Posts Tagged ‘dungeon crawl’

Let’s talk dungeons! It’s the theme of this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. Many thanks to James Eck over at Mind Weaver RPG for hosting and coming up with this awesome idea.

Everyone loves a good dungeon! I’ve given my opinion in the past on building adventure sites. Canus is chock full of them! Aberrant ruins, unexplored jungle temples, Underdark labyrinths, and more!

I Like ‘Em Small and Chunky

AD&D Forgotten Realms FTW BBQ!

Since I’m designing a campaign setting, I want to share with you some interesting dungeon locations I’ve written for the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. I’m taking a page out of Ed Greenwood’s playbook. In a recent Tome Show podcast of a Gen Con Forgotten Realms panel, Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore discussed the beauty of the original grey box, which was the first product to bring the world a fully realized Realms. Greenwood went on to say he did not flesh out every single dungeon and adventure site in the Realms with a map. That would have been too expensive to print, more work than one person could do in a timely manner, and too prescriptive to DMs (and authors like Salvatore) who wanted a toy box, but not directions on how to set up the toys. For those reasons I’m doing the same thing in Exploration Age.

Also, it’s good for me to give out information in small chunks so that I create a campaign guide both DMs and players can read. This is good for two reasons. First, many DMs are also players in other games, so I don’t want them to read through the book for their game and then feel like they can’t run a PC in another because of what they know. Second, I want players to be able to read the Exploration Age Campaign Guide freely so they can also get to know the world. If all the dungeon details were in the book, PCs would be going into a monster lair knowing every secret door, combat encounter, and trap. As a bonus, it’s good business to put out a book both players and DMs can buy.

That thinking from the original grey box has carried over into modern products. If you look at the fourth edition campaign guides for Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun, you’ll see that thinking of giving out a small paragraph or two of info for each adventure site is far more common place than fleshing out the entire thing with maps and creatures.

What IS a Dungeon?

Now THAT’S a dungeon.

Let’s face it, when someone says the word dungeon to a D&D player, most of us think of an underground tunnel complex, ancient ruin, or dark castle. Though really a dungeon can be any place with encounters, decision points, and rewards. More simply a dungeon is any place an adventure takes place. It doesn’t have to be old, dark, smelly, and out of the sun’s light.

In fact, you can lay out a wilderness adventure or a murder mystery during a jackrabbit ride the same way you might a dungeon. Plan out some encounters ahead of time, detail some key areas, and you’re off to the races. You can even throw some good decision points in there, like do the players summit Mt. Inferno, do they pass it to the East where the Skullbreaker orcs live, or pass it to the West where Salvanaxiavarion the red dragon makes her home.

Really any adventure site is a dungeon.

Exploration Age Dungeons

This will be helpful!

This will be helpful!

And so, without further adieu, some adventure sites from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.

  • Mageforge Bragonay’s first attempt at magical terraforming went horribly wrong. At first the research facility of Mageforge’s gardens were lush and successful, but the crops continued to grow. Rapidly a living jungle overtook the research facility and the land around it. The plants came into a mind of their own and tore apart the facility, scattering its contents everywhere and killing the inhabitants. The place is now a living jungle, still full of interesting research and items the dwarves were creating, but every living thing in Mageforge is teeming with hate for humanoids, especially those who seek to rob their treasures.
  • Deep Orc Mountains No landform has a more appropriate name in all of Findalay than the Deep Orc Mountains. The orcs used to live throughout The Spine of Bragonay and The Wastes, but the united orc tribes raided one too many dwarf caravans and former Empress Falahdrah ordered The Black Blood Purge. The dwarves drove the orcs into their own section of the mountains while also seeding agents within the orc ranks to sow discord. In thousands of miles of twisting tunnels the orcs now war against themselves. This was a genius move on the part of the dwarves, for monstrosities coming out of The Damned Lands are now the problem of the orcs and not theirs. Within the Deep Orc Mountains there is a miracle device. The altar of true resurrection is one of the most sought after artifacts in all of Canus. This hidden altar casts true resurrection without material components on any deceased body (or piece of a body) placed upon it. Once the altar is used it melts into the stone and reforms somewhere else within Deep Orc Mountains, making it nearly impossible to find. More folks have lost their lives seeking the altar than have actually used it.
  • Deadwood Castle The forest around Deadwood Castle is full of gray rotting trees covered in mist. The animals do not go anywhere near the place and as such it is eerily quiet. The castle has been there since before the elves arrived in Taliana. Those who are brave enough to enter the wood and face the undead animals that sit silently in wait for prey have found Deadwood Castle is under the care of an undead aberrant of colossal proportions. No one is sure what the lord of Deadwood Castle may want, but he always allows any party who foolishly wanders into his land to escape peacefully, provided they leave one member behind for his “studies.” He makes the trespassers decide which friend to leave behind and seems to take glee in watching the painful choice be made. The rest live, returning home and tell the tale.
  • Ruins of Grayonus Grayonus was once a keep run by a lovestruck halfling army captain named Bellink Barrinon. Bellink had fallen for a beautiful halfling maiden he saw out his window every night. He would call to her and she would disappear into the forest. Legend says one night he followed her into the forest where she waited for him. Bellink took this mysterious woman who did not speak as his wife and moved her into Grayonus with him. The woman gave birth at midnight during a red moon and she birthed 100 fully mature slaadi. The slaadi murdered everyone in the keep except for their mother and have lived there ever since protecting the voiceless, nameless woman and causing havoc for any passersby.
  • Kyot The Denang Dynasty does everything within its power to crush rebellion and separatist talk within Parian’s borders. Of course it lost Tsuia, and more recently the people of Kyot decided to rebel. They built their walls high, covered them in protective wards, topped them with cannons, and dared Parian’s massive military to try to take them on. The emperor at the time, Walijisho Denang, promised to use his divinity to smite the rebels personally as an example to other Parians. He summoned an army of demons within the walls of the city who massacred the population. To this day the demons remain, enclosed by the walls and wards. It has been over 150 years since anyone has cared for the walls of Kyot though…
  • Last Hope Forest The tribes call this forest Last Hope because it is right on the edge of the Nightmare Wood. All of the undead creatures and oozes which call the Nightmare Wood home do not cross the living tree line. However, Last Hope Forest is not without its dangers. The wood is home to a colony of doppelgangers who have developed a taste for the flesh of humanoids. They find preparing the meat of humanoids is an art, and take a sick pleasure in assuming the appearance of the person they are eating. Unfortunately for the Bragonians, they recently developed a taste for dwarf.
  • Murder Lake Murder lake is fed by Pain River and Death River and then its water flows out to the sea via the Thirst River. All these bodies of water are aptly named, for any who drink from the waters must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or lose 1d4 points from their Constitution score. These points may be regained at a rate of 1 per day provided the afflicted doesn’t drink from the waters again and take more Constitution damage. A lesser restoration or similar spell can also restore these points. The Roc Tribe seems immune to these effects and lives by the affected bodies of water. They claim the source of this weakening is an undead kraken at the bottom of the 500-foot depth of Murder Lake. The kraken has cursed the water, but the Roc Tribe offers the beast a humanoid sacrifice every year in exchange for not feeling the effects of the curse.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast 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!

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These things are all over the place! Take a look at the map of Canus. Anything labeled orange is an aberrant ruin.

Anything in orange. Check it out!

Anything in orange. Check it out!

Much like the tribes in Verda, I want to make all of Exploration Age’s various ruins of its first inhabitants variable and easy to use on the fly. This means that everyone playing an Exploration Age game will have a slightly different experience which makes every campaign fun and unique. Take a look at this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Setting and let me know what you think!

Aberrant Ruins

Though much of their culture and history remains mysterious, there is evidence abound that Canus was once ruled by aberrants. Even remote Glacius was once home to these bizarre creatures. Various ruined cities and settlements are now home to dangerous creatures, mind-bending dungeons, and fantastic technology. Items discovered exploring aberrant ruins led to the creation of airships, siege weapons, firearms, and the Jackrabbit.

Aberrant ruins make perfect homes for wild animals and monsters which has helped earn them a dangerous reputation. The well-designed architecture of the aberrants means many of their walls, ceilings, and tunnels are still standing millennia later, providing shelter for these creatures and bandits on the run. Certain types of aberrant ruins, such as military installations, research facilities, and prisons have traps which are still active or may even be home to millennia-old beasts waiting to be discovered. Despite the danger, strange and wonderful items found amongst the ruins attract archaeological digs, cultists, and adventurers both good and evil.

One interesting feature all aberrant ruins share is that their structures are built down into the ground, rather than high into the air. Since the aberrants main enemies were high-flying dragons, it was better for their defense to burrow into the ground, rather than build structures that towered into the sky. Sometimes the complexes could be many stories deep, like the apartment complexes that occur in ruined aberrant cities.

Below is a list of known aberrant ruins on the map of Canus.

  • Findalay
    • Aeranore
      • Alcar’ach – Mine
      • Dul’karash – Roll to determine function
      • Kalusare – Roll to determine function
      • Xal’tith – Roll to determine function
    • Bragonay
      • Bearick Tur – City
      • Jaxinoth – Roll to determine function
      • Vayvixtus – Roll to determine function
      • Xi’khu’litar – Roll to determine function
    • Marrial
      • Cara’maynor – Roll to determine function
      • Fera Dun – Prison
      • Hildar Mynktor – Roll to determine function
      • Xarut’ketch – Roll to determine function
    • Taliana
      • Belnogasth – Military Installation
      • Tela’machra – Roll to determine function
      • Zaru’tor – Roll to determine function
  • Glacius
    • Illfibratas – Roll to determine function
    • Olhydana – Research Facility
  • Parian
    • Allut’bru – Roll to determine function
    • Dul Gata – Roll to determine function
    • Feltabul – Roll to determine function
    • Hur’nura – Roll to determine function
    • Nara Goon – Roll to determine function
    • Viatur – Roll to determine function
    • Yulush – Roll to determine function
  • Verda
    • New Aeranore
      • Hul’zal – Roll to determine function
      • Shuzal – Roll to determine function
    • New Bragonay
      • Konda’con – Roll to determine function
      • Numor’ask – Roll to determine function
      • Orrathok – Roll to determine function
      • Wolturak – Roll to determine function
    • New Marrial
      • Gullal – Roll to determine function
      • Hivit’okur – Roll to determine function
      • Rosta’la – Roll to determine function
      • Vigun’kil – Roll to determine function
      • Xittar – Roll to determine function
    • New Parian
      • Arat’zhur – Roll to determine function
      • Cagre’mach – Roll to determine function
      • Eldkazhul – Roll to determine function
      • Noonishtar – Roll to determine function
      • Tunish’ibul – Roll to determine function
      • Xaxa’tactac – Roll to determine function
    • New Taliana
      • Kum’tar – Roll to determine function
      • Lurarara’gush – Roll to determine function
      • Murgadur – Roll to determine function
      • Tarongal – Roll to determine function
      • Uvalor-Merrith – Roll to determine function

PCs may come across unlisted aberrant ruins while exploring blank spots on the map of Canus, or they may come across one of the “Roll to determine function” ruins listed above. GMs may roll 1d20 on the table below to determine the function of the aberrant ruin or choose whatever makes the best story for their campaign.

d20 Ruin Function
1 – 9 Town
10 – 14 Military Installation
15 – 16 City
17 – 18 Mine
19 Research Facility
20 Prison 

Ruin Functions

  • Town These ruins were once small settlements of less than a thousand aberrants. It is mostly ruined dwellings and farms, though there could be a temple, shop, small laboratory, library, or inn here and there amongst the destroyed homes.
  • Military Installation The second most common structure the aberrants left behind. Since their war with the dragons lasted thousands of years, the aberrants built many, many forts, barracks, keeps, towers, castles, etc. The exact nature of the ruin is up to the GM. A military installation may have remnants of sleeping quarters, training rooms, guard posts, mess halls, holding cells, and even stables for more humanoid aberrants which might ride a mount (such as illithids). Unique aberrant weapon and defense technology can sometimes be found in these ruins, but beware the traps and constructs that may still be active here.
  • City Like the towns, aberrant cities are mainly dwellings. However, these dwellings go much deeper into the ground, as city aberrants had buildings similar to our real world apartment complexes. In addition, most aberrant cities were divided into neighborhoods based on race (e.g. beholders in one area, ettercaps in another). A city will usually have several shops, inns, guard houses, political structures, monuments, libraries, labs, temples, or anything else one might find in a place where huge groups of individuals live together.
  • Mine Aberrants mined iron for weapons, gems for magic and psionics, and precious metals for magic items and currency. The exact nature of the mine is up to the GM, but in the tunnels of one of these structures adventurers may find strange mining equipment, a vein of untapped ore, a passage to The Underdark, or things uncovered by the aberrants even they weren’t expecting. Aberrant mines are extremely dangerous and could be crawling with all sorts of monsters from dark mantles to undead aberrant miners.
  • Research Facility Aberrants spent thousands of years creating new technologies to fight the dragons. Their labs are amongst the most dangerous sites in all of Canus. Full of strange blueprints, prototype weapons, and bizarre defenses, these are the complexes many scholars and mages dream of seeing… and die within. Traps, dangerous living experiments, crazed constructs, and unstable inventions are just a few of the hazards that await those who trespass.
  • Prison During their thousands-of-years-long war with the dragons, the aberrants created a few massive structures to hold these beasts and their minions. Within these walls are smaller holding cells for the dragons’ shardmind and teifling allies, devious traps, dragon-sized torture devices, and enormous holding cells with enormous chains, enchanted to prevent those locked in them from using magic and breath weapon attacks. Today these ruins hold evidence of the ugliest parts of The Aberrant-Dragon War. As the aberrants began losing the war and pulled back from their prisons to defend their settlements, they killed the dragons and their allies who were imprisoned. Their remains can be found throughout the complexes. Undead beasts could roam the halls of these complexes, or perhaps, since they are immortal, a dragon or shardmind could have survived a prison’s purge and has been waiting for freedom for hundreds of thousands of years.

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