Why Do I Like 5 Room Dungeons?
This format, or creation method, has a number of advantages:
- Any location. Though I call them 5 Room Dungeons, they actually apply to any location with five or so areas. They dont have to be fantasy or dungeons. They could take the form of a small space craft, a floor in a business tower, a wing of a mansion, a camp site, a neighbourhood.
- Short. Many players dislike long dungeon crawls, and ADD GMs like to switch environments up often. In addition, some players dislike dungeons all together, but will go along with the play if they know its just a short romp. This helps ease conflicts between play styles and desires.
- Quick to plan. With just five rooms to configure, design is manageable and fast. Next time you are killing time, whip out your notepad and write down ideas for themes, locations, and rooms. Knock off as many designs as you can and choose the best to flesh out when you have more time and to GM next session.
- Easier to polish. Large designs often take so long to complete that game night arrives before you can return to the beginning and do one or more rounds of tweaking and polishing. The design speed of 5 Room Dungeons leaves room most of the time to iterate.
- Easy to move. 5 Room Dungeons can squeeze into many places larger locations and designs cant. If your dungeon goes unused or if you want to pick it up and drop it on a new path the PCs take, its often easier to do than when wielding a larger crawl.
- Flexible size. They are called 5 Room Dungeons, but this is just a guideline. Feel free to make 3-area locations or 10-cave complexes. The idea works for any small, self-contained area.
- Easy to integrate. A two to four hour dungeon romp quickens flagging campaign and session pacing, and can be squeezed into almost any story thread. It also grants a quick success (or failure) to keep the players engaged. The format is also easy to drop into most settings with minimal consistency issues.
Room One: Entrance And Guardian
There needs to be a reason why your dungeon hasnt been plundered before or why the PCs are the heroes for the job. A guardian or challenge at the entrance is a good rejustification why the location remains intact. Also, a guardian sets up early action to capture player interest and energize a session.
Room One challenge ideas:
- The entrance is trapped.
- The entrance is cleverly hidden.
- The entrance requires a special key, such as a ceremony, command word, or physical object.
- The guardian was deliberately placed to keep intruders out. Examples: a golem, robot, or electric fence.
- The guardian is not indigenous to the dungeon and is a tough creature or force whos made its lair in room one.
Room One is also your opportunity to establish mood and theme to your dungeon, so dress it up with care.
Room Two: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
The PCs are victorious over the challenge of the first room and are now presented with a trial that cannot be solved with steel. This keeps problem solvers in your group happy and breaks the action up for good pacing.
Make Room Two a puzzle, skill-based, or roleplaying encounter, if possible. Room Two should shine the limelight on different PCs than Room One, change gameplay up, and offer variety between the challenge at the entrance and the challenge at the end.
Note, if Room One was this type of encounter, then feel free to make Room Two combat-oriented.
Room Two should allow for multiple solutions to prevent the game from stalling.
Room Two ideas:
- Magic puzzle, such as a chessboard tile floor with special squares.
- An AI blocks access to the rest of the complex and must be befriended, not fought.
- A buzzer panel for all the apartments, but the person the PCs are looking for has listed themselves under a different name, which can be figured out through previous clues youve dropped.
- A concierge at the front desk must be bluffed or coerced without him raising the alarm.
- A dirt floor crawls with poisonous snakes that will slither out of the way to avoid open flame. (A few might follow at a distance and strike later on.)
Once youve figured out what Room Two is, try to plant one or more clues in Room One about potential solutions. This ties the adventure together a little tighter, will delight the problem solvers, and can be a back-up for you if the players get stuck.
Room Three: Trick or Setback
The purpose of this room is to build tension. Do this using a trick, trap, or setback. For example, after defeating a tough monster, and players think theyve finally found the treasure and achieved their goal, they learn theyve been tricked and the room is a false crypt.
Depending on your game system, use this room to cater to any player or character types not yet served by the first two areas. Alternatively, give your group a double-dose of gameplay that they enjoy the most, such as more combat or roleplaying.
Room Three ideas:
- The PCs rescue a number of prisoners or hostages. However, the victims might be enemies in disguise, are booby-trapped, or create a dilemma as they plead to be escorted back to safety immediately.
- Contains a one-way exit (the PCs must return and deal with Rooms One and Two again). i.e. Teleport trap, one-way door, 2000 foot water slide trap.
- The PCs finally find the artifact required to defeat the villain, but the artifact is broken, cursed, or has parts missing, and clues reveal a solution lies ahead.
- Believing the object of the quest now lays within easy reach, an NPC companion turns traitor and betrays the PCs.
Another potential payoff for Room Three is to weaken the PCs as build-up to a dramatic struggle in Room Four. It might contain a tough combat encounter, take down a key defense, exhaust an important resource, or make the party susceptible to a certain type of attack.
For example, if Room Four contains a mummy whose secret weakness is fire, then make Room Three a troll lair (or another creature susceptible to fire) so the PCs might be tempted to burn off a lot of their fire magic, oil, and other flammable resources. This would turn a plain old troll battle into a gotcha once the PCs hit Room Four and realize the are out of fire resources.
Dont forget to dress Room Three up with your theme elements.
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
This room is The Big Show. Its the final combat or conflict encounter of the dungeon. Use all the tactics you can summon to make this encounter memorable and entertaining.
Room Four ideas:
- As always, generate interesting terrain that will impact the battle.
- Start or end with roleplay. Maybe the bad guy needs to stall for time to let PC buffs wear out, to wait for help to arrive, or to stir himself into a rage. Perhaps the combat ends with the bad guy bleeding to death and a few short words can be exchanged, or there are helpless minions or prisoners to roleplay with once the threat is dealt with.
- Give the bad guy unexpected powers, abilities, or equipment.
- Previous rooms might contain warning signals or an alarm, so the bad guy has had time to prepare.
- The bay guys tries to settle things in an unusual way, such as through a wager or a duel.
- The lair is trapped. The bad guy knows what or where to avoid, or has the ability to set off the traps at opportune moments.
- The bad guy reveals The Big Reward and threatens to break it or put it out of the PCs so reach so theyll never collect it.
- The bad guy has a secret weakness that the PCs figure out how to exploit.
- A variety of PC skills and talents are required to successfully complete the encounter.
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
Heres your opportunity to change the players bragging to
we came, we saw, we slipped on a banana peel. Room Five doesnt always represent a complication or point of failure for the PCs, but it can. Room Five doesnt always need to be a physical location either - it can be a twist revealed in Room Four.
Room Five is where your creativity can shine and is often what will make the dungeon different and memorable from the other crawls in your campaigns.
In addition, if you havent supplied the reward yet for conquering the dungeon, here is a good place to put the object of the quest, chests of loot, or the valuable information the PCs need to save the kingdom.
As accounting tasks take over from recent, thrilling, combat tasks, this would also be a good time to make a campaign or world revelation, or a plot twist. Perhaps the location of the next 5 Room Dungeon is uncovered, along with sufficient motivation to accept the quest. Maybe the true identity of the bad guy is revealed. New clues and information pertaining to a major plot arc might be embedded in the treasure, perhaps sewn into a valuable carpet, drawn in painting, or written on a slip of paper stuffed into a scroll tube or encoded on a data chip.
Room Five ideas:
- Another guardian awaits in the treasure container. A trap that resurrects or renews the challenge from Room Four.
- Bonus treasure is discovered that leads to another adventure, such as a piece of a magic item or a map fragment.
- A rival enters and tries to steal the reward while the PCs are weakened after the big challenge of Room Four.
- The object of the quest/final reward isnt what it seems or has a complication. i.e. The kidnapped king doesnt want to return.
- The quest was a trick. By killing the dungeons bad guy the PCs have actually helped the campaign villain or a rival. Perhaps the bad guy was actually a good guy under a curse, transformed, or placed into difficult circumstances.
- The bad guy turns out to be a PCs father.
- The true, gruesome meaning behind a national holiday is discovered.
- The source of an alien races hostility towards others is uncovered, transforming them from villains to sympathetic characters in the story.
- The entrance is hazardous and requires special skills and equipment to bypass. For example: radiation leaks, security clearance, wall of fire.
- The PCs must convince a bouncer to let them in without confiscating their weapons.
- A collapsed structure blocks part of the area. The debris is dangerous and blocks nothing of importance, another trap, or a new threat.
- The true meaning of the prophecy or poem that lead the PCs to the dungeon is finally understood, and its not what the PCs thought.
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CodexCastle Crocell By: Scrasamax ( Locations ) Fortification - Underground
The blighted and forgotten hall of a once mighty demon lord
Appearance: Castle Crocell is a mouldering heap of great gray stones covered with a thick patina of moss and debris. Sitting on a wind sculpted plain, surrounded by strange stone monolith and pillars it seems to be an organic thing rising from the earth. The lines of the great hall buttresses resemble ribs, while the gatehouse has quite intentionally been made to look like a fearsome skull of some long slain gaint. The towers are still in passable condition, and the main keep is also intact, but the outer wall has been breached by time and sand in places, and once inside the main part of the keep, the open and broken windows have allowed the elements inside. Contrary to the windswept desolation outside, the interior of the castle is dank, full of small crawling things, and large amounts of fungus and creeping plants that don't require a great deal of light.
Entrance: The wastedland surrounding Castle Crocell functions as the entrance and guardian. Once the wastelands are reached, it takes 3 days to cross them mounted on horseback, or five days on foot. During this time, the travelers will not find any sources of water, or easily gathered food. The Wastelands are characterized by barren terrain, hot days and cold nights, crumbling rock, and constant winds and dust. There are predators that stalk the wastelands that are likely to attack the travelers. Mounts and livestock are preferred.
- A small pack of 1-4 Land Dragons
- A squadron of 3-18 Dogos
- An Anfau hunting pack
- A Gartrap field
- A group of male wooly wyverns
- A lone hypnotic Color-Wraith
Puzzle/RP Challenge: Entering Castle Crocell can be done by one of two ways. The less direct approach is to use some sort of rope and grapple plan to breach the main keep by means of one of the broken windows, or a hole in the roof. The direct approach is to enter through the still standing main doors of the Castle. Entering through the doors is not so easy as simply picking the lock or forcing the door open. The Door is quasi-sentient, and speaks with a bitter raspy voice, emanating from a pair of rusted and decrepic door knockers. The Left Knocker appears like a vain prince, while the right knocker appears as a vain princess. While this can easily be set up for a password, a riddle challenge or the like, the most obvious execution is one lies and one tells the truth. Both knockers are liars, and the best way to get past them is flattery and bribery. After so many years of isolation, they have both gone a little mad.
Tricks, Traps, and Setbacks: Once the main keep has been breached, the explorers find the great and terrible treasure of Crocell, water. The castle sits atop a natural spring, and the lower levels of the castle have long ago flooded and become a cistern for holding the water. Traversing the main floor is tricky as most of the timber below is long rotted and at any time a section of flooring can simply collapse, dumping most of a room's contents and occupants into cold water. Some doorways open to just water, as that section had fallen in and flooded some time ago. Deadfalls, holes in the floor, and slick slanted surfaces should make for slow, unsteady, and nerve wracking progress. There is plenty of opportunity for combat as well, facing the drowned corpses of previous explorerers, spiders, and aquatic predators. This is also a good place to drop in a few strategic slimes, oozes, and puddings, just for fun times.
The Grand Hall: Thus far the PCs will have fought desert predators, water monsters, and the environment and their own material needs to survive. The Grand Hall is the final challenge for the PCs. Castle Crocell was indeed a lair of a mighty demon blooded sorcerer, and his area of expertise was over water. Once the broad plains were green and lush, but once Crocell came and raised his castle, it dried out and turned into a vast desert. The water had all been drawn to the castle, and locked away in a sea beneath the stone. This was done by powerful sorcery, summoning and binding 6 elder water elementals. These six demigods of water have been tasked with drawing all the water they can and keeping it horded at the castle, until they are released from their duty. There are none left alive with the magical and blood authority to release the elementals. The PCs can parlay with the six for a short time, but the six as sad that they must fulfill their duty and destroy the interlopers. The PCs now have to fight six large, powerful elementals.
Dchss - The Wave Hammer, Dchss is an elder sea elemental and the only salt water member of the group. He only attacks with a crushing wave fist, followed by overflow and grapple to drown foes. Physical manifestation is the strongest of the six.
P'nal-Dah - The Breath of the Mists over the Mountains, an elemental of mountain rivers and glacial rin-off, P'nal-Dah fights using magical attacks based around the element of ice, cold, and sapping of will. Physical form is weak, but the most feminine of the six, and the most likely to parlay for the longest.
Skeld-ar-Ek - The Embracer of the Drowned, Skeld-ar-Ek is a powerful lake spirit that was once feared for drowning humans who ventured into it's lake. It took one a month as tribute for the bounty of the waters. Of the six, Skeld is the most unspoken, and violent. Skeld uses flanking manuevers, distracts with watery illusions, and drowning grappling holds.
Cis'del-Go - The Wisdom of Still Water, Cis'del-Go is the wisest of the six, having a long history of friendship with the elves. Abhoring violence, Cis'del-Go avoids fighting personally and instead summons a variety of smaller lesser water weirds and elementals to do its fighting for it. Cis'del will often coordinate movements of its fellow elementals to prevent flanking by PCs or to point out dangerous spellcasters or artifact users.
Gczw - The Memory of Great Waters, Gczw is a water elemental of a vast lake, almost an inland sea, that has long since vanished. While the others will be released and reform at their original bodies of water, once Gczw is slain, it will be dead and gone forever. It fights viciously and has the attitude somewhere between a royal executioner and a rabid wolf. Its appearance is almost skeletally lean.
Ser'bel - Vizier of Clear Water, Ser'bel is a water spirit long associated with scrying, meditation, and visions. A very feminine spirit, Ser'bel hurls nightmarish illusions at her foes, as well as accosting them with visions of failure, or distraction such as the appearance of a loved one in danger, or the gleam of treasure in easy reach. She can also attempt to lull opponents into a slumber where one of the other elementals will drown or crush them.
Ia-Sur - The Ancient River, Ia-Sur is a spirit of irrigation and agriculture, long a friend and companion to man. Now forced to kill those he once helped he is most displeased. While the other spirits have different strengths and weaknesses, Ia-Sur has no discernable chinks in his armor, and like the mighty river is simply unstoppable in his might.
Once at least four of the six are defeated, the final two will admit defeat, and their bonding will be broken. The only exception is that Gczw will not surrender, no matter what, the spirit has nothing left to lose. Once the six are disbanded, the cistern under the castle will start to drain. The displacement of the water will make the castle even more unstable and after a suitably dramatic escape, the entire thing collapses into itself, becoming a great heap of stone in a spreading swamp.
Final Reward: The treasures inside the castle were really not worth the effort it took to get them, the books and scrolls were molded and rotten, the armor and weapons were rusted beyond repair, and what coin there was to be found was meager. As the waters rise up and start flooding the wasteland plains, a river quickly forms. As it flows out, the water uncovers the dingus the players were after, or a suitable trove of treasure to make their faces bright and hands excited. Also, as the hoard of water is released, and the incoming water is no longer being stolen, the wastelands will change. The sandy basins become small lakes, the hand packed road becomes a small but constant river large enough for river boats, and the once bone dry fields will become damp again. The next spring will see green creeping out across the plain and in less than a decade the land will be green, suitable for farming, and if the PCs allowed one of the water elementals to surrender, it will be blessed by said spirit.
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Diamonds and the Deluge By: valadaar ( Dungeons ) Mountains - Rooms/ Halls
A fantastic fortune in the remains of a drowned realm.
This adventure is made for classic treasure hunters with few stiff fights. The rewards are high, and the traps lethal.
The Kingdom of Melethad was quite small, and nestled in a remote mountain valley. It boasted little natural resources apart from very rich diamond deposits. Its wealth and formidable natural defences kept it aloof and safe from its enemies.
However, its location was also it’s doom. A vast glacial lake had been building up for centuries, and in one final catastrophic release, flooded the valley, washing away all virtually all of their works and drowning the people.
Not everything was lost, however, for beneath Castle Melethad was a strongly built dungeon, home to a massive vault used to contain the realm’s treasures, including a massive store of diamonds.
Freed by the break, a river filled the valley, further hiding what once was a thriving kingdom.
Now, several generations have passed. Some still speak of the diamonds of Melethad, but many dismiss them as folk tales.
The river has diminished greatly in size, and some treasure hunters have come to the valley, seeking the vast treasure somewhere under the sludge.
The PC’s have come into the employ of an Astrologer who claims to have enough information to pinpoint the ruins. He needs muscle and skills at dungeoncraft, for the vault was well protected.
The Astrologer in turn has been hired and is sponsored by a petty nobel whose lands are somewhat downstream of the Drowned Realm. As a result this expedition will be reasonably well funded.
Room One: Entrance and Guardian - There needs to be a reason why your dungeon hasn’t been plundered or why your adventurers are the ones for the job.
The Drowned Realm
The Astrologer has been carefully sighting the nearby mountains and has walked very deliberately into the middle of the muddy plain. He stops and reaches down into the muck. "Worked Stone! I’ve found it!"
A bit premature - he found part of the ruin, but it may take some time for the PC’s to find the stone portal leading into the lost castle’s dungeon. As much time as desired by the GM may be taken to find and escavate the entrance below.
The dungeon below the castle is large, but not a maze. The Astrologer knows the layout well enough to bring the PCs to the First Door easily enough.
Complication: Rival treasure hunters may seek to claim jump the PC’s. The threat should be serious, but not overwhelming.
The First Door
Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge - A trial that cannot be solved by steel alone.
Meant to require many hands to open and thus rule out sneak-thieves and the like, the door weighs many tons and must be lifted. Several large metal eyelets for inserting beams are worked into the massive door.
No automatic mechanism exists - enough strength must be brought to bear to dead lift 5 tons. Back in the day, when the door was opened, pulleys were fitted into sockets in the ceiling (the sockets can be found upon searching, but the pulleys are absent) allowing fewer men to be used to open the door. The door does not lock in place, and so must be held up while other crawl underneath. 10000lbs will crush anyone unfortunate to be caught underneath should it be dropped.
Complication: The dungeon is still flooded in places. As a result, 2’ of water covers the floor, making it even more difficult to lift, as the eyelets are underwater.
Room Three: Trick or Setback - Build tension through tricks and setbacks and give them a double-dose of gameplay such as more combat or another roleplaying challenge.
A 40’ hallway, 5’ wide with 7’ ceiling. Every 10’, the ceiling lowers down 1’ requiring stooping and crouching.
The hallway was once heavily trapped, but the length immersion has ruined many of them. The floor is littered with pressure plates that will click when stepped upon, but little will happen. The first and last pressure plates are 4’ long and the width of the floor, and form the only trap still working. If the last pressure plate is activated while no pressure exists on the first, a stone slab 4’ long and as wide as the passageway will drop into the hallway. It is 6’ thick and blocks the passageway completely when it falls. It weighs roughly 10 tons and does not automatically reset - it needs to be lifted back up into the ceiling manually.
Complication: Like the door, 1-2’ of water covers the floor, making detection of the pressure plates difficult at best.
Complication: Other traps just might be still viable.
The PC’s are not there yet! The last obstacle is a massive bronze door with 6 large keyholes. All must be picked or magically opened separately in order for the door to be opened. Even unlocked, the massive portal requires signficant effort to open. What lies beyond?
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict - The final combat or conflict of the dungeon.
The vault was not 100% watertight, and many of the valuables within the room have rotted away. All of the chests have been rendered useless, their traps defeated by time and water. A trove of diamonds and precious metals remain. But, they are not undefended. Bronze automations of various sizes and types have survived the immersion and will rise up and attack the pcs, for non save the long dead and drowned king can enter unmolested. The fight should be dire…
Again, this room could be partially flooded, putting most of the treasure below the murky waters, along with the guardians.
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist - The dungeon is complete but what is it about this dungeon that made it different or memorable. What kind of mystery have they discovered, what kind of reward have they won, and what kind of information have they recovered?
And it does not end with the mechanical foes.
The Petty Noble who sponsored the expedition is not interesting in sharing the booty. It was his ancestor who engineered the flood that devastated the kingdom. They did not anticipate that the region would be under water for an extended period, so the plan bore no immediate fruit for it’s instigator.
He has followed the PCs to the location with a large force and will wait until the PC’s emerge laden with treasure to attack. If the battle with the constructs was taxing, fighting the nobles troops should be even more so.
Complication: The spirits of the village have not rested. With the coming of the Petty Nobel to the valley, they have their chance at revenge. They will release a second flood into the valley while the fight is ongoing. The PCs might get some warning of this, either subtly - a rumbling, or explicitly from the spirits ("Run Mortals!", whispered unseen into their ears).
Complication: A third force of claim jumpers of any desired makeup turns the fight into a 3-way combat.
The desired end result is that the PCs barely survive and managed to obtain at least a reasonable amount of treasure before being forced to flee by a second flood. Now that the portal was open, the waters will destroy even the dungeon, and the remainng treasure scattered down the river. Panning for gold and diamonds will become a popular pastime down this river.
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Drop of Blood in the Bucket By: mrcelophane ( Dungeons ) Underground - Rooms/ Halls
Can you think while scared out of your wits? Lets hope your adventurers can…
Alright, first submission here so give me a break.
Drops of Blood in the Bucket
The setting a Necromancers lair. This short scenario works best if the Necromancer has appeared before and this is the final battle between the two. It should appear early on in the Adventurers questing history, and they should think this is the hardest thing they will face.
There is an obvious entrance to the cave, with Satanic markings and all. However, if the adventurers search, they will find an alternate entrance. It is hard to find and behind Shrubbery. It is a small wooden door that the Necromancy uses. If you try to go though this, a magic forcefield will keep you out. It can be dispelled, but it should be hard to do.
The main entrance has a bunch of Zombies, led by the Necromancer’s assistant. You could make him as strong as you like, whatever race you like, but he should be a recurring villain, like the Necromancer.
The Main entrance itself is locked by a arcane lock that you cannot unlock unless you have the key that the assistant holds.
Room Two: Brain Dead
As you walk in, a rather large inscription should tell adventurers a riddle:
We cannot think, yet we know what you do not
We don’t have brains, yet in our heads we form words
These words we have can help you out
To bad our Tongues were the first to rot!
After a few minutes pass to allow the adventurers to ponder this, Skeletons will drop from the ceiling, each wielding weapons. These should not be made to tough, but serve as a tiny challenge. If the players smash their heads, they should find a tiny scroll in side each one. The scroll should have one letter on it, really big.
All the letters combined should make the word:
This is the password. The letters should be scrambled in not come in the order of the appearance of the Skeletons. If you are to say the password to the door, they will hear a loud click. The door will now swing open easily if pushed,, but swing back once let go.
Room Three: Turn Around
There should be a short narrow hall way to another door. Above it should be another inscription:
Sorry but to the password there is more
Return from where you came to open this door.
The Travelers than have to go back to the room they just left and kill(?) more skeletons and take the letters out. However, the Skeletons fall at greater rates, with three skeletons to a party and only one having a letter. The letters should read
"Is Only The Beggining"
So the complete password is "Death is only the Beggining"
Again, scramble the letter. The password has to be said to the door at the end of the hall again, with the same results.
Room Four: The Necromancer
The Necromancer sits upon his thrown of bones, applauding the Travelers for getting that far. But as always, he has to try and kill them anyways.
Five or so big bulky men wielding Battle Axes should come out somehow and attack the Adventurers. Should you kill one of them, The Necromancer will resurrect them. One will always stay in front of the Necromancer and take all the hits for him, getting healed instantly by the Necromancer. The only way to finally kill these guys is to separate either their hearts or head from their body, or wait until the Necromancer runs out of Magic. After that, you can kill the Necromancer. The last room is behind his thrown, which his concubine, who hid behind it after the fight broke out, will tell you.
Room Five: This is going to be be a long day…
As you enter the final room, you will here bells ringing everywhere. Torches immediately light themselves to reveal the Necromancers spellbook and other personal things on a large round table. After about ten seconds, Men will begin to appear in puffs of smoke. Each of them is wearing the same clothes as the necromancer. As they appear, they will say things such as:
"You called a meeti-, GASP, your not ~~~~!"
And such. Also, make it evident that they are Necromancers, for they are. You have a loooong way ahead of you…
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Library of the Ancients By: JohnnFour ( Dungeons ) Water - Rooms/ Halls
Here is an example 5 Room Dungeon to inspire your contest entries. In your campaign, you’ll need to flesh out some of the details, but this skeleton format is perfect for GMs to pick up and customize for their own memorable sessions.
Room One: Entrance
The guardian is a permanent hurricane situated over a small, rocky island that is far from civilization. Approach by air and sea is too difficult by normal means. The storm energies have attracted numerous elementals to the region as well, and though most can be bypassed with caution, its likely at least one or two will be encountered and fought.
Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplay
The island has been swept clean so now it is bare, slippery rock. Winds threaten to carry away anything not secured to the ground. High up on one of the cliffs is a cave with flickering light streaming out. The first challenge is puzzling out how to reach the cave.
At the back of the cave is a large portal sealed by magic. A command word is required to open the valve, and the PCs should have enough clues found previously to figure it out. Perhaps it is the name of an item or NPC.
A castaway lives in the cave, though he is either out or cleverly hidden when the PCs arrive. He survives by climbing down a hidden, sheltered path that leads to a protected bay where he fishes and salvages what the currents wash up. He knows the command word but is insane from solitude and the continual violence of the storm. He craves to see the sun again - if the PCs can show him the sun hell reveal the password.
Room Three: Trick or Setback
Using the command word, a special ability, or quite a bit of destruction, the PCs bypass the portal and travel down a long set of stairs. Angry booming from wind and wave echoes through the tunnel.
If the PCs dont spot and flip a switch, the tunnel continues on until it opens up into a huge cavern full of bookshelves and dry, ancient tomes. Invaluable knowledge is stored here, as are a pair of immortal fire guardians.
The guardians are sentient and can be parleyed with. If they deem the PCs worthy, they provide knowledge of the switch back up in the stairwell, which opens an entrance to a second tunnel.
Their primary task is to protect the library from evil, and they will start torching the books if the PCs attack or if the guardians deem the action necessary.
Room Four: Big Battle
The secret passage leads down to a cave where a powerful elemental has been imprisoned. The elemental was tricked by the builders of the library and was told his realm was under attack. Over the course of weeks, the builders brought evidence that the elementals home had been destroyed. Already angry at being imprisoned, the elementals rage grew and grew as he came to believe that his home and kin were destroyed. As intended, the creatures rage was funneled and amplified until it fueled a small hurricane that surrounded the island.
The builders told the elemental his prison sentence was 1,000 years, which is true, and with that deadline and plans for revenge, his rage has not diminished over time.
The elemental is free to move about in his cave, and can communicate in broken common with the PCs if they try. Its not true that his realm was destroyed all those years ago, which can be confirmed by any of the elementals outside. If the PCs can convince the creature his realm is safe, or calm him down another way, the hurricane will disperse after a day.
Killing the elemental will be very tough. The hurricane also disperses a day after the creatures death.
Room Five: Reward or Twist
The object of the quest lies within a chest protected by the elemental at the centre of the cave. The builders lied and told the creature the last of his realms essence was trapped inside the chest, and opening the chest would release the essence, forever ensuring a new realm could not be built. This further fueled the creatures rage, the chest serving as a goading reminder, but the creature is unwilling to destroy the container as it plans to wait the 1,000 years and rebuild.
The chest can contain the object of the PCs quest, or it can contain a map and clues to the real location of the treasure, which happens to be deep inside an active volcano thousands of miles distant. It also contains a note to the elemental, in case it did break open the container, revealing the builders lies and rubbing the creatures nose in its own stupidity. This should reveal the twist of the backstory to the PCs if they opted to attack the creature and killed it. If the creature still lives it will demand to read the note, which will likely send it into a blind rage all over again, giving the PCs a bit of a dilemma.
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The five room format is simple yet allows for variety and permutation, thus its a powerful little GM tool. I feel a GM is always better off improving their dungeons by making them smaller because it gives them more planning time for clues, plot hooks, character involvement, twists, and so on.
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The Altar Of R'gu By: CaptainPenguin ( Dungeons ) Forest/ Jungle - Rooms/ Halls
The heroes storm the Temple of R’gu, the God From The Stars, to steal the Ruby of the Winged Master
Traveling through a remote and deeply forested area, barely explored and lightly populated, the heroes encounter many small woodland villages where the leather-skirted people give harsh glances and few words of welcome.
In one tiny ring of hovels along the road, they are informed by a helpful native that the villages in this area are unfriendly because they live in fear and that the Great King’s soldiers police this area rarely and poorly, if at all.
This same native takes the heroes aside and informs them that the villages in this area have been repeatedly ravaged by Smukan raiders from the northeast, slavers, and (this in a whisper) the soldiers of the God From The Stars.
When pressed to speak of this mysterious god, the villager offers this:
"To the east, where the forest meets the mountains, there is an ancient temple. It was here before the Great King came to rule us, it was here before my people came here. It was here before we drove the Nish clans from this forest. It was there indeed before men walked these forests- I suspect that it was built when only dark things dwelt here."
He looks around, as if suspicious that spies might be overhearing, and continues. "In this temple dwell many who have fallen under the sway of the evil cult that reigns in this forest. They worship a great deity which is loathsome to look upon, but which makes them roll and twist with pleasure with its presence. This god is called R’gu, the God From The Stars. Our warriors captured a few of their fighters once, and we learned from them that this creature, R’gu, comes to the temple to be fed by the priests every fortnight. The fighters claimed," once again, a surreptitious glance over each shoulder, "that their God is mightier than all other gods and fills the body with pleasure. They claim that someday, R’gu will take them away to the Stars to live in his Resplendent House. And they say that housed within the temple to the East is a sign of R’gu’s power, a great, flawless ruby, the size of a fist, called the Ruby of the Winged Master.
The heroes’ interests are piqued. After all, there is great fortune to be had in this! Not only the price that Imperial garrisons will pay for the heads of dangerous cultists (a "peacemaking purse", as the proverb goes), but imagine the peerless price of a flawless ruby the size of a fist! Surely, the trouble cannot be that great to brave a few raving cultists with blades in a crumbling ruin.
They embark into the forest, following old, disused trails and hacking their way through dense thickets. They are trapped on high ridges by sudden rainstorms that send muddy floods bursting through the knife-edged ravines, and haul their armor and weapons up steep, brush choked slopes.
Before long, with the sun setting orange and bright behind the snow-glinting peaks above, the heroes sight the grey roofs of a structure standing above the treetops. It is of strange make, unlike any architecture the heroes have ever seen, covered in bizarre and loathsome carvings which seem unpleasant and even repulsive for reasons that they cannot explain.
As they watch, they realize that out of the forest small groups of people, dressed in robes and leather skirts like the villagers, surreptitiously approach and enter the gates of the walled temple, quietly and cautiously greeting each other.
Night falls. The sound of thin high flutes and drums is heard. A ceremony is begun, and so must the storming of the Altar of R’gu.
Room One: Entrance And Guardian
The heroes have breached the outer wall of the temple complex and snuck past (or dealt with) the temple guards. Stealing silently through the quiet, empty structures of the Star-God’s temple, they arrive before the inner wall of the shrine. A set of great steps, lined with bizarre carvings of alien beings, ascends through the wall to the inner temple on the other side.
Standing on either side of the stairway are guardians perhaps less easily dealt with than the cultist warriors who the heroes have previously encountered.
These hulking creatures, vaguely manlike in shape, have thick, grey-purple skin ridged in parallel rows (resembling that of a bizarre alien cactus) culminating in a thick, low knot between the creatures shoulders rather than a head. Their bodies are studded with numerous tiny, jewel-like eyes that shine wetly in the flickering light from inside the inner wall, and are scaled in sections with swarms of tiny scars that resemble worms crawling up their corduroy hides. Both creatures are armed with great curved swords. Squatting loathsomely by the stairway, their posture and body motions seem blasphemously reminiscent of a very young child’s. These beings are heedra, vat-born creatures of the magic of the Elder Days.
The heroes have options; they could theoretically sneak around the sight of the guardians and climb the inner wall at some other point, risking discovery by other guards and being spotted by the priests on the inner wall. But if they decide to fight these inhuman guardians, they will find that they are immensely strong (despite their clumsy swordwork- they swing their huge blades like clubs or logs) and tough; in addition, minor wounds are ineffective- the vat warriors’ purple-blue ichor bubbles and fizzes in the air and scars over these wounds. Only catastrophic damage (such as intense butchery of the central head cluster or disembowelment) will kill the sorcerous abominations.
Room Two: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
They now stand atop the inner wall, looking down into the great Plaza Of Ecstasies, where a great mass of cultic worshipers, streaked with sweat, dirt, and holy red dust dispensed in earlier rituals (this dust is a potent hallucinatory drug activated by the sweat of the celebrants’ bodies), are carrying out the sacred orgy. Across the courtyard from the heroes, at the top of the cyclopean steps of the temple, two shaven-headed priests, naked save for the black spirals painted on their bodies, wail out prayers to R’gu in high, reedy voices, accompanied by the thin, dissonant wailing of pipes and the hypnotic beat of a great drum. The whole scene is illuminated by the flickering light of the roaring bonfires on either side of the temple’s great brass doors, worked with intricately-interlocking spirals and tendrils. Strange and unwholesome glyphs are carved into the lintel of the great doors.
"Let it be known!," screech the priests (slightly out of synch with each other in an eerie echoic fashion), "The Great One rises tonight! The Lord Of Ages even now awakes from the Well Of The Stars, to shed ecstasy from his wings! Let the Celebrants revel in the sacrament of worldly pleasure!"
One priest steps forward, gesturing at the crowd with strange scepter. "I invoke the Powers of the Yellow Daughterstar of the East! Arise, oh Great One!"
The second opens his hands wide. "I invoke the Powers of the Blue Daughterstar of the South! Arise, oh Great One!"
The heroes need to cross the courtyard and get to the temple on the other side. The sweaty mass of naked celebrants below them are in a deep, drug-induced sexual/religious ecstasy and would be oblivious to the heroes’ presence. The problem, obviously, are the priests standing atop the steps. How to solve this problem? Simply strolling around the inner wall to the temple, they will be spotted by the priests and captured by the temple guards. As before, there are options- they could theoretically sneak up to the bonfires that light the courtyard and douse them, throwing the ceremony into darkness and chaos; they could strip down and pretend to be celebrants themselves (this would, however, deprive them of their equipment). Or perhaps (hopefully) they will devise their own, unique solution to the problem.
Room Three: Trick Or Setback
The heroes pass through the great, glyphed bronze doors and into the temple. The darkness and silence are oppressive, and an indescribable stench, accompanied by a wave of sick, damp heat, assault the heroes. There is a low, irregular buzzing, like flies swarming on a corpse.
Suddenly, the heroes’ limbs feel heavy. Their every step seems weighed down with lead. Their bodies are dull with exhaustion, and they feel thick and drowsy. Their vision blurs. Finally, no longer able to press on, they collapse to the cold stone floor.
A harsh, reverberant voice, with a hint of noisesome clicking and buzzing, echoes out of the darkness above them. "Mortals trespass in the tabernacle of the God From The Stars. Did you not know that this place was forbidden?"
The heroes are lifted to their feet by cold hard hands. Their limbs and ankles are bound. Their drowsy eyes make out only blurry figures who clutch them. They are too weak to resist.
The voice continues: "No matter. The ceremony is disrupted, but the God still answers our cry. You are fortunate, mortals. You shall witness the arrival of the Ecstasy From Beyond. The God shall be hungry from its journey- you shall make an excellent supplement to its ordained feast."
They are pulled through the thick, smoky darkness and up a short set of steps. They are thrown to the chilly pavement, and footsteps move about them as some sort of ritual is performed in total darkness and a strange language is invoked. The strange, insectile voices that speak the words surround them, and press down on the heroes’ ears like a buzzing, hissing wall of pain.
Suddenly, the darkness is swept away as another set of doors are opened. The baleful orange light of the bloated full moon slashes through the thick darkness like a blade and illuminates the incense-hazed interior of the temple.
The heroes lie on a high dais below this door. At the opposite end of the temple, the great bronze doors swing open and the celebrants (assuming that the heroes did not kill or scatter them) begin to swarm into the chamber. The heroes realize that scattered across the stone floor of the temple are rotting corpses, sometimes in piles of up to four. Strange insects like dragonflies with nine wings, and swarms of flies, coat the corpses, which the celebrants pick up and dance with or copulate with the sorry cadavers in religious ecstasy.
Some of the heroes witness what beings they are who have captured them and are intoning this ritual. Resembling at first greyish, bent human beings, these beings, clad in silvery robes marked with black spirals, are reciting magical formulae over a strange object, not an altar, but rather shaped like an enormous needle, made out of an iridescent blue-chrome metal, set into the ground in a great array of strange ridged cylinders and boxes strung up with cables and tubes. All parts of the apparatus are coated in strange small extrusions, ridges, whorls, and odd shapes, marked with sharp, webbed glyphs in small cramped blocks of writing. The priests anoint the thing with oil and also with thick congealing blood which they smear on its parts, dimming its jewel-like cleanliness. It is an item of ancient magic, for purposes unknown, it’s needle tip pointed out the doors and into the night sky.
It is then that the heroes realize that the priests are not human at all, but some kind of tall, bipedal insect, their man-like bodies clad in shimmering grey-black carapace, with their four-fingered hands (black and cold like skeletal claws) gesturing strange and alien symbols in the air in the process of the ritual.
After the exhibition of various sacred objects of a bizarre and profane nature, the ritual reaches its climax. A young woman, her naked form daubed with shimmering paint in blue-black spirals, is dragged twitching and moaning from the crowd of petitioners. She is anointed with clotted blood and dragged beyond the device out onto the portico of the temple. Without much further ado, one of the insects produces an exceedingly ancient stone knife from its robe and unceremoniously slices the woman (still moaning and caressing herself) open from throat to navel, thin red blood pouring forth to pool around her twitching, sluggishly kicking corpse on the cold stone of the altar.
The insect-priests, their deep cowls hiding their forms from the drug-stupored celebrants, raise their voices in a buzzsaw cacophony of prayer towards the ceiling of the temple chamber. A group of nude human priests, their bodies marked with spirals, emerge from the alcoves of the temple and join them. The crazed dramatics of the ceremony suddenly cease as the entire temple shakes from its foundations to its top. The celebrants and human priests fall to the floor, pressing their faces to the stone in obeisance. The loathsome insects drop jerkily to their knees and point their arms towards the silvery device, rythmically buzzing and clicking (presumably praying in their own language). The machine begins to vibrate, and strange flashes and glimmers of light race along its surface. A thin high whining sound, which seems to scrape the inside of the heroes’ skulls as if it were within their brains, rises throughout the chamber, combining with the buzzing and clicking of the insects and the chanting of the priests. Then, abruptly, a breathless silence bursts upon the temple as the device releases a burst of blinding light which shoots off into the night sky like a blazing meteor. Sound slowly returns as the heroes here a keening noise, pulsing out into the air beyond the temple and towards the stars. Some of them realize that thin trickles of blood are running from their noses or mouths.
The chanting has ceased, and now the only sound to be heard is the gentle keening which soars away into the night air. The bound heroes see a strange shadow which seems to emerge from the distant skies.
Room Four: Climax Or Big Battle
Then they see it. Drifting, almost tranquilly, through the dark skies, visible only as a blot of darkness, it soars towards the temple’s portico.
Like a surreal nightmare, the God reveals itself. The dark shape grows to enormous sizes nearing the temple. The worshipers and priests further abase themselves as it descends eerily silent to wrap itself around the great stone platform of the temple and stretches its great, twitching, fan-like wings to their greatest extent, blotting out the stars, each panel of bizarre skin shuddering. The towering amoebic shape, composed entirely of infinite curtains of tentacles seeming to have the their nexus in a central point on the creature’s "top" (essentially giving it an appearance not unlike a tentacular comet with wings), is crowned with circle of six small (relatively; they are roughly the size of human legs) many jointed horn-antennae, the surrounding ribboned flesh studded with thousands of tiny, blood-red jewel-like eyes. Sections of its leprous green integument are coated with hideous shining black barnacle-like scales and sections of horns and hooks. Rubbery branching limbs that resemble horned coral (or failed tentacles) hang limply from parts of its body. The whole creature gives off a stench of sick, wet decay and at the same time, of sweet-blooming flowers.
The whole thing never ceases to move- dreamlike and seemingly without gravity its tentacles drift, shift and curl around each other; its wings flex and stretch; its antennae flex outward and inward as if through respiration. The creature is ominously without sound.
Their minds can scarcely encompass the extraterrestrial madness of this mooncalf abomination. What sorcery produced this insane sky-creature? What nightmare pit spat forth this sick horror? The sight of the abyssal deity tempts some to madness.
This blasphemous abomination is The Ecstasy From Beyond, The Star-God itself, R’gu. Behind them, they hear hundreds of worshipers scream out in unbelievable pleasure (some screams last on and on and become unbearable until they choke away, these petitioners having died in ecstasy); they see the insect creatures begin to convulse, twitch, and drool hideously from their alien mouthparts.
The insects rise to their feet, bowing in the presence of the extraterrestrial deity, and begin to haul the heroes toward the being. As they leave the roof of the temple and enter the chill of the night air, the heroes begin to feel a strange mental pulse, and their bodies begin to experience a sensation of utter pleasure. Some with weak minds may succumb to a state of ecstatic bliss, unable to resist the power of the Star-God. Others harden themselves against it, resisting its otherworldly call.
The insect priests cut the heroes’ bonds with knives and scuttle back from the stone porch. Serenely, the Star-God lowers its central head, a thousand tiny gem-like eyes shining liquidly.
As if they are in a dream, the heroes (their bodies filled with twitching jolts of pleasure) watch as the creature’s enormous tentacles snake into the temple around them. They watch as the twitching insect priests fall to the floor and are snatched up and dragged towards the creature’s head, which opens up into a vast maw in the semblance of a great flower of hideous small feelers and tiny segmented arms and claws, dragged buzzing and hissing into the alien darkess of their god’s body. Then the tentacles begin to select petitioners from among the crowd and drags them (catatonic or wildly screaming) likewise to be torn into bloody shreds in its chasmic mouth.
If the heroes have the willpower and the speed, they can shake off the creature’s ghastly shocks of ecstasy and dash away from the thing to where the priests have dumped their gear in an alcove at the foot of the stairs.
Of course, the heroes have no chance to slay the Star-God, and only the slightest of chances of even wounding it notably. But they can, indeed, drive the creature away by severing and dismembering the forests of its writhing limbs. It is a titanic fight, and the creature supplements the attacks of its tentacles with bursts of immobilizing pleasure and beams of mind-shredding sound so concentrated that they can be seen as a faint glowing ray in the air (should one of the heroes be struck by these screaming rays in the head, consider them dead, their brain punctured and their mind destroyed; some of the heroes’ minds may also be broken by the waves of ecstasy sent off by the creature).
If the heroes should survive with minds and body intact through the onslaught of slithering limbs and mental assaults, they find themselves standing panting upon a befouled platform, surrounded by tubular chunks of tentacles and pools of thick black fluid that reeks of mold and attar; even as they watch, this alien ichor begins to congeal and strange frilled fungus springs up from it.
With the same eerie and otherworldly grace with which it descended, R’gu disentangles from the temple, with an air almost of sadness. Its wings spread to sky-darkening fullness and it releases an atonal dragon scream that squeals away into the air in a thousand ear-bleeding tones. It’s vast maw opens and encased in a steaming clot of hair and rotting flesh it pukes forth a great shining stone- the Ruby of the Winged Master!
Then, with a mighty beat of those wings, it soars away into the night, the severed stumps of tentacles boiling forth new arms even as the heroes watch it disappear into the empty starlight.
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Or Plot Twist
The heroes turn to face the temple, soaked in blood and sick ichor (which they must scrape off their armor and weapons), holding the gigantic crimson stone puked forth by the God, and are astonished to find that some of the worshipers who had orgied did not flee when the battle began.
One by one, each naked, drug-crazed cultist marches up the stairs and touches the heroes, feeling their clothing and armor and touching the ichor and blood on their skin.
The first of them falls to his knees, and with shaking hands cries out to the others:
"The prophecy is fulfilled! The Sacred Ones Clad In The Blood Of The Star-God! The Bearers Of The Ruby Of The Winged Master! They shall lead us to The Resplendent Abode Of The Ecstasy From The Stars!"
The cultists fall to their knees before the flabbergasted heroes, and begin to chant:
"We worship you, great ones… We worship you, great ones…"
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The Cursed Keep Of The Wastelands By: CaptainPenguin ( Locations ) Fortification - Desert
The Great King long ago ceased attempting to police the wastelands of his Border Marches, and these debatable lands fell into the hands of petty counts, retired generals, and warlords, who constructed and then abandoned many keeps ripe for plunder.
Beyond the green hills lining the Vayoron River lies the desolate wasteland known as the Border Marches. These lands, subject to the Great King only in name, have long been unpoliced and untaxed by any official Imperial force. Control of swathes of this dusty, chilly land thence fell into the hands of opportunistic counts, retired Imperial generals, warlords, and bandits. In some places in the craggy hills above the dustwallowing valleys of the Marches, the ancient black towers of sorcerors (once driven out by Imperial might) were seen once again lit with glowing windows. But many of the tenants of this land, who taxed the land and patrolled it with their own hired men (with the Great King’s tacit approval) found the wastelands, quite obviously, to be barren, poor, and difficult to make a sustenance of. Many landlords simply abandoned with their retinues the ancient, crumbling keeps into which they had tenanted, after struggling to establish any kind of power or wealth in a land of blowing dust, starving cattle, nomad herdsmen, and the curses of black-eyed wizards. Others were done in by the struggle, or slain by bandits and raiders, or by foul magic, leaving their holds wasted and empty, and stuffed full of unwatched treasure. Most inticing to bold adventurers, the Border Marches are so thinly populated and so barren, and the reputation of some of the forts so fearsome, that many have never been plundered! Surely, the riches and wealth of this baron or that must remain in a keep in the wastelands.
One such keep is this place, a crumbling conical pile atop a windy scarp. The populace of the village below, who grow a pitiful plot of maize in the shadow of the hills, claim that the fort is haunted and that none ever return from its dark walls. It has been untenanted for over a hundred years; village legend states that it was the keep of the Count Jjun of Irgoz, a cruel and bloodthirsty individual.
It is said that Jjun of Irgoz offended the God of Gods by trapping and murdering a guest in his home, and for his misdeed, his entire household was struck down by a plague in a single night. His retinue mouldered away before his eyes, his advisers and friends thrashed screaming in the blood of their own sick lungs, and his great guard-hounds feasted on the bodies of his family. But Jjun of Irgoz did not die, the villagers say, but remains eternally pox-stricken and in terrible pain, alone in the dark with his sorrow. And that, conclude the warty village wives in their cord skirts and painted arms, is why one must please the Gods by honoring guests with a cup of water and safe passage (but as the heroes will find, not much more than that).
Room 1: The High Door And The Hounds
The heroes, drawn by promise of treasure, seek the door of the keep through a narrow, high stair hacked out of the craggy face of the cliff. This stair, not wide enough for two men to walk abreast, and steep enough that hand holds (some of which house nests of yellow-banded wasteland scorpions) were hacked into the rock at intervals, is buffeted by dangerous winds and random gusts. Further up the stair, a rusty chain has been bolted to the steps to aid as a handhold, and stretches up to a metal post by the doors. The post is loose and weathered by age, and if two many of the heroes throw their weight against the chain, they will unknowingly pull it loose, with disastrous consequences.
The doors are slotted deeply into the scarp walls down a slight defile carved out of the bare rock; windows in this rock were probably arrow slits for the defense of the keep, but looking into them now reveals only what appears to be a partially-collapsed chamber filled with rubble and broken wood.
The doors swing open with a rusty squeal. It has been quite some time since anybody entered here- a layer of wasteland dust, blown in over time, lies spread thickly across the pavement. The heroes stand in a tall central room. They can just make out the brick walls of the conical structure in which they stand in the gloom; a shaft of golden sunlight spears down through the center of the room through a window high above and behind their heads. As their eyes adjust to the dimness, they recognize the pale shapes of scattered bones spread in patches across the floor.
In this chamber, the heroes meet their first test. Out of the darkness, the heroes sense a presence, shuffling silently just beyond the edge of the visible. Lurking in this chamber are the gigantic guard-hounds Vvikush and Vvoralgu, who have become huge, immortal, and terribly ravenous from feeding on the cursed flesh of Jjun of Irgoz’s stricken family. Their bristling, silvery fur is crusted with filthy brown and black from the seeping blood of numerous infected sores, and their enormous drooping-lipped jaws peel back in demonic snarls to reveal shattered and bleeding teeth and diseased gums. These creatures have lurked in this chamber for over a hundred years, gorging their cursed hunger on the foolish ones who trespass within the unholy fort, and a century of undying fear and rage has stripped them of any previous allegiance they might have held to mankind. These beast-dogs provide the heroes with a terrible battle.
Room 2: The Mechanical Door And The Tragic Family
Having laid put the hounds Vvikush and Vvoralgu to rest, the heroes descend one of several small stairways that exits the dusty, bone-strewn entrance hall (there are four; three of them lead to deserted dusty servants’ quarters, barracks, and kitchens with little loot to speak of besides rust-eaten pieces of iron and the scattered bones of the baron’s stricken retinue and vassals). They find themselves in what appears to be a throne chamber. A moth-eaten rug and dusty tapestries hang from the walls, depicting the victories of the hero Nastra of the Lightning Hair. Behind the throne is heavy bronze door with an intricate mechanical lock on it.
In this room lie the gruesome remains of Jjun of Irgoz’s tragic family, who died from the horrible disease inflicted by Jjun’s curse and whose bodies were fed upon by the devilish hounds- three age-blackened and dog-savaged mummified bodies in the faded tatters of ancient gowns, their limbs and faces unnaturally twisted in disturbing ways by rigor mortis. The corpses of the cursed count’s two daughters lie in each others’ arms at the foot of the throne, their legs separated from their bodies and their stomachs ruptured by the corpse-eating hounds. Their shriveled eyes are small black pits and their teeth shine very whitely. Across the room, the body of the lady countess Tleyeson lies on her back, surrounded by a black coating of some flaky black substance, actually the rotten material that the countess wretched up before she died. Her body, too, was savaged and eaten of by the dogs, her face is twisted in a horrible shriek.
This sight, while tragic, seems irrelevant to the heroes. They must be more concerned with opening the mechanism which seals the door, a contraption obviously constructed by a sorceror learned in mechanical arts. It is a combination lock, and in order to open the door, four ivory wheels (each marked with a number symbol) must be rotated to form the correct code. But what could the code be?
Clues lie on the door itself. It is a great, heavy, bronze relic, worked with symbols of the traditional birth-to-death cycle of the Sun Dog (from young pup, to angry warrior pierced by arrows, to one-eyed leader, to emaciated dying elder). If the heroes look closely, they can see indicated in the relief the phrases: "Let answers spring forth as lightning" and "A hair is the breadth between the open door and the closed", old proverbs. The words "lightning" and "hair" are juxtaposed. If the heroes are very good at inference, they will know that the numbers of the combination are hidden in sequence on the tapestries of Nastra of the Lightning Hair, worked into scenes therein.
There is a simpler solution, though it is likewise obscured by time and age. All three corpses of Jjun’s family know the combination, if the heroes can convince them to divulge it. After a few minutes of inevitable frustration in which the heroes cannot devise the solution, the body of the youngest daughter will speak in a low, hissing whisper:
"Father is inside. He doesn’t want us to see him."
A startling interjection from a hundred-year-old mummy! The youngest daughter is the most forthcoming, and will divulge the combination to the door if it is promised that she will see her daddy and that she will marry the handsome Prince of the Kingdom someday (she is a bratty and fickle little child who wants her dreams fulfilled, even in the grip of undeath). The other two corpses are angry and bitter, having dwelt a century beyond the veil of death, and are very mistrustful of the heroes (recognizing them as the treasure seekers that they are), and will not speak unless the heroes can prove that they will see be allowed to see Jjun of Irgoz one last time.
Room Three: The Hall Of Dust And The Giant
The great bronze portal opens with a sigh of old musty air. Within, the heroes perceive a long hallway lined with thick Kaitakian carpets. At the far end, a short stair is elevated into the baronial bedroom.
The heroes pace up the carpet, their footsteps raising puffs of heavy dust. Thick cobwebs tear apart as they brush through them. Approaching the stairway, they discern a large dark figure, seated on the steps and slumped against the wall.
This figure is Xaggarng, the count’s personal bodyguard. Loyal to his death, this huge man died puking out his rotten innards into his lap (like the countess), and his shriveled corpse is encrusted with the gruesome dried remnants.
The heroes should know by now that the dead do not rest well in this cursed keep. As they near the doors to the bedroom, Xaggarng releases a thick sound like a deep sigh, and a cloud of black dust pours forth from his distended jaw. Flickering green embers awaken in the wrinkled pits of his eyes as he lifts himself heavily from the steps. Despite the withering of age and mummification, which has made his grey-black skin peel away from his bones and crack apart at his gruesomely-twisted teeth, he remains a giant among men, 7 feet tall, with long arms and hands that have become claws through the action of rigor mortis. He fills the narrow hall and attempts to smother the heroes in a horrible embrace. An unholy strength fills him, and driven by a loyalty to Jjun of Irgoz that lives beyond death, he will not die until hacked into pieces.
Room 4: Jjun Of Irgoz
The heroes ascend the staircase, spattered with the congealed guts and caked dust of the terrible fort. This is the count’s bedroom, the family abode buried deep beneath the keep, and (hopefully) just above the coffers.
As the heroes push open the bronze doors to the bedroom, they are driven back by an overwhelming, sick stench of rot and foulness. They feel an unfamiliar wetness as the dust that cakes their sandals is washed away by a thin, warm fluid.
The heroes are standing in a dark chamber, filled with a noxious moisture and humidity not present in the rest of the dust-choked fort. The blackness of the chamber is complete- their torches gutter and flicker in it. The fluid that rushes across their toes lies in slicks and pools across the stone floor of the chamber, and has reduced a once-fine Kaitakian bed-rug into a soggy rotten mat of mushy fibers. Along the walls, several ancient divans have collapsed into wet piles of splinters and rotten silk. In an alcove in the left wall, there is a step upward into the private family shrine, containing statues of Tlonos, the Mother Goddess, One-Eyed War, and a small altar to the God of Gods. However, examining this altar will show that the sacrifice bowls of these altars have been defiled with some kind of stinking filth, and the statue of Tlonos (the goddess who preserves from harm) has been strewn with what appear to be human entrails.
The heroes move slowly through the defiled room, until coming upon the great platform of the count’s bed. Lying in the center of the denuded slab of the bed is the cursed lord himself, Jjun of Irgoz.
Cursed never to die, but to live eternally, cancerously stricken by the hideous curse of disease which slew his entire household. Over the course of a century, the endless pain has driven him beyond insanity, and all semblance of what it is to be human has been lost to his rotten brain. He appears to the heroes now in a form that could only be vaguely described as human- composed of rot-blackened organs that swell and split, clustered around his crumbling bones like sacks of stinking awful, with his intestines hanging in ropey coils from his belly. His arms hang long and loose and end in twisted skeletal claws. His skull seems to have collapsed into a mass of hideous tentacular cancers that writhe and whip about in a medusa-like fashion. All that remains of his skull are the bridge of his nose and his eye-sockets, nested masklike and eerie amidst the pulsing, rotten flesh. Out of a mouth-like cavity, filthy grey-black puke, filled with shredded, bloody organs, dribbles and splashes about on the floor. This is the horror that was once Jjun of Irgoz, lord of the keep.
The horror-that-was-Jjun will not die easily. With a disturbing howl, the creature reverses its joints and crawls up the wall and ceiling of the chamber like a cockroach. The creature attacks with its flesh-tearing claws, and spits hideous plague-bearing fluid at the heroes, a substance so filled with the curse that it raises festering sores on their arms and causes them to bleed from their noses and mouths. The creature also attacks them with its intestines, which animate like arms to strangle and slap at the heroes.
This disturbing atrocity seems impervious to pain, and only after it has been hacked apart into tiny fragments (or burned) will the creature die. With the end of its life, there is a huge sighing throughout the keep, and a wave of putrescent air sweeps out from the bedroom throughout the whole tower.
Room 5: The Treasure Chamber
There is a small door at the back of the bedroom. It opens upon a narrow stairway that descends deeply into the bedrock. The heroes descend the shadowed stairway with trepidation- the bottom is illimitable inky blackness.
When they reach the landing of the stairway, they find themselves in a low-roofed long slot chamber. At the far end they find, finally, the coffers of Jjun of Irgoz.
The heroes have worked striven hard for this moment, and crack their knuckles in anticipation. The lid of the stone box is slowly pried away to reveal…
What is this? No gold bars stamped with old Imperial seals? No jewels? No silver goblets, jade rings? What have they been fighting for?
None of these things remain the box. Some of the count’s unscrupulous guards and his vizier broke into this chamber and stole away with the gold, escaping the plagued household with the treasure, before dying of the disease somewhere out in the badlands.
Left over at the bottom of the cask, however, is something that might highly interest the heroes- it is a document, on vellum, marked with the gold-leaf seal of the Great King himself (of a hundred years ago). It is a deed of debt, redeemable to the Great King at any time, for a tract of land to the bearer- a gift to Jjun of Irgoz for taking on a command in a Godforsaken wasteland and giving up his ancestral tracts. This document bears the seal of a Great King, and is written in the most proper of High Sorgic. Should the heroes present this document to an Imperial governor, they are fully within their power to demand a tract of Imperially-sponsored land be given over to their lordship as their manor, with accompanying serfs and servants.
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The Lost Imperial City By: MysticMoon ( Dungeons ) Plains - Rooms/ Halls
A Five Room Dungeon about finding the Imperial city of The Lost Empire.
The merchant Godfrey is under a compulsion which has settled in through recurring dreams. He has been be-spelled by those forgotten wizards of The Lost Empire. Night after night, he has been experiencing wondrous dreams of an ancient city full of magic and beauty.
He finds himself transformed into a large bird, soaring high above the city. His flight takes him to the southeast. Farmland passes by, followed by thick forest. Beyond the forest is a foul smelling bog. Every detail of his flight is vividly etched into his memory. Landmarks he was unaware existed are plainly visible. Whatever lies beyond the bog is shrouded in mist and so he descends upon the invisible currents, following his instincts. Like an arrow he flies, straight and true. There is no thought, no question as to why.
His destination is a city long ago abandoned and forgotten, hidden behind the foreboding bog and lying within the fog-shrouded hills. Somehow he knows that this city has lain untouched for more than three thousand years. In the dream he lands outside the outer wall. He cannot breach the gate, yet he knows a key is buried in a particularly tall hill. He digs within the hill and unearths a key, a great gem-encrusted, silvery-platinum key which unlocks the front gate and allows him entrance.
Once past the gate, he sees that trees have broken through the cobbled streets and some of the stone buildings. Vines cover the walls and crumbling roofs. Birds nest and small mammals lair. He wanders the empty streets. Eventually, he comes upon a great palace of granite and marble, decorated in gold leaf and semi-precious stones. Instinctively following the winding hallways, he comes upon the royal treasury. It is heaped with all manner of precious metals and stones, treasures beyond compare.
He reaches out a hand to grasp these treasures. He wakes. Without knowing how, he is certain that something scared away the inhabitants, something that made them flee, something scary enough to cause them to leave behind great piles of gold and silver. But he is just as certain that that danger disappeared long ago.
These are only half-truths, bolstered by a firmly planted suggestion. The city in question was not abandoned, but was instead teleported straight into a demon dimension and all its inhabitants were slain. All but the twelve wizards whose greed allowed them to be tricked into performing the ritual which so devastated the land. Those twelve have been imprisoned and tortured for the past three thousand years. With what little strength they are allowed, they occasionally send a magical suggestion out into the mortal realm to bring help. The sole remaining link left behind is the pentagram around which they performed the ritual. It has since been buried and is guarded by fell creatures, for it is the only means of ingress into the city. The dead souls of those who failed still haunt the grassy plains.
The compulsion is very strong. Very few possess the force of will to resist. Friends and companions may question, but the dreamer never loses certainty, never questions the likelihood of such a treasure remaining unnoticed for millennia.
Godfrey has been unable to secure assistance. He is desperate, for the dreams grow in strength each night. He seeks the player characters out for hire. He tells them every detail of his dream, certain that some deity or relic from the ruins are communicating through him. He offers the party huge shares of the loot, possibly even gifts upfront, if only they will accompany him there.
Room 1: The Buried Pentagram
Their journey takes them through the Arnathian forest, which is only lightly populated. Any of the locals will be coldly distant, watching the party with obviously disapproving stares. If questioned, they treat the characters with barely concealed contempt. If coerced or charmed, they will only say that the characters are not the first to brave the bogs and that none who ventured in have ever returned.
Beyond the forest are bogs full of muck and water, slimy creatures, and creeping or rotting vegetation. Anyone with any geographical knowledge will have no clue what lies beyond the bogs, except for the existence of the great spike-toothed mountains which ring the entire realm, and those are at least a hundred miles farther off. Making it to the entrance requires braving these bog lands, which are inhabited by various monstrous creatures. The number and variety of monsters are more than should seem natural.
Once past the bogs, the party enters grassy plains. Aside from the hilly contours, the grassy plains are featureless. A constant, creeping fog covers the land and provides very little visibility. Without the unerring, unquestioning direction of Goddfry, the party would easily become lost. The actual entrance is a pentagram buried beneath a particularly tall hill and is guarded by several minor demons hiding within the mist.
Once they reach the hill, Godfrey will ignore everything, including the attacking demons, except for the hillside. Other than incessant ramblings about having found the city, he will be completely focused upon digging. The party must hold off or defeat the guardians until the pentagram is exposed. Once that happens, it will drag the players into the demon realm.
Room 2: Freeing the Wizards
The demon realm is hot. The cloudless sky is a deep, solid red. No sun is visible but heat pours down unrelentingly. The air shimmers with it. All color has been bleached from the surrounding buildings and human remains. The buildings are in disrepair, just as the dreamer saw, but without the trees, vines, and wildlife. Instead, strange creatures like giant, red-orbed rats scamper about while gold-limned eyes watch from the shadows and unseen serpentine scales make scraping sounds somewhere nearby. All vegetation has long since disintegrated. The ground is made up of stone, gravel, and sand of various orange and red hues. Jagged, red-tipped mountains ring the land.
The pentagram has been replaced by a circle of scorched black rock. Not far away, and on the same hillock, sits a tower of green and black veined malachite. The tower spirals up and appears full of brooding malice. The entrance is sealed and will not budge.
Godfrey survived to this point, he will become despondent and do little to help.
The players may wander about the city. They are left unmolested. There is little to interest them, however. The buildings are crumbling. Anything not made of stone has disintegrated or rusted beyond use. Bones are scattered about, slowly crumbling into dust. Whatever creatures lurk in this place are small and quick to scatter.
At some point they come upon or notice another hill, not quite as high as the one they came from. Atop the hill sits a squat, square tower of coal-black iron, untouched by the ages. It is built in a different architectural style from the rest of the city. Engravings of devils, demons, and the tortured dead adorn its surface. If Godfrey is still alive, his gaze goes blank for a moment and then clears. Without being able to explain why, he heads toward the hill.
The great doors swing open and screams echo from within for a short time before finally tapering off. Out walks a procession of the demons represented on the outer surface. The sheer number and power of the demons should be enough to discourage any heroics on the part of the players. Once emptied, the tower doors swing shut with a clang. A couple of eight-foot tall, goat-headed monstrosities remain outside as guards. At their sides are horns, capable of sounding an alarm.
The players must figure out how to gain entrance without alerting the demon hordes.
Held captive inside are the original twelve of the wizard council. All appear to be in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. They are each bound with silver manacles. Each wizard is also wound around by a large serpent. The serpents keep the wizards’ bodies and legs pinned. Their maws are widely extended with dagger-long fangs exposed and a hand span away from the tender flesh of a throat. The first wizard to catch sight of the players calls out in surprise, only to be struck by the serpent. He screams aloud and instantly goes into convulsions. Blood pours from his eyes and his head lolls drunkenly. His screams finally give way to moans.
The rest of the wizards watch the party with wide eyes but dare not move or speak. If a player approaches or attempts to strike a serpent, it will repeat the earlier performance. The players must figure out how to free the wizards.
Once free from the serpents, the wizards relate their tale. Their magical bonds have kept them weak, but forcefully removing them causes the affected wizard to suddenly age 3,000 years and die. This should happen to at least one wizard. They can be set free from their prison, but the bonds must stay. This prevents the wizards from accessing their magic and assisting the party too much.
Room 3: No Easy Escape
Without the wizards’ power there is no easy way to return to the mortal realm. The wizards’ escape is discovered as the party exits the tower and the pentagram was a one-way trip. The party is hounded from many directions and must hide out in the city. Some of the wizards are killed in the process, being too weak to defend themselves, too slow to keep up, and too numerous for the party to protect them all. The remaining wizards claim that escape can be made through the tower, but the party must travel back toward danger to get the key. The key is in the old imperial palace and demons have taken up residence there.
Room 4: Recovering the Key
The palace is huge but the wizards help direct them toward the royal treasury. It is guarded by a hulking demon of scaly red with goat hooves, short, curved black horns, and a broad bladed scimitar. Backing him up are a number of small, long-clawed imps.
Most of the original treasure has been pilfered but there remain a few items; however much gold, silver, and items of note that the GM deems appropriate. There is one item, however, that the wizards are particularly interested in. It is a short, leaf-bladed sword of obviously skilled make, though not ostentatious. The wizards appear somewhat disappointed that the only obvious embellishment is bare: a small setting for a jewel in the guard.
The players may need to fight their way in or out of the palace. More wizards will likely perish in the process, but at least a couple should survive.
Room 5: Safe Once More
Once the party makes it to the tower, the sword is used as a key to open the door. The party enters the large entryway with the remaining wizards. The interior of the tower is made up of solid quartz in various shades (clear, rose, violet, etc.) In the entryway is a pedestal with a number of semiprecious stones in a box of scrimshaw and velvet. Clearly visible within are shards of malachite, white onyx, agate, amethyst, and lapis lazuli, with more underneath. One of the wizards inserts the malachite shard into a slot next to the box. This returns the tower to the mortal realm. If asked, the wizards will only say that the other stones are essential to the mysteries of the tower. Whatever gratitude they feel toward the players, they become very vague when questioned about the tower itself.
Once back in the mortal realm, the wizards annihilate the pentagram and promise to set about restoring the world. With the help of the characters, of course. After the pentagram is destroyed, the fog blows away. Great sighs of relief are heard as this happens.
The bottom floor is as far as anyone can go in the tower. According to the wizards there are more keys needed to access the higher levels. One of those keys is the sapphire that was removed from the sword’s guard. They have no idea where it may be.
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The Mercenary Shrine By: Ancient Gamer ( Dungeons ) Any - Rooms/ Halls
In the ramshackle town of Spear Malice only a single building still stands. It has defied the Great War and its spears of light; nuclear blasts that devastated the entire state, and ever since then it has defied the onslaught of time.
Its halls have not yet been breached, and a wealth of technological treasure await, ripe for plunder! But there are others who crave this treasure; others that will do anything to claim it.
During the Great War the border town now known as Spear Malice was hit hard. Caught within the blast radius of a nuke, most buildings came toppling down. Of course, the century and a half since that time has not helped either, and today Malice is a truly ramshackle place where the Divine Spear Tribe holds sway, and their Warlock King, John One-Eye, is the undisputed master of the nearby wastes.
It is in this town, on the intersection between Wolf Path and the Path of the Ancients, that the Mercenary Shrine stands; a circular building, like a silo on four pillars, apparently unharmed by the blast that tore down the rest of the town.
There was something solemn about the only building that still stood unharmed, a certain virtue or innocence. A square logo with a dot inside was painted on both north and south side of the edifice. It seemed the tribals used it for throwing contests, for the southern side logo was dotted with splashes, dents and marks. For a moment it seemed like someone was moving on the top of the huge tower, but it must have been a trick of the eye, for no rungs or ladders were visible. Brushing the dust and sand from the beige flak jacket he had found in an abandoned military depot, Kendall Bruise-Bone ran crouched towards the rusted wreckage of trucks he spotted beneath the edifice. It would not do to be spotted by the natives, for they were hostile and their preferred meat was that of men.
Room #1: The Entrance
The silo shaped edifice has been placed on four massive pillars of steel and concrete, so the entrance is actually in the open air below the building. Bricks from the collapsed neighboring buildings seems to have blasted into this region, and several ancient trucks that are parked here have fist sized holes in them, and are partially covered in earth and bricks. Gangs of tribal savages often walk the streets near this area, so PCs must either keep quiet, have considerable diplomatic skills or be ready to fight.
An elevator is visible inside one of the steel support pillars, and its doors are wide open. Inside they will find cracked mirrors on the walls and the ceiling. The control panel has been destroyed, the remains bent and broken on the floor, and now a wide array of wires emerge where it was once placed. The wires still carry an electric current, which will be clear from the jolts they will get if they touch two wires at once. Also there is a hatch in the ceiling, but it is locked. Marks suggest that someone has tried to break open the lock, but obviously they failed.
To get up the PCs must either use their electrical skills and send the elevator up, or they must pick the difficult lock and climb up to the floors above. Note that a certain code has to be entered to access the upper levels, and at the moment the PCs have neither the codes nor the interface required to enter the codes. Therefore the elevator doors will only open on the first room inside the facility (the second "room" of the dungeon).
- There are three digits on the panel: 0, 1 and 2.
- 0 would be the entrance, i.e. here. 1 is the control room and 2 is the Mercenary shrine.
Setting the mood for the remainder of the "dungeon":
- The nuclear power supply of the Mercenary Shrine is fully operational, and a hatch down to it can be found under one of the collapsed trucks, but the wires carrying the power to the building above was slightly damaged during the nuclear blast. This means that the power is almost stable, but on random intervals the power goes down, stopping the elevator and covering the rooms in a blanket of utter darkness. Only the implants of Luc - the cybernetic ghost, the space craft and the sentry drone will remain powered on during these short periods of no electricity.
Room #2: The Control Room
Projections are shown on the walls of this rotund chamber. Several projections show the devastated areas of the surrounding town, while one shows some sort of armoured bipedal robot pacing back and forth in another rotund chamber, where red banners hang on black walls, a huge, oval table dominate the room and skeletons litter the floor. If the PCs change active cameras with the control panel (described below), more rooms can be seen:
1) A circular hangar with black walls and a brown military space craft (if they open the hangar roof while watching the camera feed from the room, they will notice tribals entering the hangar from above, prodding the space craft with their spears and screaming jubilant).
2) The entrance, now overrun by tribals pointing at the elevator and screaming.
3) The room the PCs currently occupy.
In a large chair, its leather black and comfortable in spite of the years, a skeleton is seated. Its spine has been reinforced with black metal alloys from the neck and up, and the unmistakable soft whirring of awaking machinery can be heard from within its skull. On a closer look the PCs realize that the skeleton had cybernetic implants in life and the left side of the skull is covered by the same black metallic alloys as the neck; light emitting diodes bathe the inside of the skull in nuances of green and red. The back of the skull, and the chair behind it, has been blown away, a shotgun still in the hands of the skeleton. The skeleton will move its neck and seem to follow the PCs, its vision enhancement implant pinpointed on the face of the closest PC. The rest of the skeleton is quite dead and unmoving. In front of the skeleton is a huge control panel, briefly described above, and the locks barring the elevator doors from opening at the upper levels can be opened with it (successful computer skill use).
Any PC with devices that can communicate via short wave radio, or has a wire with the RJ2001 jack needed to connect to the machinery, may converse with the deceased mercenary, or what remains of it. It seems the mercenary had invested in major optical enhancements, targeting systems as well as memory storage implants. This means the dead cyborg remembers who it was and what has happened. Unfortunately there is a small malfunction in the hardware, caused by the suicide, and this makes the cybernetic ghost (as beings such as this are called) quite difficult to communicate with. Any eloquent and diplomatic PC can persuade the cyborg to provide much info however:
1) The cyborg knows how to unlock the lock on the upper levels.
2) The cyborg knows that the sentry drone upstairs can be hacked, and that it is vulnerable in the rear of its neck.
3) The cybernetic ghost remembers how to power up the space craft on the uppermost level.
4) The ghost also remembers how to open the retractable roof panels, to make the space craft’s take off a little more convenient.
The PCs can also choose to rob the skeleton of its implants. The skull can also be separated from the rest of the skeleton and, if so, it might turn out a reluctant and difficult, but valuable, ally. The cybernetic ghost still refers to itself as Luc, a 44 year old mercenary. (Its correct age would be 195 years, given the time it has been trapped here, but that is something it will not acknowledge).
- Luc committed suicide after he realized what had happened. Half of his skull has been blown away and the shotgun is still in his skeletal grip.
Room #3: Mercenary Shrine
This room is the mercenary shrine, or the contract room, in which potential employers discussed with the leaders of the mercenary clan. The room is basically a meeting room, with a huge, black oval table at the center and many luxurious chairs surrounding it. At the far end of the chamber is an altar of sorts, the altar of contracts, in which agreements are kept. The rule is to honour the contract, religiously, or break the contract at your peril. Nowadays the PCs might find that the old, rotting contracts disintegrate at touch. A dog tag on a chain with two teeth lies discarded among the contracts. "Cole ‘Durmenthir’ Anderson" is the name printed on it.
Of note in this chamber are the number of skeletons strewn on the floor, the assault rifles hung on the walls or scattered amongs the fallen and the fully operational sentry bot that stands astride the meeting table, in battle position, waiting for the PCs to exit the elevator. The robot is well armoured and well powered. It has kept vigil for the last century and a half, never failing and never pausing. When the nuke hit, the electromagnetic pulse did not penetrate the solid walls of the shrine, but the sentry bot assumed an attack was underway and in the resulting chaos it started killing the potential employers that had attended a meeting. As the shocked and dazed mercenaries tried to stop the sentry bot, it categorized them as enemies too and ultimately killed the twenty people attending the meeting. This compelled Luc, the former mercenary with cybernetic implants, to shut down the elevator from the control room.
The exact details of the robot is left up to the GM in question, but Luc, the cybernetic ghost, will inform the PCs that its frontal armour is formidable, requiring heavy guns to breach, but some essential neck cables are vulnerable to attack. This information can also be gleaned by PCs using the surveillance cameras to their full advantage. Also, if possible, the sentry bot will not use projectiles (it has been programmed to keep the facility as intact as the situation allows).
The elevator stops on this level. A ladder leads up to a hatch in the ceiling, and the hangar above.
- Extremely skilled hacker PCs can connect wirelessly to the bot and hack it, preferably from behind shelter. Its firewalls and passwords are rather good, but not impossible.
Room #4: Hangar
The hangar has walls and floor painted black, with a thick, yellow H painted on the floor, a circle surrounding the H. On this letter, H, a flat, broad spacecraft stands. Its hull has been painted military brown. Its gangplank has been lowered and entrance is possible. For the space shuttle to take off, the roof doors should be opened, but it is possible to crash through them if they put the thrusters on full. (It is likely that this will damage the rudder and hull).
If the roof doors have been opened, the room will be occupied by eight tribals wielding spears and knives and crossbows. They will squat atop the space vessel, some even having gone inside to study this ancient piece of wonder. The tribals have no skill at electronics and computers, so they are limited to poking and punching random buttons. If the GM thinks a military space shuttle is too great a reward, he should have them push the wrong buttons and crash the shuttle half way through the wall. It will still contain much desired spare parts and can eventually be repaired by the stalwart PCs.
Additionally the tribals, already having found the tracks of the PCs, have realized the elevator is now functional and will be approaching from behind too. The PCs should find some choke points, and quick, for this battle is about to become hot.
Combat Set Up:
If the roof panel has been opened: The two sentinels atop the tower were quite surprised when the roof began to slide beneath their feet. To their wonder they discovered the hangar beneath and whistled to six fellow tribals on the ground, who promptly climbed the tower using the ropes that were dropped from above. These eight are exploring the hangar even as the PCs emerge from the hatch. They will remain in hiding, but the two ropes hanging from above should warn the PCs that they are not alone.
Regardless whether any tribals are in the hangar: The PCs did not ascend the elevator shaft unnoticed, regardless whether they ascended by using the elevator or by climbing. Several tribals followed their footsteps and, unless the PCs were cunning and sealed the elevator doors programmatically, they will assault the PCs from behind. Any assault rifles left in the Mercenary Shrine will be picked up. Though of little or no technical skill, there are tribals who know how to operate these. There seems to be no end to the savages, and the PCs must stem the flow themselves, either by sealing off the hatch, sealing the elevator or leaving (using the shuttle). If the shuttle is disabled it should prove quite a task to escape, but diplomacy, stealth or brute force might win the day.
If the PCs hacked the sentry bot: The sentry bot is online and will defend the PCs to the best of its abilities. It uses its hands to choke, punch and disable and, just to invoke fear, it sometimes rips throats and hearts out of the bodies of its opponents. It will employ firearms if the going gets too tough.
About the tribals:
The tribals attack like hunters would, using cover then throwing, or shooting, spears and bolts at the PCs. Some tribals have molotov cocktails and will not hesitate to throw these. In melee they will use spears and knives.
John One-Eye, the Warlock King of Spear Malice:
A huge individual, one eye torn from its socket, will eventually come into view, pushing his minions forward. This is John One-Eye, the Warlock King. To these tribals, John’s advanced tech is nothing short of magic and they fear and dread the veteran soldier, handing him their daughters and part of their loot. John is a tough nut to crack, wearing full body armour and wielding two Beretta 9mm handguns. John also has three hand grenades that he does not hesitate to use, even should one of the tribals be caught in the blast. At the end of the day he prefers watching from a distance, but if enough of his men are slain he will come, for he has sought the contents of the tower for a long time and is not about to let the PCs get away with it all. (John’s status as Warlock King hails from his guns, his grenades, his body armour and the laptop in his backpack). Note that John has no skill with pick locks and electricity, but should he gain access to the control panel he will be able to open and close doors as he see fit.
Room #5: Spacecraft
The space craft, or space shuttle, has room for ten passengers and their gear. Its cockpit has room for one pilot, but it can be flown fully automated. Its currently plotted course is to the earth orbit space station, Tellus 1, but that space station was blown up in the initial days of the Great War. The three other destinations also seem to be dead ends, though the PCs must travel there to discover this. In the end the shuttle is fast, has enough fuel to fly for two days, but is limited in matters of available space. If the PCs have other vehicles or animals, or a great deal of cargo, it will not be able to transport it.
For the GM that is not ready to just hand out a fully functional space craft, the tribals could disable it (as explained above), or it could be in a state of disrepair. In any case: It will fetch a decent price anywhere, and most potential buyers will not be able to cash out even a fraction of its worth, though the PCs will still prosper. The truly devious GM will let the space craft have a serious malfunction, but this will not be revealed until after take off, when the systems begin to report one critical malfunction after another. Centuries of no service and maintenance just can’t be healthy…
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The Sanctuary of Sumuho By: Dozus ( Dungeons ) Desert - Rooms/ Halls
The powerful wizard Sumuho styled himself as a god and was worshipped far and wide. After his fall, his vast temple sank into the desert long ago. What secrets lie in the Sanctuary of Sumuho?
Millennia ago, a powerful nomadic sorcerer of the Inhap Desert called Sumuho arose to become a figure of international renown. Founding an academy of magic, he drew away students of other famous schools. After a hundred years, the wizard made a pronouncement: he had discovered the secret of immortality, and was effectively a god. The school in the desert became a cathedral and worshippers flocked from around the world to see this new god.
This drew the ire of the Cult of Khunam, a fiercely monotheistic faith that worshipped the sun disc and the largest religious sect of the land. Offended by Sumuho’s audacity and sacrilege, they summoned the Oth-Maares, warrior monks avowed to protect the faith until death - and beyond. After ceremoniously breaking contact forever from the high priests to free them from any sins the Oth-Maares might commit, they disappeared into the Inhap. Within a month, Sumuho too disappeared. His own priests either vanished or turned up dead, and his temple was abandoned and forgotten. After a few centuries, it disappeared under the sands of the Inhap. All but a few worshippers vanished, the remaining faithful waiting patiently for Divine Sumuho’s return…
While visiting a city or large town, the party is approached by a trio who claim to be archaeologists. Their apparent spokesman, a young man of around 25, explains that they believe they know the location of the ancient Sanctuary of Sumuho. An excavation is in order, but they would like some physical protection as well as assistance in opening the temple. The temple itself may have a few ancient traps here and there, but the fame alone would make the party rich, not to mention their share of the treasures within. If the party accepts, the trio will lead them out into the desert.
Room 1: Entrance & Guardian
After two days of steady travelling, the archaeologists cheerfully announce that the Sanctuary is but a few miles away. As they top the next dune, however, there is a distressing sight: an encampment of nomadic lizardmen. Notorious bandits native to the Inhap, the lizardmen are no pushover, especially given their ability to dive into and "swim" through the sand, making them difficult to track. As one of the archaeologists - a slender woman with a heavy accent - unhelpfully points out, the encampment is directly over the site of the temple. Unless one of the party is lucky enough to speak Inhapi, the lizardmen will have to be removed by force. Expect strong resistance from the dozen of the tribe, led by a scarred lizard warboss with a disfigured and mutated (yet oddly functional) third arm sticking from her side. Their armament is varied, mostly with simple bronze-headed spears, but a few with steel cutlasses and flails purloined from trader caravans. After the lizardmen are dispersed, a search of their camp finds little of value: a few small gems, a decorative garland of gnome skulls, and a chest filled with desert garments such as turbans.
Following the extinguishing of the lizardmen, another of the archaeologists - an aged but spry man - begins pulling equipment from their packs while the other two explain that, according to their research, the Oth-Maares did not simply abandon the Sanctuary of Sumuho, but hid it. Using Khunamite magics, they caused the temple to sink into the golden sands and vanish. Their research also led them to Oth-Maares texts from which they learned the spells and techniques needed to undo the spell. As they finish explaining, the elder archaeologist dons a white vestment with orange and red embroidery. In his hands is a very tall staff with a tiny relic encased in an orb at one end. The three nod to each other and the old archaeologist begins to chant in a strange tongue. For several minutes, nothing seems to happen. Then, suddenly, the archaeologist slams the base of the staff into the ground. A circular tunnel appears under the staff, spewing out a load of sand in a ripple on the dunes. The tunnel appears to lead down to some sort of structure fifty or so feet beneath the sand.
Room 2: Puzzle or Challenge
Down through the odd sand tunnel, the party comes across what appears to be a solid sandstone door leading into the underground structure. The door is completely smooth and jointless, about twelve feet tall and peaking into an angled arch at the top. The archaeologists seem a bit perplexed by the door and are open to suggestions on how they might enter. As the crew discusses possibilities and theories, at the mention of the word "Sumuho", narrow square slits crack open in the strange door. Pupil-like bits of stone bulge outwards, staring at the crew. Then below the eye-like structures breaks open a wide rectangle. Moving like a mouth, a creaking yet thunderous voice utters a phrase in an unknown language. If any of the party respond to it, the door will answer in the language it hears from the party (e.g., if an elf PC speaks High Elvish to the door, the door will reply in High Elvish). In its odd voice, the door asks: "Who are you that have come to seek enlightenment from Divine Sumuho?"
A conversation with the door reveals that this is indeed the lost Sanctuary of Sumuho. The door seems oblivious to the passage of time, unaware that the Sanctuary has been unopened for thousands of years. However, it is terribly stubborn and refuses to open the door. The crew must convince the door guardian that they are indeed worshippers of Sumuho and come to seek his wisdom. At the GM’s discretion, the door may require some proof that they really know who Sumuho is; if only the arhcaeologists answer, the door guardian will refuse entrance of the "barbaric and heathen" PCs, so some knowledge of Sumuho’s history would be valuable. Once the guardian is convinced. The eyes and mouth will recede and the door will crack from its hinges. The solid-looking sandstone will break into blocks, revealing a jointed and fully-articulated stone-jack. The golem will step aside to allow the party to enter the gate. Once all are inside, the -jack will reassume its form as a door. Attempts to speak to or activate it thereafter will be in vain.
Room 3: Setback
Inside the Sanctuary, the party will find themselves in a cavernous room lavishly decorated. The sandstone walls look as though they were painted hours earlier, with bright frescoes depicting Sumuho’s rise to power and his ascent into the realm of the gods. Holding the ceiling above them are dozens of massive marble pillars, each one covered from base to capital in hieroglyphs like a stele monument. The floors are sandstone inlaid with glass, with the center of the room a mosaic of Sumuho subduing an army of demons. Statues litter the edges of the room, mostly of Sumuho in various heroic, majestic, or divine poses. To the west lay two hallways, one ascending and one descending, and to the east is another wider passageway. Despite being underground and without windows, the room seems brightly lit by an unknown light source. The whole effect is a bit breathtaking. Incredible as it appears, however, the sanctuary does show some signs of decay, with piles of sand having leaked in through cracks in the walls, and some of the marble columns looking cracked and frail.
The archaeologists themselves are awestruck, but quickly go to task examining a corner of the room with a large statue of Sumuho holding a golden scepter. The woman speaks in a foreign language to the eldest, who nods approvingly. He smiles broadly, explaining that they were seeking proof of Sumuho’s links to an obscure Inhap culture and this statue may prove their findings. Carefully climbing the statue, the female archaeologist reaches for the scepter. As she pulls it from the statue’s hand, she loses her balance and falls. Clinging to the scepter, her weight breaks the arm of the statue off. With a slow and ominous creak, the five meter tall statue tilts, then falls. It shatters against a nearby column, which itself cracks in half. The ceiling emits a rumble, and soon, other pillars begin to break and smash into each other. Within seconds, chunks of the vaulted ceiling begin to crack and fall, shattering against the floor and letting down a flood of sand.
Archaeologists in tow, the party must rush into one of the adjoining corridors for safety: the ascending hallway or descending hallway to the west, or the wider passageway to the east. As they dive into the passageways, the once-beautiful temple atrium is filled by the sands of the Inhap. Now they must navigate through whichever passageway they stumbled upon.
West ascending - This dark hallway starts as a moderately sloping ramp, but after fifty feet or so it turns a corner and becomes a steep spiral staircase. It is quite a hike up the 200 stone stairs, which end in a narrow and low-ceilinged crawlspace. One of the archaeologists comments that this was probably a aqueduct or secret passageway when the temple was above ground. After a hundred feet of crawlspace, the bottom drops out of the floor in a square meter hole. If something is dropped into the hole, a splash can be heard after a long pause. The only way out seems to be through this hole. One can either drop down into the hole or lower a rope to climb. At the bottom of the hole is a seemingly bottomless pool, with steps leading into it. Climbing the steps leads into the hallway to the tabernacle room.
West descending - The descending pathway snakes in a sloped spiral down several stories. The path is dark, but torchlight reveals a few glyphs on the walls every few meters. The path suddenly end into a thick, undecorated steel door. On close examination, although the door seems to be in perfect condition, its hinges seem to be corroded. Breaking the hinges will allow the door to fall forward, leading into a large chamber. In the center of the room is a large skeleton, a chain draped around what was once a massive neck. Even the archaeologists are unsure what this huge beast may have been. Beyond the skeleton of the creature is a door leading to the tabernacle hallway.
East passageway - The walls of this wide passageway are made of pure white marble, covered in runes and glyphs. The passageway continues for a hundred meters or so before ending in a series of three doors. Two of the doors are filled with collapsed debris and sand, leaving only the door on the left available to travel through. A short hallway leads into what appears to be a sacristy, filled with ancient vestments and liturgical items used to worship Sumuho in his heyday. The colors of the garments are still bright, but the material is weak and mostly threadbare. Most of the other liturgical items, however - braziers, censers, scepters, food dishes, et cetera - are in good shape. All are made from precious metals, and many are gemmed and otherwise decorated. The walls are plainly decorated with a broad purple band stretching across the room. An examination of the bar reveals a loose brick; removing it will reveal the bricks under it are unmortared as well. Behind them is a small crawlspace, wide enough for one person, leading into the hallway of the tabernacle room.
Room 4: Climax
Finally the party makes it into the tabernacle room. The hallway leads into a very tall chamber. The far wall consists almost entirely of a huge door made of electrum. Intricately detailed, Sumuho’s name is inscribed in several languages. The portal is dotted with gemstones, and in the center of the double doors is an embossment of (presumably) Sumuho’s bearded foreign face. A large brasier sits on either side of the room, burning some unknown fuel and casting an eerie glow on the tabernacle. The archaeologists can hardly contain their excitement. "Finally, after all these years!" the eldest exclaims, "we have found the Tabernacle of Sumuho, which contains the Sacrament!" The archaeologists revel and chatter among themselves until one of the party interrupts them. The archaeologists then get very dark looks on their faces. "The Sacrament is all that is left of Sumuho’s glory," the young man says.
"And," adds the woman, "it is the one thing we must destroy."
Briefly, the archaeologists explain that they are Oth-Maares of the most ancient order. Apparently the destruction of Sumuho was not complete and he has been sensed carving out chaos from his ancient temple. They have been sent to finish the job their ancestors started. Unfortunately, as they are sworn to complete secrecy, the PCs cannot leave the sanctuary. Ever. The golden scepter taken from the statue begins to glow in the archaeologists’ hands and, as though out of nowhere, they produce weapons and advance on the party. The golden scepter - apparently a relic of the old Oth-Maares left to guard the tomb - seems to have transformed the eccentric historians into paladins and clerics of Khunam*. They use advanced levels of magic, both offensive and defensive. Breaking the scepter will greatly weaken their power, but it is enchanted and very durable. After the harrowing battle, the party is left with three dead Oth-Maares and the huge tabernacle.
*For those using variants of d20 D&D rules, Khunam’s domains are Sun and War.
Room 5: Reward/Revelation/Twist
The only place left to go now is the tabernacle. The large electrum doors open easily without so much as a creak from the ancient metal. Peering in the darkness behind them, the PCs can see that this is no ordinary tabernacle. The doors lead into a long, narrow, high-ceilinged room completely gilded in electrum. Embossed and engraved on the walls are row after row of hieroglyphs. The electrum surface reflects the party’s lanterns down the hallway, creating an almost mystical glow. Thirty or so yards down the room ends into a large altar upon which sits another, smaller tabernacle. Opening this tabernacle will reveal a sort of marble thick frame, encased in platinum and marked with runes. From each corner of the square frame is a braided cable of silver; suspended from these cables is a mummified human head. As the PCs peer into the tabernacle, the eyes of the head flash open and the jaw creaks. The gray and shriveled orbs rotate about as the yellowed teeth grind against one another. Finally the head utters something: "So, you have come to hail I, Divine Sumuho!"
Apparently, the legendary wizard really was immortal. Sumuho prattles on, apparently seeing the PCs as worshippers who have come to remove him from this desert grave. The jealous Khunamites, he explains, attempted to murder him and placed his head in this magical case to prevent him from using his supernatural powers. They failed, clearly, as these "loyal clerics" have come to free him from the tomb. So long as Sumuho believes the PCs are his faithful, the wizard-god is happy. He may even reveal hidden rooms with extra treasure. If carried, he will peel away the tabernacle walls with his power and lead them back out into the desert, where he orders them to built a new church, summon the faithful, find a new body for him, and begin anew. If there is any suggestion that the PCs are not, in fact, Sumuho worshippers, he will grow furious and launch an attack from his weird frame. Sumuho fights with high level magic spells, able to cast multiple spells at once if need be. If in the sanctuary still, Sumuho may attempt to destroy it and bring the Inhap down on their heads. Attacks on the head seem fruitless, with the dried torn flesh and broken skull reassembling itself after every blow. Shattering the marble box encasing Sumuho’s head, however, will kill him. Oddly, killing Sumuho causes all the treasures of the sanctuary - the Oth-Maares scepter, the sacristy loot, the electrum walls of the tabernacle - to turn to sand. If the PCs are truly witty, they might be able to trick Sumuho and stash him somewhere while they loot the tomb, leaving the wizard-god alive and content while they make off with the goods.
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