Brewscape: A Mega Barcrawl

André Meister

So many a moon ago I decided that I wanted to fuse two of my favorite things, Cuisine and RPGs. When I started thinking on this, I discovered that a number of other folks had also been thinking about this. Dan from Throne of Salt enumerates a number of them quite well. And just recently Betty Bacontime added their own take by combining food and my favorite TSR setting, Planescape, to create the Elemental Plates. Even 10′ Polemic James Young has recently jumped on it with a couple of hexed up spreadsheets. It is now time for me to finally start weighing in on this.

I’m not going to reinvent the various fantastic systems for cooking monsters, I’m going to encourage their use. I am interested in writing up a beast of a dungeon that is somewhere between The Tomb Of Horrors, Iron Chef, Dungeon Meshi and The World’s End. I’ve never designed a dungeon before and I’ve not done nearly enough research into dungeon design. So I’m just going to spitball ideas at random and see what sticks, then refine it from there.

Pieter Claesz

Brewscape Hook/Premise:

What is the one thing that matters more to adventurers than loot? That’s right, spending that loot. And I tell you nine times out of ten their are going to drink away a certain percentage of that loot. Everyone of course has their favorite watering hole, often stocked with the hyperlocal cottage industry microbrewery ales and beers one would expect. However times have been a’changing and the crafting of alcohol has slowly moved from a wholly domestic industry, to something of an artisanal and almost industrial industry. Every other monastery seems to be producing beer of one fashion or another, and some pubs have grown into small export industries.

In this rise of industrial beer-craft, one name has risen above others. Strum Wheatbeard, a dwarven connoisseur and genius of beercraft, discovered the beauty of bottom fermentation by aging his creations in deep cool caves. His lagers made him rich, his brewing operations expanded into a massive industrialized factory, and now all corners of the world know of Strum Breweries. Generations later, Strum Breweries remains on the top as other brewers rise and fall, Strum’s products are the gold standard against which everything else is judged. This is, in part, because Strum Wheatbeard is still running the place, experimenting and crafting and inventing. However, in his eternal pursuit of beer, Strum has extended his life unnaturally and by this time is a demilich, now known as Strum Dust-Tongue. This has given him great arcane power and the ability to continue his work on for the ages, but it has removed from him his natural sense of taste. He has…means of ensuring quality of his products, but he is denied the ability to sample any of them himself.

This is where the Adventurers come in of course. Deep in the depths of the earth, there is said to be a vault from antediluvian times containing a single keg. This keg has been fermenting since the dawn of time, the first and greatest of all alcohols, it is the God’s Mead, the Prima Vina, the Eternal Brew. There are many properties assigned to this mythic beverage, but Strum is convinced that first and foremost it will restore and heighten his sense of taste. Recently some of the Wheatbeard clan have uncovered a cellar. The top floor of it contains some of the rarest and most delicious vintages, many thought lost to time. The floors below contain only increasingly amazing, weird, and unique vintages. The dwarves soon discovered that they were not the first creatures to discover this cellar and had to fight their way through strange and disturbing monsters to continue their path downwards. They never found a bottom before they were driven back to the surface. Strum believes this cellar goes clear down to the vault of the God’s Mead and is willing to offer shares in his extremely profitable company to any who might bring him back a taste as well as allowing the adventurers to keep anything they might find in the depths.

The Cellar itself is made of many dozens of floors and layers, becoming progressively stranger and more dangerous as it descends deeper. I am considering that there will be a set of Key Floors that are stable and represent a change in theme/environment, while everything between them are semi-randomized within a consistent theme for the section. They characters can expect to be down here for weeks, but as luck would have it, there is plenty to potentially eat down here. From a variety of forageable plant-life to edible creatures to things left to ferment besides all the alcohol. While these foodstuffs represent their own challenge (poison, disease, combat, weird magical reactions), another challenge will having a source of clean water. For while they will constantly be surrounded by kegs, bottles, amphorae and so on of liquid, just plain water will be a rarity. There will be civilized creatures down here, from strange descendants of ancient brewers to incursions from the Underdark and Veins to other adventuring parties. They represent threats, potential allies, and potential exits/shortcuts around the Cellar.

M. Nishimura

The Problem:

I’ve never designed a map, on my own, even for a cave for players to investigate much less a megadungeon. I’ve never personally played through a megadungeon for more than a few floors before the game fell through due to life. I’ve been ruminating on this for a few years (this draft is actually among the oldest for the blog) but I’m not entirely certain where to actually start.

So! I want to appeal to all of you, my readers, I need a starting point, I need your thoughts and tips and tricks. Should I work on environment generators? Alcohol generators? Monsters? Should I make kits? What do you suggest for learning how to appropriately craft a dungeon? What would you like to see?


5 thoughts on “Brewscape: A Mega Barcrawl

  1. MUCH VERY EXCITE.

    I'd like to see a unique alcohol generator for sure. Maybe some sort of unique class for replacement characters and also a table for drinking from the "Spit Bucket" for when the players inevitably try to make a magical cocktail of some sort.

  2. Part of the joy of cookery is experimenting with new recipes. So maybe a magical cocktail mixing chart would be good. Look at my recent blogpost about the Pominomicon to see something similar to what I have in mind.

    Make a list of 6-12 magical base ingredients for cocktails. Then come up with clever effects for their pair-wise combinations. The GM would have access to the entire chart, but players would have to discover new recipes through experimentation. Or maybe find promising recipes in the journals of dead explorers.

  3. Write themes for the floors. Maybe different types of alcohol for each?

    Each zone needs a story, too. The story can be as simple as "the booze goblins are fighting the yeast God cultists, and the goblins recently kidnapped the yeast princess".

    Bonus points if you write a system that let's player's make their own magical beer from monsterparts. Or cocktails.

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