Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 1)

Last month I wrapped up my DolmenBarrow campaign (see the adventure log). With the PDF for Greg Gillespie’s Caverns of Archaia being released today I’m finally posting some thoughts on Barrowmaze. I’ve had these in draft for a couple months, but now seems like an ideal time to publish them…


Adaptation to Dolmenwood

I’m not the first person to place a version of Barrowmaze in the Dolmenwood. As suggested by Gavin Norman, I swapped out the Necromancers of Set for the Drune and set the adventure near Prigwort (Hex 1205 – the Harrowmoor – to be precise).

I also replaced the followers of St. Ygg with the “Church of Law” or “Church of the One True God” (of which St. Ygg is a major saint). However, the “Old Faith” is still strong in the Dolmenwood, with the strange offshoot of the Drune being prominent.

At first I was considering running Barrowmaze using the Adventurer, Conqueror, King system (ACKS), but then decided to stick with Labyrinth Lord. I actually took the time to create an ACKS Drune Custom class, which I used for significant NPCs.

I’ve also been influenced lately by the Hill Cantons, Dwimmermount/Devilmount, and Operation Unfathomable. I added the Eld backstory to Elves, swapped out “regular” dwarves for Moss Dwarves / Robo-Dwarves / Feral Dwarves, and added Half-Goats & Lumpen-Ones. This didn’t actually change too much in the dungeon itself, but certainly altered the PC races.

“Original” Barrowmaze vs. Barrowmaze Complete

I’ve got every iteration of Barrowmaze published – with the exception of the most recent 5e version – and have been running sessions in the dungeon for five years now.

For actual gaming, I’m still using my original printout of “Barrowmaze I” – the first published version, before it had “I” in the title. I really enjoy the tightly-themed adventure and the focused “core mission” from Barrowmaze I of sealing the Pit of Chaos. Sadly, it is no longer available for purchase.

I’ve also kept all my notes from previous sessions written in my game binder. This means, for example, that characters can stumble upon graffiti from previous groups, or find areas that have already been cleared of creatures.

(I’m not too strict about this, though. Because each group has consisted of completely different players, I’ve kept any cool “setpiece encounters” – like the Kelmok the Necromancer – for each new party to experience.)

I actually like sticking to Barrowmaze I. It keeps the adventure tight and contained. I was prepared to use material from Barrowmaze II / Barrowmaze Complete to flesh out the lairs of some of the factions, but the party never delved too deeply in that direction.

Mapping Barrowmaze

For this campaign, I laminated the Map from Barrowmaze I. I used coloured markers to track the party’s progress each session, which was really useful in seeing where they’d been at a glance.

Because I’ve been using gaming paper for all my Barrowmaze mapping, I’ve kept a collection of existing maps from previous explorations. For the DolmenBarrow campaign, I cut up sections of these previous maps and used them as “treasure maps” to be discovered or traded for. This worked very well to provide information on areas which the PCs had not yet explored, and led to one very amusing incident…

The PCs had ignored the “main” central barrow (out of fear that it was “too obvious”) and were entering the Barrowmaze from several secondary entrances. They had purchased a map in town and had it sitting right on the table, then spent the better part of a session exploring the exact same area, not noticing the “treasure map” literally right beside the game map.

I could barely keep a straight face, but someone finally realized this (after a few hours), once ~90% of the area had been re-mapped a second time.

I really liked using the old maps. It lent a degree of history and verisimilitude to the game, but also allowed me to “skip over” repetitive areas of the dungeon by providing the maps as a shortcut. Plus, the purchase of maps provided a nice way to drain the group of their looted gold.

This post has gotten too long, so I’ll save my further thoughts for later…

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About K-Slacker

Gamer and referee for online gameblogs.
This entry was posted in Campaign Setting, DolmenBarrow, Game Sessions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 2) | Mutants & Magic

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 3) | Mutants & Magic

  3. K-Slacker says:

    Oh – and one other comment on maps… I took the time beforehand to figure out where each faction is based. (This should really be in the “faction info” section for the referee.) If I find the sticky note where I wrote them down, I’ll post them here.

    There’s also some “themed” areas – the Chaos Sepulchre of the Elements, for example, in Barrowmaze II – that make for nice self-contained quests within the Barrowmaze.

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