In December 2019, over on the old blog (which sadly had to be retired), I wrote about how I was taking my original “Fighters of Thaarl” game forward into the “Dungeons of Thaarl”. Because the old blog is gone, I thought I would dig out the text from the archive and see what Thaarl was like back at the beginning.
Here’s what I wrote in 2019:
The premise of the Dungeons of Thaarl is that characters are enslaved by the Masters of Thaarl – a city built near the ruins of another ancient city of the same name, destroyed by a magical cataclysm.
Players are trying to survive the dungeons, earning their freedom which costs 10,000 Gold Coins per character. They are given basic gear and charged 20% of the value of the treasure they bring back after each expedition in return for healing and access to various markets and services.
Once created, players take their characters across the blasted desert near Thaarl and enter the dungeons via a stairway underground, which is usually kept locked under a huge iron grate (itself secured by four huge padlocks). The guards will wait until dusk before sealing you in and leaving. Thus, characters must return to the surface by the end of each session or risk death inside – I have a nasty random table for this.
Oh, and each party of adventurers is given a single Ring of Return – a 12″ diameter golden ring engraved with a magic word. When activated, whomever is holding the ring (up to 6 people) will be teleported to the location of the matching Ring of Return. This second ring begins play in the hands of the guards outside the main entrance to the dungeons. Once used, the Ring of Return must be recharged… for a price, of course.
As it stands, there are multiple groups playing and their actions affect the same dungeon, meaning that each session affects the condition of the dungeon for the next session – even if that session is played by a different group of players and characters.
The first thing to say is that this worked really well in 2019 and I don’t really know why I stopped running it. Well… ok, I stopped because I chickened out and let the Resistance kill my game. That’s the reason why. The important thing is that Thaarl worked well the first time around.
In 2023, returning to Thaarl, I am on one level (pun?) starting over but on another, I am keen to develop the ideas. I enjoyed the basic premise and many details (like the Rings of Return) were a lot of fun to run with. On the other hand, I do want to give access to some new sections of the dungeon and expand the project considerably.
Tomorrow will see some new adventurers enter the Dungeons of Thaarl. The biggest change is that we’ve abandoned (at least for now) the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game in favour of Simple Dungeon GURPS powered by the Third Edition of that venerable system.
But what started as an offhand idea in October 2019 to play some GURPS games in the “Fighting Pits of Thaarl” is about to become my megadungeon Open Table. I am excited and daunted. The Resistance is back… but I am determined to slay my dragon and get us back down into the Underdark.
I stole the “Dungeons of Thaarl” ideas back in 2019 and have been running some form of it in various systems ever since. Every group that has experienced it, whether in GURPS, The Fantasy Trip, or AD&D 1e, have loved it and begged me to start it back up when I took a breaks. Mine is called “The Ancient Ruins of Mego-Dar” is heavily inspired by and loosely based on Thaarl.
Thanks for reposting this and for the inspiration to run the open table megadungeon.
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