Eyeballs Deep in Scarlet Emerald


Blue Baron Update/Pace in RPG Design

We’re still wrapping up what I consider the third stage of the Return of the Blue Baron. This is part two, original is here.

Today we started with thirteen rooms. I picked one more off but in doing so, I changed what I was going to place there because of the theme of this little post: pacing in a dungeon - especially large ones. We have forty-five rooms to work with, so RotBB easily qualifies.

Before I get into that though, I’ll mention that the adventure is heavily rooted in Blueholme, and while I tend not to let mechanics stand in the way of a nice raucous gag, I am trying my best to rein in the outlandishness in my written work. There’s also the stated project guideline of not pegging the needle past Rated R. Fine and well on most occasions, not even worthy of mention.

Nevertheless, this time I wanted to strain the barriers. To me, the X factor is one of the core tenets of the OSR – I mean, why else? Wasn’t the idea that you didn’t need complex mechanics to keep delving deep into that fantastic glittering Abyss?

Are...are those crystals?

This whole idea started as an aftereffect found by the party, like a horrifying fantasy CSI scene. The cause was a slow spell on a scroll, part of the treasure for a cadre of doppelgangers beneath a loose flagstone.

The Holmesmen, an NPC party competing with the adventurers, fire a flaming crossbow quarrel into a lamp on the floor; the lamp explodes, the scroll catches fire, and BAM! 

Magical misfire chronoblast, a temporal warble smack dab in the middle of the explosion rushing out, encapsulating it and the poor creatures in a slow burn, time-skip Hades the size of a large pup tent. You’re thinking full speed, but burning slow, and there isn’t jack you can do about it. 

Try shapeshifting and ESPing your way out of that one, you evil rubbery fucks.

Enter our adventurers sometime later, who see the four beasties suspended in air, mid-change, frozen fire about them. If a PC touches a doppelganger, time speeds up and it burns like a match, howling foot to head in a swirl of ash.

Air gets sucked from your lungs and you’re breathing it in, covered in the stuff.

What did I just see? What happened here? Should we even touch that fucking scroll? They’ll never find out. Do they touch the others now? Leave them? Which choice is evil, which a release?

The scroll was actually going to have survived, at least in part, with a new spell on it – perhaps the cause of this temporal mishap. However, it was too visceral, and it got away from the original point of the room, a respite plus aid in the forms of a minor magic item and information. The murder scene’s still there, odd and unlikely but more normalized. It gives the adventurers something to think about as they patch up and plan.

Like I said, there are forty-five rooms in this dungeon, and the premise makes it likely that this will be a competition-style adventure, but too big for a tournament adventure, I think.

Back to pace, I usually give one room in four to information-based encounters or some kind of aid. A secret passage to hide in or a prisoner released who knows things. I think it’s a good ratio.