(This is an ongoing blog series about my Veins of the Earth Megadungeon Campaign that I call The Endless Descent. You can read the initial campaign ideas here)
Overall I find most of the rules presented in Veins of the Earth work very well with running it as a megadungeon. However there are a few things I'd like to alter in order to have it work a bit better.
As described in the book lumes are used as fuel for your lamp, the currency of the Veins, and experience points. Time is light, and light is very often food, and food keeps you alive.
However I consider lumes to be a very abstract measure of time with no set value of minutes or hours. Instead certain actions cost certain amounts of lumes as described below.
Traveling in the Veins
As mentioned previously I am going to be generating the Veins cave system by cave system. Where each cave system is a series of connected caves that can be drawn out like a bunch of nodes and lines as illustrated in the book. Nodes on the map are caves with something of interest. The connecting lines represent connecting caves that don’t have much of interest.
I'm doing things a bit differently than how most OSR RPGs track time. The lines on the map which are connecting caves make up the majority of caves in the Veins, the interesting caves which are the nodes are only a slim percentage. The Veins is a lonely labyrinthine place. The time spent in each interesting cavern (node) is considered moot compared to the time spent moving between interesting caverns (connecting lines on the map).
Therefore each time the players move from one node to another it costs a certain amount of lumes, generally 1d4 exploding. I calculate this when I initially generate each cave system (which I'll post more about at a later date).
Each movement between caverns invokes a wandering monster roll. If the characters move between caverns without light or run out of light halfway through, it invokes a wandering monster roll for each point of lume they would have spent.
Healing and Sleeping
It takes time to heal. To heal players must stop and sleep or rest. They heal one hit point per lume spent resting. They can rest without light in the darkness and still gain hit points but each hit point they heal invokes a wandering monster roll. This roll may be mitigated if they sleep in a heavily secured location.
To regain spells or other things that are regained every day, the players must stop and rest as described above and spend at least 8 lumes.
Every session the characters must eat. If they don’t they advance along the starvation track.
Lumes and Experience Points
Based upon the leveling charts in the core LOTFP book you need to acquire hundreds or thousands of silver. Overall to really give the game a survival feel I need drastically reduce the amount of lumes given out to the players to make running out of light an actual danger and have every lume count for more. To this end I am using the following chart to for all characters for leveling up:
It's basically the fighters leveling chart reduced by a factor of 10. I generally give out:
1d6 lumes for every body searched.
1d100 lumes in a cache (treasure chest, monster lair, hidden compartment etc.)
And 100-500 lumes for selling an especially rare item or searching the lair of an especially dangerous monster.
Overall it is very hard to get more than 500 lumes at a time and this keeps the amount of lumes the players gain lower, so running out of light is an issue, and how you want to spend that light more meaningful, yet keeps them leveling at around the same rate.
Gaining Experience Points
How the players decided to divide up the lumes they find is up to them.
In terms of tracking lumes as experience points, the total amount of lumes collected in a session is tracked by me the Referee. At the end of that session a number of experience points equal to the amount is divided between all players at the session.
Additionally the players can spend their lumes to receive experience points on a 1:1 ratio. Yes, this means they are effectively getting 1 experience point when they first find the lume, and then can spend it for an additional experience point.
This is to give even greater weight to lumes. For example say over the course of two sessions the party of 6 level one characters acquires 200 lumes. They would each have 33 experience points each. They could decide to pool their lumes and have one player spend a bunch of them to advance to second level. But this would leave them without much left to use for light or buy equipment or heal etc. In this manner the players can decide to blow their lumes to quicly level their characters, but may find it puts them in a worse off position. They will have to careful weigh risk v.s reward.
Equipment and Item Use
Very often in OSR games the players can use items they find or materials they scavenge to aid or problem solve in tasks without needing to roll a dice. Like using a plank as a bridge or rope to climb some rock. For these types of situations I am using the following general guidelines:
The players may opt to make a skill check or roll to overcome some kind of obstacle without the use of equipment or items. If they fail they incur some kind of danger.
The players may opt to make some kind of skill check or roll in order to use materials or items they have to overcome some obstacle to gain a bonus on the skill check. If they fail they incur some kind of danger. The items are not consumed in the process.
The players may opt to take their time with the task and build something sturdy and automatically overcome the challenge but the items and 1 lume for each roll that would have been needed to be made is consumed in the process.
For example say the players want to scale a cave. If they don't have any rope or climbing pitons or iron spikes or anything like this to aid them it's going to be a straight climb check. If they fail they take falling damage.
However if they have some rope they can choose to use it to aid them in their task. Say by tying themselves to each other as they go so if someone slips the others can hopefully help them. It will still require a climb roll but the rope won't be consumed.
Or if the players decide to really take their time they can do the task without having to roll at all, but it will 'consume' these resources. Such as putting the iron spikes in the rocks in ways that it's near impossible to recover them or tying so many knots in the rope and spiking it to the rock face that you're not going to get it back.
Because the characters are essentially always stuck in the megadungeon and don't return to town at the end of each session or anything like this, most of the equipment and items they find are going to have to be scavenged.
I've used the equipment charts and item sections in the book to come up with my own equipment chart.
Overall my goal was to ensure a good distribution of the types of items they would need v.s more interesting flavourful items v.s powerful treasure.
Its a fine balance as I wanted the players to be expending equipment to overcome obstacles, like rope, but also finding equipment to replace it. As overall their access to merchants is going to be limited.
Thus there are three general tiers in my treasure table. The first tier is mostly mundane or garbage items that aren't worth much money and don't have much use although players might be able to find a use for them if they get creative. It features Refuse, Clothing, and Personal items. Items of these types are found 25% of the time.
The second tier is more practical stuff. Stuff the characters are going to need to survive and features Equipment, Weapons, and Armour. The players will be able to sell these things, generally for 1d6 lumes if they really want to lug them around. Items of these types are found 44.5% of the time.
The third tier is more valuable stuff. Stuff that the characters are going to really want to get their hands on. They could sell them for a fair amount of money and they are things which will come in handy to get out of tough situations. This tier features Underdark Equipment, Scrolls, and Art. The players will be able to sell these things, generally for at least 100 lumes although finding a buyer may be difficult. Items of these types are found 25% of the time.
Also I hate rolling on subtables and wanted to use this chart on the fly so in order to generate an item you only need to roll twice. Once, 2d6 to determine the type of item the party has found, and then 1d20 to determine the specific item. The entire chart only takes up two pages. Could probably get it down to one if you squished it and got rid of the help text.
Overall I roll on this chart each time the characters search a body or two and several times if they have found a cache or are searching a lair.