Two nights ago I wrote of how three friends and I are co-GMing a Dungeon World funnel. By the end of the first session our villagers had entered the dungeon. So in the second we used Plumb the Depths to find out what it contained.
Plumb the Depths has worked very well for collaborating at the table. That’s important for us because we’re co-GMing things by the seat of our pants really, so a way to frame our collaboration and generate some minimal content is exactly what we were looking for.
The set up process was quick and evocative. The dungeon was discovered on rumour of an old secret fur smuggler hideout, but we knew the history was richer than that. The Dungeon Foundation rolls revealed it was originally built by humanoids as a tomb. We easily connected ideas with the village we created using Funnel World that the humanoids must be dwarfs. Justin Wightbred or Narayan Bajpe might remember why exactly. I think it was something about the village being built on top of abandoned dwarven mines or something. Anyway, there’s were no dwarves in our original party of 16 (now 12 or maybe 11 or 10) so there’s been a bit of myth-building around dwarves. Anyway, a lost dwarven tomb it was, though the characters thought it was just a smugglers bolt hole. We didn’t explore any other bits of the history of the dungeon, like what ruined it etc. But we felt we had enough to go on..
The Plumbing Procedure was fun, and we did it together in a couple of minutes. Our table enjoys playing with an open hand and this process got us on the same page about the dungeon without taking too long or filling in too much detail.
We rolled a small dungeon, so no more than 4 areas, with 3 themes:
– Unusual: deepening mystery
– Extraordinary: ancient curse
– Extraordinary: bottomless hunger
What a cheerful place!
I have mixed feelings about the countdowns. I’m drawn to follow Planarch Codex’s “Monster as Dungeons” rules and rolling for each theme to possibly get combinations of themes in one area, which I think might help themes evoke more immediate ideas because interpreting what a particular combination could mean might inspire some creative leaps.
Writing the area list ahead of time was very useful, as it set some of our expectations about what lies ahead and added colour and flesh to the bones of our Dungeon Foundations. We chose:
– catacombs (common)
– natural caverns (common)
– smugglers storeroom (unique)
– ritual chamber (unique)
Upon entering the first area from the secret entrance in the now ruined hunting lodge, we rolled a common area holding a Danger with a theme of your choice. And the Danger rolled was an Entity: Dark God. Well that escalated quickly! We decided bottomless hunger was appropriate.
Through many poor rolls, grim portents and cowardice, we had villagers falling down floor traps, piles of furs emerging as rather large monstrous beetle things, villagers dragged into the darkness, villagers hearing voices and becoming shimmering avatars of a dark god complete with unholy plate armour, broad sword and resonating voice-over. The village healer was beaten back at that point, only to become a shining angel of an opposing god. Unfortunately, the epic battle was cut short when the angel was dissipated in a single mighty blow, leaving the dark god avatar—as his powers allowed— to instantly fell beasts at the cost of killing one unlucky villager 1:1. At least until the avatar was dragged away into the dark and the rest of villagers fled down the trapdoor from the remaining giant hide beetles.
That’s when I rolled the next area, and decided the set up myself, mainly because the others were bickering and hen pecking each other. The See What They Find roll revealed the next area was a common area holding a Discovery with a theme of your choice. I said a hexagonal network of catacombs with the theme deepening mystery and rolled the discovery, a Find: artefact. Quick and interesting.
So I described the first two villagers who slid down the trapdoor had discovered an ornate, finely wrought shovel. One of these was my outclassed-in-every-way blacksmith, who proceeded to spout lore about the origins of it because the only things she got going for her is she found it first. She nailed it and everyone at the table gave suggestions. I picked my favourite: it was the legendary First and Last Shovel, said to be how the dwarfs were created. If this shovel kills a creature, a dwarf is said to then crawl out of the corpse. Gimm, the short-sighted old man, decides to off himself in the hope of rising again as a young dwarf, except Cynewolf the opportunistic ditch digger switches shovels and Gimm ends up knocking himself out with an ordinary shovel.
No doubt the chorus of a demonic ritual to summon a dark god will soon be heard.
Plumb the Depths is giving us a great framework to co-GM a Dungeon World Funnel. I’m excited to finish this adventure (because hell I’m afraid how long these villagers will last) and map out the wider world with the Learn the Language.