Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tackling the Megadungeon: Acquisition

Continued from here.

Lord Gusorio proceeded to show off some of his personal treasures to his small audience of would-be adventurers.  A large ruby ring, emerald-studded bracelet, an ebony locket on a silver chain, and of course his intricately carved wooden leg - made of rare teak, it was set with a line of pearls down the front and the etchings on it showed scenes from the baron's life as an adventurer.
"Of course you know the basics of what to do when you secure a treasure hoard.  Take the gems and jewelry, plus anything that might be magical first.  Then fill up with coins from most valuable down to least.  You need to make sure that you don't get overloaded, though.  All that treasure is heavy, and slows you down.
"Once, we managed to wipe out a nest of minotaurs on the fifth level, and they had two huge chests of treasure.  We had hired several men-at-arms, but even with their help one chest was too large to move.  So we had to get creative..."

The point of a dungeon exploration is getting the treasure.  That's where most of your experience points come from, assuming you're playing OD&D, Classic D&D, or 1E AD&D, or keeping the 1gp=1XP rule in some other edition.  By the book, coins are given an unnatural encumbrance value of 1 coin being equal to 1/10 of a pound.  Very few real world coins were ever so large.  But that's part of the logistical/resource management challenge of a megadungeon game.  It's not supposed to be easy to get all that loot to the surface.

So what is a smart party to do?  Carry out what you can the first time you defeat a monster or trap that guards some treasure, of course.  But if you can, you'll want to come back for the rest as soon as possible.  If you don't, wandering monsters, other NPCs, or just the general other-worldliness of the megadungeon will mean it all disappears.

That's why it's important, especially for low level parties, to equip hirelings and retainers with backpacks and bags.  The more people in the party, the more treasure that can be recovered.  Some groups also may elect to have one or two characters and some men-at-arms remain in the dungeon to guard the treasure while the rest of the party carries out what they can.  It's risky to split a party, and to leave some of the members below for an extended time (not to mention bad for retainer morale), but if the hoard is extremely large, then there are times when a group may decide it's worth it.

As groups gain more power, magic of course will come to the rescue.  Spells like Floating Disk increase carrying capacity.  Invisibility and illusion spells can hide a treasure in plain sight.  Bags of holding allow for large amounts of loot to be carried out easily.  Teleport can allow for quick exit and return (if the area of the treasure is studied enough beforehand to minimize the risk of error...). 

Of course, other ways to remove treasure can be to get creative.  Bring mules or carts/wheelbarrows into the dungeon, if possible.  Charm a big strong monster and get it to carry stuff for you.  Secure a small section of the dungeon and leapfrog the treasure from room to room with a 'bucket brigade' of hirelings, sealing it off with a Wizard Locked door when the party needs to return to the surface so it will still be there when you return, and it will be that much closer to the exit.

The key thing to remember on such expeditions into the dungeon is that speed is necessary to get to the treasure (assuming it's one that's already been secured through combat or disabling of a trap and you're returning for more), but the return will be slow.  It's usually best to have all the manpower possible, both to carry out more, and to better guard it until you get it home.

Continued here.

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