A History of Below

Alright, I said I had a background for my modern Gygaxian Dungeon Crawling setting. It is roughly based on Voices from Below and The Long Stairs, and is probably compatible with it.

In 1952 the NRX reactor in Chalk River, Ontario melted down. US Navy personal who had been training nearby helped clean up the spill before the radiation could spread and the reactor kept operating until 1992.

Now why would US personal be brought in when CFB Petawawa is just down the road? More interesting is the fact that one of those personal was one Jimmy Carter. Yes, the future US president cleaned up a Canadian nuclear spill. It’s an incident that has stuck in my mind and after seeing the long stairs idea of nuclear incidents opening portals….

When the NRX melted down a portal was opened. It was just a little one however, much to small for someone to pass through. No one really knows how it was created, or what the US Navy had to do with it’s creation but it remained buried inside the reactor until decommissioning was underway following it’s shutdown in 1992. At that time it was discovered that the little portal was no longer so little:  It was then a full meter wide and 2m tall. Decommissioning was stalled while the government decided what to do. All the while scientists studies the portal. Robotic probes where sent through and pulled back ok, but would retrieve no data while inside. Animals pushed through in cages, then pulled out returned unharmed. Finally it was decided to send some human test subject through. There are various official names for it, but most people just call it ‘below’ due to the fact that walking through the portal gives one the feeling they are falling from great hight, and the fact that the portal emerges into what seems to be the first level of a giant complex. The horrified tales they related caused security at the site to be expanded.

Finally they have found people to go down and discover exactly what is going on through this gate. Several scientists to figure out want on earth is going on down below. Soldiers to guard them, medics to patch them up. You are one of those people, sent down Below, to uncover the truth or die trying.

Well? What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Let me know. Please. Comments….leave comments… Anyway, Until next time, Stay Geeky


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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like settings that include weird real-world facts like this.

  2. I like the idea. There are similarities with the Half-Life franchise, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great idea.

    • I’ve only played a little Half-Life 2 so it is popular. It borrows VERY heavily from a thread on RPG.net, and that may have been inspired by it, in which case I got the inspiration second hand. My primary intent with this was the cool interactions I see of modern people meeting Gygaxian monsters, which I think was largely lost in the original setting in favour of Alien strangeness.

  3. I like this one. I am not a fan of modern campaigns, but I love Gygax. I just picked up an extra copy of his book “Master of the Game” used at my local Half Priced books in the states. I already had it, but it was so cheap I figured I would give it away in a couple weeks during one of my sites contests.
    I think this article did his memory honor.

  4. There use to be a D20 setting that mixed Modern with Fantasy elements. I think they too had dungeon diving as a sport.
    In the old Tunnels and Trolls they had a couple of solo adventures that had the dungeon as a sport too. It is an interesting concept.

    Now what would be really bizzare is do a mashup of Farmville and D&D LOL

    • Yes, It was called XCrawl, I just bought the full run on clearance, and have done some writing on a setting inspired by it under ‘Televised Dungeon Crawling’

  5. You are right, I could not remember the name of it. I tried looking on Amazon. I had picked up one of the books on sale too. I got rid of all my D20 stuff a little over a year ago so didn’t have the copy. Troll Lord Games has combined 2nd edition with D20 making a great system called Castles & Crusades. If you are a fan of Gary’s he allowed them before he passed on to use some of his content. You should try their ruleset out. It brings back the fun of second edition, but with allot of what is best about D20.

    • I never found 2e fun. At all. I started playing right at the end, just 3 core books, and found it non-intuitive & hard to understand. When 3e came out it felt like D&D finally made sense.

      I own the book Gygax wrote for them, with his autograph: I met him once at a con in Toronto & he signed my PHB. My Dad got him to sign his book & gave it to me for my Birthday.

  6. Meeting Gary is a great honor. I met him at Gencon in the mid 80’s. I have his Master of the game and his Players paperback book. The world seems a little sadder with out him in it. He along with Steve Jackson (I have his autograph and almost became his webmaster in 1997ish) and Greg Costikyan are my all time favorite game designers.
    I have a copy of Steve Jacksons book on creating games. On the phone once, in the 90’s, he told me he didn’t own a copy of the book. I once sent him an IM through linkedin telling him I picked up a copy and would send him a PDF from a scan. He probably didn’t remember me and thought I was a crazed fan or something. He never responded. I may fit the bill LOL

    • I am very very sad that I didn’t get to meet Dave Arneson. I was supposed to see a panel with him at it at gencon but he had to drop out. Have you read the Greyhawk article on wikipedia? It is quite complete (I know the guy who wrote it)

  7. I have read the article, very well written. In Canada did you all get the cartoon series Gary produced when they started having issues at TSR? I just picked up the whole series to share them with my 11 year old daughter. She liked them more than I did when it came out. I was a little old for them at that point. It did interest her in playing some.

    I have not been ablr to hit origins the last 6 years, so I am looking forward to going this year. I hope some decent speakers will be there this year.

    • I was not even CLOSE to alive when that thing was on the air! You are aware I am in my early 20s?

  8. LOL Maybe your father would know. Then you missed an awesome drinking game. Every time the dungeon master shows up you have to drink one shot, 2 if your main character is a Dwarf.

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