WHERE HELL COMES TO PREY: Running Nightwick Abbey 02

I have just completed DMing my fifth session of Nightwick Abbey, an OSE megadungeon authored by Miranda Elkins and illustrated by Chris Huth. These posts will be a continuing effort to document this campaign I dubbed Where Hell Comes To Prey. I might try to keep the subsequent summaries to just highlights instead of following my usual pattern of room-to-room player reports.


Our Sunday Congregation:
Miriam M1
Adum F1
Froggie Fr1
Callus C1
Asterion F1

Session 5 FEB 18 Highlights: 
  • Evil Still Prowls: In Nightwick Village, graves continue to be upturned and woodsmen killed; two hirelings are taken on by the party; off to the Abbey

  • YOU ARE PREY!Discussions with amalgams of animal and human are held; PC attempt to build sympathy and trust but instead are betrayed and led to a pit-trap; one hireling dies and Miriam is grievously wounded; a fight ensues and Froggie is mortally wounded but quick action to bind wounds save him from death; several pieces of jewelry are collected

  • Holy Water, Holy $*%^&!: After dropping Froggy off at the church, the party returns with a new magician, an astrologer, and student of Saffory’s Principles of Arcane Dueling; they decide to drop into the pit to explore some hallways; their exploration leads them to a room full of dead all bowed in silent prayer– broken by the cleric’s attempt to turn them; at failure, the dead swordmen’s draw their weapons and charge; holy water, baptizing fire, and some mighty hammer swings; however the Abbey takes its due with a vicious sword through the gut of one of the fighters (DM note: Nat 20 for 6 damage)

Communing With The Abbey: It was around session 03 that I finally was able to dial in the feel that I wanted out of Nightwick. For example in Session 03, I had restocked the West Tower Entrance with 9 Blind Dead since the room also has a statue, I had the players open a door to some sorta of ceremony interrupted. I gave the players a space to negotiate and they bluffed their way into one character being possessed. This encounter contains the eeriness and danger that as a player I've always felt the Abbey has- a lot of high-risk possibilities that drive tense action.

Perfect Timing (With Adjustments): And speaking of tense action, I think the 100 minutes continues to be a good format. It plays quick and I don't feel overly exhausted at the end of it. I do think however, I might need to start caping players out at a table of 4-6 players. Because I am trying to keep to a brisk 100-minute period, it does help to go more times around the table, more rooms are explored, and more encounters can be had. When the table is 7,8, or 9 players, you can't squeeze as much decision-making in the same time-period.

Session Worksheet: I hope to post a little later, but I do have a session worksheet that I have figured out works to keep me on track. The front is devoted to the following
  • Downtime- list the downtime options available
  • Village Happenings- how gossip about the PCs and about factions moving in the background
  • Hirelings- a few hirelings that are available
  • Any additional item
On the back, I write the players' names and just use it to take notes as the session progresses, including jotting down enemy HP totals and treasure gained. I am thinking about adapting Gus L's Tomb Robbers of the Crystal Frontier Expedition Sheet which includes a marching order tracker, turn tracker, and treasure gained.

Downtime in Zyan:  Sticking to the motto of using what I already own, I leafed through this 'zine to understand what I could employ when a player wanted to invest in Rupert vanToad's trading company. I decided to treat as a sorta institution:
  • Tier 1: A greater number of basic goods
  • Tier 2: +1 additional suits of armor
  • Tier 3: Can be treated as a "city" in terms of types of weapons/armor/equipment found there

Nightwick is still a fantastic dungeon to run and I can't wait to get to it! If you are interested, Miranda is running her new Vance-meets-Dunsany crawl Cuccanga over on Start Playing

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 82

Previously in Nightwick...

This week's adventurers:

Blossom (Rogue 6)
Mayfly (Magician 5)
Mechtilde (Fighter 5)
Liminal Space (Changeling 4)
Krupe (Cleric 3)
Voorhis (Fighter 2)
Poppy (Fighter 2)
Thekla (Magician 1)


This week the party decides to continue the exploration of the third level of Nightwick to order to secure and recover any treasure that might have been overlooked in the heady rush of the first sojourns into Level 4. Plus, Mayfly still would like to find other pieces of the golden skeleton and the rest of the party seems okay with that: "Let's go get your golden Frankenstein".


CRADLE OF THE CINDER KINDER: With the guardian statues vanquished, the party has an easy time entering the Abbey via the graveyard entrance and turns south toward the sound of crying infants. The group organizes themselves to give Mayfly a clean shot then swiftly kick the door in! Lightning quickly turns and reduces to ash the flaming mockeries of children in a simple 30ft X 30ft room.

INVESTIGATION, INTERRUPTED: Before the party can investigate the remains of the monsters they have killed a door mysteriously open to the east, and a pack of 5 ghouls swift moves to attack the front and left flank of the party's line! Mechtile and Liminal stave off the front assault, but while the new fighters and Blossom take a few nasty hits. Mayfly's web goes off to tie up the ghouls in the front, and allow Mechtile and Liminal to wheel to protect the flank-- all ghouls are dispatched in good time. The party leaves this 30ft X 30ft room and proceeds west.

MORE SKULLS: The door pops open easily enough revealing a room of skulls whose eye sockets glint with something green (gems?). Blossom checks for traps across the threshold, but finds nothing-- all safe? Liminal steps forward to check out the skulls which suddenly vomit forth a cloud of gas! Overcome by fear, Liminal charges back into the 30ft X 30ft room screaming. It takes almost the whole party to dogpile the hysterical changing and apply a gag. The party breathless awaits the Abbey's response to such alarm.

DEVIL MAN- DEVIL MAN, CALLING DEVIL MAN RUNNING IN MY HEAD, YEAH! The southern door opens and 7 men appear with red skin, and shiny black horns, and all have equally pointy beards-- the sons of The Pit. The party is quick enough on their feet, Mayfly moves to the north archway while Blossom and Mechtild for a front rank, the rest of the party hold Liminal and move middle. The devils draw their swords in preternatural union while Mayfly draws the sigil of fire in the air-- an explosion in the middle of the infernal ranks! (PC NOTE: Fireball damage 18). Some smoking yet-to-be-dead-Devil Men survive but certainly not the follow-up assault by the party's experienced swordsmen. In the end, their smoldering, sliced-up corpses leave behind a couple of rings and a few gems (650sp)

Breathing hard, wounded, and still standing in the same 30ft X 30ft room, the party decides to leave this #*$^ing accursed place.


STRAIGHT UP VILLAIN: From Random Encounter To Intentional Antagonist

Yeah, no feelin'


In the latest session of Where Hell Comes To Prey my Nightwick Abbey campaign, the players made an interesting gamble. Two players decided to kick in a door despite the sounds of torture behind it. The door gave way, gave them a surprise round, and they pounced on their cannibalistic opposition dispatching one immediately and two more in short order.

The final hulking figure was knocked unconscious by a thrown crowbar (improvised weapon, thrown, 1d4 non-lethal dmg; rolled a 4!). The players interrogated this creature which yielded them information about a blood cult, a Baroness, an obsession with meat, and punishing the weak and undeserving.

Eventually, the cannibal broke free and after a failed lunge at the player, ran for an exit. The players did not pursue it. This cannibal is as follows:

Berserker: AC 12, HD 1+1*, 1 x weapon (1d8), MV 40, ML 12; 
Rage: +2 to-hit against humanoids


Okay. Its easy enough to say encounter done- next. But why not increase this interaction impact in the dungeon? The cultist would not doubt be pissed it had been captured and seek revenge. In doing so, the party's choices have a displayable impact beyond the typical markers such as the removal of treasure and interactions with "known" NPCs.

Now, this is not a totally novel idea- it's a riff on the "Nemesis System" found in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. In MeSoM, if enemies kill the player or survive encounters with the player they are promoted within the game and become harder to kill. And I think that is neat!✤ The Abbey already has a related mechanism-- depending on who/what dies there.

Before jumping to the powers and rewards of defeating such a foe, how will we implement this into the play procedures? Because if a group creates 2-4 of these special antagonists it could get a little cumbersome to run. Here are my thoughts:

Add Them To An Empty Room: Very simple and makes use of empty realestate which ~30% of the area of the dungeon. But that might make the monster pretty static and the megadungeon might be complex enough players don't run across the same room again.

Straight Add To The Random Encounter Table: Easy- just write the creature in as the next number on the random encounter table. But this potentially expands the table with just singular encounters or create the need for DCC dice (roll a d7). Also singular threats tend to not last long.

A Leader Of A Like Group on The Random Encounter Table: A more stream-lined approach might be to just add them as +1 to a like group or something close to it. So the entry for "2d6 skeletons" might read: 2d6 skeletons + villain X. This preserves the structure of the table, shortens the delay of the appearance of the villain, and allows it to have friends- bigger threat.


Alright so well add this villain to the random encounter table as a leader of the next group of like enemies. Now how do we transform my surviving humanoid creature above who is a member of a blood-cult? 

Well, here are my suggestions after ~20 min of thinking, and each time this villain escapes death or kills a PC, I will roll on this d6 table up with a max of 3 times:

1 | Thirst for Blood: Cannot be charmed or affected by mind-altering spells
2 | Hellish Hunting Spears (2x): Deal 2d6 dmg & pin on a to-hit of 4 over target AC
3 | Vicious Visage: Save vs. Paralysis or move half speed away from creature
4 | Teeth! Teeth! Teeth!: Gain claw/claw/bite 1d4/1d4/1d6 dmg, but will not use weapons
5 | The Relentless: Unless killed, next 3 encounters will be with this villain & company
6 | Murderous Messenger: Kills victims in the party's village/town/safespot; leaves taunts

I think it would also be good to increase the XP value of this villain and to keep things easy, let's just use the unguarded treasure table for that. Our villain has the following rolled each time they gain a new power: 

LEVEL 1 Unguarded Treasure according to Moldvey Basic: 1d6 x 100sp, 1d6 x 10gp (50%), 1d6 gems (5%), 1d6 jewelry (2%), and any 1 magic item (2%)

And we'll turn this treasure into cosmetic dressing for the NPC making them as unique and notable; enhancing their "silhouette" in video game terms.


And here is our new villain berserker! I will add them to the random encounter table along with the berserker entry and look forward to the next time the players need to roll a random encounter. The new random encounter entry reads: "12 1d3 Berserkers + The Moonlight Murderer"

ill: C. Huth
The Moonlight Murderer: AC 12, HD 1+1*, 1 x weapon (1d8), MV 40, ML 12; 
  • Rage: +2 to-hit against humanoids 
  • Murderous Messenger: Each time the party carouses, kill one villager; 1-in-20 its a known NPC; a disturbing message is left calling out the PCs & a riddle to a location for a show-down
  • Silver Nails (600sp): Heads bear the sign of the Baroness, driven through its left hand creating a permanent fist

✤ And if you're wondering why we don't see that in more games, I heard some rumor that the Nemesis system locked up as IP somehow- a shame if true.

TORCHES (6): A RPG Microblog Collection 1


I think for 2024 and beyond I will try to start running a microblog collection of RPG posts that I find and like. Microblogging I feel is one thing that is not quite bridged by either "Xitter" or Blogspot. If I post something on Twitter or Bluesky, I quickly forget about it and/or lose track. But making a formal blog post about a single link or for something I just want to say one line about seems like too much as well.

Variable Weapon Properties (Blog of Forlorn Encystment): I particularly like the nice rule that if a PC uses their DEX bonus for to-hit/dmg, then the weapon's die drops 1 size

How to Turn Negative Mechanics into Stuff Players' Want to Track (Trilemma Adventures): Good stuff- I especially like the +1 to all rolls if a PC only has four encumbrance slots filled; and I do like the idea of spell components giving MUs bonuses. Both fit into the new "short form" character sheet I recently made.

2023 Novies (Playful Void): Nightwick Abbey wins a Novie and in a follow-up post Nightwick is previewed: "When a publisher gets a hold of this (honestly publishers should be begging to have this on their slate), and the layout and art is finalized, you’re in for something very very special." 100% True, but I'm biased.

The Underground Maze or Primordial Stack (All Dead Generations): Gus L performs a very nice analysis on the advice given in the LBBs about designing a dungeon and if dungeon design by the early advice differs from current OSR concepts of such.

Megadungeon As Overworld (Playful Void): More megadungeon advice, but I particularly like Nova's analysis here about what exactly makes a "sublevel" of a megadungeon differ from a regular level.

PORK FACES & ROMAN DARTS: In 2d AD&D, MU could use darts. In my pre-teens, I thought that was a silly weapon- a little throwing dart? Here is a video with a more accurate presentation of what these darts were. I like the use of pork shoulder to represent the size/density of someone's face.