ShamWOWing a famous megadungeon before it's actually released
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
I did a review of a draft copy of a megadungeon. It's on RPGgeek and on my blog. Over at theRPGsite there was a question about why I said it didn't suck after all the 'boring' and 'generic' words I threw in describing it. Because I think it can be turned in to something I would like. I'm gonna give it a whirl.
*) I'm locking down the geeklist entries for my own use, but I'll open up the general comments and the entry comments so people can bitch at me.
*) I have no imagination so I'm going to steal from Sham. He's an imaginative guy. If Sham has nothing then I'll steal an idea from somewhere else. I'm gonna work Level 1, the map of Level 1, and maybe the town/base.
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
I wanna have some non-vanilla monsters. I'm going to do a mashup of Sham's Bleak Beyond monsters and the monsters from the draft. Level 1 has orcs, kobolds, rats, centipedes, skeletons, wight, spiders, mold, fire beetles. Orcs and Kobolds are boring. We're gonna Sham them. We're gonna keep The Rat Boss but mash up the rats with Shams's. We'll keep the undead and vermin, but offer advice on how they act/react in the wandering section, or their room.
The following is blatantly ripped off from Sham, and mashed up with the product in question.
Bogloid(C): AC 6 Move 6 HD 1-1 Small, randomly colored chaos-spawned humanoids. Flesh-eating, utterly evil (aside from the deviant Misfits). Wield crude weapons such as spears, clubs and tomahawks.
Twisted from captured Dwarves by the mad dwarf Gurgan in room 40, who's an agent for a demonic spider "The Spawn of Aracha Nana" that is in turn an agent for a demon-lord that wants to take over the entire dungeon. This is his foothold. The Spawn wants this level, then the entire dungeon. He may twist other captured creatures on other levels if he gets a toehold on them. He will also abandon Gurgan for more powerful allies should they appear ... Gurgan and the Spawn would be very interested in captives and intel on the dungeon ... if the group can make it past their murderous Boglings.
Mol-Min(N-C): AC 6 Move 9 HD 1 Small, darkly furry, bald-headed humanoids, like a short Cousin IT. Those hit by Mol- Min glow with a pale phosphorescence for 1 hour, add 1 to hit for attacks upon the glowing character. Wield pick-axes and javelins. Everyone hates them because their tunnels are always collapsing. Sometimes wear miners hats. Talk in a lisp and their voice is high and cracks a lot. Like to shout "Surface Dwellers! Destroy Them!" [I'd upload and link a voice memo sample but I can't figure out how. ]
The L1 guys are an expedition from L2, which in turn is a break-away group. They are looking for their "promised land"; a tale that was related to them by a strange mol-min that wandered through their camp one night, speaking of whiskey lakes and and soft digging earth. Not super-evil, but kind of assholes who are used to EVERYONE attacking them on sight.
Lab Rat(N): AC 7 Move 9 HD 1-1 Giant rabid albino rats with pink eyes, escaped from nefarious labs, breed throughout the depths. Bites accumulate for increasing itching unless save is made. Twelve together form a rudimentary hive mind capable of primitive speech.
Most dungeon rats pay lip-service to being under the rule of The Rat Man, who lives in [some big ass vile city.] The Rat Man likes treasure and info, because he trades them both for favors from the other animal kings and Men.
We're gonna put these stats on a tear sheet that makes up the last page, for quick ref while running the adventure. Tear sheet is for wandering monsters or monsters that appear a lot. Other monsters get stats in their rooms.
Boglings "Evil Random twisted humanoids" AC6 MV6 HD1-1
Mol-Min "Short Cousin It w/lisps" AC6 MV9 HD1
Lab Rats "Giant albine rapid rats" AC7 MV9 HD1-1
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
Right now there's just a list of 12 monsters. 10 creatures, 1 NPC party, and a spooky event. It's just a list. But watch what happens when we apply the amazing powers of ShamWOW!
Taking inspiration from his Monster Business post we'll add a small table to determine what the wandering gang is up to. There are similiar threads on 1d8 and I like the one from TrollSmyth enough to have included it as a part of my D&D screen. It adds just enough to get your imagination going.
idk how to format this stuff, but I intend for it to be two columns, side by side. All wandering monster stats are on the tear sheet. I removed the slime from the table. Don't forget to roll on your Monster Reactions table on your DM screen for extra fun!
A hungry cube might be waiting for the party or might have just caught a monster (roll again! 1 in 4 chance it can be saved!) Diplomatic Bones might be marching in a processional or have formed an arch with their weaponry for people to walk under. Raiding fire beetles might be just coming back from eating some G centipedes ... or Lab Rats. I'm not entirely sure what Cube Art is, but graffiti is popular with the intelligent monsters. Maybe it's scat in other cases.
Wandering Monsters: 1 in 6 chance every 2 or 3 turns.
1. Boglings (4-16)
2. Mol-Min (2-8)
3. Spooky Bones (3-12)
4. Lab Rats (3-18)
5. G. Centipedes (2-8)
6. C. Spiders (1-4)
7. Gelatinous Cube (1)
8. Fire Beetles (1-8)
9. Dwarves (1-6)
10. NPC Party (5-8)
11. Freaky Shit
12. Past Ghosts (1-6)
They are engaged in:
7. Fighting (Roll again to see who)
*) "NPC parties" are in the back of the book.
*) "Freaky Shit" are herrings. Torch light seen at a distance. Strange sounds (fighting, conversation, sex, etc) and so on. Sound and vision are strangely impacted in the dungeon ...
*) Past ghosts are old memories that haunt the halls. Can't be fought/fucked with, but provide color and perhaps a clue to a surround area sometimes (1 in 3 chance.)
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
Time for Sham to tag out for someone else. Let's Jaquay this thing! Based on a series of EXCELLENT posts on The Alexandrian, we're going to Jaquay the level 1 map. Basically, screw with the map to add more elevation changes and entrances, etc.
I wanted to post a newly marked up map, but it appears that James Maliszewski has done takedowns on at least site. Here's a link to the level 1 map on his site. (it's the one in the middle.) Just open it in a new tab/window and follow along. Or print it out. You can also find it slightly clearer on a site that sells maps.
There are 2 entrances to the dungeon: room 1 at the top and room 30 at the bottom right. There are two exits to deeper levels: Room 15 on the right side and room 45 on the lower left side. There's also an elevator in room 56.
First we're going to add a few more cross-level entrances and exits.
*) Room 9 on the right side is a treasury. Let's add a greased slide trape to that room that dumps people in to ... level 3? That should scare the shit out of the party.
*) Room 28 in the bottom right has a pool of water in it and mentions light coming in from outside. Let's make that hole a bit high up (20'?) and ALMOST big enough for a man to fit through. That will allow the party to expand it but still offer a challenge. It's close to the other entrance, room 30, but maybe we'll move that one ... maybe off of room 36? That's pretty close to a Bogloid infestation.
*) Room 53 is a kitchen. Let's put in a dumbwaiter to level ... 2? Nice trap (the old rope breaks) but you can string a rope to use it. Hmmm, maybe it even run deeper than 2 and that's just one exit?
*) Room 55 is a latrine. Let's make it a deep shaft drop to the water on ... level 3B or level 7? How cruel are we? But the german dwarves constructed it, so there's still a poo ledge. The hole is big enough if you tear up the wooden 'toilet' dias/floor/stall thingy.
*) Room 56 is an elevator. The doors are locked (need a KNOCK) AND you have to have a special key to use it once inside. I'd like to pick one or the other, and am inclined to just lock the doors since it gives the party PLENTY of rope to hang themselves with. (I think it goes to level 5 or something. OUCH!)
*) 62 is a throne/audience chamber. Let's put it on a dias and and hide a secret stairway under it. (I love the classics!) It leads to 2B.
That's about 10 total, so now on to other terrain ...
*) Let's collapse a portion of the giant hallway between rooms 58 & 59 in that large hall from 11 on the left side. We'll partially bury the door to 58 and block the hallway completely. (F'ing Mol-Min and their digging.) The party can clear it in, say, 1d2 hours (or adjusted by STR?) but that's gonna call fo wandering monster checks because of the noise. Also, the first time they visit the right side of block they hear Mol-Min voices (and flashes of torchlight!) on the left side, but can't make out the words.
*) Those elevation changes in the cave portion should be more substantial. Let's make each 'line' a 10' height change. That makes some of them pretty steep. They are rubble filled with crude ropes/ladders (50%) up and down them for the bogloids. Chance of breakage for >hobbit-sized people ...
EDIT: The map will get a further edit when we rework the key.
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
Today we're going to beef up the combat encounters in the dungeon. Right now the creatures just stand around waiting for someone to charge in to their room and gut them, or are "On Guard." That's pretty static and pretty boring. Monsters should have lives also. Let's give them some through the amazing power of ... SHAM!
aka: we're going to use that same Sham table I referenced back in the wandering monster section; the 100 entry one here.
All but a couple of these rooms need work.
Room 3- Was: "Home of Mol-Min scouts"
Now: "The scouts are freaking out/regaining their composure after seeing some Past Shadows just a few rounds before. -1 to hit"
Room 7- Was: "Wight bound to the room"
Now: "Rises as a tattered king from the sarcophagus, passing through it"
Room 8- Was: "Spooky Bones waiting to attack"
Now: Confusing as written, but good idea. These are Skeleton sconces on the columns that comes to life.
Room 20- Was: "Bogloid lair"
Now: "Asleep with VERY loud snoring"
Room 27- Was: "C Spider lair"
Now: "Arguing loudly over a tasty morsel, a mol-min they just captured."
Room 29- Was: "Shrieker lair"
Now: Same thing
Room 32- Was: "Bogloids waiting in ambush"
Now: Engaged in the bizarre "shelled brother" ritual. One Bogloid at 1/4 HP andshelled.
Room 34- Was: "occupied by Boglings"
Now: "grooming themselves by rolling dirt and mutual delousing"
Room 38- Was: "bogling bulwark"
Now: "engaged in building a half-built defensive wall of stones, skulls, and bones.
Room 39- Was: "spider guards"
Now: Actually on-guard, hiding on the ceiling.
Room 40- Was: "chief lair"
Now: Enjoying a mildly stimulating drip that comes from the ceiling stalactite ... a wounded proto-piercer. +1 to hit.
Room 41- Was: "the big boss"
Now: Engaged in prayers for a dark future for the overworlders.
Room 45- Was: "yellow mold"
Room 46- Was: "rat nest"
Now: Most in nest, but a few outside. All currently engaged in a group seizure. Stops in 1d2 rounds. They recover in 1d3 more are are at -1 to hit.
Room 47- Was: "occupied by mol-min"
Now: "Bored. Talking about going home and their worthless expedition to find the whiskey lake"
Room 53- Was: "beetles in the room"
Now: RIGHT IN THE FRONT OF THE DOOR WHEN IT OPENS!!!!! -1 to surprise for both groups.
Room 57- Was: "centipede nest"
Now: Hidden VERY well, but not on purpose. VERY hungry for squiring food and reveal themselves too soon. -2 surprise.
Room 63- Was: "occupied by mol-min"
Now: "Taking a load off, packs off, weapons on floor, not paying attention."
Room 67- Was: "occupied by mol-min"
Now: "cooking their a meal of tasty centipede stew. Smells like poo. They think they are GREAT cooks."
Room 68- Was: "mol-min interrogating someone"
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
Todays entry is: mundane treasure. Much of it is a little boring.
I have no problem, genrally, with large even treasure amounts (2000cp) but why not mix it up a little? Rounded numbers DO break immersion a bit. ANd don't give me grief about rounded numbers for gems/jewelry. I'm nothing if not a hypocrite.
Room 7: Has a treasure vault with trinkets worth 8,000 gp and weighing 500#. That's nice, but let's add a little detail, like: hairpins, forks, nice plates, candlesticks, lockets, snuff boxes, small tables, hairbrushes. combs, tiny carved ivory sailing ship, nice backpack, good crowbar, herb kit, spyglass, 16 holy symbols (good and evil one touching and smoke coming up from the pile because of this.)
Room 9: The mundane treasure is not bad, although I would adjust the sp to 387sp instead of "400". There are some gemstones here. Let's make the largest (500gp) carved in the shape of an axe. There's always a player who loves axes.
Room 12: Again, adjust the sp from 300 to 312.
Room 19: The mundane treasure is very nice. A map to "the exarchate of Theana"
Room 36: had a nice treasure with a curse on it.
Room 37: has a nice unusual treasure: a fluid that can be collected and sold.
Room 40: A chest has 6,000cp. Let's adjust it to 3876cp and then add a 20gp ivory comb. I'm still unhappy with it though. I need to do a better job here.
Room 46: rats collect stuff. Lets adjust the coinage to 2156cp. The jeweled pin (800gp) will be adjusted to a jeweled CLOAK pin worth 800gp that is in the shape of scantily clad female elf beheading an orc. The splattering blood is shown in small rubies. [Someone is gonna keep that one and wear it, for sure!] The gold necklace is a locket and shows the face of a loved one back and a family name that still exists in Marburg today. They would love to have it back (sentimental value) but they are also poor and selling it would make a world of difference in their lifestyle. The comb is part of a 3-piece set. Finding the other two (mentioned previously) brings the value of the set to 200gp. Taking any of the coin treasure will result in wandering monsters being checked for every turn, and they will always be Lab Rats, as long as the coins are carried in the dungeon.
Room 47: Adjust gp coins to 1798. They keep their gems in their groin pouches.
Room 51: The Sp and gems are in a small, detailed, mahogany box worth 100gp, on a pedestal in the middle of the room. The gems are a matched set and appear to have all been pried/cut from the same necklace.
Room 55: The Latrine gets a treasure. A diamond engagement ring, "hearts on fire" style, worth 1000gp that is obviously sitting in the middle of a pile of fresh poo.
Room 63: The Mol-Min now have 476gp between them, carried in pouches tied to their hair and worn close to the their bodies.
Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
If you think I'm magical
cause roses bloom with my touch
I think you think too much
I touch roses
Most of the magic items on level 1 suck. This is a little surprising since the designer railed about sucky "mechanics" magic items on his blog. We're gonna fix this in two ways. First we're going to change their effects. +1 swords are the most boring thing on the planet; they need some personality in their effects. Second, we going to give them a description. The players are gonna fight over this puppy just from the description and are gonna keep it around LONG after they would have found more powerful items in a different game. Here's an article that tries to codify the creation, but I'm not sure agree with everything therein.
I tend to keep stuff like this on index cards, for my use only, and then highlight the parts that the players have found out about. I'd probably reference the items by name in the room description and then fully describe them in the appendix. Or tear sheet at the end ...
Room 7: Horn of Blasting, Bag of Holding, +1 sword
The bag is easy. I'm going to mash it up with a couple of stolen ideas. It's actually a Maggot of Opening. A couple of inches long, squirmy, pale .. ie: looks like a maggot. Except it can open it's mouth REALLY wide, let's say the size of a fist. It has an extra dimensional stomach so it otherwise acts like a bag of holding and it never digests anything. Ya gotta reach in to pull stuff out. Who knows what else it's swallowed? It tries to digest, so reaching in is a bit slimy & gross.
The horn is either a tuba or a stork like bird that you squeeze like bagpipes. Emits either high-pitched (bird) or ultra-low (tuba) sonic blast. Deafens, confuses, sickens: -1 to hit to EVERYTHING nearby. Does 2d6 damage in a cone 100' by 20' at the end. If used more than once a day there's a 50% chance per additional usage that the bird is crushed or the tuba gets a reverb stuck in it. Both explode for 3d6 on the use and 1d6 in a 10' radius.
The +1 sword is Aidru - Slayer of Men. A longsword engraved the full length with arcane runes. The hilt is bare and will need to be recovered. Created by the death-priests of Ghoekra and wielded during their bloody crusade to rid the earth of all life. Moderately well know; feared and coveted. Drips blood, not because of the creation but through the sympathetic magic caused by all of the bodies it has been soaked in while killing them. Disturbing dreams while possessing; slaughter, etc. +1 hit, causes immediate morale check for any creature/group that recognizes it. (Who then inevitably yell "Aidru - Slayer of Men!!!") Glows with a pale red light and gives the wielder a +1 CHR bump when wielded BECAUE OF FEAR!
Room 9: Scarab of Death
This is already a pretty kick ass item. It's also a little lame for a 1st level character to face a sv or die. I might make it partially burrow in to the characters forehead or make it transform in to a giant beetle that attaches to the characters back, melds with his pack/back armor, and obviously sinks parasitic shit in to them. IE: totally freak the player out and take away their pack.
Room 19: xp book & scroll
These are pretty good as listed. The book is an Art of War type thing that gives a fighter 500xp. Maybe it could use a little more backstory that the DM could crib from medieval mercenary on Wikipedia. The scroll is a partially burned Pro from Magic that has a 50% chance of erasing a spell from the mind of the reader because of the damage. That's a good item.
Room 35: bones
Nice item. The phalange of a lawful cleric. It glows warn in the presence of chaotic creatures, inflicts damage if touched by a chaotic creature, and feels weird/cold to neutrals. Non-standard. Good effects.
Room 40: +1 chain, +1 war hammer
The +1 War Hammer is "Shines like Thunder". Myth says it was wielded by a son of Gaia during her battle against the coming of The Dawn. Seems to blur when moved/moving. Crude, almost like a rough chunk of metal with a club for a handle. Occasionally sparks like a static charge is emitted. It can shoot a 1d6 lightning bolt; roll to hit like normal, with a save also. +1 hit/damage in combat. Use of lightning power drains a hit point from wielder. Turns in to a full on Hammer of Thunderbolts effect during thunderstorms.
EDIT: Whoops, forgot the chainmail!
Forged, Worn & made famous by Cig Basil during the disgrace of the Idons of Ilaz. Still a gash in the side where his fatal wound came from. Sparkles keenly in full sunlight and has a whispered rumors of the wearer dying in combat. (Hey Mr DwimmerDwarf who's wearing this and about to get slaughtered by the party, that's some precog shit just for you!) +1 AC but also +1 damage every time the wearer is hit. Occasional piercing pain in the side (where the wound was) during high stress situations (5%?)
Room 43: Thulian Chain
A kind of analog to elven chain that also gives +1 vs spells because it's infused with magical hoo-haw'ness. Well, let's infuse it then! It shimmers because of a thin oil-like substance, but silvery grey, that seems to subtly flow over the surface. It will be recognized in civilized and uncivilized lands through legends of what the former Terror Troops used to wear.
Room 51: Rod of Opening
This is a Chime of Opening, complete with charges. Instead let's turn it in to a dinner gong of opening, about 2' in diameter, bronze with a light frame made up of human leg bones and a striker made up of a tiny intricately carved hammer, attached through a "Leather" thong. One side has intricate engravings of doors opening. The other side clearly shows it to be the doors of hell. This thing was used by the former high tax collector of the empire to force his way in to peoples homes and coffers. There is a chance (25%? 50%? 100%?) that when rung is rings REALLY loudly, forcing TWO immediate wandering monster checks.