Don’t Disturb the Wildlife: The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Introduction and First Session

So, last summer I ran a weekly game of basic D&D (mostly using Labyrinth Lord but with some Rules Cyclopedia stuff thrown in as needed or desired) using the amazing Stonehell dungeon by Michael Curtis.  The game was a roaring success–it ran weekly from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but we kept it casual.  Nobody was obligated to come every week, plenty of people only came once, a decent number of people came every time.  (I dealt with inconsistent player attendance by just blinking non-present players’ characters out of existence and not worrying about it too much.)

As the game went on, I started sending out e-mails to the player list, describing what happened the previous week, to remind people who played, to catch up people who missed, and to entice people who hadn’t made it yet.  So it morphed into a kind of weekly game report, although more mirthful than meticulous.  Today, while ramping up for this summer’s return to Stonehell, I took all of the e-mails, edited them and compiled them into one record.  And I thought I’d put it online for anyone who is interested.  So, without further ado, I give you… THE ANNALS OF STONEHELL!  (All installments are indexed here.)

June 9, 2016

Stonehell Dungeon was a prison, originally created as a terrible experiment by the Grand Vizier of a now-fallen empire.  The Vizier selected inmates from the empire’s worst dungeons and prisons, shepherded them into a cave at the end of a box canyon on the western fringes of the empire, and commanded them to carve out their own prison out of the rock.  The Vizier watched his experiment remotely, and periodically introduced new “variables,” in the form of monsters and humanoid tribes.  Eventually the prisoners dug so deep that the guards stopped even patrolling.

When the empire fell, a force came to “liberate” Stonehell.  But hardly anyone was willing to come out, and those who did told fantastic stories of gangs of prisoners mining into gold and gemstone deposits and setting themselves up as fabulously wealthy subterranean kingdoms.  Wilder stories said that the prisoners had dug too deep and broken into other underground cave complexes housing weird and ancient things.  There were persistent rumors of magical wealth, including a 50-pound shard of ruby seen in the depths of the dungeon that is said to teleport from place to place.

In the century since the empire fell, the dungeon has attracted both tribes of monsters and bands of adventurers seeking wealth.  It has become such a popular place to seek one’s fortune that the nearest settlement, Fort Dawnsend, has grown an entire economy around adventurers delving into Stonehell.

The players arrived at Fort Dawnsend and gathered supplies and hired henchmen for a trip into the depths.  They cautiously approached the box canyon where the entrance to Stonehell is, spending the better part of a day exploring it (and finding some gold and treasure in the process).  There was an unfortunate incident with a rabid raccoon and a brush with a spitting cobra, but none of the player characters were injured.  Finally, the players engaged in a tense standoff with a band of robbers who frequent the canyon to pick off adventurers going back and forth.

The night ended with the players finally entering the main gate to Stonehell, and we left them at the top of a broad spiral staircase descending into the unknown depths…

On to the next session!

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