Delving Into Barrowmaze

Barrowmaze CoverA week or so ago I posted about prepping for the two week run into Barrowmaze I was going to be running. These sessions happened during a two week break from the normal Dungeon Crawl Classics game due to a few scheduling difficulties.

I ran the game “open table” style, meaning I wanted people to be able to play for one session or the other without much difficulty. The biggest stipulation I made for the game was that when the session was ending for the night, the characters had to head back to town. This made it easier to bring new folks in the next session.

Barrowmaze in Two Sessions

Barrowmaze is a massive and sprawling dungeon. How in the world does one approach running Barrowmaze in two sessions? I mean the place is way more than a party could ever hope to explore in two sessions. How does one make it a little more than just delving into the dungeon in search of treasure? Which doesn’t mean as much if the characters are only going to be used for two sessions.

Easy – I came up with a reason the party needed to head into the dungeon. A more attainable goal than just gaining treasure or learning the mysteries of the place which would take more than two sessions.

I concocted a story of a noble youth rebelling and taking off on his own with some friends to find their fortunes. They ended up in the town of Helix and were last known to have entered the Barrowmaze, but they never returned.

The noble family learned of this and sent an agent to offer a reward to any who would aid them in learning the fate of the noble individual. The agent had a map and regal emblem that helped guide them into the Barrowmaze and allow the party to identify the noble individual should they find them.

This gave the party a reasonably obtainable goal and a reason that folks playing for two sessions might want to venture into the Barrowmaze.

How Did It Work Out?

I think it went pretty well. The first session the group lost a party member on the first encounter. This made them very cautious that first session. They explored a bit, found some clues that gave them a hint about where the person they were looking for went. Their cautious exploration pretty much wrapped up the night.

The second session had several of the same folks playing, though we did bring in two new folks. Because the main group was back in town, it was easy to work them into the game.

The group has pretty good success this time. Lilith the magic-user went down to some giant fire beetles very quickly, but smart play got the group well on to the right track. Exploring a few rooms, finding the friends of the noble they were seeking dead, the group finally found the lost noble boy, turned into a zombie with a handful of minions.

A tough fight ensued, a fighter was lost to the cause, but in the end the group learned the fate of Myron the noble boy and returned to Helix to claim the reward.

Barrowmaze Impressions

I’ve run Barrowmaze before in a family Swords & Wizardry game. This was my first time running it for my normal group and others in the G+ community. I really like Barrowmaze as a megadungeon. By coming up with a quest or goal for the party to obtain while in the Barrowmaze I felt it worked well for these shorter sessions.

I debated once prepping a megadungeon for con games. After running Barrowmaze for this two session stretch I think this could actually work. The key would be to come up with short, obtainable goals – probably several of them and then be prepared to run each one of those. They could use different entrances or even the same entrance with different hooks.

Barrowmaze has re-stocking rules, so the place could actually evolve over time and be run for the same group of players with a different goal and still be a little different from one session to the next.

I definitely feel the Barrowmaze mini-delve was a great success!

One thought on “Delving Into Barrowmaze

  1. Jeffrey,

    I too really like Barrowmaze and am running it for a friend as a periodic place to delve. I too looked for a hook to give some motivations and goals for the PC’s, as I wonder about the longevity of “lets bash some undead for treasure” adventuring, depsite how cool I think Barrowmaze is. My solution was to have a Monastic Order engage the PC’s to help them find a mysterious magic item, that couldn’t fall into the wrong hands or could lead to end of their order (they are already feeling under pressure from the forces of evil – left unexplained to PC’s thus far). It gives the PC’s some motivation, and a specific goal and i can reveal parts of the background “story” to them as they go, giving them the impression they are learning more and adventuring. It also means there are other adventuring hooks I can use as part of the greater effort to try and keep the Monastic Order safe, if it continues long enough, I also plan to have the Cleric from the order that is accompanying them double cross them and reveal he is actually an agent of evil that has infiltrated the order. They just have to get to like him more first 😉

    I really like Barrowmaze so good to see it getting some more love and proving a hit with your group.

    Still loving the actual play podcast as well 😉

    Michael

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