The Underworld

Please don't read this post if you're playing in a game of mine right now

 I'm running a campaign for two groups at once. The only point of contact between them is this piece of paper. Everything on here was drawn by them, apart from a river I sketched out to start things off.

Group A has quickly decided that group B is the enemy. Last session, they discovered that group B had made a bridge over a pit trap at the entrance to the dungeon. They wrote "Thank you" on the wall - then replaced that bridge with their own, which is rigged to collapse when the other group walks over it. At the bottom of the pit, they put up spikes (d8 damage). On one of the spikes, they nailed a new character sheet.

Later, they set fire to a plague giant which rampaged through the town. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this was the town where Group B had ended their last session, asleep.

I think this might be the start of a war.

Everyone has a dungeon inside them

You might have noticed that the whole thing is drawn over a transparent map of Vornheim. This is the big deal about the campaign: The entire wilderness exists in the minds of the people in the city above. As the people in Vornheim sleep, their hopes, dreams and fears drift down to create this wilderness. When someone hides something, that secret twists into a dungeon down below. The monsters are all walking manifestations of the secret terrors and lusts of the people above. 

What's the point of this psycho-symbolism?

This campaign was inspired by the West Marches, a wilderness campaign with the strict guideline: the adventure is in the wilderness, not the town. The idea is that the wilderness and town are opposing forces, and every moment you spend making one interesting will take away from the other. Being in love with town adventures, I wanted to try something different.

With this campaign, everything you do in the wilderness directly effects the town. Through the city, the players have influence over the wilderness: if you kill someone who was dreaming a monster, that monster will disappear. Through the wilderness, they have influence over the hearts and minds of the people in the city above. Killing a monster, setting fire to a forest, planting or building things - all the actions they take in the wilderness will change the people in the section of the city above them. As below, so above.

Here's a trick Group A has tried. Coffee imports are currently banned. They found someone who was dreaming a tower in the wilderness below, then paid her to chug as much coffee as possible. As a result, her tower has sprouted into a coffee plantation. They can harvest it, bring it up to the city above, and make a fortune off black market dream coffee. 

Of course, then they got distracted, and the coffee was stolen by thieves, and their cleric got killed by the thief king, and now they're raiding a library to find out how to resurrect his soul into the body of a life-sized puppet. You know how D&D works.

I am vaguely considering running this campaign on G+. I've never been able to get Hangouts working right before, but I might be able to run it at someone else's house. For anyone who wouldn't play in such a game, I've put my secret DM materials under the break. Please do not read past this point if you have any intention of playing in any possible future game I run for this.

Starting Equipment

Whenever my players make a new character, I draw (players + 1) of these and let them choose one.

That's your starting equipment and the job you had before you took up this adventuring gig. Items in bold are oversized, items in italics don't count for encumbrance. Where it says "Animals", you get that many cards from the dog deck in the post below. After level 1, you can recruit these guys as hirelings.

Obviously I need to make more of these. If anyone wants to send in the equipment a character of theirs has started with, that would be awesome. I can format it out like a card and update this post with the new ones.

Dogs and Magic

I've made these spell cards to use instead of rolling on a table and writing down the result. At level 1 you draw Read Magic and 3 other spells at random from the deck. This means that all the level 1 wizards in the same group will have different spells.

(I added some spells to the traditional LOTFP list, but realized too late that Ventriloquism is actually pretty much identical to a second-level LOTFP spell, Audible Glamour. Throw it out if that worries you.) 

I also made cards out of the entries in Zak's Available Dog Table.

 I printed them out, cut them up, and put them in card sleeves like these. Put a handful of them on the table at the beginning of the session, haggle for the price of each on an individual basis. "This dog dragged my grandmother from the ruins of our burning village! I couldn't accept less than 10 gold."

It worked really well. The spell cards were perfect for functionality, cutting down on character creation time and making it obvious what spells were available and memorized. The Dog cards were lovely as a ridiculous frippery. It's great how much dog descriptions can add to the world.

(eg.: "Why is the Carcassian Hoghunter trained to disarm enemies with a bite to the hand?"

"Clearly you've never seen a Carcassian hog.")

What I love most is that you can have an enormous world of possibilities, but your players only need to choose from a tiny amount of them at one time. So first, the world is bigger and stranger and more mysterious: you know this shop doesn't sell every dog in the world, and that you may never even see every dog in the world. Every shop is surprising and new. Second, it reduces the amount of time people spend staring down at pieces of paper, deciding what to buy.*

(The original table and this random generator version did both these things, but I never had easy access to the internet to get to it, and I like how instantaneous it is to just give people a card. No writing down, no rubbing out when the dogs die in waves.)

The only problem I found is that dogs can't really replace Hirelings: you can't play as your dog after you die. I wonder how far I should take this. A deck of hirelings? A deck of weapons, instead of using the equipment list? I'm very tempted to splurge even further and have decks for Weapons, Magic, Dogs and Men.