Surrounded by a vast and seemingly empty veldt, the hillock is barely the height of a man. In the summer months after the rains, the high grass can easily obscure the hillock, as the grass itself can reach even the shoulder of a tall man. Recessed into the earth is a plain entrance, unadorned and unmarked. It is seemingly more like a den of a lion or a pack of wolves, or (insert suitable predator).
This portion of the ruin can be reached after trekking through roughly 100 or so feet of well worn and traveled cavern. Though much of it is now eroded, and in places deposited with sediment, there are obvious signs of primitively worked stone. No hidden doors or secret passages, but there are rough hewn steps, and niches hacked into the soft stone of the walls. Whatever might have once sat in these niches has since been looted, decayed, or otherwise fallen into disrepair.
Niche Contents: 1D6
1 - rotten parcel of cloth and crumbly dry bones
2 - mass of spiderwebs, a birds nest, a bat creche
3 - broken pot or urn
4 - flint arrow and spear heads, time worn and dull
5 - humanoid skull, assorted small bones
6 - horned animal skull, caked in brittle dry wax
Should the inquisitive PCs look up they will see something quite unexpected. The semi-sloping, semi-domed ceiling of the gallery has been painted by long since perished hands. The artwork is crude in its technical quality but there is a strong emotional factor to be found in the crude drawings and raw pigments. Ruddy brown handprints cover certain areas that have been washed in white. Other areas show animals, many of which have horns, such as antelope, goats, deer and the like. Blood, hunting, and death are common in the first few natural arches of the main gallery.
Hunting Gallery: 1D6
1 - Blood hands on white stone
2 - band of hunters and antelope
3 - lion stalking a hunter
4 - hunters fighting other hunters, other hunters different color
5 - hunters chasing bison/buffalo creature
6 - females dressing slain goat
The second, and central series of arches show a virile and hirsute people engaging in a stunning variety of sexual positions. Many of the features are drawn out of proportion, as one might expect. While the previous galleries evinced a feeling of a living and vital world of predators and prey, the second gallery evokes a feeling of almost frenzied reproduction. Central to the gallery is a massive and crudely drawn figure of a man with the head of a lion. Around him languish many women, and lionesses.
Fertility Gallery: 1D6
1 - Crude female icon
2 - man with physically bound woman
3 - woman on top of physically bound man
4 - man taking woman from behind
5 - woman lashing man with rod/whip
6 - crude male icon
The final gallery is best described as a warning and potentially a curse. The figures are doubled over in pain, many missing limbs or being rent apart by images of four legged beasts that have been smudged by the passage of a vigorous hand.
Cursed Gallery: 1D6
1 - hunters with severed limbs, heads
2 - smudge monster eating fallen hunter
3 - bleeding woman
4 - smudge monsters chasing band of hunters
5 - black hands on white
6 - female icon with vulture head
The area of the three galleries is large, easily the same size as a modest inn with the ceiling more than 20 feet overhead. Scattered around the floor are the remains of animals that have wandered into the ruin, or were dragged their by predators. Alternately, a still living predator, such as a lion, pack of wolves, or the like could still make its home in the front part of the galleries. Animals do not go past the central gallery.
Beyond the vulture headed icon is a passageway barely large enough for a person to walk through without contorting themselves. The passage is perhaps 20 feet long, and is lined with the bones of a large animal. A competent horseman, taxidermist, or hunter would be able to recognize these as horse bones. An oddity since there are no horses in the previous galleries. Mixed in with the bones are a number of now rotten and decayed spears, stone axes, and arrowheads. With the flint on the floor of the passage, soft soled shoes will be quickly sliced, and feet quickly after for a minor and inconvenient amount of damage.
Temple of the Death Goddess
The chamber beyond is large, though not quite as vast as the galleries. There is much less refuse here, though there are a great number of bones. THe walls have been lined with thousands of skulls, empty eyesockets all facing towards the center of the chamber where a skeletal and gaunt figure sits. Another female icon, though this one has been carved out of soft white stone. Her arms are black with vulture feathers, and her breasts and belly are white and distended in the manner of a woman heavy with child. More gruesome still is the head, as it has been completely assembled out of bones to resemble a vulture.
The icon's spread legs are covered with the same brown stains that a canny adventurer might recognizes as spilt blood. Though to get such a stain, it would require not one or two applications, but enough blood spilt to sate even the gluttony of a demon. Closer examination of the altar will reveal a moderatly well hidden door and very steep staircase leading down.
Aisles of the Damned and the Blessed
Behind the vulture headed goddess there are a number of passages, each with an animal headed icon set above each entrance. The first is a nearly square passage large enough for two to pass side by side. Above it's lintel is the vulture headed goddess. To the right is a smaller passage, slightly larger than the Gate. Above it's entrance is a wolf headed male icon, it has pronounced claws on its hands. The third passage has a steep downward grade and the footing is treacherous, it is guarded by an antelope headed male icon, a spear has been thrust through his side and is bloody. The forth and final passage is the smallest, and to enter it the PCs will have to crawl on hands and knees beneath the icon of a rodent headed female.
The first and largest aisle is the easiest to enter, but after a few minutes it is obvious that the passage is only the begining of a labyrinthine series of passages, small galleries. It is obvious that the passage was regularly used, their are decayed fixtures for holding torches, and the stone has been worn smooth by years of being touched.
Vulture Aisle: 1D6
1 - small gallery with arranged piles of bone, an ossuary
2 - shrine to pile of bones and vulture feathers
3 - steep grade, switchback, or treacherous passage
4 - day to day crude paintings, some farming, tanning etc
5 - large gallery with huge piles of human bones
6 - pit with evidence of rotted bridge, or rotted wooden bridge
Vulture Aisle Enocunters: 1D6
1 - shambling revenants, cursed zombies
2 - skeleton possessed by minor demon
3 - zombie that screams and gibbers in strange language
4 - shaman zombie, has access to low level magics
5 - medium lion shaped bone golem
6 - large undead with mutiple arms, vulture head
The first few hundred feet of this aisle are deceptively smooth and well trod, but the truth of the aisle becomes quickly apparent. Where the Vulture aisle was home to shrines and the ornamental and somewhat respectful treatment of the dead, the Wolf Aisle is a killing place. There are great numbers of sharp stones, the floor has no level to it, and there are a great number of pits and simple traps. Scattered along the passage are the long since decays bodies of humans, their forms contorted by agony...
Wolf Aisle: 1D6
1 - ankle breaker pit trap
2 - pit trap with wooden spikes
3 - narrow gallery of sharp rocks
4 - skull breaker, low roof
5 - stone beam crossing passage
6 - small ossuary pit
Wolf Aisle Enocunters: 1D6
1 - crawling zombie, lurks and ambushes
2 - swarm of biting pit vermin
3 - wolf zombie that stalks and pounces
4 - warrior zombie, mad with rage, uses weapons
5 - large wolf shaped bone golem
6 - medium undead with wolf head and razor claws, cunning.
The passage is steep, and as well worn as the Vulture passage. Paintings and glyphs adorn the walls, as well as brackets for long since rotted torches. Danger comes from posibly stumbling and falling/rolling to the bottom of the grade, a serious chance to be injured. The galleries are shaped, and there are more paintings of hunters to be seen.
Antelope Aisle: 1D6
1 - round gallery with firepit, paintings
2 - shrine of animal bones
3 - piles of bone laid out with primitive weapons
4 - small and blood stained altar
5 - medium gallery with piles of animal bones
6 - winding passageway with paintings
Antelope Aisle Enocunters: 1D6
1 - striking skeletons set into wall
2 - skulking ghost
3 - antelope headed zombie
4 - hunter zombie, has spear and stalks
5 - medium lion zombie
6 - shapeless mass of undead animal flesh
The smallest of the passages, and even still a foul smell blows from its mouth. To enter, the PCs will have to remove their packs and crawl on hands and knees. Weapons other than short swords or spears will be useless with no room to swing or wield them. The ground is covered with a thick layer of powdery material that with investigation cen be identified as dried skin and flesh.
Rodent Aisle: 1D6
1 - small gallery filled with leathery corpses
2 - passage blocked by piles of bone, corpses
3 - medium gallery with very crude paintings of despair
4 - natural pit half full of bones
5 - empty gallery or passage
6 - pool of water, still teeming with lethal bacteria/virus
Rodent Aisle Enocunters: 1D6
1 - crawling corpse,hacks and sputters
2 - sickened animal, possibly rabid
3 - zombie that seems wracked with pain, still attacks
4 - plague zombie, gnaws bones
5 - small swarm of animated rat zombies
6 - humanoid female zombie with rat-styled head, poison touch
Roles of the Aisles
To bring an end to the head scratching, the Noil ruins were inhabited by a primitive and ancestor worshipping people. The vulture headed goddess is the prime deity that espouses the circular nature of life and dead, as the belief was that to die was to be born again. The Vulture Aisle was a crypt and catacomb for the plains dwelling people. The Wolf god was the punisher of enemies and criminals. Those who broke the law were flushed down the Wolf Aisle, often with tamed wolves in chase. Most died in pits, broke their skulls against the roof, etc. It was a death sentance, and only rarely were the bodies cleaned out. The Antelope god was the hunter and the hunted, and his aisle was the abode of the hunters. There, youths were taken and initiated into the circle of hunters by corporal mortification, often circumsion on an altar. The rodent god was the personification of disease, and those who were ridden with illness were forced into the aisle to protect the Noil people.
The Hidden Passage
The stairs are covered in the same blood stains, one can imagine how slick the stone might have been when that blood flowed freely. A canny observer might notice that there is a continuous groove in the stairs that would have funneled the blood to a place further below. The passage is short as the Hidden Passage has an end, rather than the potentially endless mazes and labyrinthes presented by the four aisles. At the feet of the stairs there is a gate that is closed by a number of rows of salt and alternating mold. Investigation reveals that the other substance might have been grain of some sort. Canny adventurers might know that lines of salt and germinated grain could be used as wards to keep something in. This is better realized after the PCs muck up a few of the lines, breaking their minor power.
Paintings line the walls of the central chamber, a female icon hunting and slaying hunters and animals, ignoring critical wounds and spears. Dozens of skulls and piles of bone litter the ground, and in the center of the chamber is a stone sarcophagus, its lid covered with dust, and under the dust an intricate layering of aboriginal style salt and sand painted glyphs and markings. Of course the typical PC reaction to 'dust off' the top is going to ruin these wardings unless the PCs are super observant and canny.
Once the glyphs are removed, sometihng stirs within the sarcophagus and the lid is lifted with supernatural strength. From the coffin rises the last of the Noilian people, and she is a tall and dusky skinned woman. She has tribal tatoos on her arms and her belly, as well as wearing a good deal of gold and unshaped raw jewels. Her head is obscured by a vulture headed funeral mask which she removes fairly quickly. Beneath the mask she is a woman of middle years with an attractive face and bewitching eyes.
She has a very high charisma score, and if surrounded by a great number of warriors she will sue for peace rather than fight. Rather than speak, she will communicate through pantomime, if there is a Pc member with a low wisdom score, she will attempt to communicate through them via limited telepathy (good way would be to pass notes to said player). She will appear noble, gracious, and generous, willing to share the location of her noble treasure trove for securing her freedom.
Fighting the Queen
If the PCs decide to attack the obviously evil vampiress, she has a number of powers at her command. She is supernaturally strong, but has no supernatural resistance to weaponry. Mortal wounds are rare as only cutting off her head, spearing her through the heart with a wooden weapon, or fire/magic can cause any lasting harm. She can lock eyes with a PC and attempt to dominate them into not fighting, PC can resist with willpower or wisdom. She was also a huntress, and is capable of using most weapons with a good deal of skill. PCs beware, and she goes for clerics first, then wizards, and will then try to negotiate with warriors and thieves that survive.
If the PCs destroy the queen, which should be rather difficult but not impossible, they can loot her remains for her uncut jewels and gold. She also has a trove of more jewels and gold that were offered to her when she ruled the Noil people. There can also be some necromantic paraphenalia, scrolls and enchanted non-metal objects.
If the PCs loose, the Queen reveals that she is indeed a vampire, though the term is alien to her. She considers herself blessed by the Vulture headed goddess and ruled the Noil people until a religious upheveal lead to her being trapped beneath the wards and the Noil adopting a less brutal faith. This change historically led to the downfall of the people and their eventual eradication/assimilation into the mainstream population.
If she is released, the PCs will be responcible for releasing an old and powerful vampire into the world at large. Even worse, this isnt and angsting and damned vampire, it is one that believes itself to be a hand picked avatar of the goddess of death, one that is going to be very unhappy with the new world of men...
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? Responses (15)-17
I love the way this is presented. Nice structure. Way to lead off the Dungeon challenge! Chock-full of juicy minutae as usual!
Interesting. What begins as a 'typical' dungeon well-described, ends as a trip into the belief world of a people long gone... along with something of their past being released.
There is also another ending: the queen charms/kicks/impresses the group enough to make them her new subjects, the first servants on the way to her new empire. The obvious plot-hook: get rid of your master!
5/5 for the amount of detail and time put into this.
I like it, and that is saying something since I normally despise dungeons (though I am pretty good at making them and have a ton of dungeon posts... go figure). Good execution; I like the formatting of the little 'extras' in the quotes. Nice flow of the process and plot, the build up is subtle and strong. Take some xp from petty cash.
Superb - an awesome dungeon post that just got better and better. It has everything: an atmospheric, interesting dungeon, a novel setting (I have never played in or run a 'caveman' dungeon), some real history and culture behind it and a good finale. To cap it all off it is liftable into almost any setting with almost no work and would be great either in a campaign or as a one-off adventure.
Very good Scrasamax. The write up is clean and simple, with lots of details and history. I like that. Only thing I did not like was the jump from the beautiful woman awakening and then all of a sudden it is obvious she is an evil vampire. Let us hope it is not Juliet in a feigned death. ;)
All in all it is a well written old school dungeon. I present you with a scras!
Excellent. It has a very subtle, creepy feel to it. Great details, good variety. Could have possibly used more combat, but I'll excuse that in favor of the amount of details and uniqueness. Job well done.
I see we're all firing shots right across *my* bow lately.
That was me commenting. Was too lazy to log on. I know I am getting old when I am complaining about hack and slash... Y'all just seem so hackandslashy :p
*Turns on a Woody Allen film* :p
This submission won second place in the Into the Dungeon Quest and 50XP!
(sorry for forgetting to add this announcement earlier)
I find the inclusion of random tables interesting and a variation of most subs I've seen here. Is this something people like or dislike? The post is excellent!
Random tables are nice in random rooms, if you catch my drift. They add atmosphere, and if they in addition say something about the place and who lived there they can be great. All in all I enjoyed this sub. I have a weak spot for the old-school dungeon. I also echo what AG said. Here, have a Scras;)
Two years later: Shameless BUMP and HoH.
Another two years later and another bump that is well deserved.