Thursday, 6 December 2018

Krawl - dungeoncrawling in the Age of Sigmar

Dungeons? In Age of Sigmar? This must be...

I've been really enjoying building up a collection of Citadel fantasy 'randoms' (for want of a better term). Odds and sods from the history of Games Workshop, from classic Oldhammer lead minis to some of the beautiful plastics now available. I just choose what I like. And it turns out what I like are little 'grunts' - just rank and file guys. Few are heroes, most are just characterful fellows representing the archetypes of their race or faction. Some are converted, many are not.

But I wanted a structure to what was clearly becoming serious collection. And I love branding. And the dungeoncrawl genre. And card floorplans. So when you mix it all together you get this:

The thing I like about the dungeoncrawl genre is that it doesn't rely on multiples of miniatures. Finding a grot, a tzaangor and an ogor in a room in a dungeon is just fine, thank you (though goodness knows what they were doing there before you kicked down the door...). Games Workshop has explored the genre a little with their Warhammer Quest series of games and in doing so produced some excellent floorplans. While I own and treasure the Silver Tower set, sadly I don't own the Hammerhal ones. As long-time readers will know, I also have an extensive archive of Oldhammer floorplans dating from the late 80s.

So, AoS_Krawl is about...
  1. Collecting whatever random individual minis you like;
  2. Slapping down some 2D floorplans (be they Oldhammer, modern or homemade), and;
  3. Letting your hero(es) krawl, level up, equip loot... and krawl some more...
How am I going to achieve the last of these aims? Krawl isn't wedded to any particular system. In the same way as its genetic material is a hybrid of old and new, I suspect any rules I employ will be a fusion. Heck, I might even be tempted to dig out my old Combat Cards and work with them (which, incidentally, have been rebooted for 40K). Let me get back to you on this.

Here are some alternate modes to try:
  • Roguelike: While traditional RPG dungeoncrawling was about a party of cooperating holier-than-thau-goodie-two-shoes, there emerged in video games the 'roguelike' where a lone hero would chop his way through a dungeon. Perfect if your single, unhinged Vampire Blood Knight wants to go on a murderhobo killing spree.
  • Splatterpunk: Inspired by 1980s horror genre of the same name, this is all about grotesque, excess gore. In my head this looks like the Splatterhouse video games. Why not create alternate duplicates of tiles swamped in body parts and blood to mark the progress of your 'heroes'? 
  • Ironic Hipster Indie Adventure: WHY DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP KILLING EVERYONE? Stop being a murderfiend and talk to the denizens of your dungeon. To avoid this getting twee, go and play Sword and Sworcery [sic] to see how a good script can turn a simple set of encounters into a beautiful and hilarious fantasy tale. Then kill things.
  • Crawl: No, this is not unimaginatively titled, but the name of a great multiplayer cross-genre video game. From Wikepedia: 
    The main player advances through randomly generated dungeons as a human hero while up to three other spirit players control the dungeon's enemies and traps to kill the main player. The spirit player who kills the human hero swaps roles to become the next main player.

    This game is hilariously fun and frenetic and is begging for a tabletop conversion. I think I've just done it right here. You can have it for free.
  • Nidhogg 2: Based on the game of the same name, with an awesome soundtrack. Kinda hard to explain, but two opponents face off in the centre of a long corridor of rooms and go at one another as they try to reach the opposite end. When one dies, the survivor can pick up the abandoned weapon, but, either way, the victim immediately respawns between their enemy and the end with a shiny new weapon. Rinse and repeat going back and forth until one combatant gets to the opposite end. Cue much gaffawing.
Fancy some music to accompany your delvings? Check out Heimat der Katastrophe, pioneers of 'dungeon-drone'.
Great dungeoncrawl movies to check out are:
Big Trouble in Little China
Indiana Jones
At the Earth's Core
Lord of the Rings (the 1978 version, obviously)

The Mummy (1999)
Trapdoor (the 80s kids claymation series, which is surprisingly good and hilarious to boot)
I was going to recommend 80s classic Knightmare, them I re-watched bits on YouTube and remembered it was bobbins.

Wow. That's a lot. Please have a go at Krawl yourself as a framework to justify collecting and painting all those fantasy randoms you love. Let me know in the comments how you get on.


  1. I’ve got a massive dungeon crawl bug at the moment - and I’m trying to search out a copy of Hammerhal in between trying to find where I put my Silver Tower box and looking thoughtfully at Heroquest and Advanced Heroquest...

  2. I've been painting some old metal models for Frostgrave, and come to the same conclusion: I like them because you only have to do a few of each, and they're random characterful guys rather than amazing heroes.

    Not sure I've got anything that work work for floor tiles, but I could come up with something... I'd really like some simple rules for a game like this, preferably SF and fantasy, with a solo option.

    Have you looked at Frostgrave at all? It's not a dungeon game, but it is very old-school and almost any models are allowed.

    1. You could always blend rulessets Toby, plus there are older GW products like Advanced Heroquest or Advanced Space Crusade that could be ported in.

    2. Good idea! I've got some old Sedition Wars tiles somewhere - I knew they come in use one day!

  3. Along with Shadespire, stuff like Silver Tower and Blackstone Fortress is what's really been grabbing my attention lately. It's a much more personal scope, but without the commitment and prep required for a full-on RPG. And, as you say, it's much more fun to just grab the few most interesting Models from a given range than to have to knock out 20 of the rest of them just to fill out one Unit. I haven't gotten around to playing it yet, but the system from Blackstone Fortress is looking pretty good to build on for me.

    1. Yeah Blackstone is looking pretty sweet. A colleague has just bought two copies becuase he loves it so much! Such a great collection of models.

  4. Ah, this brings back great memories of cobbling together various boardgames bits and minis, and home brewing some simple rules, to dungeon crawl with my kids. Too many years ago, alas, but thanks for triggering happy memories!

  5. Great post! What I'd like to add is a single player mode. I know, I know, krawling and cutting your foes down together with your friends is the way it should go, but every now and then you'd like to be able to play a quickie by yourself. So, how about putting together a small and unexperienced band of misfits and throw them in a starting floor. Then follows a set of random encounters: How many doors are there in the room? How many corridors? Any enemies? A big ugly boss perhaps? A treasure?! It could be a no brainer but could work. Then use WFRP 1st ed. rules to combat and it'll be deadly from the very beginning. Those peasants will be heroes of their village if they survive even from the first krawl :D

    1. Oh, and thanks for the musical link, it suits very well to boost your krawling mood.

    2. Oooh, I like the idea of Seven Samurai in a basement with peasants...