Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Barrowmaze: An Overview

One of my readers noted in the coments section that he'd like to hear a bit more information on the Barrowmaze. Ask and you shall receive!

The Barrowmaze is an exploration style-megadungeon that emerged from play at Red Box Niagara. The dungeon was designed and written by me. It started out as a curiosity. I never had the opportunity to play a megadungeon in my youth, my entry to D&D in 1982 was all about modules. So I was interested in learning more about the thought-processes behind a megadungeon, and my group needed something to play, and that's effectively where it came from.

Everyone in my D&D group (except for me) started playing D&D in either the early or late 1990s. So, the Barrowmaze was an effort to teach, and develop an appreciation for, the values of old school gaming to a group of really great guys. The Barrowmaze is a little bit of Tomb-Robbing 101, but don't let that comment fool you. As the session reports demonstrate this dungeon is lethal and our PCs and hirelings have made a solid contribution to The Big Book of the Dead.

There are 375 keyed rooms in the Barrowmaze, but many of these have sub-areas such that the actual number of keyed rooms is over 500+. Because this is so large (and I have a family and a profession), I needed to divide it in half to make it manageable. Part I is for levels 1-4ish and Part II will continue with mid and upper-mid level play. This actually works well because anything I generate by way of profit I can put back into getting more art for Part II. The design is set-up such that Part I can be played completely seperate from Part II (or vice versa), but the two together will be a sight to behold!

Speaking of art, I've spend hundreds - literally hundreds - of dollars on new art for Part I of the Barrowmaze. It will feature the art of Stefan Poag, but includes others such as Toren Atkinson, Zhu, and Trevor Hammond. Why spend that much money? There are a couple reasons. Production value is critical. People need to know (that I know) that aesthetics in RPGs are important. The art helps to get DMs all hyped-up and helps them convey what the characters see. Also, I like looking at and reading modules. Who wants to do that if there aren't any sweet illustrations? Finally, I have taken much from the OSR in terms of thinking about games and gaming. This is my humble way of contributing to the community and to a game that has meant a great deal to me in my life.

The Barrowmaze is constructed in the tradition of classic megadungeons. However, there are some interesting twists designed to provide an experience that is both similar to, and yet different from, other megadungeons. I'm not going to give those away yet (Muahahahaha).

In terms of a release date, I'm just waiting on the final art pieces and I should be good to go. Early February appears realistic at this point.

Questions? Thoughts?


  1. Thanks for the summary, sounds very promising.

  2. Sounds really cool, looking forward to this!

  3. As some of you may know by reading my blog, Im running Gregs Northern Reaches setting albeit with a few changes here and there that I made. I am pretty much using much of the back story about the Dragon Army and such for the setting. Here are some ideas I came up with to link the various adventures together .

    ATTENTION": SPOILER ALERT. if you are a player in any of these adventures I dont recommend reading this.

    I linked the Barrowmaze to the Citadel of the Iron God in the following manner: Long ago the Barrowmaze was the site of an ancient peoples that lived in the area to rest their dead. They worshipped death in the manner of the Egyptians in that they entombed their dead in elaborate cairns and dungeons. They had much reverance for their dead and made sure they were supplied with the posessions that they would need in the afterlife.
    A growing cult of Nergal soon grow in the area and in time infiltrated and took over the priesthood of the people there. They took over the burrial tombs and made them into templetombs to Nergal- and soon outsted the former priests.

    These priests fled the tombs ( barrowmaze) in hopes of finding a new place to settle down with them and their true followers and establish a new place to enter their dead. The priests were called upon by a supernatural entity whom appeared to them as a figure made of iron "the Iron God" . This being led them to a location in the mountains far east of the Barrowmaze and said that as long as they remained true to their faith, their dead may be lain here in peace. And so it was that for generations the dead of the area were taken to the Citadel of the Iron God that the priests had established.

    When the Dragon Army arose and drove south, it wiped out nearly every habitable civilization it crossed ( Threshold being one of them). But the power of the Iron God kept the Dragon Army at bay by shielding it from discovery. The Iron God kept up this effort for all the years the Dragon Army occupied the area. When at last they were driven back, the Iron God, exhausted from his endeavors, fell into a deep slumber within the Citadel, to recoup his power.

    It was at this time that the followers of Orcus ( whom had by this time long since taken over posession of the Barrowmaze from the followers of Nergal), began to infiltrate the priesthood of the Iron God. Without his divine aid and insight, the priests of Orcus soon swayed the followers of the Iron God to their side, claiming that the Iron God had abandoned them or been defeated by Orcus and that he was the true Lord of the Underworld. Furthermore, that the priests should not only serve Orcus, but raise the bodies of the dead they have been guarding over for decades as servants to do the will and bidding of Orcus.
    Nearly all the priests were swayed over to the new priesthood of Orcus, and those that werent were killed or worse. It was around this time that the Iron God began to awaken and became aware of the heanous acts there were being commited in his temple. Angered, he struck down the citadel with a mighty storm of lightning bolts. He cursed his former priesthood to become iron statues as punishment, and killed the high priests of Orcus ( But so powerful was Orcus's hold on the place that he immediately raised his former priests as powerful undead to continue on his will).

    The End

    So I was able to now have an ongoing connection between the Barrowmaze and the Citadel of the Iron God that made sense to the over all back story of the setting.

    Did anyone else come up with similar backstories for their campaigns?