Delving deep into Andy’s mind…

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Andy Holmes wrote a dungeon.

Deep Where The Liche-Lord Dwells - front cover

This was no ordinary dungeon: three snarling orcs, two raging trolls and a unicorn in a pear tree. No, this was a dungeon that went down and down and down; a dungeon with a liche at the bottom like Judas lying in the ninth circle of Hell; a dungeon darker than ink spilled in a cave at midnight onto a panther’s fur; a dungeon so big and tough that it should have its own MR! As if conscious of its diabolical nature, this dungeon had never seen the light of day. But we here at Tavernmaster Games were determined to fix that.

First, however, the beast needed some grooming. Life, which ever conspires to distract us from gaming, has been busy for Andy recently, so I undertook to edit the thing. The first order of business was to compose a title; yet so consummate a perfectionist is Andy, so much the inspired artiste – so, frankly, busy and distracted – that I had almost finished with the dungeon before these few choice words were settled. The dungeon would do exactly what it said on the tin: it will be called Deep Where The Liche-Lord Lies: A Descent Into Horror.

It is no spoiler to reveal that the players begin by exploring an old mausoleum. It was something of a spoiler, though, to discover that Andy hadn’t included any description of this building, preferring to hurry on to the main event. I felt a little detail was needed to commence the journey in style, and wrote in a little extra passage.

The delver-cruncher exciting adventure was written with 5th edition in mind, so one of my tasks was to make adjustments to render it suitable for version 7.5. Stats for NPCs were expanded, saving rolls were tweaked, references to particular spells were considered and amended appropriately. The result is ready to go with the latest edition of Tunnels & Trolls, while hopefully remaining true to the author’s intentions.

Andy’s writing is more expansive than mine, but it’s his dungeon, so I┬álargely resisted the temptation to tweak things to my own style and restricted myself to correcting grammar and polishing the odd bit of clumsy phrasing. (Sometimes he seemed to have left puzzles for me: “The wall is covered in smile.” Recognising the transposition took me a minute or two…) Still, there were many places where elaboration or clarification seemed called for, and so the text is substantially revised, though only to better convey what was already present.Sample pages from the dungeon

The presentation of the adventure needed to comply with our ‘house style’: we aim for consistent yet appealing formatting so that our customers feel at home and can readily understand and digest the material. Although much of this can be taken care of with judicious use of word-processing features like paragraph styles, page headers, duplicating tables and so forth, the process was nonetheless leavened with a goodly number of hearty curses yelled at the screen by your correspondent… Software is not always the editor’s friend!

Andy had used a third-party package to design very attractive maps, but some adjustment was needed to ensure that they would be equally informative in black-and-white printing as in colour. Fixing an accidental anomaly on one map led to the inclusion of a new and amusing detail in the text: if you’re interested, keep an eye out for faecal matter… (Good advice on any occasion.)

When I reached the end of the dungeon, I found that the rewards for successful adventurers were as great as they were superfluous (for there is precious little chance of anyone surviving to claim them); yet they were arbitrarily dispensed, to wrap up the playing session quickly. At this, my rational mind rebelled, and so I indulged in a little tidying up, adding detail and contrivances to justify the available boons.

As I worked, my appreciation for Andy’s imaginative vision increased: each level of the dungeon has its own theme and identity, with its own set of ever greater challenges. This is not one of those lily-livered 6-page affairs, with “Suitable for characters of levels 1-3” on the front: this is a substantial saga of 30,000 words, almost a whole campaign under one roof, and it calls for an elite party of delvers. Dig out all those characters lying fallow in your file because they’ve grown too tough for novice adventures. All dressed up and nowhere to go? Go Deep Where The Liche-Lord Lies!

I was not the only horrified midwife at the birth of this gargantuan scenario: Jeff Freels provided wonderful illustrations that serve now as frontispiece to each level of the dungeon, while Simon, as usual, did superb work on the cover. But finally, just as Frankenstein alone was to blame for the monster, so this dark epic is ultimately Andy’s creation. Buy it at your own risk…

Print version available on Lulu.com.