Firstly, this dungeon is going to be vague in some areas but that is on purpose. It is designed this way so that it fits into any type of RPG game you're running. Certain details (number-wise) are being left out so that you can design the monsters, traps, etc. to fit your game as you choose. Also, it is worth mentioning that as this dungeon can be run just as is here on this page, it is highly recommended to check out the link at the bottom to 'The dust of 300,00 bones.' It has more in-depth explanations as to details and history and in the explanation of this dungeon. It will be assumed the reader has read this other page. That all being said, this is still a stand alone dungeon and can be run as such. You as the GM can obviously change or add anything you like to make this fit your campaign. Alright, enough rambling. As the fighters usually say... 'Can will kill stuff now?!?!?!'
This dungeon is the crypt below a very prominent mausoleum (The Tomb of Braden Hill) just outside the town walls. It is the home of a powerful necromancer who has spent the last century perfecting his arts. This particular necromancer, by the name of Wayland Blackmoor, is an expert spell-caster in dark magic and also a highly skilled alchemist. Wayland is somewhere around 160-170 years old. He is not a lich, but has developed a potion that is granting him unnaturally long life. His body, however, is still aging and he is quite decrepit by now as he is merely a thin-skinned bag of bones with sunken eyes and long, gray, unkempt hair. In appearance, he looks extremely frail, yet his dark magic and control over his undead minions is not something to be taken lightly. Think along the lines of Yoda without all the bouncing and jumping.
Wayland, some 110 years ago, was the influence to a very crucial change within the crypt in which he now resides. The first room, with which burials would be held, had the floor removed and a great pit was dug in it's place. Above the pit, a wooden floor was built where the original stone floor once was. There were strategically placed five holes in this floor in which five bottomless caskets were placed upon. A body could be dropped into one of these caskets and fall through the casket, through the floor, and into the mass grave below.
These are the entryway stairs leading down to the burial room. They traverse for some 40ft (12m) down and are fairly steep steps. Lining the walls are extremely ornate sconces, a few of which still have candles in them, and about a half dozen incense burning pots. The pots are very decorative as well. Some of them are still hanging from their fixtures on the wall but the chains on others have broken and they now lie scattered among the stairs. The sconces can easily be removed and re-lit should they still have candles in them and the incense burners could be turned into make-shift lanterns if a small candle were to be placed inside. The burners could also act as flail weapons, though, due to design, they should break easily as the chains are thin and were crafted for beauty, not strength.
The burial room. The floor in this room looks out of place as it is made of wood, not stone. It creaks eerily as one moves across it, occasionally emanating sound below should something fall through the wood, or dirt be loosened from underneath. This should lend to the idea that there is a room or cavern below them. More sconces and incense burners are hanging around this room along with a donation box on the eastern wall. Should the players search it, they will find a small amount of gold or silver within.
There are also five large stone caskets in this room. Four of them have their lids shut (but they can be removed) and one is slightly ajar. These caskets have intricate artwork all over them. Each casket has one large, finely crafted name adorning its lid: Lord Jorar Braden, Lord Jorar Braden II, Lord Edmund Braden, Lord Phillip Braden, and Lord Jorar Braden III. On closer inspection, what looked at first like more adornments on each lid, are more names carved into it. Some of these names overlap slightly, especially on the more ornate coffins where there was less flat space to carve more names. These names obviously aren't in keeping with the artistry of the rest of the casket.
The large double doors at the back of this room are also finely adorned and made out of some type of metal, most likely iron. Each door has a crowned bust of bronze protruding from the center. Along with beautiful carvings of flowers and vines, there is an inscription carved upon the doors: 'As the sun sets beneath Braden Hill, we lay to rest the revered. Though the passing night is dark, it will pass. For a new sun will rise over Braden Hill and our hope with it.' Nothing beyond a little bit of a heaving push is required to open these doors. They are not locked, only heavy.
If the players should look down into the caskets they will see the pit below, and if using a light, will see there are the bones of several hundred skeletons aimlessly piled on top of each other. Beneath one of the caskets looks to be a ledge about 5ft down that turns into a stone staircase that hugs the wall going around and down into the pile of bodies, assumingly reaching the floor.
This is a small entryway leading into the rest of the crypt. The door to the west (leading to room #4) is open. The door to the east is shut. Both are simple wooden doors. However, the door leading east is trapped with a magic spell. Some form of detect magic will reveal the door has some kind of magical trap on it, but I would advise against revealing the nature of the trap as this encounter is far more fun if this particular trap is sprung. Upon further inspection, touching the door in any way will send a very cold shiver up the spine of the one in contact with the door.
This shiver is such a startling sense that anyone who touches it will then have to make some type of modest fear check. If failed, it simply puts someone into a state of dread and slight paranoia. They will begin to hear voices in their head. So many voices that they won't be able to distinguish any one particular voice or make out any words. A will or mind save should end the paranoia and stop the voices but they will suffer a slight penalty to will or mind for a 5 minute duration or so.
The Trap: This particular magic trap is set to go off should anyone either open the door, or dispel the trap, though it should be difficult to dispel. Anyone who fails dispelling the trap should suffer the same dread and paranoia as one who touched the door. If the trap is sprung, that is, if the door is opened or the magical trap dispelled, a very loud and disturbing grinding noise will be heard coming from room #2. It will sound like the grinding of bone on bone and iron/stone sliding over iron/stone. Should anyone go back to room #2 they will see some of the coffin lids being pushed aside and skeletons lazily pouring out into the room. The trap has awoken all the dead within the mass grave pit and each one of them will be attempting to climb out. The staircase within the pit will be their main way out, though they can pile on top of each other to reach the other coffins as well. Some 400 skeletons are coming out. This is the PC's last chance to exit back the way they came in before the numbers in the room are too overwhelming for them to get back through. This trap is designed to be a ticking time bomb. It should be impossible for the party to fight through every single one of these undead. Their other alternative should be to hurry their way through the rest of the crypt to find another escape route. You as the DM can lead them to this conclusion if they delay at all after triggering the trap by putting too many skeletons in room #2 for them to handle. Thus making them understand trying to fight their way out of this is an impossibility. It's worth noting that these undead should be all stages of life from children to adults.
This is somewhat of an 'officials' room that one of the priests would have used. The desk will have ledgers of the names of all those that were buried here, the total body count (slightly more than 400), and the year they were buried (most within a 3 year time span). It could also have records of the names of the priests assigned to the crypt and the caretakers' names and shifts. One of the priest's names should be Wayland Blackmoor (designated as high priest) and one of the caretaker's names should be Phillip Trentus. Within the chest should be some extra sconces, extra incense bowls, and maybe a small vial of oil either used in burial ceremonies or for lighting torches. Or both. Your call. Also, set against the wall in this room, is a 6ft ladder.
The dining room. This room was the dining place of the priests/caretakers when on duty within the crypt. It is void of any food. The dressings on the chairs was once fine leather/upholstery but has decayed and rotted. If the players are wise, all of the furniture in this room could be used as a door-jam on the western door to delay the oncoming undead that will be following them throughout the rest of the crypt.
This area is the living quarters for the priests/caretakers. 6 bedrooms through this corridor should provide the players with more furniture to blockade the southern door to this hall should they choose to use it. Also within one of the rooms should be the journal of Phillip Trentus (a caretaker). This journal will only be here if the players did not find his journal in his abandoned house in town. More on Phillip Trentus if you read 'The Dust of 300,000 Bones' under the section 'What's really going on.'
There should also be a few items within the chests/cupboards/desks of these rooms like priest robes and caretaker tools such as shovels, pickaxes, and brooms, along with some ceremonial oil and other things of that nature. Possibly include other journals or ledgers.
This is a ritual room with two large altars. Upon each altar is a large jade obelisk. Any magic in these obelisks is currently gone. Faded away from not being used. Also in this room, stand two well armored and well armed undead knights. Each adorned with a crown upon its head. These undead knights should be very strong combatants. One wields a large claymore and the other has a broadsword and shield. Though their armor is worn, it is still fairly sturdy. The shield is steel shield with a wooden backing. Should the players search these minions after defeating them, they'll find not much of their gear is useful but the gems in their crowns is still worth a good bit of gold and the weapons/shields, with a little bit of repair, would still serve as fairly useful tools of war. Also, a necklace adorned around each of their breastplates will signify they are two of the five lords with their names etched on the coffins from room #2.
This is another stairway that traverses downward for about 30ft or so. There are a few sconces on the walls that are not currently lit.
This hallway has six small rooms. The rooms all look as if they originally started to be carved out for a place to hold coffins, but later, were instead left unfinished and served as closets. A few of the rooms could have some buckets, mops, and brooms in them. One worth noting has, beneath a mess of old buckets and brooms, a trap door containing a few potions. Among the potions should be a health potion or two, and some type of potion that adds a minor bonus to the casting of a magic spell, or a major bonus if the spell being cast dark magic or necromancy.
The beginning of this hallway has had the floor give way to a very deep chasm below. The players will have to jump over this chasm or use extremely careful footing to hug the inner ledge to get around it. (Or if they kept the ladder from room #4 it should easily reach from one side to the other.)
Another set of stairs. These stair actually go up about 30ft and have about the same number of sconces on the wall as room #8. These sconces are not lit either.
This hallway has another gaping hole leading to a massive chasm beneath. This should be difficult for your players to cross . A very good jump will get them from one side to the other. And I would advise not letting them fall to their death on a failed roll but you be the judge. Should they fail jumping across, they could grab onto the rough sides of the chasm and climb their way up. Let's just hope they've brought some rope or something with them. This chasm also provides a way for them to be rid of the never ending hoard of skeletons chasing them through the crypt. As they get to this point, wherever the skeletons are, they should really make their presence known behind the players, perhaps around Room #11 or #10. Because eventually the sheer weight of the undead should be able to topple over any barriers the players left behind them. However once your players are safely across, the skeletons could start to look like lemmings going down into the pit. Either they stare at the players across the chasm and then decide they're just going to keep pursuing as they walk right into the pit, or the first couple stop but they start building up and inadvertently begin shoving each other into the pit as the ones in the back just continue to press forward. As a side note, you could put this pit between rooms #13 and #14 if you want the skeletons to continue pursuing for a bit longer.
There is an altar here to some type of deity (whatever fits your game, though it should be a benevolent deity from before this place fell into the hands of a necromancer.) Either it still stands in ancient, ruined majesty and could offer a boon to any player that offers a prayer to it, or it has been defaced over the years by the necromancer and its face or head has been knocked off. Also in this room are two more undead lords. They should be slightly more powerful than the previous two with armor and weapons that aren't 'quite' as worn as the ones before them. Similar loot should be found on them. Both of these undead lords should be outfitted with the same weapons/armor. And their choice of weapons should be that of whichever of the previous two lords gave your party more fits. They should also have necklaces around their breastplates signifying which lords they were in life.
The High Priest's Chambers. In this room will be found Wayland Blackmoor and the last undead lord. This undead lord should be donned in armor that still has a little bit of a glint to it. He should be a strong combatant as the necromancer himself is here to ensure his success. You may don this undead lord with whatever weapons you see fit. Again, he should be quite powerful and try at all costs to keep himself between the players and the necromancer.
Within this room is another alter with the same type/style of deity as room #13. Also in the room is Wayland's personal work table, a rickety staircase leading up out of the crypt, and a pool of what looks like tainted, murky water. Probably once holy water, but now defiled. Near the pool should be three to five skeletons.
Wayland Blackmoor: Feeble looking in appearance, but his stare is nothing short of terrifying. If he so much as gazes at any player, they should have to make a minor fear check. He also has a spell that recharges fairly quickly that can raise the skeletons near the pool to fight. The skeletons should be able to deal modest damage but on any hit whatsoever they crumble back into a pile of bones. They will be there to serve as an annoyance while Wayland takes time to cast stronger spells and the undead lord unleashes powerful attacks.
Wayland has two other spells at his disposal. A death grasp which wracks a player in pain and drains hit points until a save is made, and a death touch. You should give your players a warning when he casts Death Touch. It will appear as if the skin on his hand has rotted away and a black/purplish smoky glow encompasses his hand. He should stagger towards the players and lean on or touch something with his hand as he's doing so. Whatever he touches, be it the corner of the table or a wall, that part of the table or wall will turn to ash immediately. Should he touch a player it should deal very significant damage and, depending on how mean of a DM you wish to be, disintegrate, or partially disintegrate any weapon or armor his hand comes in contact with. You could be the hero DM later if you allow for a restoration spell of said disintegrated armor.
Wayland also has a belt with some potions on it. One of which is an Draught of Unlife potion that will restore him to full health. He should probably only use this once during the whole fight when his hit points get low for the first time. Later, he could go to use it after he's cast Death Touch and disintegrate his own potion, forgetting his own spell. Which will obviously send him into a fit of rage as he makes his last desperate attempt to finish of his foes. After taking Draught of Unlife, he should return to full hit points but his spells and stats should be slightly weakened for the remainder of the fight.
After his defeat, potions fitting to a necromancer/dark wizard should be found on his work table or on his person. Whatever you see fit. At least one of the potions should be a Draught of Unlife, which will restore a dead player to life, or an injured player to full health at the expense of strength, agility, constitution, etc. for a short duration like, say, 24 hours. He should also have some items used in potion making for necromancy on his table and a staff or cloak with a boon to willpower or a casting bonus of some sort. His personal journal will also be on his work table.
The stairs in the back of the room lead up to a hidden chamber within the cathedral in the town, the entrance of which is sealed beneath the floor boards, locked from the inside. But being that the players are also on the inside they should have no issue picking or breaking the lock.
Hopefully your players will find this encounter as enjoyable as mine did. I had a blast running this dungeon myself. Be well, my fellow DMs!
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? Responses (9)-9
A good old fashioned dungeon.
I felt like this post was super useful. A dungeon that can be used out of the box.
How did you make the map? Its quite nice.
Some comments. Take them as you will. Numbers are room numbers.
Love how the names of everyone thrown into the bottomlest caskets are scrawled on the lids of room 2.
Maybe add a donation box to room 2 that players can loot (with minimal coinage inside) if desired.
I love the undead horde. It grants urgency and great visuals.
> but it will not reveal the nature of the trap
Detect Magic has rules for his this sort of thing works. It does reveal some nature of the trap. Rules-focused players will get annoyed by this, so unless it is necessary don't worry about specifying it. In my experience, most DMs don't bother giving much info anyway.
This trap should probably have a safe word that the players could get from reading the journal of Phillip Trentus.
Underground hallways are super expensive, so I'd put room 5 against room 3.
Would probably put living quarters before an eating area.
Is there some place to clean and prepare the bodies of the dead? I'd expect that here.
Any additional detail on the obelisks would be cool. Any inscriptions? Any indication of prior purpose?
I want to be able to push them / topple them so that we can hold the door closed to temporarily stem the undead tide.
8 & 9)
These rooms seem unnecessary.
Health potions could be in room 6.
Does the chasm lead into the same pit as room 2?
Seems repetitive with room 12.
Like the cinematic visuals this section inspires.
Like the easy exit. It is good both story-wise for the necromancer and game-wise for the players.
Mageek, thanks for the critique! I followed some of your advice and added a donation box to Room #2. I also re-worded how the DM should handle detect magic in Room #3. My group plays a home-brew game loosely based on very dumbed-down D&D rules so I wasn't aware of how Detect Magic works in that particular game. I personally want to stray away from adding a safe word to the trapped door. Mainly because I feel this particular dungeon is much better if the trap is sprung rather than avoided.
Also, you had a lot of very good points on the layout of the crypt. Accurate and realistic. I set it up the way I did on purpose just to add linear areas for the party to run through as the host of undead is constantly chasing them (provided the trap is sprung.) In the game session I had, once the skeletons started pouring into every room behind them, the players didn't notice any of the design flaws as it sort of just kept them on their toes trying to press forward as fast as possible to find another way out.
As a side note about rooms 8 & 9, I felt these may have been here in the original design as areas that 'would' have had more burial chambers added to them, had the design not been altered due to the plague. And again, as I'm assuming you already know, they 'should' be closer to the front of the crypt but I was just going for a linear design for some dramatic chase scenes. My players killed one of the two undead lords in Room #7 just as skeletons came pouring through the door behind them and they just booked it with the other undead lord leading the skeletal horde charge :)
I may revisit this and try to clean it up a bit but for right now I'm being lazy and don't feel like altering the map haha.
Speaking of which, I made the map on this site:
Its an excellent little free resource for creating dungeon maps.
Nice - was the whole dungeon post-trap run in combat time? IE each character moving according to the combat rules, in series? I haven't thought it through, but that might increase tension and make the distances and architecture layout matter more. You get to update the position of the undead horde every turn... rushing towards you.
Maybe straight up have unfinished stone work in the hallways. Not a big deal though.
That map creator is awesome!
For the most part it was run in combat time, post-trap. Any time they blocked the doors to stave off the undead there was a short break, but other than that, it had the players' urgency level way up. Unfinished stone work is a great idea. Again, thanks!
It would be a great RP to do.
Excellent submission and love the comments :)
Yaaay!! An old fashioned dungeon with some cool twists! Love it and Mageek's suggestions and your general back and forth with him are great.
An excellent, old fashioned, tried and tested dungeon! Well done and thank you for this gem! :)