HOW I PREP CON GAMES: Through Ultan's Door vol 1 by Ben L


Through Ultan's Door Vol. 1
A picture I will always love.

Why run one con game when you can run two?! The second game I am running for ReaperCon 2022 (which as of this posting is today) is Through Ultan's Door by Ben L. In my previous installment, I outlined the principle of running imaginative OSR modules that focus on dungeon crawling as a good setup for a con.

Through Ultan's Door vol. 1 is a prime example of taking old-school D&D and catapulting it into an opium dream dungeon crawl. The setup of Ultan's is that the PCs come from a more mundane world and they delve through the door of Ultan's bookshop for the fantastical treasures of the dreaming. Nice setup, but at a con, we won't be adventuring that long together. How do we get all these elements together?

📝 Here is my prep sheet for the game

Part I: World Building & Opening
So let's though through the 'zine itself to see if we can identify any seeds and goals for a 3-4 hour dungeon crawl. Ultan's has some nice prompts at the beginning of the 'zine helpfully titled "Reasons For Venturing Through Ultan's Door". And looking through them I honed in on one:

You are devotees of the Slumbering God. You hold that the so-called waking world is merely one rung on a metaphysical ladder of dream worlds that flow every downwards, becoming more potent and condensed at each stage, until they pour into the great dream of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI. In drinking deep of the pleasures and horrors of Wishery you approach one step closer to this holy of holies.

Hmmm. That sounds good. So what is the goal? 

Well, looking through the 'zine there is also a notable NPC called The Weaver of Shadows who is a favorite of the god Azmarane and can bestow a blessing. This blessing allows the bestowed to become a favorite of Azmarane too. Okay, that is a good goal- religious devotees want to become favored. But how does all this come together? And why do they need to go to Ultan's? It hit me in one of those free-association ways.

The Cult of Sleep
The PCs will be members of the Cult of Sleep. They awaken in the night being hunted by another faction, The Red Censors, who are trying to eliminate them and crush the cult for good. The Censors are looking for one PC in particular "The Chosen One" (highest CHA score) after killing the previous one. The party needs to get their special PC blessed by the Weaver.

But it rings kinda hollow that say this important event happened, but PCs have no say in the matter. If it were a normal game, it would be fine for PCs to want to capture/kill members of The Red Censors. So, I decided to invent a little mini-game for the PCs covering this event. They get to choose to take a risk for hirelings, better equipment, or maybe magic scrolls. Roll some dice and have a quick narration.

Part II: DM Notes
Since Ultan's also comes with a little random encounter card. There are really few tables that I need to have in front of me. So this part really is about how to further ground the newly generated PCs into the Cult of Sleep in an easy-to-get way*.

So taking a page from Into The Odd and Necropraxis I generated a cult title and some equipment packages.** So I don't know if my cult titles are truly great because I don't think they quite match the gilded sumptuousness of Ben L's writing, but I try. We have: Sandman (fighter), Dreamer (magic-user), Nightcrawler (Darkness-casting cleric) & Shadow (thief). Each gets three pieces of equipment.

And for weapons and armor, I basically stuck to AC 10-12 and 1d6 damage weapons as Ultan's vol 1. is not really a high-powered fight. This also increases the likelihood of players taking the risk above for better stuff. And make that risk meaningful!

* I've run Ultan's a few times before and really I wish I had started writing down everyone's interpretations of what the tenets of the Cult of Sleep must be. Collectively it would make a great document.
**Great post here at Prismatic Wasteland about equipment

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