2019-10-13 Small dungeons used at the table

Recently I wrote about randomly generating dungeons using Hex Describe and yesterday J. Alan Henning () posted a comment on Diaspora talking about how it went when he used one of them. I’m reposting it here with permission, slightly edited. 🙂

Here is the dungeon I used and a recap. I basically ran Hex Describe and read over all the dungeons, looking for a religious-themed one. I then lightly reskinned it to fit my campaign.

0409: Ziggurat of Stoijwerd

Visible from a great distance is a half-buried ziggurat of Stoijwerd. Sandy hole in the south leads to catacombs underneath the ziggurat:

  1. Catacombs: In one wall of the entrance are many deep niches, each containing a goblin skeleton.
  2. Vestry: A chest with a broken lock holds vestments in many sizes, including albas with symbols of Neccelio. (They are threadbare but still wearable.) On one wall is a roughly hewn slate slab, flecked with dark vermilion stains. [My pantheon has 12 gods. Neccelio is the lawbreaker archetype. “The god of the trinity, he rebelled and created animals and night and death. Sometimes called “The Devourer.””]
  3. Altar: Decades of melted wax form a frozen dribble and cover a wide brick pedestal. A chest-high wooden table is draped in a cloth whose imagery has been lost to mold and mildew. 348 staters under table but invisible to anyone not wearing a robe. Trap: Rope Trap, each PC rolls d20 under Dexterity or ends up hanging from the ceiling. [Converted to a dexterity check against a DC 15 for 5e.]
  4. Shrine: A tall bright brown flame rises from the floor in the middle of this room. Three frescoes each display a hellscape ruled by a devil: a devil with eagle wings and a human head on the body of a bull, a devil with bat wings and the tail of a rat, and a devil with a human head on the body of a bear. Trap: Trapdoor Spider Pit, triggered on 1 in 6 per PC to fall in pit with a giant spider (HD 4 AC 6 1d6 + paralysis F2 MV 15 ML 7 XP 400; climb).
  5. Temple: The room is dominated by a central dais, two brick steps above the floor. A candle holder holds only melted wax, but the room still smells of incense and patchouli. Monster: 13 ghouls, who can be bought off with treasure if any PC is faithful to Neccelio or will destroy their religious emblem and follow Neccellio (HD 2 AC 6 1d4/1d4/1d4 + paralysis F2 MV 9 ML 9 XP 200; aura of fear (save vs. spells or flee for two rounds); when bitten, save vs. paralysis or be paralysed for 1h; shape shift into a hyena) Monster: 1 hellhound (HD 5 AC 4 1d6 F5 MV 12 ML 9 XP 500; 2 in 6 chance that instead of biting, it breathes fire (5d6); see invisible; hellhound embers burning inside them are worth 500 staters to an alchemist) Treasure: bricked into the dais, 266 staters. Gems.

Here’s noteworthy things my players did.

One PC had been arrested by city guards and beaten in an earlier adventure, so he was wearing makeshift clothes. He put on one of the robes. As a result, he was the only one who could see the staters (electrum pieces). The other players had removed the cloth but no one had noticed the staters until he did; they still couldn’t see them. He took his robe off and found that they were invisible again. This was meant just to be an unusual way to hide treasure, but now he’s obsessed with figuring out how to make the staters permanently visible. He convinced a few but not all of the PCs to put on robes so that they could see the coins.

Oh, when the halforc ran into room 3 without checking it first, she got caught in the rope trap and swung around upside down from it saying “Adventure!”

The party then listened at the secret door and heard the hellhound snoring and the familiar reconnoitered room 5 (accessible from room 3) – they cast silence and then used mold earth to block it off, so they wouldn’t be disturbed by the ghouls.

They went to room 4, where 1 fell into the trapdoor spider pit. The spider bit him and also clambered up and spit web at the cleric, plastering him against the wall. (I was using the Giant Spider from 5e.) The halforc dove into the pit with her sword out, missed the spider and struck her friend instead. The other party members failed to free the cleric (the web had AC 10 and 5 hp), but the wizard took careful aim and killed the spider with a ray.

After the two in the pit were rescued, they become obsessed with the brown flame. The halforc burnt stuff on it; the elf used a wind spell to extinguish it. Halforc: “What does the room look like now?” DM: “It’s dark.”

The halforc then became obsessed with the frescoes of the devils. She touched the one with the bear, and the druid turned into a bear. The druid touched it and transformed back to a human. The halforc then touched another fresco, and the flame began burning again. The players became convinced this was a puzzle of some sort, where I had just been improvising, but I told them the hellhound had begun howling and they heard scrabbling at the earth they had filled the ghoul’s tunnel with.

Before fleeing, they had been on the search for desert pocket mice for a potion, and they found signs of mice in the bottom of the chest with robes (improv again), then found burrows and flooded three of them so the mice would escape from the unflooded one. The wizard then put them to sleep.

All in all I think the mini dungeon format is a success, and as you can see players add their own context and mysteries.

As a further example, the third of the ingredients they need for their potion quest is scorpion tales. They had heard rumors of raiders riding giant scorpions (for my hex map descriptions I ran my map through all three rule sets; this is from Peter Seckler’s). After leaving the ziggurat, they followed clues to come across the giant scorpions at night; the druid carefully approached them and found one of the giant scorpions was tired of being a mount and wanted to be a goddess to the regular sized scorpions. The druid persuaded her to lead them to a scorpions nest, where the PCs became enforcers for the goddess scorpion, killing any that tried to flee. (Not at all how I had expected them to find scorpions! I had a probability table for searches created and everything.)

I love this! 😀

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