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 PCs are walking home from a tavern when a cloud of dust and bone, with claws of bone jutting from it, jumps in front of them. Rather then attacking them, it seems to be trying to communicate with them. What happens next depends on two things. If the PCs do not attack it and try and speak with it, a simple communication spell will enable it to speak with the PCs inside their heads and it will pour out its sad tale of woe.
Of course, many (perhaps most) PCs tend to be of the hack and slash type, and faced with such a creature will lash out with weapons and spells. If that happens the angry creature will latch onto one of their faces, resisting all attempts to peel it away. After a short time it will crumble into dust and then the possessed PC will speak in a different voice. It will tell the PCs that they have three days to help it before it kills the possessed PCs soul and takes him or her over for good, and warns that force or magic used against it will only harm the host body.
Either way, it reveals to the PCs that it is an Urn Beast a rare form of undead formed when somebody who in life truly hated the idea of cremation after death was cremated anyway. In life it was Amalric,a close friend of one of the PC’s, and a high ranking and devoted priest of the goddess Ulmania. Due to a centuries old religious schism the worshippers of the God Jove and the Goddess Ulmania follow totally different religious rules, which includes funerals. Jovian worshippers are always cremated on a pyre after death, whilst Ulmanian worshippers, due to an acute lack of burial space, are buried on a large island owned by their church, The Isle of the Dead .
Amalric was a close friend of the respected and powerful mage, Sir Edmund Verney and they helped each other and trusted each other totally. Unfortunately, one evening Amalric made a terrible discovery that his friend was a member of the secret and illegal cult of The Children of Ma-O when Sir Edmund, trusting him totally, revealed his secret and tried to get him to join the cult. Amalric was horrified at the idea and refused point-blank, promising to remain silent about Sir Edmunds membership. Furious with him, Sir Edward used his darker spells to murder him. As his soul sped away towards its life in the Otherworld, a life that would have been a happy one in Heaven as Amalric had done no evil when alive, it suddenly convulsed in agonising pain and was sucked back into the body.
A body that was burning on a pyre. Knowing of his friends deep desire not to be cremated after death, Sir Edmund had decided not only to murder him but also to burn the body until it was ashes. No burial in his family vault on the Isle of the Dead, with a decent funeral. Instead his body was to be destroyed by fire in the Jovian way. Trapped in the dead body, the spirit felt it burn and silently screamed in agony. When the fire finally died and his ashes and burnt bones were scraped up into an urn and sent overseas his anger grew and grew until it was all consuming. By treating his body in this way Sir Edmund had prevented his soul from reaching Heaven. When the urn was dropped by mistake Amalric escaped but knew he needed help to take on Sir Edmund and win.
As well as telling the PCs that it wants their help for revenge, the Urn Beast will also tell them about the treasures of Sir Edmund. If it has not possessed any of the PCs and they refuse to help it, it will possess one of them to force the rest to help it. Once one way or the other the Beast has secured their aid, they have three ways to get to the island town of De Maddenville where Sir Edmund lives. If they pay for passage on a ship of the De Madden Company, it will be expensive but there should be no problems.
They can also work their way across as one of the crew, or secretly stow away (stowaways however could end up in a lot of trouble.)
Or they could buy a smallish boat and sail across, but the seas of Acqua are perilous for small boats and they should roll two dice on an encounter table before they reach the island they are looking for.
3-A Dunkleoustous looking for something or someone to eat. If they can wound this formidable armoured fish it will swim away looking for easier prey.
4-An ocean going Wrapper If they don’t attack it then it will be curious rather then hostile.
5-The PCs see the mighty Kraken Big Red swim by. Fortunately for them he does not see them as food and is too busy to notice them.
6-A storm blows up and it will take all their strength to keep the boat from sinking. Anything of theirs that would be ruined by heavy rain is made soaked and useless.
7-A waterspout bears down on their boat. It is nowhere near as strong as a tornado on land but it still picks their boat up and throws it several feet.
8-A Giant Mussel bed in shallow water-the PCs should be careful not to get trapped.
9-A boatload of The Regulators show up (two Regulators per PC) and attack the PCs to try and rob and kill them.
10-A Giant Urchin tries to impale and eat the PCs
11-Some friendly dolphins swim by.
12-A coastal cutter of the De Madden Company shows up to ask where they are going. Providing they are polite they should avoid any trouble. Should they get into a fight and kill the crew it could cause them severe trouble in the future.
Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge - A trial that cannot be solved by steel alone.
Once they get onto the island it is easy to find Sir Edmunds luxury villa by the sea. A spell cast upon it keeps unwanted Undead out. If the Urn Beast is inside a PC this will not affect him, otherwise he must wait outside. The doors and windows are securely locked and barred but the Urn Beast knows a way in via the sewers. Once they get in they soon find themselves in a room with an grid of random letters on the floor and the words on the wall What is the most important thing in the world? Against the walls are several ornate suits of armour clutching rusty halberds. Sir Edmund was selfish in the extreme, and the correct answer is MYSELF. Stepping on the tiles in such a way as to spell out that word will get the PCs through the room with no trouble at all and will also open the steel door.
Stepping on the wrong tile or tiles will mean they break, releasing Myrie Bugs ,Trapper Ants , Silverspiders and other foul insects that will attack the PCs. Casting any kind of magic is even worse, as it will cause the suits of armour to lurch to the attack, and they can only be destroyed with magical weapons, or if the PCs lack magical weapons (spells on their own will not have much effect) by pulling them apart into their individual pieces of armour. If the bugs are defeated the puzzle must be solved to open the door. Of course the more tiles are broken the more bugs will attack the PCs.
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.
If the PCs have got through the door without setting off the traps, they will be met by a dozen or so of The Children of Ma-O If the PCs are careful they can avoid a fight just be pretending to be fellow members of the dammed cult and will learn from them that a sacrifice is planned. The cultists will happily let the PCs walk past if they can come up with a suitable excuse.
If on the other hand the PCs have got bitten by the insects and/or got into a huge noisy fight with the suits of animated armour the Children of Ma-O will yell a warning and leap to the attack. They are very well armed, with the Firebow and sharp swords and are expert fighters, the personal bodyguards of Sir Edmund. They also have fifty or so Pocket Ironbones to help them.
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
If the PCs avoided getting into a fight with the cultists they will descend into a cavern open to the sea. A rope bridge links a small island in the sea to the rest of the villa. On that island stands Sir Edmund, next to a large solid chunk of amethyst. Chained to the amethyst, a gag firmly in her mouth, is a young girl, and Sir Edmund is preparing to sacrifice her to Ma-O with an amethyst dagger and a drawn sword. If the PCs are clever enough, they can impersonate cultists and gain permission to come over to the island, close enough to jump to the attack.
Sir Edmund is no pushover. His sword is the Sword of the Ocean and here on the coast he can use it to summon large waves, dangerous sea-creatures, and even minor water elementals to attack the PCs. When attacked he will at once put the dagger down and draw a metal wand. A bright blade of light will emerge from the wand, which can cut through non-magical weapons, all but the toughest armour, and can even, if the PC is not careful, lop off a hand.
If they got into a fight Sir Edmund will have had time to cut the rope bridge and summon large waves and a Dunkleoustous or two. There is a boat that the PCs can launch into the waves, but it will be almost impossible to prevent the sacrifice. It might be possible to hit Sir Edmund with a shot from a Firebow if they took one from the cultists; the shot would not be fatal but would stop him in his tracks, enabling the PCs to reach the island with the girl still alive. If the shot misses (and it will not be easy to hit the target from a boat on the waves) the girl will be killed with the dagger.
If the PCs kill Sir Edmund and one of them is possessed, the Urn Beast will thank the PCs for their help, leave the PC and vanish into the body of Sir Edmund, which will jerk once and then remain dead upon the ground. If none of the PCs were possessed then the Urn Beast will fly in from the sea when he dies, his magic having died with him, thank the PCs and possess the body as before.
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?
If the girl is still alive, when ungagged and untied she will thank the PCs over and over again and then reveal herself to be a daughter of a Company Admiral. To avoid fighting their way back the PCs can use the nearby boat to leave and row along the coast a little. The girl will lead them to her house, one of the marble mansions in the richest areas of town. The grateful Admiral will send the De Madden Company Police to round up the cultists for trial. The PCs will be rewarded with a third of the amethyst altar, divided up between them. In Acqua this will make them hugely rich, rich enough if they desire never to go adventuring again. If they took the amethyst dagger they can keep it too, otherwise it becomes a trial exhibit in the case against the cultists along with the Sword of the Ocean.
The news will spread and they will become celebrities for having rescued the girl, unmasked the evil of Sir Edmund and uncovered a cell of the hated cult of Ma-O. Shopkeepers will sell stuff to them cheaply.
If they killed the De Madden Company people in the cutter, they will be pardoned but their reward will be greatly reduced to a small chunk of amethyst each (which is still the Acquan equivalent of a thousand dollars each.)
If the girl has been killed, then the De Madden Company Police, summoned by one of the cultists who faked his death in the battle earlier, will appear in numbers too great for them to fight their way out, and the PCs will be accused by the cultists, who have no identifying marks that can link them to the cult they are a part of, of themselves being Children of Ma-O, who broke in, murdered several innocent people, sacrificed the girl and killed Sir Edmund when he tried to stop them.
If they row back and surrender to the police, they will go on trial for their lives on multiple capital charges and the odds of an acquittal will not be good, and will be even lower if they killed the men from the Company cutter encounter earlier. Sir Edmund had an impeccable reputation as a man on the side of Good. If the PCs have sense, they will take the amethyst dagger and a chunk or two of amethyst that they have had time to chip from the altar, so that at least they have some reward for their efforts, and row away, land on a nearby beach, and go into hiding until they can leave the area.
If they choose to take the Sword of the Ocean with them then they can use its powers in future adventures, but every time they use it they must make a willpower check/ spend a willpower point to avoid being converted to the evil cause of Ma-O.
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- Big Red NPCs By: Cheka Man
- Dunkleoustous Lifeforms By: Maggot
- Firebow Items By: CaptainPenguin
- Giant Mussel Lifeforms By: Cheka Man
- Giant Urchin Lifeforms By: Cheka Man
- Myrie Bugs Lifeforms By: Wulfhere
- Pocket Ironbones Lifeforms By: Cheka Man
- Sir Edmund Verney NPCs By: Cheka Man
- Sword of the Ocean Items By: Scrasamax
- The Children of Ma-O Society/ Organizations By: Cheka Man
- The Isle of the Dead Locations By: Cheka Man
- The Regulators Society/ Organizations By: Cheka Man
- Trapper Ants Lifeforms By: Cheka Man
- Urn Beast Lifeforms By: Cheka Man
- Wrapper Lifeforms By: Cheka Man