Monday, 18 February 2019

The King Under the Forest, part two

I mentioned previously that this was the first adventure I ever ran, back when I was eight years old and new to RPGs. I recently had occasion to do so again...

I was at Dragonmeet, London’s largest RPG convention, in December 2018 and ran some off the books gaming for a group of crusty old European Grognards. With virtually no prep, no change there, I ran King Under the Forest using Dragon Warriors Rules As Written. In my current DW game, which runs about once monthly via Hangouts, I have some slight modifications to the by the book method. However here I wanted to see the system in all its original glory. So characters were rolled, 3d6 down the line as Gygax intended and I declared I would be reading the boxed text aloud verbatim. The latter to provide the authentic 1980s adventure experience but also I thought it would be interesting, seen through the eyes of modern gamers.

No such thing as too many swords

I have no wish to enter the Great Read Aloud Text Debate however it did lead to, for me, an interesting exchange:

GM “You pause and hold your breath as you study the outline of the shadow...”
Player “No, I don’t. I breathe heavily.”

Here and in some of the other passages the adventure shows it’s gamebook heritage (“will you climb? Or turn back?”) but then the designers also wrote some very successful gamebooks and in designing an introductory RPG for sale in bookshops (I got five out six books in WH Smith) rather than Games Workshops I can only assume that this was a deliberate design choice.

Of course running an intro adventure for genre savvy grognards means that they’re probably going to eat it up without too much drama and that was certainly the case here. There is a nice encounter with some warriors who materialise out of a tapestry with “faces the colour of old cloth.”  This is mechanically quite tough as a straightforward fight but instantly I was told “I burn the tapestry.” The Tapestry Warriors burst into flames and disappear with a ghostly howl.

Similarly the other puzzles were solved without too much drama and this is a strength of the adventure that the difficulty is sufficient that they require some thought but are not ridiculously taxing.

Overall it was a good time and although there was some eye rolling at some of the read aloud bits, the players seemed to enjoy it too. There are some really nice touches in this adventure that hint at the greater myth of Vallander, the King Under the Forest, without beating you over the head with it. There are some parts that seem a little jarring, the gorgon encounter for instance (although this has received some treatment in the re-issue version in the Sleeping Gods book) and the obligatory giant spider...

I’d like to redo this adventure building on the original framework and taylor is it to my own vision of what Vallander’s tomb would be like in my version of Legend. Perhaps more on that later.


  1. Vallandar's tomb would be very different in "real" Legend -- in 35 years of gaming we've never met a dragon, for one thing! And I agree with your players about the "read aloud" bits. Those are the stabilizers, but once you can ride the bike...

    1. Stabilisers is accurate, I doubt I could have run this adventure as an eight year old without them.

      I know I wouldn’t be the only one interested in seeing a “real” Legend version of Vallander’s tomb should you find the time.