Thursday, November 10, 2016

Starter dungeon for the Desolate North

While I have your attention, can I point out for a second that it feels weird to have a buffer of posts? I'm writing this about two weeks before you'll see it. Anyhow...

I've finally completed my first real attempt at a dungeon. A mega-dungeon it is not. It only has one level, and will not get a standard party of 5 level 1 adventurers up to level 2 even if they find all the treasure (OK, that's a bit of a lie given the special items.)

I'm posting it here because
  • It might be useful to people who want to run it, though I seriously doubt that
  • It might be interesting to people to see a newbie post his work, either for historical or analytical reasons
  • (Most important) I'd love feedback from people with more experience than I about how I can do this sort of thing better. It was a lot of work, though ultimately fun.
Given that this isn't a mega-dungeon, I eschewed all normal 'random' stocking rules in favor of going with the theme of the place and the world. It might be terribly unbalanced. I don't know.

Outside The Setup portion, which isn't in my notes at all (doesn't need to be), I'll be writing this up exactly like it is in my notes. The exercise is show and tell, for the reasons listed above, not 'clean this up for production'.

The Setup

Production has stopped at the salt mine that was the principal reason for the founding of Queen's Landing. The overseer cannot get the slaves back into the mine - they simply won't go. A few days back, a section of the mine floor collapsed into a subterranean cavern underneath, and several of the nearby prisoners swear they saw some hideous man-things come up out of the hole, grab two of the miners, and escape back down it in the confusion.

There are indeed two missing prisoners, though the overseer thinks they just used the confusion as an opportunity for escape. (A search has been mounted, but the general feeling is that if he shows up in town he'll be caught, and he's welcome to try surviving in the wilderness. Prisoners have escaped before; they usually die anyway.)

Regardless, the miners won't mine. They're spooked by the rumours, and if the prison staff tries to force things, they might fall into open revolt.

The Lord Steward Merriweather has put out a call for any adventurous wild-cat sorts who want to check out the collapse and see whether things are safe, and on the off chance that they aren't, make them so. He's offering 25gp worth of town scrip, because this is supposed to be just a cake walk. If it turns out there's something serious, well, you can keep what you find down there, and taking care of the problem will earn the town's gratitude.

(If nobody decides to take the job, production will start again in a few months after the staff get some reinforcements and clear out the place themselves. But the town will suffer and go down 1 market category or whatever system I decide to use, as production will be slowed for a year until staff gets back up to strength.)

Assuming the PCs take the job, they'll be escorted through the salt mine to the hole in the floor, and

The Saltmine Dungeon (or Ast Knarveth)

Click to embiggen. Grid didn't scan; little rooms are 1x2


(1)   MuDwarf Patriarch (as ogre)
AC 4 HD 4+1 HP 26 #A 1 D 1d10+2 M 30' Save F4 ML 10
Hideously mutated, unintelligible gibbering, very strong
always w/ 2 LTs
Uses dwarven ax silver-inlay w/ emerald pommel & maker's mark (picture in notes) 300gp

(2)    MuDwarf LTs (as hobbo) ML9 AC 6 1d6 (bone spears)
AC 6 HD 1+1 HP 6,8 #A 1 D 1d6 M 30' Save F1 ML 9
Always w/ Patriarch
Dwarf-sized chain badly misfit, old, rusty
Matching (1 each) ruby-silver earrings, 100gp each

(20)    MuDwarves (as orc) ML7 AC 8 (tough skin, rags) 1d6-1 (bone spears, clubs)
AC 8 HD 1 HP 4 #A 1 D 1d6-1 ML 40' Save F1 ML 7
Carry worthless trinkets & fetishes made of bone, stone, rags
3 (roll randomly) have small, dirty gems in their trinkets 1d6x50 each

(6) Skeleton warriors (room 4) ML 12, Save F1, AC 7 (bones, naked) D 1d6 (fists)
Remains from early deaths. Triggered by messing w/ remains.

Wandering Monsters
When players enter dungeon, roll 2 x 1d6

Patriarch Others
1-3) in room 9 w/ LTs and most others 1-2) all in room 9
4-6) in room 1 w/ LTs & 1d6 others worshipping/rutting 3-4) 2 on patrol in r 1d6
5-6) Dispersed
posted in:
r1) 2 on lookout near corridor
r3) 4 in r3 on lookout
r5) 1d8 rooting around

If wandering monster check succeeds, that means 1d6+1 MuDwarfs stumble into party as per normal rules. Subtract from total (20)

    Roll reactions. On low rolls, will probably try to alert others. Not stupid.


(Editors note: Room Descriptions)

Air very musty everywhere

1) Natural cavern. Mine collapsed ceiling. Salty rubble everywhere.

2) Old storeroom. Dusty, ancient cobwebs. Some barrels/boxes so far gone it's just a dried-out mess w/ hoops of rust.
    Recent footpath cleared across floor.

3) Kitchen. Complete disarray. Pans/post mostly rusted away. Food scattered & so old it stopped rotting long ago.
    Careful or you make a noise.
        If players spend 2 turns digging, find ancient jar of 'old man's feet' - fungus spice, ~ 200gp

4) Rudely carved crypt w/ dwarf remains tucked into niches and some bones scattered about.
    Bodies jointly contain tarnished/hard to find jewelry & talismans worth 150gp
                               show ancient dwarven lineages, sage would want

Messing w/ corpses causes 6 (dwarf) skeletons to rise
           (6) Skeletons: HD 1 HP 4 AC 7 #A 1 (1d6) Save F1 ML 12 Move 40'

5) Great Hall. Lots of furniture, mostly broken up. Rags, stains everywhere. Old fireplace on W wall.

On south wall, old china cabinet intact. Covered in dust/age, so hard to judge. But made of rare wood, still in good shape 550gp
    Lots broken, but 2 intact china plates: 100gp
(Margin note: Covered in shit. Mudwarves shit here.) (Editor's note: Never claimed to be a family-friendly blog.)

privy has nothing, just old shit

6) Entrance hall. Old rotting tapestries in mouldering piles. Piles of rust and rubble.
6a) (Editor's note: designation added after scan, this is the main room west of 6) Barbican. Bare, collapse west prevents exit. N is old gaol w/ ancient bloodstains (actually rust - manacles & bars are no more). 1 man at a time through entrance.
    Dust trail to 8.
  S is old guards' post. Bare.

7) Guest room. Powerful smell of ancient rot (doors never opened) Nothing of value

     S) Secret door @ end of hall only opens from this direction. Simple rotating wall (push to open)

8) Alcove holds a well (still good! but stagnant) Impressive stonework

Faint smell of moisture. Most of west room covered in dried mold (no effects)

Foot trail to 9

9) MuDwarf Lair. Wset portion collapsed in rubble. Monsters usually here.
Reeks of close bodies & alien musk. Rags & bones & confusion everywhere, clumped into old piles. Everything soiled.

One pile larger than the others: MuDwarf patriarch keeps treasure here, including Book of Records


6 gems
Star rose-quartz250gp
Fire opal (roll-cut1000gp
(in LT bundle) Jasper250gp
(in LT bundle) Lapis Lazuli50gp
(in LT bundle) Rock crystal250gp
Onyx75gp (Total 1875gp)
Book of records (see elsewhere
500ep (small sack)
Set of silver (2 forks, 4 spoons)200gp
3 mithril ingots750gp
Scroll (Sleep, Hold Portal, Arcane Lock)Total 4875gp
Treasure map to lvl 1 of megadungeon (P's old quarters, for 3000gp)

10) Halway to quarters. Pillar is loadbearing.
Each room: complete disarray. Low stone shelf held mattress. Everything torn/soiled/scavenged by MuDwarfs.
Search for 1 turn: 5% chance to find coins/trinkets worth 1d6x25gp. One search only

S door locked, diff 9

11) Shrine
    Fouler smell here than anywhere.

Gruesome stains everywhere, broken masonry
NE corner holds dais long since w/ statue smashed off

SW corner holds bloody altar on low steps.
Altar has remains (gore, arms, legs) of the 2 missing miners. Also holds Black Orb (see below)

Black Orb: Responsible for dwarves surviving & mutating. Seamless, slippery sphere that "glows" w/ blackness. Strangely attractive.

If PCs keep it, town starts to go weird, and it will whisper visions of megadungeon & other places.Wizard tower will show.

If PCs sell it (sage), will gain 1000 gp (haggle) & wipe out sage. Town (& sage) will go weird, wizard tower will show.

If PCs give it to Church, will gain much favor there & w/ town. (Marchand) Town will not go weird & nasty.

Book of Records: Written in High Qellem (ancient Dwarf) by Parakel (Patriarch) of founding of Ast Knarveth (this place). Describes old Mon Daerdul (megadungeon) & passable directions (in form of 'we traveled from').

Starts normal - years pass, place grows, births & deaths - but slowly becomes obsessed w/ "Godsphere".

Chronicles sealing in, & attempts to get out. Notes strange survival w/o food, and growing comfort. Abandonment of efforts. Descent into madness & barbarism.
Last entry crude & centuries ago.
Bound in old cracked leather. Vellum. Worth 3000gp to sage.


That's 4875gp in treasure, plus a Scroll and Treasure Map. If the party sells the book and orb, that's another 4000gp - for 875gp over the amount needed to go up to level 2 for a party of 4. (Though selling the book and orb won't directly grant XP in my game.)

I think that's accurate for my intent. I don't want the characters to level up off of this place; instead, I want to give them a small taste of dungeoneering and reveal the existence of the megadungeon (which will be a few days' travel away from the town), along with a sense of the Weird.

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