mace, and Clink charged and finished off the lat of the bow ratlings. After each fell, the group would flee for a moment, then return. This delayed the fight some, but kept the party from being surrounded.

Back at the ratlings' camp, the party found a chest of coins and some sort of map, but not for any place that they recognized.

The last part of their journey was uneventful, and at last they found they came to a ridge. beyond they saw a road head up to the north then swing back to the west. There, on a steam hill was the ruins of a castle. Along it's battered walls were the banners of the Shadow King.


Notes: This was a short session, but there was a lot of "pre-game" stuff that happened so it was later than what it might otherwise have been. Still, we did end a bit early instead of getting into what might become a long encounter.

I'm really excited to see how the players deal with the castle.


Recap: Nexus 3 - Minotaur to Bugbear

Getting this recap out a bit late, but still before the next session!


Brother Pick - Arakun Initiate
Clink - Arakun Brute
Tion - Arakun Apprentice


3138 AP, Second Fall, 7th (continued):
The minotaur did not seem happy to see the party, and demanded their names and what they wanted. They introduced themselves. and asked about the 'seeker', which didn't do much to gain the Minotaur's trust. In fact, he believed that they might be working for the Shadow King.

Eventually they mentioned that they had met Fennor, and were trying to keep the 'seeker' safe and prevent it from falling into the hands of the Shadow King. With that the minotaur, Paul, told them that he had sent the 'seeker' away with his assistant to a cabin in the woods to keep it safe, in case any minions of the Shadow King found the ranch. The party decided to try and catch up with the assistant.

They left back to the forest, but just before they got there they were stopped by a man who had said that he saw them leave the ranch, and that he saw Paul's assistant, Farn being followed into the woods by several gecklings.

The party realized that this might have been the same group they saw previously and decided to try and track them down.

When they got back to the place where they had followed the tracks before, they found that it was too dark to find the trail again. Brother Pick decided to try and find Farn with the Seeker spell, and was let through the woods, the camp site they found before and finally to a cave.

The cave was dark, so Pick also conjured up some light on to Clink's Sword. They ventured in and found several dead Gecklings around the remains of a small campfire. Checking the bodies they found that they had been mutilated. They didn't find any sign of Farn or the Seeker, but they did see some blood leading off further into the cave.

Further in the cave opened up to a wide area. In order to keep from getting lost, they decided to keep to the right wall. As they ventured further in, they were attacked by several giant rats. Despite they group quickly finding themselves surrounded, they were able to defeat the rats, without injury. After the battle, they still heard rats scurrying in the distance, but didn't run into any more as they kept moving along the right wall.

They came to another narrow area, where they could smell some foul odor from the east, but as the wall curved south, and avoided whatever was causing the smell.

Just as they were moving south, the party spotted a change in the ground and realized that a pit had been covered to make it look like the cave floor. The party was able to move around the pit, and continued on, as the wall curved all the way around and started moving back to the west.

Further in they did not spot another trap, and were nearly smashed by two great stones that swung out from the cave sides. Lucky, the trap was designed for larger pray, and barely missed the arakuns' heads.

A sound of something coming from further down the cave was heard, and the party decided to hide and cover their light. They heard the thing check the trap and rushed in to attack while it was confused at the lack of enemies.

Once the light was on, they found a bugbear, who was caught off guard and they were able to charge in while it was stunned. Tion had already had a stone missile ready and it hit the bugbear square in the chest and sent him stumbling back. Clink started slicing the monster up, and Brother Pick charged him, jumping onto his weapon arm.

Pick "rode" the arm, while attacking with his mace, Clink continued to strike, and Tion threw another stone missile just as Pick fell off. These short few seconds though were too much for the shocked bugbear, and as he tried to regroup and attack, his wounds finally overcame him and he fell to the floor. The party left him bleeding and found his lair further down.

The bugbear's lair was covered in filth and bones, but here they found Farn tied. up. They also found some coins, potions, and a magic sword in with the bones.

Farn, thanked the group and asked if Paul had sent them. He told the party how he and 'Mr. Hoppy' were captured by the gecklings, but then the bugbear had attacked them while they were resting. The gecklings were killed, and the bugbear took Farn (who was already tied up). Mr. Hoppy, the seeker, got loose from the bag when the bugbear was searching the gecks' stuff.

Pick used the seeker spell (with the aid of a ribbon that Farn had) and saw the rabbit being shoved into a bag, by a goblin. The goblin then mounted a warg and rode off toward a dark castle in the distance, banners of the Shadow King on it's walls.


Notes: This session started out with another awkward social situation, where the party needed to get information, but hadn't yet developed a trust with the NPC. Things worked out, but it took a bit of time.

The cave was another example of "over prepping" as less than half was explored by the players. Still, they are not "fortune hunters" at this point, so finding what happened to Farn as quickly as possible was the best outcome for them.

Yes, the gecklings were the same ones they found earlier, and yes they could have found Farn (and the seeker) back last session.

Combat was interesting this time, thought I had several other encounters that I sort of wish we had gotten to play just to see how the party dealt with some different situations.


Recap: DF Nexus 2 - The Dark Woods


Brother Pick - Arakun Initiate
Clink - Arakun Brute
Tion - Arakun Apprentice


3138 AP, Second Fall, 3rd:
The characters got back to town and had Mother Kind look at the druid's crude map. She was able to give them some better directions and clear a few things up. It looked like this trek was going to take them several days so they bought up some rations and decided to rest up and head out in the morning.

The first day of travel kept them in the familiar areas around Appleton, so and it was uneventful.

During the next day though, they found themselves in a dark and unfamiliar part of the woods. The forest canopy had gotten very thick and blocked out much of the sun. Here again, they found large webs filling the trees and branches.

Continued on, they didn't hear the quiet sounds above until several giant spiders dropped down all around them.

They readied their weapons as the first round of spider attacks came at them. Clink attempted to block just as he had gotten his shield ready, but ended up throwing it from himself.

Tion decided to take out the two spiders in the back with a rain of stones. Unfortunately, the heavy canopy hindered the stones quite a bit at first.

After the first couple of seconds of confusion and a few mishaps, the group found their footing and did fairly well. Tion parried one spider, then dodged another, just as his rain of stones made their way through the leaves and webs to strike the spider he just dodged dead. Pick smashed down one spider with his mace and Clink gave a few good cuts to one of the others, while parrying an attack from a second spider.

A few spider bites made it past the party's defenses though, and their SM-2 mail didn't protect well against the impaling attack from the spiders' mandibles. Pick was quick with a heal on Tion so no one ended up being terribly hurt.

They managed to finish off the spiders, noting afterwords that some were clearly weaker than others. After healing up they continued on. The rest of the second day and night were uneventful.

On the third day they found what might have been some sort of camp site, or the scene of some sort of conflict, none of them were skilled trackers. Still, the groups curiosity got the better of them and they decided to follow the tracks off into the woods.

Clink did a pretty impressive job following the tracks, even without any formal training (great roll on skill default), and they camp up on a small camp of Gecklings. The small lizard creatures were just sitting around. A couple looked like they were keeping (very poor) watch, and another couple were in the far side of the camp near a small canopy.

The party, having discovered what the tracks were made by, decided to head back to their own mission, and managed to leave without being seen. But they didn't manage to retrace their steps very well, and spent most of the remainder of the day just getting back on track.

Now back on track, they tried to make up some lost time. In the afternoon, they were surprised when an elf stepped out from a tree just a few feet in front of them. He was dressed in dark greens (which matched his hair), and carrying a elven bow and sword.

After appearing, he asked the arakuns what they were doing in this part of the woods, warning that it was a dangerous area. After some initial distrust on both sides, the characters mentioned that Durid Oak and after showing the map, the elf decided to help them. He lead them through the rest of the forest and pointed out a house and fenced off area across the field.

"That is the Bunny Ranch," he told them, which is where they would find the seeker. They thanked him, and asked his name before he left. He told them that he was known as Fennor, then disappeared back into the woods.

It was sundown, when the party reached the front door of the modest cottage and knocked at the door. A loud stomping preceded the door being flung open by a huge minotaur!


Notes: This session had just one combat, but the group handled it fairly well. They did miss the PER roll to spot some loot in the webs and didn't attempted to search around. Next time I'll try to be a bit more colorful with the descriptions of the area to give some subtle clues that there might be something worth searching for.

Again the party an "observation" encounter, but didn't get much information this time around. But this is probably not the last we are going to hear about that group of gecklings.