Archive for May, 2015

Just a quick post here to let you all know that my second published article, “Get Sick,” is currently available through EN World EN5ider. Morrus, EN World King, and his team are awesome and have been putting out great fifth edition content and they have a whole catalogue of stuff still to come. I definitely recommend you check out the work over there. My first article, “Give Chase,” is available over there as well and ready to make chases in your game awesome.

“Get Sick,” contains six new diseases for your game including bottle fever, demonic plague, ooze decay, itching insides, aberrant touch, and walking rot. There’s also some advice from me at the beginning of the article about crafting your own diseases for fifth edition! Once again, I have to praise the team and EN5ider. James Haeck, the editor, is the best in the business and should get a raise. The art is so fun and wonderful. You can get a few articles and adventure from free so check EN World EN5ider out!

On Tuesday I’ll be posting a companion piece to go with the article on this blog so stay tuned!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

It’s time for part six of the prison for dragons series! If you’ve been following these posts than you know that the dungeon I’m building in each entry is inspired by this month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme, “Unusual Dungeons,” which was chosen by Nils Jeppe of Enderra.

The dungeon I’m creating is a prison made to hold dragons built by aberrations. Here’s all the blog posts I’ve written about the subject so far.

  • Part I – A general overview of dragon prisons
  • Part II – The historical background and character hooks of a specific dragon prison, Shuzal
  • Part III – A description of the area surrounding Shuzal and a table of random encounters
  • Part IV – The surface level of Shuzal’s ruined entrance citadel
  • Part V – The lower level of Shuzal’s ruined entrance citadel

So now it’s time to tackle Part VI – The upper level of Shuzal.

The Upper Level of Shuzal

Shuzal 5

In the demiplane where Shuzal is found everything was engineered toward keeping dragons in their cells. The aberrations didn’t count on losing the war and they certainly didn’t count on a tiefling necromancer turning one of the prisoners into a dracolich. Now that necromancer, Akros Sepora, rules the surface level of Shuzal and is building an army of undead ogres to destroy her old home, the Amber Spire.

One of Sepora’s soldiers, a vampire ogre named Sveja the Crow, was created only a month before. Sepora created the intelligent undead as an experiment to see if she could control captains who could command her undead armies in battle. Sveja despises Sepora, but is bound to do her bidding, which includes making forays back into the entrance citadel’s catacombs to murder her Ox Tribe friends and family to add undead to Sepora’s army. Sveja is looking for a way to break her thrall and the PCs could be just the solution she needs.

Features of the Area

Illumination. The sky of the demiplane shines a red light through thick, impenetrable clouds and braziers burn bright in the guardhouse. The entirety of Shuzal’s upper level is bathed in bright light.

Ageless. While on the demiplane creatures do not age and require no food or water to survive.

Braziers. The braziers in Shuzal are powered by the aberrant magic of the prison and never go out. A creature who moves into or starts its turn in the same space as the brazier takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.

Finite Demiplane. The edges of the map are impenetrable walls of reality. This demiplane is finite and creatures can travel no further than the walls. The cloud layer of the plane sits at 100 feet above the ground and this too cannot be pierced in any way. A creature burrowing into the ground finds it cannot dig further than 100 feet for that is the bottom of the plane.

Limited Flight. Creatures who can fly who are not aberrations or constructs cannot fly higher than 20 feet above the ground. The strange gravity of the aberrant magic holds them close to the ground.

Psychic Moat. The moat around Shuzal is a torrent of crackling psychic liquid. If a creature falls into the moat, its senses are completely assaulted and overwhelmed. That creature must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw. Creatures who fail take 55 (10d10) psychic damage and contract a random form of short term madness. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not stricken with madness.

Towers. The towers of Shuzal are solid adamantine pillars with arcane cannons on top. The helmed horrors in Shuzal know how to operate the cannons.

Walls. The walls of Shuzal rise 50 feet into the sky and dive 100 feet below the ground to the bottom of the demiplane. The walls, gates, and doors of every structure here are adamantine (AC 23, HP 300, damage threshold 50). The walls are perfectly smooth and trying to scale them without a rope requires a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check.

Arcane Cannon

Large object

Armor Class: 20

Hit Points: 100

Damage Immunities: poison, psychic

Special alchemical canisters are loaded into the muzzle of these magically reinforced cannons. The gems along the barrel of the cannon can be charged with magical energy which is used to propel and explode the canister.

An arcane cannon is supported in a metal frame fixed to the top of the towers. Before it can be fired the cannon must be loaded and aimed. It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. The weapon must be fired by a spellcaster or helmed horror, who feeds an amount of magical energy akin to casting a cantrip into the cannon.

Force Canister. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 800/3,200 ft., one target. Hit: 55 (10d10) force damage.

Frost Canister. The frost canister can be shot 800 feet. It explodes in a 30-foot-radius sphere on impact. Creatures within the area must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) cold damage and have their speed reduced by 10 feet for one minute. Creatures who succeed take half damage and do not have their speed reduced. A creature whose speed is reduced in this way may repeat the saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the reduced speed effect on a success.

Lightning Canister. The lighting canister can be shot 800 feet. It explodes in a 20-foot-radius sphere. Creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 33 (6d10) lightning damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage.

C1 – The Portal

A sky and wall made of red clouds crackling with energy encloses the area you have just entered as you climb through the well. Across a river of bubbling blue energy looms an enormous black structure, the prison of Shuzal. High walls enclosing something long forgotten, but still active.

Normally an alarm would go off in area C9 when the portal is activated, but since Sveja the Crow is watching the monolith which controls the prison. She immediately quiets the alarm and watches the adventurers, using the monolith’s magic. She wants to gauge their strength and hopes they will free her from Sepora’s thrall.

Random Encounters. As the PCs spend time trying to figure out how to enter Shuzal, they may run into some of the denizens of the upper level of the demiplane. Sepora isn’t expecting an invasion, but she knows her attacks on the Ox Tribe have begun to draw attention so she keeps patrols wandering the area.

For every ten minutes the PCs spend outside the walls of Shuzal roll on the table below to see if a random encounter occurs.

d10 Encounter
1 – 6 No encounter
7 Psychic moat tendril
8 1d6 + 5 ogre skeletons
9 1d6 + 5 ogre zombies
10 1d4 + 1 helmed horrors

Psychic Moat Tendril. Sepora has been tinkering with the aberrant magic of the demiplane and now the psychic moat sometimes experiences energy surges as a result. If you roll this result, the next time a PC comes within 30 feet of the moat, a tendril of psychic energy reaches out and attacks the PC with a +8 bonus to the attack roll. If the attack hits the PC takes 5 (1d10) psychic damage, is grappled (escape DC 15), and is pulled 10 feet toward the moat. The tendril remains attached to the PC and continues to pull it 10 feet at the end of each round. The tendril retreats back into the moat if the PC escapes or if it is dealt 50 damage. The tendril has AC 15 and is immune to poison and psychic damage.

Raise the Alarm. If the PCs encounter enemies, combat longer than 5 rounds attracts the eye of the four helmed horrors working the walls, who alert the rest of the complex by firing off the arcane cannons at the PCs.

C2 – The Gates of Shuzal

A massive adamantine drawbridge creates the front gate of Shuzal. Currently the door is drawn up and perfectly flush against Shuzal’s wall.

Four helmed horrors float along the tops of Shuzal’s walls, ready to raise an alarm by firing the arcane cannon if they notice any enemies with their passive Perception 14.

The monolith in area C9 controls the drawbridge. If the PCs cannot figure out a way to cross the moat or scale Shuzal’s walls, Sveja the Crow uses the monolith to lower the drawbridge, hoping they’ll storm the prison.

C3 – Shuzal’s Grounds

Inside the black walls of Shuzal, the first thing to draw your eye is a deep pit in the middle of the grounds shielded by a field of blue energy. Behind this pit lurk three dome-shaped buildings connected by adamantine-enclosed hallways. The middle building is the largest standing 40 feet high, while the two smaller buildings are only 20 feet in height and much smaller around.

Eight ogre skeletons and eight ogre zombies patrol the grounds within Shuzal’s walls. If they are aware of the PCs or if the four helmed horrors on the wall raise the alarm, the undead converge on the PCs and attack. If things seem to be going the PCs’ way, more reinforcements from area C5 come to take on the PCs.

If a battle breaks out, there is a 10% chance at the end of every round of combat that a helmed horror patrolling the grounds outside of Shuzal flies over the wall to join the fray. Sveja the Crow makes sure the drawbridge is raised once the PCs are inside to make sure skeletons and zombies in the outside of Shuzal do not have a way back in.

Facing the enemy directly is a deadly encounter for the PCs. Make sure they are aware of the risks before they rush headlong into the battle.

C4 – The Pit

The pit here drops 100 feet to area D1.

Energy Field. The energy field here is controlled by the monolith in area C9. Any non-dragon creature can pass through the field without a problem, but creatures of the dragon type are stopped in their tracks. For the purposes of this energy field, dragonborn count as humanoids and are unaffected by the field.

C5 – Welcome Chamber

This adamantine chamber is flickers with the light of braziers and is filled with undead.

The ceiling in this chamber rises 30 feet. Sepora cleared out all the furniture and decoration in this room and uses it to store reserve troops. Eight ogre skeletons and eight ogre zombies stay here. If a battle breaks out in the grounds and the PCs appear to have victory close at hand, four ogre skeletons and four ogre zombies exit this area to join the fray in area C3. Sepora always has some undead stay back to guard her.

C6 – Abandoned Construct Lab

A large pit toward the back of the room is the only feature of note here aside from the braziers.

Three ogre wraiths (same statistics as a normal wraith, but size is Large) float about this room. They are an angry experiment gone wrong, but Sepora has managed to use her magic to keep them confined to this room. They abhor all life, even Sepora, and will attack anything that lives.

This room was once a laboratory for building and repairing constructs, but Sepora used all its resources and needed the place to store undead soldiers (and then later a place to bind the wraiths). All of the furniture and tools from this room and area C5 have been broken up and placed into the pit.

Pit. The pit is 30 feet deep, but 20 feet of the pit is filled with broken pieces of furniture and tools. A creature who falls into the pit takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage and 3 (1d6) piercing damage after landing prone.

Treasure. Searching the pit with a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check finds a diamond worth 5,000 gp. Sepora bound the wraiths to this diamond and they must remain within 30 feet of it at all times.

C7 – Meeting Room

The small room has a stone table set with plush chairs and a bubbling fountain shaped like a many-tentacled beast nearby.

This quiet room was a place for aberration guards to hold meetings or socialize while not on duty.

The Fountain. A creature who drinks from the fountain regains 19 (6d4 + 6) hit points. The creature can only regain hit points from the fountain in this way once per day.

C8 – Sepora’s Chambers

A purple bed at the back of the room, a pool of red water, a bookshelf, a table, two chairs, and a chest are all which can be seen in this room… oh, and a hulking construct made of stone and steel which runs at you.

Akros Sepora is in this chamber, but odds are by now she knows the PCs are headed her way. She quickly casts improved invisibility on herself and climbs the walls of the chamber using her rod of arachna. She then sends her shield guardian to attack the PCs as they enter the room.

If Sepora’s shield guardian dies and she drops to less than half her hit points she tries to negotiate with the PCs. She first offers them the location of the diamond in area C6, hoping the wraiths will tear them apart. If the PCs don’t go for this she tells them that Maxathaltros, a silver dragon held below, has a large treasure hoard which he will use to reward any person who frees him. She offers to help the PCs get to the lower level of Shuzal and hopes the dragons finish them off.

Bookshelf. Sepora’s bookshelf holds her spellbook which contains all the spells she has prepared as well as another 20 spells of your choice. Remember Akros specializes in necromancy.

Pool. The pool of red liquid here is contact poison which sprays in a 20-foot cone originating from the pool at the end of each round in a direction of Sepora’s choosing.

Creatures in the cone must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 11 (2d10) poison damage and are poisoned. Creatures who fail take half damage and are not poisoned.

Treasure. The adamantine chest (AC 23, HP 100) in this room is locked and requires a successful DC 20 Dexterity check made with thieves tools to pick the lock or a DC 22 Strength check to force the chest open. If an attempt to pick the lock fails or the chest is forced open, the poison mister trap activates (see below).

Inside the chest are two diamonds worth 1,000 gp each, some robes made for Sepora, a journal which details all of Sepora’s exploits against the Ox Tribe and hatred of the Amber Spire, and a wrist spider.

Sepora carries, a key to the chest, a rod of arachna, and the amulet used to control the shield guardian.

Poison Mister Trap. A nozzle connected to a vial of poison gas is hidden in the chest’s lock. When the trap is triggered the nozzle creates a 15-foot cone of gas originating from the lock. Creatures within the cone must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) poison damage and are poisoned for 1 hour. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not poisoned. A DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check allows a character to deduce the trap’s presence from alterations made to the lock to accommodate the nozzle and vial. A DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disarms the trap, removing the nozzle and gas vial from the lock.

C9 – Monolith Room

As you enter this room a magic hum can be felt deep within your chest. A large ogre with glowing red eyes and sharp fangs bows as you enter the room, standing before a massive glowing pillar.

The Shuzal monolith in this room allows for monitoring and controlling various aspects of Shuzal. Sveja the Crow watches over the monolith by order of Sepora. Sveja was told by Sepora to guard the monolith and let no one touch it, so if the PCs attempt to use the device while Sepora is alive, Sveja must attack them.

Monolith. The Shuzal monolith is a magic item which can be attuned to up to three creatures at once. It is attuned to Sveja and Sepora at the start of the adventure. A creature must spend 1 hour with at least one hand or body part touching the monolith to become attuned to it.

While standing adjacent to the Shuzal monolith an attuned creature immediately knows if the portal into Shuzal’s demiplane has been activated.

Creatures attuned to the monolith can use the following actions when they are touching the pillar.

  • Cast scrying anywhere within the prison or demiplane
  • Raise or lower the drawbridge in C2
  • Turn the energy field over the pit on and off in C4 (this requires at least two creatures attuned to the Shuzal monolith to use their actions in the same round)
  • Activate the enormous psychic net in area D1

Sveja the Crow. Sveja the Crow does not wish to fight the PCs. She wants them to kill Sepora and free her from the necromancer’s thrall. She believes the PCs can take out the necromancer and if they haven’t by the time they approach Sveja, the vampire is very blunt in her request. Kill Sepora and Sveja will tell the PCs all she knows about the complex. She tells them she must attack them if they touch the monolith and explains why if given the time.

If the PCs have already killed Sepora, Sveja has watched the event through the monolith and expresses her gratitude.

When Sepora is dead, Sveja tells the PCs that Kerrinalastraya is planning on breaking out of her prison and has the means to do so. If she gets out it could spell disaster for any who feel her wrath. Sveja is worried that her Ox Tribe family will be the first to go.

If this doesn’t appeal to the PCs, Sveja tries to tempt them into the lower levels by telling them they aberrations kept weapons of great power in their vaults and now Kerrinalastraya is using them to escape the prison. If they stop Kerrinalastraya perhaps some of those weapons could be theirs!

Sveja will help the PCs in any way she can… from the upper level of the demiplane. She fears Kerrinalastraya’s power as does not want to fall into the thrall of another soon after escaping the grasp of Sepora.

Next Time…

…let’s head into the cell block!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

It’s time for part five of my prison for dragons series! Thanks to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Unusual Dungeons” chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra I’ve been inspired to create an Exploration Age dungeon post by post. This dungeon is meant for a group of four level 12 PCs. So far I’ve written a general overview of dragon prisons built by aberrations, the background and character hooks for a specific dragon prison called Shuzal, the area and random encounters around Shuzal’s entrance citadel, and the surface level of Shuzal’s entrance citadel. Now it’s time to take a look at the lower level of the entrance citadel.

Shuzal Entrance Citadel Lower Level

Shuzal 4

Map created with Pyromancers’ Dungeon Painter.

The lower level of Shuzal’s entrance citadel lies in ruin, but is not as badly damaged as its surface level, since it is better guarded from the elements. The Ox Tribe are on high alert in the lower levels, even if they have not received warning adventurers are invading. Members of the tribe have mysteriously been going missing in recent months and the whole place is on edge. By order of Chief Crtulak the Jaw all members of the tribe must travel through the tunnels in groups of four or more for protection.

Features of the Area

Illumination. Since the ogres and onis of the Ox Tribe have darkvision there are no light sources in the lower level of the citadel except where otherwise noted in an area’s description.

Ceiling. All ceilings in the area are 20 feet high except where noted in an area’s description.

Doors. The doors on this level of the citadel are made of adamantine (AC 23, HP 100). Unless otherwise noted, all doors are unlocked.

B1 – Entrance Studio

Rubble lies strewn on the ground of this chamber, the remnants of an old stair case.

The hole in area A3 is directly over the center of this chamber. If the Ox Tribe has warning the PCs are coming the door in this room is barred from the hall side and requires a DC 20 Strength check to open.

Rubble. The rubble lies in a low pile before the door and is difficult terrain for Medium or smaller creatures.

B2 – Warden’s Office 1

The Ox Tribe have taken the time to scratch the Giant word for danger onto the door to this room. The door here is jammed and requires a DC 20 Strength check to open.

The rubble-strewn room features a large desk at its center. There might have been more furniture in this place at one time, but now only stone rubble remains. Unlike the other areas in this ruin, the stones seem almost polished and dirt free.

Beneath this floor is a nest of four black puddings. The oozes are able to travel through the complex, sometimes picking off unwitting, lone ogres. They are starving since the ogres are traveling in groups too powerful to attack, which has made them desperate for a meal. If the ground in this area is disturbed by someone walking above the slink through the cracks and attack.

Desk. The desk holds the Shuzal warden’s old files on the prisoners and is trapped. Any creature who touches the desk releases a destructive wave of psychic energy. Creatures within 20 feet of the desk must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. Creatures who fail take 33 (6d10) psychic damage and are pushed back 10 feet. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not pushed.

The trap’s magic is controlled by a small pearl (worth 100 gp) on the underside of the desk. A DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check allows a character to spot the pearl. A DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the source of the trap’s magic is on the underside of the desk, provided the person making the check has seen the trap activated. A DC 15 Dexterity check made with thieves’ tools can remove the pearl and disarm the trap. A failure made on the check to remove the pearl activates the trap.

The desk has only one drawer intact which is locked shut. It can be forced open with a DC 20 Strength check or its lock can be picked with a DC 15 Dexterity check made with thieves’ tools.

Files. The old files within the desk are mostly useless and lost to time, but two files explain the aberrations reasons for holding and questioning the silver dragon siblings Maxathaltros and Kerrinalastraya.

Rubble. The rubble lies is difficult terrain for Medium or smaller creatures.

B3 – Warden’s Office 2

The Ox Tribe have taken the time to scratch the Giant word for danger onto the door to this room. The door here is jammed and requires a DC 20 Strength check to open.

The rubble-strewn room features a large desk at its center. There might have been more furniture in this place at one time, but now only stone rubble remains, covered in dust and undisturbed for years.

Desk. The stone desk here is not what it seems. When a creature enters the room, the desk shifts in half and stands, revealing it is really two stone golems. The golems are meant to guard this room and an old stone chest, which was smashed in the rubble long ago in a battle with some now dead ogres.

Rubble. The rubble lies is difficult terrain for Medium or smaller creatures.

Treasure. A creature who searches the rubble with a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check finds a bag of holding which contains a Shuzal portal key and two bombs of silence.

B4 – Crate Storage

Crates stacked up to the ceiling fill this chamber branded with various sigils of merchant guilds. This must be where the Ox Tribe keeps the goods they raid from passersby.

If PCs take the time to clear out the chamber there are 2000 gp worth of trade goods and mundane weapons and armor within the crates (what specifically is inside is up to you). The goods are heavy and weigh about 5000 pounds total.

B5 – Barrel Storage

Twenty-seven barrels the size of an adult dwarf branded with a camel sigil take up most of this room.

The Ox Tribe recently raided a caravan of Bragonian liquor vendors know carrying Camel’s Hump Whiskey. This alcohol is extremely potent and flammable. The Ox Tribe has taken to drinking the potent beverage with each meal.

Whiskey Barrels. Dealing 10 or more fire damage to a barrel with one attack or spell causes the liquor inside to explode. Creatures adjacent to the barrel must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) fire damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage. If a barrel is next to another when it explodes, both barrels explode.

The Camel’s Hump Whiskey is a rare and worth 200 gp a barrel. A single barrel weighs 275 pounds.

If a creature drinks the whiskey, it must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 hour. For each drink the creature has in an hour, the DC for the saving throw increases by 2.

B6 – Ogre Den

The rank smell in this room must be coming from the numerous sleeping mats spread all over the floor. A large group of ogres is gathered here, talking, resting, and playing games of dice.

If the ogres know the PCs are coming they have cleared out of this room. Use the following text instead.

 The rank smell in this room must be coming from the numerous sleeping mats spread all over the floor. The mats look disturbed, like a large group of creatures left this place in a hurry.

When the PCs arrive sixteen ogres are in this room (which used to be where the aberrations slept and took their meals). If the ogres get word the PCs are coming or hear them in the hall trying to open one of the jammed doors, eight of the ogres wait until the PCs come at least part of the way into the hall and then burst out and attack, some running down other halls to surround the PCs. Four other ogres join their friends in area B7 and the remaining four ogres go to area B8.

Treasure. Taking the time to search under all of the sleeping mats reveals 701 gp and 32 pp.

B7 – Dining Hall

Bright light, a warm heat, and a sickly sweet smell hit your senses as you take in this room. Four huge fires, each with its own anvil and water basin, are being used to roast four human corpses. Bones of various humanoids lie all over the floor. Two onis grin wickedly as you enter the room.

If there are also ogres from area B6 in this room add.

Four ogres whoop in delight, raising their weapons. “More food for the fires!” they cry.

Two onis (and possibly four ogres from area B6) prepare dinner here for the rest of the tribe. What was the aberrations’ smithy has now become a kitchen. The Ox Tribe also keeps a few extra barrels of Camel’s Hump Whiskey in here.

Everburning Fires. Thanks to the aberrant magic of the citadel, the fires always burn hot in this room. A creature who starts its turn in or passes through the fire takes 11 (2d10) fire damage.

Everfull Wells. Thanks to the aberrant magic of the citadel, the water in the basins here is always full of clean water, which is how the Ox Tribe stays hydeated.

Illumination. This room is bathed in bright light from the fires.

Whiskey Barrels. Dealing 10 or more fire damage to a barrel with one attack or spell causes the liquor inside to explode. Creatures adjacent to the barrel must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) fire damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage. If a barrel is next to another when it explodes, both barrels explode.

The Camel’s Hump Whiskey is a rare and worth 200 gp a barrel. A single barrel weighs 275 pounds.

If a creature drinks the whiskey, it must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 hour. For each drink the creature has in an hour, the DC for the saving throw increases by 2.

B8 – Throne Room

A bright light fills this room. Two onis stand guard on either side of a red seal on the ground before a dias. Atop the dias sits a throne made of stone and bone and atop the throne sits the largest ogre you have ever seen. In surprisingly well-spoken Common the huge beast speaks through a smile and an enormous mouth. “Welcome weary travelers. Let’s avoid bloodshed if we can. I’d hate to have to scrape you off my floor.”

If the four ogres from area B6 are there, add:

Four ogres stand on the dias, flanking the one sitting on the throne.

Chief Crtulak the Jaw has made this throne room his own. He has two onis who serve as his personal bodyguards (who are possibly joined by four ogres from area B6). Once a place for the warden to question prisoners and suspected traitors, the magic of the red seal is still active in the room and the attuned chief knows exactly how to control it. He knows the adventurers must be powerful to have made it this far and he hopes to use them to help him solve a problem.

Chief Crtulak’s Deal. The chief offers to pay the adventurers to help him with an issue. He tells them that his people are being attacked by something sinister in the complex. For the last few months members of the Ox Tribe have gone down to the crypts to pay respects to the dead and have been going mysteriously missing. At first Crtulak thought maybe his people were getting picked off by the traps, oozes, and constructs in the tunnels, but it began happening so often he suspected it might be something else. He then ordered his people to travel in groups, but that has only led to more Ox Tribe members disappearing in the tunnels.

The chief offers the adventurers a deal, he’ll give them each an emerald worth 1000 gp now if they agree to find the problem in the crypts and destroy it for him and then another emerald worth 1000 gp each when they return. A successful DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check also gets Crtulak to agree the Ox Tribe will no longer attack any passing caravans or tribes and feast only on animals (though he does so begrudgingly).

Chief Crtulak is calm and intelligent in his negotiations. He cares about the lives of his own people more than anything else and knows the adventurers might be too strong for him to handle, but that means they also might have the strength to wipe out his hidden foe. He is willing to make sacrifices to ensure the survival of his tribe. He will also use the properties of the red seal (see below), but only if he feels he is being lied to or about to be attacked. If the PCs agree to take on Crtulak’s job, he offers them an ogre guide through the tunnels in area B9. The ogre knows the tunnels well, but will only guide the PCs to the area of entrance B10 before getting scared and leaving them to fend for themselves.

Illumination. This room is bathed in bright light from the fires.

Red Seal. The red seal on the floor has magic properties which are controlled by whoever is attuned to it. To attune oneself to the red seal, a creature must spend one hour sitting on the throne with no interruptions or distractions as it mediates on the seal. A creature attuned to the seal can cast detect thoughtshold monster, or zone of truth (centered on the seal) on any creatures touching the seal as an action (spell save DC 17).

Treasure. Chief Crtulak keeps his treasures in a locked stone chest behind his throne. Any character who looks behind the throne can easily see the chest. It is locked but a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools or the key Crtulak holds can be used to open the chest. Inside the chest are twelve emeralds worth 1000 gp each, 354 gp, 12 pp, and a staff of walls (which Crtulak is waiting to award to one of his oni bodyguards).

B9 – The Catacombs

The maze-like tunnels which lead to the Ox Tribe’s burial grounds were put in place by the aberrations in case a dragon ever escaped Shuzal. The prisoner would have to find its way out of a maze of cramped tunnels, guarded with sinister traps and construct guardians. Since then black puddings have found their ways into the maze of tunnels. The ogres have navigated the tunnels enough times they can quickly get to their makeshift crypt and pay respects to their dead usually without any trouble.

Each time the PCs find themselves at the dead-end of a tunnel, roll for a random encounter on the table below to see if they are attacked or encounter a trap.

d10 Encounter
1 – 5 No encounter
6 1d4 + 1 black puddings
7 Spectral tendrils trap
8 1d4 + 1 helmed horrors
9 Withering tapestry trap
10 1 stone golem

Spectral Tendril Trap. This 10-foot-square area has been cursed with a ritual that forms tendrils of pure necrotic energy which hunger to feed on the living. The ritual is powered by an unholy symbol painted or carved into the ground at the center of the area. The tendrils live below the surface of the floor and wait for a living creature to walk into the area before attacking.

A character notices the trapped area and its immediate surroundings are slightly colder with a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character trained in Arcana can determine the meaning of the symbol with a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check.

When a creature steps into the area, the tendrils rise from the ground and make an attack roll against that creature with a +8 bonus. On a hit the tendrils deal 22 (4d10) necrotic damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Another creature can attack the tendrils grappling a creature (AC 15). If they deal more than 15 damage in one attack the tendrils let go. The tendrils disappear if they are dealt radiant damage.

Withering Tapestry Trap. This 10-foot-square tapestry depicts a regal aberration king and queen sitting upon a throne with crowns of gold. Any creature who can see the tapestry must make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. A creature who fails is overcome with admiration for the tapestry and cannot willingly move out of sight of the tapestry for 24 hours. During that time the creature cares only about the tapestry and will defend the work of art with its life. It acts hostile toward any creature who tries to touch the tapestry or tries to move the effected creature away from the tapestry. The creature will try to find its way back to the tapestry if it is forcibly removed from it. The creature will not sleep while it is under this effect. After 24 hours the affected creature suffers a level of exhaustion. It must repeat the saving throw if the tapestry is still within line of sight.

A DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals the nature of the trap. A DC 20 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals the tapestry is immune to all damage except for fire. The tapestry has AC 10 and 30 hit points.

B10 – Crypt

This room has been cleared of any rubble and heavy stone coffins slide into spaces all along the wall, up into the raised ceiling.

The ceiling in this room is 50 feet high. The Ox Tribe use this room to store the bones of their dead. When they first took the citadel, the Ox Tribe released a horribly contagious disease and so it was worth traversing the catacombs to put their dead far away from the living. The disease has since faded from all but memory, yet the Ox Tribe still entomb their dead here, carving coffins from the stones of the ruin. Characters who search the coffins find they are empty.

Secret Door. A successful DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the small scrapes in the ground before secret door which leads to area B11. A successful DC 25 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the outline of the door. Because Akros Sepora and her minions use this door, all traps and locks have been disabled. If the PCs do not notice the secret door after one hour of time spent in the room, the door is revealed when eight ogre zombies come through the door and attack. One of the zombies carries a Shuzal portal key.

B11 – Portal Room

This small room contains a cauldron holding placid blue water. Braziers burn all around the room, flickering with madly.

The pool in this room can become a portal which leads to the demiplane where Shuzal is housed.

Braziers. The braziers in this room are powered by the aberrant magic of the ruin and never go out. A creature who moves into or starts its turn in the same space as the brazier takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.

Illumination. This room is bathed in bright light from the fires.

Portal. The water pool begins to glow red when someone brings a Shuzal portal key within 10 feet of the pool and the portal becomes active. Any creature who enters the pool while it is red is immediately transported to the demiplane outside of Shuzal. Even if the key holder goes through the portal it remains active for 1 minute.

If a creature enters the pool when the portal is not active it must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) radiant damage and are blinded for 1 hour. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not blinded. The creature must repeat this saving throw at the start of its turn every round it remains in the pool.

If the PCs do not have a portal key, fear not! One hour after they arrive in the portal room a group of eight zombie ogres comes through the portal. One of these ogres carries a Shuzal portal key.

Next Time…

…we’ll go through the portal!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I sit down with Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Allison Rossi, and John Fischer to talk about our experience playtesting the Unearthed Arcana mass combat rules during the Tome Show’s livestream of the Battlesystem Brawl. This playtest used races and spells from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion and the warforged race from the Unearthed Arcana Eberron article. You can check out videos and the podcast version of the livestream below. This podcast was recorded on May 10, 2015.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!


If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A podcast of the Battlesystem Brawl is now available on The Tome Show’s website (though the videos below are a much better medium for this sort of thing).

Round Table regulars Allison Rossi, Rudy BassoAlex Basso, and I take on DM John Fischer in an army vs army battle playtesting the new Dungeons and Dragons mass combat rules. The armies in this battle were created using the free Elemental Evil Player’s Companion PDF. We’re going to follow-up this podcast with Round Table analysis in the days to come. This podcast was recorded on March 29, 2015.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!


If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Unusual Dungeons” chosen by Nils Jeppe of Enderra has inspired a series of blog posts about some abandoned prisons built to hold dragons by aberrations. So far I’ve written about dragon prisons in general, the specific history of the prison of Shuzal, and the area surrounding Shuzal. Now I’m going to flesh out Shuzal post by post and hopefully have a nice dungeon to show for it in the end. My plan is to put it all into a PDF and throw it up on the Free Game Resources section of this site.

The Ruined Entrance Citadel

Shuzal Entrance Citadel Map

Built in Pyromancers online Dungeon Painter.

Shuzal’s entrance citadel lies in overgrown forest ruins, picked over by the ogres of the Ox Tribe. Having been exposed to the elements for thousands of years, the citadel’s roof has collapsed, walls have crumbled, and trees have grown right through the floor. While the Ox Tribe has some guards posted on this first level of the citadel, most of its members are out raiding or living life in the underground section of the complex.

As you trek through the forest, through the trees you can see curved stone structures rising from the ground. These walls seem to have grown as naturally as the trees growing amongst them. Though crumbling and forgotten there is no mistaking the strange curvature of the walls, identifying this structure as something built by aberrations.

Features of the Area

Illumination. Because there is no ceiling on the ruined citadel, it has the same illumination as the forest directly outside.

Crumbling Walls. The citadel’s 20-foot-high surface level walls are on their last legs. A Small or larger creature adjacent to a wall can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check to know over a 5-foot section of the wall. Creatures on the opposite side of the wall must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage. Creatures who are adjacent to a wall can be knocked through the wall by another creature using the shove attack or a spell which causes forced movement. The creature being moved must be adjacent to the wall before the shove happens or spell is cast, otherwise the wall stops them in their tracks as normal. A creature pushed through a wall takes 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage. Trying to climb one of the walls requires a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check. Creatures who fail this check break the section of wall they are trying to climb, taking 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage in addition to fall damage as normal. The ogres in this complex do not hesitate to knock over the walls to make more room for their bulk.

Open Spaces. The destroyed ceiling and crumbling walls of Shuzal mean that anything happening within the citadel can be heard in all other areas on this level of the complex, except in area A7, which has maintained its roof and door. If battle breaks out or a wall is destroyed, any Ox Tribe members in the complex converge on the source of the noise. Consider breaking enemies into waves based on the rooms they start in. If a fight breaks out, bring in a new wave at the end of the round whenever the PCs outnumber the enemies they are currently fighting. Keep the pressure on in this dungeon brawl.

Rubble. The Ox Tribe ogres have pushed the rubble into large piles which hampers less-than-ogre-sized creatures. Rubble is considered difficult terrain for Medium and smaller creatures.

Trees. The trees growing in this area are 20 feet tall and require a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check to climb. Medium or smaller creatures who climb 10 feet or more into a tree have the benefit of half cover thanks to the branches.

A1 & A2 – Guard-Houses

As you enter the ruined citadel, gaping holes in the wall can be seen on both sides of the hall. A foul stench, laughter, and gross eating noises come from the West side of the hall. Low grumbling and the clatter of small stones on large stones can be heard from the East.

Eight ogres are on guard duty, four in each guard-house. In A1 the ogres sit eating the bodies of four dead human merchants and telling each other bawdy jokes. In A2 the ogres play a game with dice.

Treasure. The hungry ogres in A1 shoved the tattered clothing of the merchants into the corner of the room behind a pile of rubble and can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character searching through the clothing discovers a blood-stained belt pouch containing 302 gp.

A3 – Tunnel Room

The most prominent feature of this room is the large, gaping hole in the floor, which drops 15 feet onto a ruined stone floor.

If the ogres are in this room, add:

Two large ogres turn to face you as you enter the room. One rushes toward you, the other heads for the hole.

This room used to be the aberrations well-guarded stairwell to the lower portions of the citadel. Now the stair well lies in ruin and two ogres stand guard. If trouble breaks out, one of the ogres heads down below to warn the rest of the tribe.

Tunnel. The tunnel here is really a hole in the ground which drops 15 feet. The height is high enough for large creatures (like ogres) to safely lower themselves down, but smaller creatures need to use rope, magic, or some other method to safely touch down on the lower level of the citadel.

A4 – Training Room

This long room has walls painted with faded frescos of dragons falling in battle before aberrations. On the side of the East wall, a large column painted with various targets lies in ruin.

If the ogres and oni are in this room, add:

An oni feverishly lectures two ogres who hang their heads in shame and fear.

This is the place where aberration guards would practice their combat tactics. Any who wished to access the lower levels of the citadel and the portal to Shuzal would have to pass aberration soldiers ready for combat. Now two ogres and an oni are here. The ogres came to blows over a shiny stone one of them found. The oni has taken the stone for herself and is currently lecturing the ogres about fighting each other while on guard duty.

Treasure. The oni carries a topaz worth 500 gp on a pouch in its belt.

A5 – Processing Room

This forgotten room has a smashed, divot-filled column which was once inlaid with some sort of stones. The smashed pile of rubble in the corner of the room was clearly an old piece of furniture.

This forgotten room is where polymorphed dragon prisoners were brought for processing. The column, once full of magically charged gemstones, forced a permanent zone of truth spell in room. The pile of rubble in this room is a smashed stone desk which held the files of the aberrations, since plundered or lost to the ravages of time.

Treasure. A DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals there is still a large spinel worth 250 gp on the underside of the column. A character can reach under and try to pry out the spinel with a DC 15 Strength check.

A6 – Golem Workshop

A smashed bench and some rusty old tools lie on the round in this room. Faded frescos on the wall depict various aberrations assembling guardians of stone, flesh, and metal.

If the clay golem is here, add:

In the middle of the room stands a silent statue made of clay, resembling a human with tentacles for arms.

One of the onis of the Ox Tribe found this old golem workshop and managed to magically reprogram the clay golem here to work for her. The clay golem guards this level of the complex and runs toward any sounds of battle and attacks any non-Ox Tribe creatures it comes across.

A7 – The Key Room

As the adamantine door opens, a heavy purple mist floats out of the door around your ankles. Inside the room, a great adamantine chest sits behind a huge creature made of iron. Its three heads look your way as it raises its sword. Its feet crush the skeletons of ogres as it moves toward you.

This room was setup long ago by the aberrations to guard one of Shuzal’s portal keys. The ogres have left the room untouched after many attempts to get to the chest failed thanks to the iron golem guardian and the mists within the room. This room is entirely enclosed, has a 20-foot high ceiling, and is shrouded in darkness, though opening the door and leaving it open allows for light from the outside to penetrate the room. The iron golem here does not join battle unless it can see intruders (and it considers the Ox Tribe intruders as well). Its main function is to guard the chest.

Jammed Door. The adamantine door (AC 23, HP 100) to this room has been jammed by the ogres. It can be forced open with a DC 20 Strength check.

Mists of Madness. This mist covers the entirety of the floor in area A7. When a living creature shows any sign of above animal intelligence (such as speaking, casting a spell, using tools or a weapon, etc.) while standing within the mists, the mists rise up and try to enter the creature’s lungs. When the mists try to enter a creature’s body, that creature must first succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. If the creature fails that saving throw, it must then succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or gain one form of long-term madness. Creatures who are aware they are standing in mists of madness have advantage on the Constitution saving throw. A DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals the nature of the trap. A strong wind forces the mists to dissipate in 1d10 rounds.

Treasure. The adamantine chest (AC 23, HP 100) is locked. The key to this chest is long forgotten, but a DC 20 Dexterity check made with thieves tools picks the lock or a DC 20 Strength check forces the lock open. If the lock is forced open with a Strength check or if a creature attempts to pick the lock and fails, the poison mister trap (see below) triggers. The chest contains a Shuzal portal key, a rod of planar entrapment, and fifteen pearls carved to look like eyes (worth 100 gp each).

Poison Mister Trap. A nozzle connected to a vial of poison gas is hidden in the chest’s lock. When the trap is triggered the nozzle creates a 15-foot cone of gas originating from the lock. Creatures within the cone must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) poison damage and are poisoned for 1 hour. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not poisoned. A DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check allows a character to deduce the trap’s presence from alterations made to the lock to accommodate the nozzle and vial. A DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disarms the trap, removing the nozzle and gas vial from the lock.

A8 – Offices

A huge pile of rubble indicates that all of the stone furniture in this room was smashed and pushed into a pile.

If the ogres are here, add:

Eight ogres sit around the body of a fallen comrade, solemnly praying.

Once the prisoners of Shuzal were processed, their information was brought here and poured over by various aberration intelligence officers. Now eight ogres hold an impromptu funeral for a friend who died on a recent raid before bringing him below to be buried.

A9 – Forgotten Room

This room is so badly damaged it’s almost impossible to tell what its former purpose was. It does not seem to have much of one now.

This room’s outer wall is easier to break. A DC 10 Strength check is all that is required to knock it over. A DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the wall is weaker than the others.

A10 – Armor Storage

A huge pile of rubble sits in this room next to a tree which seems to have grown taller than the others nearby. Rusted pieces of metal sit here and there on the ground, perhaps once pieces of something greater.

Long ago the aberrations stored armor here. Now the highest tree in this section of the forest grows from the floor. The tree is 40 feet high and climbing to the top allows a person to see over the rest of the complex, since all areas have no ceiling except A7.

A11 – Weapon Storage

Rusted blades, spears, and hammers lie about this room.

If the oni is here, add:

At the center of the room, an oni meditates beneath a tree.

The oni in this room is trying to get in touch with the aberrant magic of the ruin. The aberrations once kept their weapons here.

Treasure. The roots of the tree are covering an old deerskin bag, which can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. Removing the bag from under the roots requires a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the check fails by 5 or more the bomb of horrors in the bag goes off.

Next Time…

…we’ll get to the lower level of this dungeon!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Last week I wrote about the prisons for dragons built by aberrations. Then I wrote about the specific history of one such dragon prison, Shuzal, and provided some adventure hooks to give players a reason to visit the aberrant ruin. Today I’m going to discuss encounters which can occur around Shuzal.

Before I get going let me send a shout-out to Nils Jeppe over at Enderra. He’s hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival and the theme is “Unusual Dungeons.” That great choice inspired this series of blog posts. For a general overview of what a dragon prison is check out the first post in this series. For the specific history of Shuzal and quest hooks to get your PCs headed there, check out the second post in this series.

In this post I’ll give you a description of the area surround Shuzal’s entrance citadel and tables for random encounters PCs may have on their way to the ruin.

Shuzal and surrounding area

The Great Bear Forest

Shuzal is located within the Great Bear Forest between the Aeranorian colonies of Paqual and Lumberton, the tiefling Amber Spire, and the village of the Bear Tribe. The Great Bear Forest is chilly and mysterious. Every morning the woods are covered in thick mist and the sounds of animals calling and responding to one another fills the ears of the tribes and colonists. This routine ends with the baritone call of the great bears. The Bear Tribe describes their namesake as elusive, enormous bears infused with spiritual energy by their gods. The bears protect the wood, and lumberjacks from Aeranore have been warned many times that if they continue their work they will be marked for death.

Towns and Settlements

PCs could be based in one of the following settlements or pass through them on their way to Shuzal, depending on the hooks used. The small descriptions below can be expanded upon. Assume the colonies and the tiefling spire have a place to buy most mundane goods and services, while the Bear Tribe does not offer much in the way of goods and services for sale, but might be willing to barter in exchange for items or favors from the PCs.

Lumberton (Colony Population 1,500) Lumberton is a community of humans and gnomes focused on exporting lumber all over Canus. The companies here dream to one day expand and overtake one of Taliana’s main exports. The elves and halflings of Taliana currently does not see this colony as a threat, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping a watchful eye.

Paqual (Colony Population 2,500) Nobleman Sydal Freedrock has convinced the people of Paqual that they should not be subject to the rule of Icillia IV, who sits on a throne across the sea and does not understand the problems of the Verdan colonies. He wants Paqual and Aeranore’s other colonies to rise against Icillia IV and declare themselves a separate nation. Trying to garner support, Sydal will soon make his own claim for Paqual’s independence, with or without the other colonies. Many of Paqual’s citizens agree with this separatist attitude, though some Aeranoreans see Sydal as a power-hungry tyrant who desires a kingdom of his own.

Amber Spire (City Population 30,000) The Amber Spire is home to some of Verda’s most isolationist tieflings. Outsiders cannot enter the walled city unless accompanied by a tiefling who has legitimate reason to enter the spire (as deemed by the guards). The city is built upon itself with winding roads which lead the way up to its pointed top. The tieflings here often specialize in the aburjation school of magic and train with great weapons. Like many of Verda’s tieflings, they rarely leave the walls of the spire without good reason and are suspicious of any outsiders who enter their city.

Bear Tribe (Village Population 400) The half-orcs, humans, and orcs of the Bear Tribe live a peaceful life in their small settlement of longhouses. They are friendly toward outsiders though they believe the Aeranorians in Lumberton and Paqual are angering the spirits within the great bears by taking more lumber than they need. Though they are not at war, the Bear Tribe has many great fighters and accomplished shaman who can spring into combat a moment’s notice and keep the village from harm.


PCs traveling to Shuzal may choose to take the trail between Paqual and Lumberton, which they may travel at normal speed, or they may cut through the forest, through which they travel at half speed, unless they are using a special mount or magic item. One hex on the map above equals 50 miles.

Random Encounters

While traveling in the Great Bear Forest the PCs may encounter all sorts of people and monsters. Roll a d20 three times for each day the PCs are traveling in the forest, once for morning, once for afternoon, and once for night. On a roll of 18-20 a random encounter occurs.

Use the table to determine what type of encounter occurs. For encounters marked with an asterisk use the descriptions provided after the tables.

Great Bear Forest Random Encounters
d12 + d8 Encounter
2 1d6 + 4 great bears*
3 1 morchia and 1d6 cult fanatics*
4 1 tiefling archmage*
5 1 fleeing merchant*
6 1d4 trolls
7 1 Ox Tribe oni and 1d8 Ox Tribe ogres
8 1d8 + 8 giant toads
9 Tribe (friendly) 1d4 druids and 1d6 + 2 berserkers*
10 1d6 + 5 Ox Tribe ogres
11 Lumber merchant caravan*
12 2 human gladiators and 2 human mages*
13 Tribe (hostile) 1d4 druids and 1d6 + 2 berserkers*
14 1d2 + 1 mammoths
15 1d8 + 8 dire wolves
16 1d4 hill giants
17 1 behir
18 1 roc
19 1 young gold dragon flying overhead
20 1 abandoned lumberjack mech


Use the descriptions below for encounters marked with an asterisk.

Druids and Berserkers

Members of a tribe of bugbears, hobgoblins, humans, half-orcs, githzerai, gnolls, goblins, kalashtar, orcs, or any combination of these humanoids might cross paths with the PCs in the forest. These tribal warriors are decorated with the patron animal of their tribe (decided by the DM). Friendly warriors might belong to the bear tribe.

Fleeing Merchant

The PCs come across a human lumber merchant who is alone in the forest. The merchant’s caravan was attacked by the Ox Tribe ogres. The merchant wishes to return to the safety of Lumberton and will pay the PCs 50 gp each to act as escort.

Great Bears

Everything around the PCs goes silent and then enormous, majestic bears traveling in a pack cross their path. Unless provoked the bears pass by peacefully. If the PCs are on their way to Shuzal to stop the ogres, one of them receives a charm of animal conjuring as a gift from the bears.

Human Gladiators and Mages

The PCs come across members of the Explorers’ Guild or Society of Seekers searching for new aberrant ruins.

Lumber Merchant Caravan

This lumber caravan is on its way to Paqual with a fresh order of lumber to ship to Aeranore or on its way to Lumberton to get more lumber to send over seas. They are friendly and able to provide directions, food, and water to the PCs.

Morchia and Cult Fanatics

This morchia and its Aberrant Alliance followers stalk the forest for victims for the morchia to devour.

Tiefling Archmage

This spireless tiefling was kicked out of the Amber Spire years ago for violent tendencies. If it sees the adventurers it stalks them, trying to separate them and pick them off one at a time.

Up Next

Coming up… the first layer of the dungeon!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I sit down with Doug Davison of SmiteWorks, makers of Fantasy Grounds, and Greg Tito of Wizards of the Coast, makers of Dungeons and Dragons. They discuss the companies’ partnership to bring Dungeons and Dragons products to Fantasy Grounds. Then we get a few teases from Greg about the upcoming Rage of Demons storyline! This podcast was recorded on May 7, 2014.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!


If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Thanks to the inspired RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Unusual Dungeons” (chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra) this month I’m going to be building you a dungeon for use in your home game. In my last post I described the general history and layout of Exploration Age’s dragon prisons, one of the world’s many types of aberrant ruins. Today I’m going to get specific and write about a single dragon prison. Hopefully when all is said and done the dungeon will be appropriate for PCs of 12th level.

World Map of Canus

World map of Canus

Shuzal and surrounding area

Shuzal and surrounding area

Prison Overview

Deep in the halls of Shuzal a sinister force warped by corrupt aberrant magic has gained control of the prison’s lowest level. While many prisoners have been turned by this evil, Maxathaltros, a silver dragon, cowers in his cell, waiting for a savior or death to come his way.


Shuzal was an important prison for the aberration forces. During the war many important metallic dragons, their allies, and weapons were contained within its walls including a pair of silver dragon twins who were ancestors of the architects of the tiefling race. Maxathaltros and his sister, Kerrinalastraya, were well into adulthood when they were thrown into Shuzal. The aberrations mistakenly believed the twins knew a secret to unmaking the tieflings, who were the metallic dragons’ allies. For thousands of years the twins were tortured at the hands of aberrations for information that did not exist.

As the aberrations on Verda found themselves close to ruin at the hands of the dragons and the tieflings, their methods of interrogating the twins became more extreme. Kerrinalastraya was killed in her cell during an interrogation. The aberrations searched her cell for any information she might have hidden away, found nothing, but left her cell door unlocked as they fled the demiplane on which the prison was built leaving active constructs and traps behind to guard the prison itself. The dragons and tieflings laid waste to the citadel on the Material Plane which hid the entrance to the demiplane, but never found the portal.

More millennia passed as the dragon prisoners sat in their cells, sustained by the magic of the aberrant demiplane. The boredom made some insane. Yet other dragons, like Maxathaltros, held onto hope that they might one day escape and rejoin their kin.

On the Material Plane a clan of ogres, the Ox Tribe, moved into the ruins of the citadel once guarding Shuzal. The tribe has a fearsome reputation for devouring the flesh on any living being, preferring to dine on anyone intelligent. Their residence there has remained virtually uncontested for thousands of years.

500 years ago Akros Sepora, a spireless tiefling from the Amber Spire shunned for her practice of necromancy, found the ruins of Shuzal. Using a bevy of powerful spells she managed to evade detection from the Ox Tribe. Luckily for Akros the ogres had a burial ground which provided her with undead bodyguards. She entered the demiplane after uncovering a portal key in the rubble of the ruin. Her undead defeated the construct guardians and traps on the ground floor of Shuzal and she has ruled there ever since. Taking advantage of the agelessness effect in the demiplane, Akros has had centuries to perfect her dark craft. She rebuilt and reprogrammed some of the constructs, ventured back into the Material Plane for more ogre corpses, and became obsessed with the aberrant magic of the demiplane which causes allows her to live without the need of food, water, or aging. Her goal is to find a way to harness that magic and bring it with her to the Material Plane. Akros is getting bored in her small home of Shuzal. The first place she plans to bring her undead army is back to the Amber Spire. Perhaps a destructive display will teach the city which scorned her to respect the art of necromancy.

Akros does not venture down to the cell block floor of the prison for she fears the dragons and even greater terror which she created. 200 years ago her tampering with the aberrant magic of Shuzal corrupted the corpse of Kerrinalastraya, turning the dragon into a dracolich who now rules the cell block floor. Kerrinalastraya abhors anything living and killed all the sane prisoners. Her victims were raised as zombies who now roam the cell block floor, helping her search for a way to exit the demiplane. She kept the insane prisoners alive for they keep her entertained. Her brother also lives though locked in his cell. Maxathaltros hates what his sister has become, but she still loves him. When she finds a way out of Shuzal, Kerrinalastarya hopes her brother’s gratitude will change his mind about her new form.

Recently Akros ran out of fresh ogre corpses from the burial grounds of the Ox Tribe and has begun picking off living ogres to swell her undead ranks. The Ox Tribe knows that some of their own have gone missing in the night and want to punish the person responsible.

Kerrinalastarya has unlocked a vault within the cell block which kept many of the aberrations magic weapons. The aberrations emptied most of the vault when they fled Shuzal, but the dracolich did find enough weapons that she has begun constructing a massive drill, which she believes can slowly dig her a path through Shuzal’s adamantine ceiling to its surface.


The following hooks can be used to get PCs into Shuzal.

Ogre Raids

Caravans on the trail between Paqual and Lumberton have been attacked repeatedly by a large group of ogres. The PCs are hired by Falan Neleare, owner of the Neleare Lumber Company, to clear out the ogres. He knows the task is dangerous and will give them 100 gp for the head of every ogre returned to him. If the PCs are members of the Explorers’ Guild of the Society of Seekers this contract may come to them through these organizations.

Portal Key

Datas Lantandra, an venerable tiefling librarian from the Amber Spire, has become obsessed with searching aberrant ruins. The old tiefling has been researching nearby ruins and recently discovered a strange gemstone in the spire’s aberrant collection which he believes to be a portal key to Shuzal. He hires the PCs to delve into the ruins of Shuzal’s entrance citadel, find the portal, and bring back any books, letters, or tomes they might find. Datas agrees to pay the PCs 1,000 gp for every book or letter they find, and can be convinced to pay more for interesting aberrant artifacts.

Dreams of Maxathaltros

Maxathaltros has been trying to reach the Material Plane for thousands of years by creating a powerful version of the dream spell. When the PCs are resting within 1000 miles of the ruins of Shuzal’s citadel they receive a vision of Maxathaltros begging them to come and free him from his prison. He offers to take them to his treasure hoard on the northern most cliffs the Harpy Mountains if they free him. Should they free him, Maxathaltros is true to his word. Much of his hoard has disappeared in the millennia he was trapped, but he did keep a chest of hidden booty. The gems, coins, and art within the chest are worth 50,000 gp. The chest also contains 3 rare magic items of the DM’s choice.


While searching another aberrant ruin, the PCs find the journal of an aboleth general for millennia ago. The journal is written in Deep Speech (which is a written language in Exploration Age) and has mostly been lost to the ravages of time. There is a legible passage which mentions receiving spoils of war from allies across the sea including a magic war pick of extreme power liberated from the corpse of a dwarf. The ruby-headed pick was sent to Shuzal for safekeeping. A PC who succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (History) check knows this weapon could be Servitor, one of the Tools of Order. Any dwarf PCs from Bragonay or PCs who have done research about the Tools of Order know this automatically.

Coming Soon!

Does Kerrinalastarya have a phylactery? If Akros is so obsessed with living forever why doesn’t she just become a lich? You probably have a lot of questions about this dungeon and its inhabitants, but do not worry. Answers are coming your way.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Unusual Dungeons (and other such locations)” chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra. Is that an awesome theme or what?

In my homebrew setting of Exploration Age ruined settlements and structures from an age when aberrations ruled Canus dot the world map. These aberrant ruins come in many forms. My favorite is a prison designed specifically for holding dragons!

The only dragon no prison can contain.


History of Dragon Prisons

The aberrations warred for thousands of years with the dragons for control of Canus. During that time the aberrations used powerful magic to create special prisons designed to hold dragons. These prisons needed to be powerful indeed to contain such mighty creatures.

The aberrations eventually lost the war with the dragons, abandoning their surface structures and retreating into The Underdark. Many of their prisons remain standing thousands of years later with magic and horrors untold.

Entrance Citadels

No dragon prisons actually exist on the Material Plane. Each prison is held in its own special demiplane created by the aberrations. The hidden entrances to these worlds are found within labyrinthine ruins of aberrant citadels. Like most aberrant structures these ruins go deep into the ground rather than rise into the sky to afford better protection from flying dragon enemies.

The aberrations left these strongholds behind causing them to be overrun with all manner of creatures seeking a free home. Orcs, goblins, gnolls, lizardfolk, kobolds, and more make the place home usually without ever knowing its previous purpose. Even if the portals are found in these ruins, opening one requires obtaining its key, a small gem with a strange aberrant symbol engraved.

Aside from the denizens who call the ruin home, there may be some active traps from the time of the aberrations. These traps are typically magical, mind-altering obstacles which the resident monsters have learned to avoid.

Prison Demiplanes

Once through the portal and into the pocket dimension, adventurers find themselves in a small plane of fixed size. The portal lands them on strip of barren earth sandwiched between the edge of the plane and a moat of liquid psychic energy. This strip of land and moat run along the plane’s borders creating an island at the center of the plane. Upon this island sits the prison itself, and imposing structure of black hewn stone, shaped and carved by the strange magic of aberrations.

Inside the demiplane living creatures require no food or water to survive and do not age. A powerful ritual to create this effect was enacted by the aberrations for two reasons. First performing the rituals, expensive and time-consuming as they are, was less expense and life-threatening than trying to feed, house, and clean up after growing dragons. Also as dragons age they grow in power so it was to the aberrations’ benefit to halt the aging process of these beings.

The few aberration guards who patrolled the prison fled years ago when their kind were driven underground. Of course these demiplanes never housed many aberrations to begin with. Even behind bars dragon prisoners are dangerous so the aberrations built construct guardians. These guardians are still operational, patrolling the demiplane’s border and moat as well as the inside of the prison. All of these constructs are linked together by magic so when one senses trouble, all other constructs are alerted to prepare for battle.

Ground Floor

If the moat, walls, and guardians outside of the prison can be overcome, adventurers find themselves on the ground floor of the prison itself. No dragons dwell on the ground floor. Rather, more construct guardians roam an open air fort complete with towers, a guardhouse, and an enormous hole in the center of the ground.

The adamantine guardhouse is where the aberrations who ran the complex lived. These now abandoned buildings have a training room, private quarters, and a war room for meetings and communication with the world outside the demiplane. The war room often features a crystal ball which allows observation of all areas of the cell block floor and direct communication with the entrance citadel and other aberrant ruins. The strange and varied body shapes and habits of aberrations are accounted for in these structures. There is often a hidden, locked, trapped chest within these guard houses which contains scrolls of levitate.

The constructs are trained to use the powerful psychic cannons mounted on towers around the complex. These cannons stun invading creatures while the rest of the guardians clobber them to death. The constructs immediately attack any creature they do not recognize.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of the prison’s ground floor is the large hole in its center. The top of the opening is covered with a magic, translucent barrier which allows only non-dragon creatures to pass through. The next level of the prison, the cell block floor, is 100 feet below and the only way to reach it is through the opening. Aberrations and constructs who could not fly used the scrolls of levitate when they needed to head down to the cell block floor. The controls for turning this barrier on and off are within the guardhouse.

Cell Block Floor

The central area of the cell block is directly underneath the opening on the ground floor. Several long halls branch off from the central area in several directions for 500 feet in different directions like spokes in a wheel. Should the dragon escape its cell, it still has a far way to travel down a cramped hall before it can use its breath weapon. These halls have adamantine gates every 100 feet which were meant to be slammed down and locked in case of a dragon escape. The central room also features a psychic net which can be activated from the guardhouse in the ground level to subdue any escaping dragons.

The prison’s most powerful construct guardians roam the halls of the cell block level, ready to destroy any intruders who might free the dragons. Traps which affect the mind and cripple intruders with necrotic, psychic, and radiant damage are found on the bars of every cell and along every hall.

The bars of each cell neutralize any spell or attack which deals acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder damage as well as any breath weapon which passes through them. Standing in front of the bars allows a person to see everywhere within the cell. Aberrations would stand at the bars and torture dragon prisoners using their psychic abilities. The dragons had no place to hide. Sometimes the dragons would die during these interrogations and their massive bodies would often be left in the cell until the prison ran out of space and the cell was needed for a new captive.

While the prisons were made to hold dragons, others might be contained within the cells. On Verda, tieflings might be held within some of the cells if they were captured alongside their dragon allies and the same might be the case for shardminds on Findalay or Parian. Even traitorous aberrations or morchia could be contained within the cells. The cells have also been used to hold objects of great value since the prisons are so well guarded.

Now that thousands of years have passed, each cell block floor could be different from prison to prison. The magic in a cell’s bars might have weakened or malfunctioned allowing a dragon to escape. The freed dragon still cannot leave the prison because of the magical barrier above, but might have liberated its dragon allies, or kept them locked up to torture for entertainment, or have reprogrammed the constructs to follow all of its orders. The life-sustaining magic of the demiplane could become corrupt and raise the fallen corpse of a dragon turning it into a dracolich. What have dragons done to their cells in the thousands of years of solitude? Were they driven mad? Did they have some way to cast spells or practice magic? How might they react to people? These decisions are all up to the DM.

Keep It Rollin’

I actually like this dragon prison thing so much, I’m going to build one for you level by level. Maybe at the end of it all I’ll give you guys the whole dungeon in a PDF. Next time!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!