Hand-waving Dungeon Travel

The party that’s been exploring Stonehell has reached a point where getting back to the yet-unexplored part of the dungeon and then out again is taking too much of the play-session, at least if I roll for wandering monsters as they travel and restock the likely places like the Orc’s guard-post.  In the old days, we used to freeze time in-between sessions… the party wouldn’t overnight in the dungeon, but we’d break in the middle of things and resume there next time.  This was pretty much a necessity when you were squeezing a few minutes play in at lunch-time or in study hall, but it carried over into our Friday night games as well.

I’m a little reluctant to go that route with the current game, preferring the party to start and end outside the dungeon–both because the line-up of characters changes when one kid or the other has a sleep-over or Elyssa is away performing or something, and because even if we froze, so far every session at least one character has been knocked around enough to require rest and recuperation even if nobody except Revenge has been injured  beyond the ability of one of Horatia’s miracles to revive.  So I’m considering just hand-waving their entrances and exits unless they’ve got monsters in hot pursuit.  For one thing, now that most of them are second level and considering the damage they’ve caused, the number of times the Orcs’ morale checks have sent them fleeing, and the psychological warfare they’ve been employing (they’ve actually taken the time to gut many of the Orcs they’ve killed in order to reinforce the impression that Horatia’s god regularly does this to their opponents)  it would be fairly easy to justify the Orcs starting to give them a wide berth.

If you run dungeoneering expeditions, how do you handle this?  Do you let parties camp overnight in the dungeon?  Do you make sure there are shortcuts so they don’t have to traverse lots of explored areas?  Or do you just do what I’m contemplating and say, ok, twenty minutes later you’re back at the closed portcullis…what do you do now?

12 thoughts on “Hand-waving Dungeon Travel

  1. A shortcut to the lower levels might be in order. I don’t really remember if Stonehell had much of them.

  2. There’s at least one (through the pit trap), but at the moment I’m concerned with them navigating the first level; they’re enough turns of travel in that they are practically guaranteed at least one random encounter just getting back to the unexplored territory. Now, I don’t play every random encounter as resulting in combat, but it still takes up game-time.

  3. One thing you can do, the rules generally allow faster movement through known territory without needing to map. In some editions, I think this is as much as 10x speed. If you reduce the travel time to a few turns it wouldn’t be too bad.

    Another option is pick a few likely spots for random encounters and only roll there.

    Perhaps the orcs might also retreat a bit and set up a new guard post that isn’t so much in the line of travel of the PCs.

  4. You could always ask the players show you the route they are going to take to their destination on their own maps of the dungeon. That way, if anything has changed along their route since they were last there, you can bring it to their attention. Also, it lets you check for or just outright place appropriate encounters along the way.

  5. @Restless – it’s not that restocking or rolling on the encounter tables is much work for me, it’s that I worry that they make less forward progress into the dungeon each session. Frank’s suggestion of having the orcs retreat from the route that the party keeps slaughtering them on is a good one. I can even take it a step further by saying if I roll an encounter with orcs, unless the party gets surprise, the orcs leg it. They’ll enjoy that.

  6. Tell the players of your concerns ask what, if anything, they are going to do about it. If nothing, well, that is their decision.

  7. @Tommi – eh, I’m not so hardcore as all that, particularly playing with kids. Pacing things to be entertaining for them is much more important to me than any sort of fidelity to how I imagine the dungeon ecology to work.

  8. Since I play at a game store, I have to end the session before the store closes, and that have shaped my practice.

    Generally, when the guy behind the counter walks around and asks people to pack up, we go back out the dungeon and I ask them if which route they take. The same procedure is used for entrance, when they show me their map and the route they use for entering.

    A few times they have stayed, since we was in the middle of things, and I could imagine it happen if they become lost somewhere deep down.

    Having multiple entrances and “direct routes” down is essential. That’s the only thing Stonehell is really lacking. Add some, is my suggestion!

    Andreas Davour’s last blog post..Playing the Dunegon of Voorand – the restless dead

  9. Joshua; My main point was supposed to be that ask the players. Let them contribute. If they don’t see a problem that needs fixing, there probably is not one.

  10. This is one of the reasons that I’m currently compiling the upper half of the dungeon and making some alterations to the dungeon as I do so.

    Stonehell grew one quadrant at a time, often without having a clear view of what was coming up next. A few things got overlooked or didn’t quite mesh with what had come before.

    Adding options for parties to move somewhat quickly from level to level is on the list of things being taken care of. There’s always going to be a little bit of recrossing old ground but, with any luck, a resourceful and meticulous party will learn some of the tricks to move quickly down into the deeper sections of the dungeon. Getting back up, well…we’ll see.

    For the record, the known alternate entrances to the dungeon are via the Bandit Caves which lead down to Level 1C into the mushroom garden and through the caves the lead to the Hobgoblin Redoubt on Level 2D. Both of those caves are currently left open for the GM to flesh out but will (one day) have “official” Stonehell releases.

    AmityvilleMike’s last blog post..Non-traditional Sources of New Spells

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