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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? Responses (7)
Maybe a bit late for Freetext Friday, but how can I resist?
I like most of this. The door knockers are a nice twist on a classic standby that could make for a bit of fun. The waterlogged keep is a good set-up for some interesting encounters, and I really like the idea of the castle as sort of locking up all of the area's moisture. By perhaps reducing the destruction, and speeding up the area's recovery, this is a quest that could easily result in a home base for the players. I think that between the revival of the surrounding area and dealing with possible remnants of Crocell and his former minions there is potentially a lot still to be had there. Of course, fleeing a collapsing castle is fun, too.
The final encounter, though, doesn't really do it for me. While I appreciate the 5 Room Dungeon format, I feel like you've taken six potentially interesting encounters and crammed them into one big fight in order to stick to the design (actually, I guess it depends on the game - I can see how it could work for some).
I'm digging the freetext Friday and I am going to make an effort to do something for each one. I wanted to write up the castle, but didn't want to make a sprawling submission. So many of those end up deleted, banished to development hell, or put out half finished with a get out note at the end. The five room dungeon format seemed like a good place to start, the castle should feel dungeon like as the PCs explore it. The process actually ended up happening the opposite of what you have written. I needed some sort of final battle to trump environmental, predatory, and then aquatic encounters and decided on the boss fight being a group of elementals. The original idea was a demon guardian or some sort of dragon, but then the elementals popped into my head. Filling out their roster was fairly easy, and then from a prompt and a box (room 4) I got the six, and suddenly they grew personalities.
Huh, I find the elementals' personalities so intriguing that I am surprised that they are a relatively last-minute addition. I suppose I like them enough that I am somewhat disappointed that they have relatively bit parts. I think it would be interesting to give each one its own little bit of castle to make the PCs trek through, dealing with each one in a one-on-one situation (whether through combat, parley, or trickery, of course).
Wouldn't really fit in the Five Room Dungeon format, though, and I can see why you would want to do it this way.
In hindsight, I think that is a neat idea, giving each elemental a certain part of the castle to control and protect, and provide RP opportunities. I did write this out in one sitting though, and used the five room format to give the submission a clear limit, to keep it from bloating out of control. As I wrote them, I did rather like filling them out in brief and there is a lot of potential for character growth within them.
I like this keep. The story and adventure flow well and the location and premise are both original. I could see this working really well in a long running campaign, where the PCs have been given a tract of land as a reward, only to find out it's a deserted wasteland. Nice work!
Very good, a submerged castle.
This is really cool - and I like the idea of expanding it to give each elemental their own stage. Nice use of linkage too!