Dungeons as Mythic Underworld

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Necrozius

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As I’m reading Old School Essentials, I’m getting inspired to plan a “Mythic Underworld” campaign for the next inevitable D&D experience.

The concept, to me, is simple. Taking a cue from House of Leaves (wiki) I could see a multi-levelled dungeon as a surrealistic nightmare realm fuelled by an antagonistic intelligence.

It could evoke bizarre video game logic (“why would a hidden chest so deep underground contain fresh roasted chickens and spare torches?”) and be structured in ways that evoke Dante’s Inferno (the dungeon is made up of layers of increasing danger and magic).

The core exploration rules have ideas that follow a dream logic (fleeing around a corner can instantly discourage monstrous pursuit) and random encounter tables that make no sense (a dragon sitting on a pile of treasure deep in an underground maze with halls far too small for its bulk).

I think I’d set it up inside of a relatively normal town where a strange doorway is discovered in some cellar. This mysterious but otherwise mundane portal leads to the before mentioned nightmare world that defies logic and physics.

The PCs are the first to explore it. They can make maps and backtrack, of course, but this becomes less and less feasible the further down that they go.

I may use this thread to capture my plans, but I eagerly invite anyone to discuss the concept of the old school mythic underworld; your own interpretations and experiences. Are there any particularly good examples of this already published? Or are All old school dungeons fitting this concept already?
 

Necrozius

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Henceforth I shall prefix any of my brainstorming notes about my own Mythic Underworld Dungeon as:

The Labyrinth

Mapping and layout

To reproduce the surrealistic nightmarish labyrinth of House of Leaves, I think I'd take the following approach.
  • The Labyrinth is composed of Corridors and Rooms. Obviously, however...
  • Upon each visit to the Labyrinth, the Corridors change shape, arrangement and length
  • This strangeness would be very complex to map properly for either DM or Players, so Node-based design would work best
  • Corridors aren't really that interesting anyway, unless they're the stage for an Encounter of some type (monsters, traps etc...)
  • So Corridors would be abstracted in terms of description and mapping, the only consistent milestones would be Rooms, which don't change
  • During a single delve, the Corridors are noted in terms of Turns* it takes to traverse them (assuming standard movement as a baseline, ie, it takes 3 turns to simply walk from one Room to the next Room)
  • However, upon return visits, the Labyrinth deliberately messes around with pre-established Corridors.
  • Each return visit to the Labyrinth risks a Corridor changing its properties ("last time we entered here, this hallways was straight and narrow, but now it is extremely wide and turns abruptly to the left before resuming its prior direction")
  • The Rooms are the only reliably steadfast dungeon features, although the paths to reach them can be quite different each delve.
  • Corridors also include Stairways (especially SPIRAL stairs) down to the next level of the Labyrinth)
* "Turns" in the OSE sense, at the scale of dungeon exploration, ie in 10 minute increments

Edit: before I forget, the party cartographer's maps are expressed as ever-maddening notes rather than a clear grid map; whether the PCs knows it or not, their maps appear as a frenzied diary of someone trapped in a fever dream, reinforcing the idea that only the Rooms themselves, and their general relation to each other, can be "mapped out".
 
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Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Infravision

As per OSE's description of Infravision, I'd stick to it 100% plus a few additions:
  • Infravision lets the creature see heat patterns (ie, living things)
  • It does not let you discern color, nor be able to read nor to see inanimate (cold) things
  • That means that with Infravision you can see that a group of monsters is heading down the corridor towards you, but unless that Pit trap is filled with the still warm corpses of failed adventurers... you won't see it!!
  • Infravision is instantly negated by the presence of light in any form: a candle, bioluminescent fungi, the glowing sword that your companion is wielding a few steps behind you
  • All of this works both ways: the PCs can lead some monsters into traps: they can see the heroes, but can't see the spiked pit
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

The Town

The base of operations for the PCs. There will be standard shops for their interaction:
  • An inn to stay at during downtime (until they can afford to buy or build their own homes)
  • Shops for various things as they are grouped in the rulebook:
    • Adventuring Gear
    • Weapons
    • Ammunition
    • Armor
    • Animals of Burden
    • Dogs
    • Harnesses
    • Land Vehicles (carts for dragging supplies to and from the Labyrinth)
  • PCs must Haggle at each shop for selling and buying (separately for simplicity)
  • I'd re-use the Reaction table mechanics (including bonuses from Charisma) to reduce or augment the value of items sold or bought
  • After buying a certain amount of gold at a specific shop (not sure how much yet) you can get a reputation bonus for these Haggling rolls
In addition to these shops, there could me a College for Magic-Users (and Illusionists) and a Temple for Clerics (and Druids perhaps). Where they can do study and prayer and gain access to new spells to add to their repertoire.

The Temple is where Resurrection can be paid for, but following all of the interesting OSE rules for possibly physical changes to a resurrected PC).

A Bank would be handy here in town, especially for transferring gold to a Heir upon character death.
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Encounters

The rules for rolling for random encounters are the same, except:
  1. in the event of a null-result (ie, no monsters), other things happen:
  2. Strange alcoves and closets (curious, frightful or beneficial footnotes in the Labyrinth)
  3. Sounds (roll again on the monster encounter list and the PCs only hear the noises from such creatures)
  4. ???
Just to keep things interesting and the PC on their toes...
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Dungeon levels and their implications
  • As the Referee's Tome suggests, each "Floor" of the dungeon is a level which should dictate the Encounter tables
  • Eg. Level 1 of the dungeon uses the 1 HD encounter table, Level 2 uses 2 HD etc...
  • There can be exceptions to this
  • The first exceptions that come to mind are:
    • Mini-Boss rooms (roll on the table for +1 HD higher than the current level)
    • The Boss room (roll on the table for +2 HD higher than the current level)
  • Mini-Boss rooms are for Guardians of sudden exits (that are shortcuts to previous levels or even to the surface!!)
  • The Boss room is for the Guardian(s) of the Stairwell to the next Level of the Labyrinth.
While the Labyrinth itself is a challenge, making your way to the next level is tricky on its own.
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Setting up the Boss and Theme

Ideally the DM would be setting up each "Level" in advance (to an extent, anyway), but especially in the following ways:
  • Theme and look; make each level have a unique tone (eg. underground fungal caves, Egyptian ruins, fiery depths etc...)
  • Establish who (or what) the Boss monster(s) is/are in advance
  • Plan to drop hints and clues throughout the dungeon about the nature of this Boss: sights, sounds, writing on the walls, etc...)
I think that this would help make each Level memorable and cool and can help guide the design to be a bit less "gonzo" and be focused. The Labyrinth is meant to be surreal, of course, but borrowing some gaming tropes wouldn't hurt, necessarily.

Simple and obvious example of a Level 1 dungeon
  • Ancient Greek theme (architecture, look and feel, nature of treasures)
  • Boss is HD 3 (Boss is "current dungeon level + 2" in terms of HD)
  • Medusa is the boss (or bosses, depending on the d3 roll...)
  • Clues: snakes crawling around everywhere, very realistic stone statues decorate the dungeon, broken mirrors among treasures)
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Clarifications on the nature of this campaign style

So obviously D&D (and roleplaying games in general) have come a long way from the somewhat rigid nature of B/X D&D.

This game is so lazer-focused on dungeon exploration, wilderness travel and domain building that they're basically games within games.

Sure you could use B/X for a game of courtly intrigue (which I believe has been done), but frankly, my only interest in B/X is this old school quirky game system with its in-built expectations.

One could run a mythic underworld with 5e, for sure. But there's a certain... something... that OSE has awoken in me that is so very distinct from my other favorite games (cough cough MYTHRAS cough) that they're not nearly in the same category.

Like, why would I play Hasbro's HeroQuest when I have plenty of more modern dungeon crawling games? Or why would I play the 1st edition of West End Games Star Wars when I have plenty of newer and cleaner Sci fi games?

Nostalgia isn't really part of it (but somewhat). I wasn't alive during the original D&D era, nor have I ever played D&D before 3rd edition in the 2000s.

I want to run this quirky old game in this specific context. Hard to explain!
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Level length/duration

SO here's the tricky part. How many Rooms should each level be?

The Dungeon encounter tables are laid out from HD levels 1 through 8. That's potentially 8 dungeon "floors" or "levels" to work through. There's a charm to that simplicity, honestly. I'm going to work with that.

The OSE encounter tables lump some HD levels together (eg.HD 4 and 5). That means that the 4th level of the dungeon will "feel" more difficult than the 5th as the characters level up. I'm okay with this.

But how quickly should the PCs level up?

I hate Challenge Ratings and "balanced" encounters. I'm going to flat-out ignore that aspect and just wing it.

However... I would like to figure out roughly how large each level is. How many rooms is the "sweet spot"?

At what PC level do certain HDs of monsters become too "easy"?

When would be the logical "end" of the 1st level of the dungeon based on character progression?

Maybe after a set number of sessions they find the next Boss and stairs to the next level?
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Generator ideas

  • Progression in the Labyrinth is structured as Room to Corridor(s) to other Rooms.
  • The Corridors are nightmarish and unreliable to map out except in broad terms (see the earlier post about the changing nature of the Labyrinth)
  • When the PCs arrive at a Room (pre-designed by the DM, or using some random tables), they then have the PCs make a choice of which exit to use (if the choice isn't simple, but that's boring).
  • Once they set down a corridor, the DM determines the number of Turns it should take to move through it (ie, if the PCs do nothing else but Move their basic rate).
  • As per the rules, every two turns roll to check for a Monster encounter (if no monster, then something ELSE happens)
Monster encounter:
  1. Monster(s) appear! Same as in the core rules
  2. Scary sounds (roll a monster encounter, but the PCs only hear the sound of the creature rolled)
  3. Strange alcove (insert random table here for small nooks, crannies or even cupboards with weird or cool things)
  4. Branch (insert random table to create a separate Corridor that goes WHO KNOWS WHERE, including the chance of a dead-end or a return back to somewhere else "we're going in circles!")
  5. Trap (roll the usual random trap table)
  6. Nothing... just eerie silence
Edit: not saying that the PCs encounter these things EVERY 2 turns... or maybe they do?
 
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raniE

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You might want to look at Drakborgen, released in English as Dungeonquest, a board game that to me is the essence of old school dungeon crawling. The board, representing the Dragon Castle, is randomly generated every single time, and the in-universe reason for this is the spirit of the wizard who built it still inhabiting it and changing things around. The objective is entirely to get out alive with treasure before the day ends (no human can survive the night inside), and apart from loose treasure, the best possible thing to find in a room is nothing. The center holds a dragon resting on a pile of treasure, and the goal there is to steal treasure then try to get out without waking the dragon.
 

Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Funhouse” dungeon

One accusation (sometimes quite merited) of these dungeons is that they begin to resemble a carnival “funhouse” or haunted ride.

In a way, that is sort of the point, I think. This surreal freakshow isn’t meant to be a logical ecosystem of factions and living spaces. There are plenty of modules out there that scratch that itch already. Very good ones too.

But I think that the point of the Labyrinth IS to be an incomprehensible, somewhat disjointed but dreamlike world of wonders and horrors. I like the idea of keeping the players on their toes; making them constantly anticipate what’s coming up next.

As per my earlier post, I think that this chaos can be mitigated somewhat by the DM keeping to a specific theme for each level.

To go with my previous example of a Greek Myth floor:

- reskin minor monsters (eg goblins) into Satyrs

- larger monsters like ogres and trolls could be minotaurs

You get the point. Of course that Wight is decked out in Minoan robes and its tomb is decorated with Mediterranean scenes and urns full of perfectly preserved olives worth 100s of gold.
 

Necrozius

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Philotomy's Musings make some FANTASTIC suggestions.

One thing that I really, REALLY like about Old School Essentials (or B/X or any older D&D, really) is how gold is the standard for XP (and even weight).

It is a really fun idea to set the "pace" for advancement by treasure rather than monsters to fight.

It is liberating. Truly. And not having to worry about encumbrance beyond how much "gold" a PC can carry (items are weighed in gold pieces).

I'm very excited to run this.

EDIT: just found out that Carcass Crawler issue 2 has optional encumbrance rules (item-based, kind of like slots). Much simpler. I'm personally going to use that.
 
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Necrozius

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The Labyrinth

Journeys to other levels

Philotomy's musings recommends against limiting access to other levels via a singular location, nor taking the "video game" route of blocking access with a Boss monster.

I half agree, and decided that I would make it possible to discover:

- more than a single stairwell to another, deeper level in the dungeon
- stairwells that span more than one level (eg. stairs that go from level 1 to level 4)

However, I like the idea of protecting such access points with a higher level encounter as a sort of "preview" or hint of the increased lethality of that destination.

But not always! Always telegraph somehow, let the players find ways to circumnavigate the terrors.
 

Moonglum

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I agree that complexity in connections between levels and the overall hiearchy of levels are essential to an engaging, mysterious feeling large dungeon
 

T. Foster

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Threads like this make me happy, that people can still be bitten by the Mythic Underworld Dungeon bug after all these decades. There really is something elementally fascinating and appealing about the idea of an endless underground maze, going all the way back to the Theseus myth and Piranesi’s drawings.
 

Moonglum

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It is the infinitude of Moria that gives it its sense of mystery and undefined menace. If Moria consisted only of the rooms where something happens in the book, strung together in a line over 100 yards or so, all the same things might happen but the vibe would be completely different.
 

Toadmaster

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The Labyrinth

Infravision

As per OSE's description of Infravision, I'd stick to it 100% plus a few additions:
  • Infravision lets the creature see heat patterns (ie, living things)
  • It does not let you discern color, nor be able to read nor to see inanimate (cold) things
  • That means that with Infravision you can see that a group of monsters is heading down the corridor towards you, but unless that Pit trap is filled with the still warm corpses of failed adventurers... you won't see it!!
  • Infravision is instantly negated by the presence of light in any form: a candle, bioluminescent fungi, the glowing sword that your companion is wielding a few steps behind you
  • All of this works both ways: the PCs can lead some monsters into traps: they can see the heroes, but can't see the spiked pit

Having played with thermal imagers (basically infravision), there are things games get right and wrong about it.

You are seeing heat differences, not heat. Both hot and cold, so cooler temps look different from warmer.

Glass appears opaque, not clear because it is the same temp across the surface. If something warmer or cooler is touching the glass that will show through. Similarly in water you may see currents of different temp, but you just see the surface. Something under the surface easily seen with normal vision will probably not be seen and if it is different enough and close enough to change the surface temp it will probably just show as a defuse area of warmth / cold not a discernible form.

The pit you mention may distinguish itself from the surrounding area because the open space will likely have a significant temperature difference from the ground, however the depth will not be easy to determine unless very shallow so the bottom can easily be seen, or the bottom has a strong heat signature (much hotter or colder).

Rough ground can be difficult to navigate because there isn't much in the way of depth perception, the ground is pretty uniform in temperature.

Light has zero effect good or bad unless it comes with heat / cold. Walking through an open forest during the day could be very confusing due to the drastic difference in ground temp between ground in the sun and ground in the shade.

You can see where something hotter / colder has been touching something for upwards of a few minutes. A common trick to show kids was putting a warm hand against the side of a car, on a cool door etc and the hand print would be visible for a minute or two after the hand was removed. This same concept would make it obvious that somebody had very recently left a bed, chair etc. Against a very cold floor you might even be able to follow a persons bare footprints if very fresh.

You can see through smoke to a fair degree, the greater the heat compared to the surrounding air the farther you can see it. This allows firefighters to see the seat of the fire (perhaps 1000 degrees) in a room filled with thick smoke that is only 150 degrees. It also allows them to see the heat dispersion and layering in smoke that is zero visibility in regular vision.



These are mechanical devices, creatures with infravision may have different positive and negative aspects based on how their brain interprets the images. Our thermal imagers were handheld cameras, so aid our vision, we could control if we used it or not.

As living creatures they may be able to combine light vision and infravision or the light vision may override the infravision. They are not machines, so it may not be possible to turn it on and off at will to pick their preference. Similarly as they were born with it, they may have developed a more decerning view so they can better judge a surface they are walking on.

The movie Predator actually shows a fairly realistic view of thermal vision, although Arnie's mud camo would have quickly warmed up giving him away. The scene where he crawls out of the water and is covered with mud might have worked since that was fresh and only challenged for a few seconds, but the mud war paint used later would certainly have been ineffective. The suits in Predator 2 though could potentially have worked since they would fully mask body heat.

Just some thoughts.
 

Necrozius

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Having played with thermal imagers (basically infravision), there are things games get right and wrong about it.
...
This is a fantastic post, thank you for sharing all of this rich information.

I think that I added a post about "Infravision" because I have had issues with dark/night/infravision in D&D in general. What I like about dungeon crawling is the fear of the dark; the necessity of bringing sources of light and the ever-present tension of being noticed by monsters. If every other PC race has that kind of vision... I dunno I feel that it cheapens the horror aspect that I like so much.

In OSE, they made some limitations of "Infravision" from a purely gamist perspective (eg. the pseudo heat vision getting negated by any other light sources nearby). I like those kinds of limitations so that not every other race than humans have permanent and consequence-free biological night vision goggles.

One option, of course, is just to remove Infravision from the game entirely (except for monsters). I might just do that and handwave it as "magic" and the semi-sentient Labyrinth basically controls the monsters anyway.
 

Toadmaster

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This is a fantastic post, thank you for sharing all of this rich information.

I think that I added a post about "Infravision" because I have had issues with dark/night/infravision in D&D in general. What I like about dungeon crawling is the fear of the dark; the necessity of bringing sources of light and the ever-present tension of being noticed by monsters. If every other PC race has that kind of vision... I dunno I feel that it cheapens the horror aspect that I like so much.

In OSE, they made some limitations of "Infravision" from a purely gamist perspective (eg. the pseudo heat vision getting negated by any other light sources nearby). I like those kinds of limitations so that not every other race than humans have permanent and consequence-free biological night vision goggles.

One option, of course, is just to remove Infravision from the game entirely (except for monsters). I might just do that and handwave it as "magic" and the semi-sentient Labyrinth basically controls the monsters anyway.

I think this has come about because real night vision in the 1970s when D&D was written was of two types:

Passive or light intensification aka "starlight scopes" which could greatly magnify the available light making a dimly lit area appear like daylight (still required some light though). This tech was in service with advanced militaries by the mid 1960s and was used extensively by US Spec ops types during the Vietnam war. LI night vision was highly prone to white out if exposed to more than dim light, modern LI night vision still suffers from this but to a much lessened degree.

Active or IR vision, this required an infrared light source. This type appeared at the end of WW2, and its heyday was the 1950s. Since anybody with "IR goggles" could see the IR light (and the emitter) it was only of value against an enemy who lacked IR capability. During this period you will see vehicles equipped with large IR spotlights, and there were even some man portable rifle scopes with a kind of silly large IR light attached to them.

Korean war era US M3 Carbine with IR scope and light projector, not shown is the required backpack full of batteries.

1663349979684.png

Passive thermal imaging didn't come online as a practical ability until the mid to late 1980s. The US M1 Abrams tank being one of the first military vehicles to be equipped with it. Man portable thermal imaging wasn't available until probably the mid 1990s and it was very expensive (the fire department TI camera we had in 2005 cost more than $10,000). Of course today anybody can buy a hand held thermal imaging camera for as little as $200 at Harbor Freight. https://www.harborfreight.com/thermal-camerainfrared-digital-imaging-thermometer-58111.html



It is very common for Passive light intensification night vision to include IR detection capability to allow detection of IR light being used (still used for vehicles on occasion). Most LI night vision goggle also include a small IR light projector which can be used to provide short range vision in very dark areas lacking enough light for the goggles LI to function effectively. Use of these projectors means they highlight themselves to anyone else where using night vision, so is a last resort unless fighting an enemy lacking any night vision.


Thermal imaging is the closest to what D&D infravision tried to mimic but it simply wasn't a real world thing when D&D was written, so the authors had to just take a stab at it. Heat sources are very different than using an IR light source to see.

Light intensification is closest to D&Ds ultravision.

The fact passive night vision often included some active night vision, and in the 1970s this kind of info was still cutting edge and hard to obtain, it very well may have played into how infravision was described in D&D.
 
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Vile

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I tend to agree with doing away with infravision/ darkvision for PCs. The ability really negates much of the fear and uncertainty (not to mention inconvenience) of relying on torches, lanterns, and candles. Also the simple fact that it constantly reminds players that their characters are in a completely dark environment contributes a lot to the atmosphere.
 

Toadmaster

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I tend to agree with doing away with infravision/ darkvision for PCs. The ability really negates much of the fear and uncertainty (not to mention inconvenience) of relying on torches, lanterns, and candles. Also the simple fact that it constantly reminds players that their characters are in a completely dark environment contributes a lot to the atmosphere.

I like the idea of non-humans having "night vision" but agree that the magical night vision that allows some to basically see in the dark just like they can see in the light can take away from the game and it doesn't make a lot of sense unless actually magical like a spell of night vision.

Having some kind of low light vision makes perfect sense for many fantasy races who spend much time in low light, but it should have significant trade offs. Many cats are well adapted for the night, but these tend to lack color vision. Owls can see very well at night, and some have limited color vision in daylight, but they gain their night vision by having very large eyes that don't move, so they have a narrower field of view have to turn their whole head to look around.

Something not often mentioned in games is most animals with good night vision also have exceptionally sensitive hearing. Some owls can hunt in pitch dark using their hearing and of course many bats use echo location. Many animals have movable ears allowing them to accurately locate the direction and distance of sounds.

Most real world creatures that use heat as a sense hunt with it, pit vipers being a good example. They can detect heat sources but they do not have much ability to tell things apart, your hand reaching into a crevice looks much the same as a rat to them.

Again if you look at the vision shown in Predator, it works great when you are a lone wolf hunting humanoids where mistaking one for another has little consequence. A dungeon party with infravision should have a hard time telling their comrades apart from the band of orcs they are in melee combat with because they are all just humanoid blobs of light / heat.

Night vision is fine, but unless darkness is their normal environment most creatures should prefer to work with light. Even orcs which are often described as not liking to go about during the day are usually shown to use torches to see better.
 

Necrozius

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I remember when I read the first Drizzt book (it was before I'd ever played D&D) and was amazed at the descriptions of how the Drow could see in the dark.

But there were tradeoffs. The bright light of the surface was PAINFUL for the Drow. It was really neat.

I'd honestly be okay with leaving this vision for Underdark characaters (Drow, Svirfneblin, Duergar), but give them problems in super bright sunlight.

Conversely, I've NEVER understood why Elves always get nightvision in literally every RPG ever. They're traditionally creatures of light and goodness and stuff. They might emit light, or be able to dismiss darkness, but I never understood why'd they'd have nocturnal abilities.

And I like my Dwarves using mining hats with candles and carrying big iron lanterns. That just looks cool. With darkvision, they'd never really need those, right?
 

ScytheSong

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Complete side-note, but I had a coworker who was in the US Rangers in 1983, and he claimed that his unit parachuted onto a beach in Grenada with brand-new/experimental night vision goggles. He said he sat hidden in the sand for three days doing nothing, then went home.
 

Toadmaster

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And I like my Dwarves using mining hats with candles and carrying big iron lanterns. That just looks cool. With darkvision, they'd never really need those, right?

I like that image of dwarves too. It is very fitting that they would manufacture solutions to most of their issues.

Complete side-note, but I had a coworker who was in the US Rangers in 1983, and he claimed that his unit parachuted onto a beach in Grenada with brand-new/experimental night vision goggles. He said he sat hidden in the sand for three days doing nothing, then went home.

That seems plausible, according to Wikipedia the first of the US 3rd gen night vision, the AN/PVS-7 was developed in 1982, and entered regular service in 1988. Rangers on an actual operation seem a likely unit to receive early units for field testing.
 

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There’s something to be said for making half-orcs the only PC race with infravision, because they don’t have much else going for them game-mechanically (they get +1 Str which is nice, and can multiclass as clerics, but the super-low level limit and cap on Wis both temper that significantly, and once UA came along even those went away - all races could be clerics (with better level limits and no Wis cap) and wild elves got +2 to Str). [Talking about AD&D here; I realize that half-orcs aren’t a PC type in BX.]
 

Necrozius

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There’s something to be said for making half-orcs the only PC race with infravision, because they don’t have much else going for them game-mechanically (they get +1 Str which is nice, and can multiclass as clerics, but the super-low level limit and cap on Wis both temper that significantly, and once UA came along even those went away - all races could be clerics (with better level limits and no Wis cap) and wild elves got +2 to Str). [Talking about AD&D here; I realize that half-orcs aren’t a PC type in BX.]
In my case for sure this matters (just reading Tolkien's the Two Towers right now and the orcs in there are all about dark places, so it makes total sense). I'm going to use Old School Essentials, which has ported over AD&D races (and some classes) in a B/X format.
 

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The Labyrinth

Funhouse” dungeon

One accusation (sometimes quite merited) of these dungeons is that they begin to resemble a carnival “funhouse” or haunted ride.

In a way, that is sort of the point, I think. This surreal freakshow isn’t meant to be a logical ecosystem of factions and living spaces. There are plenty of modules out there that scratch that itch already. Very good ones too.

But I think that the point of the Labyrinth IS to be an incomprehensible, somewhat disjointed but dreamlike world of wonders and horrors. I like the idea of keeping the players on their toes; making them constantly anticipate what’s coming up next.

As per my earlier post, I think that this chaos can be mitigated somewhat by the DM keeping to a specific theme for each level.

To go with my previous example of a Greek Myth floor:

- reskin minor monsters (eg goblins) into Satyrs

- larger monsters like ogres and trolls could be minotaurs

You get the point. Of course that Wight is decked out in Minoan robes and its tomb is decorated with Mediterranean scenes and urns full of perfectly preserved olives worth 100s of gold.
Those are some mighty expensive olives!
 

Simlasa

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Conversely, I've NEVER understood why Elves always get nightvision in literally every RPG ever. They're traditionally creatures of light and goodness and stuff.

The Shadow People, by Margaret St. Clair, is sometimes pointed at as an inspiration for dark elves, I think it's in Appendix N. The book just refers to them as elves. It also presents a grim 'underdark'... discovered along hidden pathways through old cellars and cracks a person shouldn't be able to fit through. There's a feeling of crossing into an alien world when the protagonist goes there... rather than mundane tunnels and caverns.
From what I recall, the elves in the book were able to navigate quite well in the dark... so maybe that's where the notion came from? Either way, it doesn't bother me. Most folklore I know has them as weird tricksters who MIGHT do you a favor, or might steal your children. A lot of our UFO stories inherited tropes from old fairy legends. But I'm fine with them not being all the same, and any resemblance to human cultures being a ruse or some sort of party game.

EDIT: Also, have you seen this blog post by the fellow who does Ultan's Door (very much like the OP description of a mundane door leading to an other world). It's all about dream logic in dungeons.
 

Necrozius

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Yeah that’s me assuming that Gygax and his palls were predominantly borrowing from Tolkien moreso than European folklore. It’s not an unforgivable assumption, what with orcs, hobbits halflings and dwarves. I get the Drow having darkvision, just not High Elves or whatever. Enhanced senses, sure, but nocturnal vision? i never understood that.

Fey creatures of Celtic myth? Sure!
 

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Yeah that’s me assuming that Gygax and his palls were predominantly borrowing from Tolkien moreso than European folklore. It’s not an unforgivable assumption, what with orcs, hobbits halflings and dwarves. I get the Drow having darkvision, just not High Elves or whatever. Enhanced senses, sure, but nocturnal vision? i never understood that.

Fey creatures of Celtic myth? Sure!

Elves are almost always too perfect, kind of annoying pricks tbh. Not that it has kept me from running my fair share of them, but as I've gotten older I have far more appreciation for Dwarves. At least dwarves have to work for a living, elves are just look at me I'm perfect, like a species of super models.

Evil, racist elves actually make a lot of sense to me. They seem to have a culture that would naturally breed Elf supremacy movements. They are cultured enough to suppress it openly, but it has to be bubbling under the surface because they are better than everybody else.
 

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That's the problem with the modern world, the packaging costs more than the contents.

It's like hobby paints, we could save a ton of money if they offered 1-2 oz bottles instead of the tiny 1/2 oz containers. A gallon of quality automotive paint runs $60-70 a gallon, hobby paint in 1/2 oz bottles runs around what $900 a gallon?
 

AsenRG

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That's the problem with the modern world, the packaging costs more than the contents.
You think it's about the urns? Yeah, I could see that, if they were the factor preserving the olives fresh. Like a "Vaguely-Mediterranean Urn Of Fresh Products", 390 gp. Sounds reasonable for a miscelaneous magic item...:thumbsup:

Still, it was funny(-ier) imagining all the ways to make money in Necrozius Necrozius 's games by investing in olive production:grin:!
 

AsenRG

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Elves are almost always too perfect, kind of annoying pricks tbh. Not that it has kept me from running my fair share of them, but as I've gotten older I have far more appreciation for Dwarves. At least dwarves have to work for a living, elves are just look at me I'm perfect, like a species of super models.

Evil, racist elves actually make a lot of sense to me. They seem to have a culture that would naturally breed Elf supremacy movements. They are cultured enough to suppress it openly, but it has to be bubbling under the surface because they are better than everybody else.
...this is almost giving me flashbacks about a specific player who was really into that specific outlook on elves. No, I'm not about to say anything more, it's a boring story overall which I've already related on forums, and it was boring the first time as well:thumbsup:.
Suffice it to say, after interacting with him, I liked Talislanta's motto "No Elves" a lot more, and I haven't had a decent, non-pathetic group of elves* in my games in something like 15 years. Maybe I would make one of those if I run the Goblin Slayer TRPG:shade:.

*Individual elves have been exempt from this.
 

Necrozius

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Anyway, to dial this back to the topic:

Regardless of source of inspiration for elves and dwarves, I’m going to pull some inspiration from Kingdom Death: Monster and have it that the darkness in the Labyrinth equates death and madness.

Even if some races have infra vision, it doesn’t matter; if the party runs out of light, they’re done. They die in the darkness, driven completely mad (if they aren’t killed by the Labyrinth’s denizens.

Lanterns (and torches or Light spells) not only represent safety, but hope as well. A connection to the surface, to the party’s life above ground.

That is how I am going to handle it. Maybe the next batch of heroes will find survivors of past expeditions; poor souls lost in the dark…
 

Toadmaster

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Anyway, to dial this back to the topic:

Regardless of source of inspiration for elves and dwarves, I’m going to pull some inspiration from Kingdom Death: Monster and have it that the darkness in the Labyrinth equates death and madness.

Even if some races have infra vision, it doesn’t matter; if the party runs out of light, they’re done. They die in the darkness, driven completely mad (if they aren’t killed by the Labyrinth’s denizens.

Lanterns (and torches or Light spells) not only represent safety, but hope as well. A connection to the surface, to the party’s life above ground.

That is how I am going to handle it. Maybe the next batch of heroes will find survivors of past expeditions; poor souls lost in the dark…

:thumbsup:

It is pitch black, you are likely to be eaten by a grue.
 
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