AAR: Barrowmaze wrap-up

10 Jan, 2021, updated 10 Jan, 2021 5e barrowmaze

Apologies for the delay on this writeup, it’s back from October. The Barrowmaze campaign continued on a little longer, but then fizzled out to be replaced by the Evils of Illmire one in December.

I realised I had too many small RPG groups. I know why this is, I like small groups of people in person - I’d much rather go out with three people than eight. The problem though is with a party of eight, it matters a lot less if someone can’t make it.

Story

This time we had three PCs and three sidekicks (although standard PC rules).

I don’t have any notes here, but it was some generic dungeon battling. The fights stayed relatively safe, for once. Ironically the first one was worst - I rolled the encounter for traversing the marshes, and got some strong swarms. I introduced them in an ambush, and it was a slog of a fight.

However in the actual dungeon things were much more settled. This time the spellcasters used appropriate area of effect weapons when being swarmed by rats and were more cautious about traps.

When they finally started to have their hitpoints worn down, they left with enough to deal with the wolfpack on the way home without panicking.

Back in the town of Helix, they recuperate (and gamble) while rival adventurers laugh at their temerity. In fact the gambling might have been a mistake:

Me: if you want go carousing, you can spend some money on it, and gain some XP

PC: Ace, what do I do?

Me: Roll a d20, lose that many GP and gain it in XP

PC: GREAT! I’m going to keep doing it!

Me: 😬 🤦‍♂️

Lessons

Roll20 screenshot
Roll20 screenshot

This screenshot summarises things pretty well - doesn’t matter what area of the dungeon I prepared, the party went in a different direction. To me, megadungeons feel like they’re supposed to be mapped by players, it’s a massive pain for a GM, particularly digitally. The maps provided in the book have all the secrets on, so I can’t just use those. They’re really intricate too, so replicating them takes time.

Barrowmaze in Dungeon Scrawl
Barrowmaze in Dungeon Scrawl

I did do some of it in Dungeon Scrawl, which has a lovely look, but all the weird diagonal walls can produce some odd clipping behaviour.

This is still a great tool and something I’d recommend over Dungeondraft:

Regarding random encounters, I also tried to make the danger of the encounter proportional to how much warning they got. I’ll try to avoid ambush-by-many-strong-monsters again.

I’ve also seen suggestions of making the dungeon feeling more alive by making the factions more animated and leaving some kind of spoor for predators (not necessarily 💩).

I’ve found Barrowmaze interesting, but it hasn’t felt as low-prep as I was hoping for. I think you can just run it reading blind, but I don’t think I would. It would be:

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