Mines of Khunmar (what I think it will be)Posted: October 20, 2011
The people have spoken! If all goes well, Mines of Khunmar shall hit the presses sometime next year and be availible for you, dear reader, to read, adventure in and fold, spindle and mutilate for your own pleasure. (Well, three or four people have spoken, anyway (thanking Austrodavidicus, Anonymous, Matt Finch and Geoffrey — plus some others I may have forgotten/missed between messages)).
Part of the impetus for this is the fact that I recently realized that next year it will have been 30 years since I started designing Khunmar. I haven’t worked on it non stop since then (for most of those 30 years it sat in a box in my parent’s attic). It’s a bit of a milestone. There might also be some cake.
M.Finch encouraged me to think about retaining a ‘bare bones’ feel to the description entries, which is in line with my own desires because I am lazy and I don’t think I am that good a writer. The short and succinct entries of things like the ‘Stonehell Dungeon‘ by M. Curtis impressed me — both because I am lazy and impatient and looking at a big block of text and thinking that I have to read it all (or write is all) makes me tired AND because I think it suits a style of play that I like — one requiring improvisation, reducing prep time for the DM, and, finally, it recognizes my own thought that a published adventure is not really a novel — it’s just a skeleton that the DM makes come alive. One of my favorite dungeons, Badabaskor, had the briefest blocks of descriptive text that referenced all sorts of things that were not described in detail. One entry I remember involved a room with a bunch of potted plants and a little gnome with a watering can who was puttering around the room, watering the plants. If characters entered the room, the plants would attack them and the gnome would use the bodies as compost. No ‘who, what, why‘ for the situation was given, allowing the DM to use this as a simple ‘one off’ encounter, or, potentially, it could be the lead in to some sort of ‘Day of the Triffids’ adventure if you wanted if the players follow up on this mysterious gnome and his carnivorous plants.
What little work I have done so far, in between other things, has been to try to correct obvious errors (like maps that don’t match up with each other, etc.). I’d also like to include some of my thoughts and musings on megadungeons in general and Khunmar in particular in sidebars (or some similar format). The dungeon itself does not have an overall plan (other than the fact that things get harder as you go down). There are some areas that are controlled by factions, i.e.: the first level is ‘mostly’ controlled by kobolds, parts of the lower levels are controlled by goblins who are at war with orcs that control another part, etc. The mines were founded by a clan of dwarves (and some of their treasures are still hidden away in there) and another level has been overtaken by a Balrog (Mines of Khunmar is a rip-off of Mines of Moria (except Khunmar is not a shortcut to anything but an early grave — hah hah hah)). I also used to have this idea (I’m not sure where I got it) that a dungeon should have a ‘master’ of some kind who could eventually be encountered by the players. There are some ‘hooks’ and references in the current text (transcribed by Geoffrey) that will need some explaining; there were references to a ‘City of Mind Flayers’ (ripped from Gygax’s D-series) and gates to the dungeons of other castles that will be probably left for the individual DM to flesh out… but I’ll at least try to indicate what I had planned for the curious.
The maps are all going to be redone. I am drawing them by hand. There will probably be a lot of corrections and some renumbering in this process plus I need to standardize my symbols.
I’ll probably use Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry for the ‘rules’ (although I plan to include my house rules for traps, finding secret doors, etc., as suggestions). Some creatures, like ‘Beholders’ and ‘Mind Flayers,’ which are not released tot he public will need to be replaced/substituted. My thought is to create or use similar knockoff creatures (like ‘The Occulist’ (which is actually an obscure word for an eye doctor) instead of ‘Beholder,’ etc.
I’m going to try to come up with wandering monster tables specific to the different areas. Back in the day I just used wandering monster tables from the TSR books (I found a photocopy of them in my Khunmar binder) for some levels and then had tables for others. Although I kind of like the idea that one might meet the occasional completely incongruous creature wandering around (what are a group of pixies doing in the middle of the basilisk’s tunnels?), perhaps that element could be built into the table — say, each table allows a chance for ‘referee’s choice’ creature which could be selected by rolling on the tables from the rule books rather than the tables from the dungeon itself. Thus, yeah, you ought to have an extreme outside chance of encountering a unicorn wandering through the ghoul’s catacombs (“I got lost — do you kind people know the way back to my rainbow? I’ll fill your backpack with Skittles if you help me…”).
The part I’m most looking forward to is the art — I’m going to try to do an original drawing for each map/level (I don’t remember how many there are— 30+?) and then maybe scatter smaller drawings here and there in the text. It’s probably going to be kind of gonzo-weird because that is more fun for me and this thing is my baby, my ‘magnum orcus’ of D&D Dorkery. There will probably be at least one picture of a guy with a Village People moustache getting attacked as he sits on the crapper because that’s just the kind of guy I am and I already drew it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Anyway; look for it next year some time after LotFP releases the new version of Exquisite Corpses.