Some thirty years ago my group of war gamer friends wanted to try something new. I found a D&D basic set on sale at my local toy & game store and, not knowing what it was, purchased it. I remember reading the introduction repeatedly, at first I found the premise a little hard to swallow. Finally figuring it was too weird not to try, I convinced the group to give it go. Location and evening selected, characters with blatantly stolen names from our favorite literature ready to adventure, beverages well stocked, we began the session. It took a while for me to lead them to the Caves of Chaos. It took very little time for my first (and only) total party kill, only about thirty feet into the first cave they entered (Orc cave B - for those CoC fans). Ah, the fond memories.
So here I am many years later with my own version of the caves in my little world. The description is different, instead of caves in the wilderness it is nicely made caves in the remains of a seaside city long forgotten. The adventure retains the basic premise, a location with many mini dungeons to explore. It seems that the caves have haunted me for many years and now I have released these new caves on my unsuspecting adventuring group.
The group is on a mission from their King; locate the city and reestablish a relationship with the inhabitants that has long faded away. The King needs allies and wants the party to have a powerful weapon that should be in the possession of the people of the city. With expectations set high for their role as royal diplomats and after some dangerous travel through the wilderness, the group arrives and is dismayed to find the city only a shadow of its former glory. The city is now inhabited not only by the shabby remains of its once proud human owners but also with various ogre, goblinoid, kobold, dwarf and possibly some other even less desirable and more troubling squatters. I watched with surprise and some satisfaction as the group elected to avoid two combats that might have rescued humans in the servitude of ogres and then great goblins because they were not sure of the ramifications in this dangerously balanced ecosystem. Mostly this group is loath to pass up a combat to save an apparent innocent. I love it when I complicate their decisions.
My version of the caves is larger and has more complex relationships and economies than the original. I do not boast that mine is better, but I find that I am not satisfied with an environment that does not have a sense of logic and balance. The cost in time to develop such an environment is probably not in balance with the outcome. Such is the curse of have high standards and being anal.
There are no spoilers here for my group. (sucks for you) I have no intention of posting full adventure logs. I have two players who do that for our group only and they have expressed no interest in making them public. I might post some high level summaries and DM comments if there is interest.
It is interesting to ponder why I came back around to the beginning after 30 years. Was it just a good idea, or a convenient way to have mini adventures, or am I looking to assuage guilt over my TPK? We'll have to see how it works out. When we broke last time they were just about to enter one of the caves. If they make it more than 30 feet am I absolved from my sins? Or have I just grown soft over the years and countless tears shed for characters who died ignoble deaths?
Just kidding - I have just gotten better at bringing them to the brink of failure time and time again. Dead characters hold no magic for me; rather I covet the moment of fear in the players faces as their beloved creations teeter on the brink and the joy/relief as they or their comrades pull the back in the nick of time.
The dice never lie.