Posts Tagged ‘dungeon’

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.

I sit down with Wolfgang Baur, Kobold in Chief of Kobold Press to talk about the company’s Kickstarter for the Tome of Beasts and the Book of Lairs for fifth edition. These awesome offerings are already funded, but the Kickstarter is still going strong so get yours now. This podcast was recorded on October 6, 2015.

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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!

One of my favorite books for fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons was a little number called Dungeon Delve. The book was simply 30 three-room dungeons complete with traps, encounters, a few story hooks, and advice for continuing the story or further fleshing out the dungeon. It was basically a tome of a single, four-hour, one-shot adventures for every character level in the game (each of which could be turned into something more if so desired).

Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons plays a lot faster than fourth, particularly where combat is concerned, which is a good thing. I regularly play D&D on Monday evenings but the sessions are only about three hours long. On average it seems the combat encounters I plan take 30 to 40 minutes. I know that seems a little long but because of our limited time I usually plan only hard encounters to force the players to use up some of their resources and feel a sense of challenge. That means smaller dungeons in fifth edition are perfect for my game because they pack in enough action and my players still get to interact with NPCs and get in some exploration.

I know there’s a lot of other adults out there who have similarly tight schedules, so I’m going to share with you how I craft tiny dungeons for my games.

Why Tiny Dungeons are Great

One of the best things about tiny dungeons is they’re designed to be completed in one session or less. If your group doesn’t meet weekly, completing a longer dungeon can be daunting. When too much real world time passes between sessions in a single dungeon, players can lose track of the story and the point of being in the dungeon in the first place. They forget why they’re holding a key and which door they were saving it for. If the last session didn’t end with an extended rest, they might forget how many resources they’ve spent. So for my biweekly games huge dungeons aren’t the best. Tiny dungeons, by design, are perfect for games that meet on a less-than-weekly basis.

Another win for tiny dungeons at my table is that my players don’t really enjoy long dungeon crawls (and maybe yours don’t either). They like to get engaged in the story and interact with the cultures and societies of the world. Most dungeons are a lot of exploration and combat, with only a little interaction here and there. They get bored if I lock them in a dungeon for multiple sessions so our play style is suited by tiny dungeons, since they can be explored in a three-hour session. Maybe they’ll suit your play style too.

Finally, tiny dungeons are great for us Dungeon Masters! Making a big, sprawling dungeon crawl is really good fun, but there are occasions where I have less time to prepare than I like. Designing a tiny dungeon is quick and easy. These little nuggets pack a lot of punch and allow for some really creative thinking as you’ll see in the next section of this blog post.

Designing Tiny Dungeons

Here are some guidelines for creating a tiny dungeon. Remember the guidelines are just that. They’re meant to help you out when designing. Feel free to break the mould! That’s what D&D is all about. The guidelines are the ones I use specifically for designing dungeons for my typical three-hour sessions, so if you have sessions which are longer or shorter adjust accordingly.

Tiny dungeons…

  1. consist of three to five rooms. Sticking to this guideline keeps the size of your dungeon manageable and quick to explore, but also big enough to present multiple combat encounters and interesting exploration challenges. Some of the rooms can be enormous if that helps make sense. For instance the soldiers of a bugbear warlord might hide in a ruined temple submerged in a swamp. The complex holds many bugbears, but most of them sleep, eat, and live in the temple’s spacious grand cathedral. Just as many bugbears as might be in a sprawling cave complex, but in this case they’re all in one room.
  2. contain no more than three combat encounters. If you’re trying to get through a dungeon in a three-hour session and still want some time for the PCs to interact with NPCs back at the ranch, you won’t have time for more than three combat encounters. Depending on how much time your PCs are spending in town, on the road to the dungeon, etc. you might be able to get away with one more combat encounter if the dungeon is right next door and they’re headed there as soon as the session starts. If the PCs are going to spend more time in town, and maybe get caught up in a combat encounter on the road, consider capping the in-dungeon combat encounters at three or possibly bumping it down to two.
  3. contain combat encounters of a hard or greater difficulty. Since you’re limited on time, to give your PCs a challenge, crank up the difficulty on those combat encounters. Get your PCs to use up some of those resources and bring ’em to the brink of death because that’s dang good drama! Seriously, don’t be afraid to turn up the heat since the combat encounters are limited. When you’re experience budget is bigger, you can dream bigger. Go nuts! Give that orc chieftain the wyvern mount she deserves!

What Can Be A Tiny Dungeon?

Any complex with a few rooms can be a tiny dungeon. Get creative when you’re thinking about yours! Here’s some examples of a tiny dungeon.

  • A necromancer’s five-story tower, wherein each floor is an entire room.
  • A small, fortified outpost of violent separatist wood elves hidden high atop the trees.
  • An underground bunker full of goblin cultists convinced the end of days is coming.
  • A genie’s extra-dimensional pleasure den hidden in a small demiplane.
  • A small tavern run serving as a front for a wererat criminal enterprise.

Next Week…

How about I give you a look at a tiny dungeon? Maybe one that lives on the Free Game Resources section of this site as downloadable PDF? Sounds good!

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It’s time for part seven 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 last 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
  • Part VI – The upper level of Shuzal prison

So now it’s time to tackle Part VII – The lower level of Shuzal.

In this post I’ll be showing off the final level of Shuzal. The lower levels of the prison hold undead and insane dragons digging their way out of prison, hoping to wreak havoc on the outside world.

Shuzal Prison Upper Level

Shuzal LL Map

Made with Pyromancers Dungeon Painter

Shuzal’s cell block holds a group of metallic dragons trying to escape from the prison. Kerrinalastraya, the silver dragon dracolich, leads the escape thanks to a huge drill she forged from magic weapons found in the prison’s vault. The magic which turned Kerrinalastraya into a dracolich has warped her mind and she cannot stand living things. She believes undeath is the next evolution of all intelligent beings.

Maxathaltros, Kerrinalastraya’s brother and one Shuzal’s prisoners, is still alive and abhors what his sister has become. She keeps him locked in his cell, hoping he will come around once her increased power allows them to escape Shuzal. She still loves her brother and wants him to join her in dracolichdom.

When Kerrinalastraya transformed as a side effect of Sepora’s tampering with the magic of Shuzal, she went to every cell in the prison and gave the dragons a choice – swear allegiance to her, gain freedom, and join her in dracolichdom once freed, or refuse and be killed and brought back as a zombie. Many joined her, but others refused and she has made good on her promises. Now the prison creeps with undead and insane dragons, desiring freedom above all, carrying Kerrinalastraya’s hatred for the living in their hearts.

Features of the Area

Illumination. The walls of Shuzal’s lower level gives off a soft blue glow which bathes the entire lower level in bright light.

Ceilings. Perfectly circular tunnels with a 20-foot diameter connect the nexus (D1) to the cells. The cells have a 50-foot-high ceiling and the nexus has a 100-foot-high ceiling, unless otherwise noted in an area’s description.

D1 – The Nexus

The walls of this entire complex are covered in a soft moss which gives off a blue light, giving all you survey a deep blue twinge, as if you were viewing it underwater. Halfway up the chamber that light mixes with the red light of the above world to create something almost akin to sunlight. Tunnels with perfectly carved 20-foot diameters travel off in many directions from this chamber.

Far down two separate hallways, Fearagaxal and Reganavia, a pair of young bronze dragons watch the adventurers. These two appear calm and collected at first, but their minds have been warped by their long imprisonment. They desire violence and crave the chance to hurt something living in the name of Kerrinsalastraya. One of them might approach the PCs from a safe distance to learn their intent in coming there, and then attack. The dragons are fanatically loyal to Kerrinsalastraya and try to leave at least one of the PCs alive to be questioned by her.

If either of the dragons is reduced to half its hit points, it retreats back to area D16 and warns Kerrinsalastraya of powerful intruders.

Net. A net of psychic energy can be created and dropped from the ceiling in the nexus by a creature attuned to the Shuzal monolith in area C9. The net covers the entire area of the room and drops from the highest point in the ceiling to the ground. Creatures in the room must make a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 44 (8d10) psychic damage and are restrained. A flying creature who fails this saving throw falls to the ground and is prone, taking any fall damage as normal. Creatures who fail take half damage and are not restrained.

The net remains on the ground as long as the creature who activated the net remains adjacent to the Shuzal monolith or until that creature uses its action to dismiss the net. Creatures restrained by the net can use their action to make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw followed by a DC 20 Strength saving throw to break free. The creature must succeed on both saving throws to free itself. A creature who moves more than half its speed over the ground where the net is must succeed on a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw or it takes 44 (8d10) psychic damage and is restrained.

D2 – Wyxilcotalises’s Cell Hall

Mixed with the blue light coming from the walls, a red light glows on the floor halfway down this hall.

The long hall to this cell contains a glyph which deals psychic damage to any non-aberration who reads it. The dragons know to avoid reading this glyph, which lets out a loud scream when activated. If the PCs read the glyph, Wyxilcotalises is prepared for them. Her initial instinct is to wait by the cell’s door and determine the PCs motives and capabilities. If she thinks they would be willing to help free her and kill Kerrinsalastraya, then she waits patiently for them, trying to appear non-threatening. If she thinks them incompetent or unwilling to negotiate, she strikes with her breath weapon as soon as they are in range.

Psychic Glyph Trap. Any PC who is within 20 feet of the 10-foot by 10-foot glyph in the middle of the hall and who can see it must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. A creature who fails takes 11 (2d10) psychic damage and on its turn must draw its most easily reached melee weapons and use its action to make a melee attack with advantage against itself. That creature must repeat the attack as its action on its turn for 1 minute as long as it is conscious and able to make attacks. That creature can repeat the saving throw on the end of its turn ending the effect if it succeeds. A creature who succeeds on the initial saving throw takes half damage and does not have to attack itself.

A creature who remains within 20 feet of the glyph after making a saving throw against its effects, must repeat this saving throw if it continues to look at the glyph.

A creature who knows the nature of the glyph is easily able to avoid looking at it. A character trained in Arcana can make a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check to determine the nature of the trap from afar by identifying the red glow coming from the trapped glyph.

D3 – Wyxilcotalises’s Cell

The smashed bars of this cell seem to be damaged from the outside in. The cell itself opens into a wide chamber with organized towers of metal scrap, mostly from the bodies of broken construct guardians, piled around the room. Amongst the scrap, a massive dragon with scales of brass sits breathing fire onto a pile of metal to meld it together while the beast works it with her claws.

Wyxilcotalises, an adult brass dragon, uses the scrap metal in her room to forge tools for Kerrinsalastraya’s escape plan. When the PCs enter she’s crafting a large container to hold the adamantine dust created by the massive drill to more easily transport it to area D13.

Metal piles. A creature can adjacent to a metal pile can use one of its attacks as part of the attack action to push it over onto another creature adjacent to the pile. The creature pushing the pile must make a Strength check contested by the target’s Dexterity check. If the creature pushing wins the contest, the target takes 11 (2d10) piercing and 11 (2d10) slashing damage and is knocked prone. If the target wins the contest, the target dodges the pile of falling metal and nothing happens. Either way the pile of metal cannot be knocked over again and the area where the pile was is now difficult terrain.

A creature can push a creature adjacent to a metal pile into the pile with a successful push attack. The target takes 11 (2d10) piercing damage and 11 (2d10) slashing damage and is knocked prone. The pile cannot be knocked over again and the area where the pile was is now difficult terrain.

Treasure. Amongst the piles there are 100 pounds of copper, 100 pounds of silver, and 40 pounds of gold. Each pound of material is worth 50 coins of its type. The pile of metal scraps in the far back of the room holds a radiant heart which requires a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot. The DC to spot the radiant heart is reduced to 15 if the pile is knocked over.

Wyxilcotalises. Wyxilcotalises has pledged her alliegance to Kerrinsalastraya, but mostly out of self-preservation and a desire to leave. The brass dragon believes the dracolich is insane, but would not dare contest the cell block’s defacto leader lest she be turned into a zombie. If she believes the PCs to be capable of killing Kerrinsalastraya and they agree to free her from the prison, she will aid them by giving them the radiant heart she found in the vault and hid in one of the piles of scraps and she’ll tell them the location of Kerrinsalastraya’s phylactery.

If Wyxilcotalises thinks the PCs aren’t capable of killing Kerrinsalastraya or they don’t agree to free her, she attacks them, attempting to keep at least one of them alive for questioning. If she’s on the fence about their capabilities, she will attack them as a test. If the dragon is reduced to half her hit points, she tries to bargain with the PCs for her life by telling them the location of Kerrinsalastraya’s phylactery.

Wyxilcotalises does not wish to face Kerrinsalastraya in combat and will not join the PCs in a direct attack on the dracolich. She wants to keep her options open in case the PCs fail.

D4 – The Zombification Lab Hall

When the PCs head down the hall, read:

This hall is masked in an orange haze which dances through the tunnel and glitters like fire.

The haze which covers this entire length of hall is mind-affecting poison Kerrinsalastraya activated long ago. The mists still remain because they do not bother the unbreathing undead inhabitants of Shuzal’s cell block and the few living inhabitants have learned to avoid this hall.

Mind-bending Mists. Any non-aberration, non-undead creature who enters or starts its turn in the mists must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 16 (3d10) poison damage and gain a random form of short-term madness.

A creature trained in Arcana or who has proficiency with a poisoner’s kit can make a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check to determine the nature of the trap. A creature holding its breath when navigating the mists has advantage on its saving throw. A strong wind dissipates the mists for 1 hour, after which time they return.

D5 – The Zombification Lab

The smashed cell door to this chamber does nothing to hold back the unpleasant odor coming from this room. Lumps of twisted steel bound together by the power of raw fire form a huge table in the middle of the room. Around the room, rotting dragon tails and limbs line the wall and a crystal in the ceiling pulses deep purple. The most obvious feature of the room are its guardians, of course. One massive undead gold dragon with torn flesh and exposed bone gives a low moans to two smaller undead gold dragons as you enter the chamber.

This cell used to be Kerrinsalastraya’s cell, which she transformed into a lab where she experiments with the bodies of her dragon victims. Sepora’s tampering with the aberrant magic of Shuzal warped the large crystal in the center of this chamber’s ceiling, which was designed to create an antimagic field in the cell in case a dragon got any ideas about spellcasting. The connection of the magic from the Shuzal monolith to the antimagic crystals was severed in one of Sepora’s experiments and this crystal absorbed a healthy dose of necrotic magic. That crystal turned Kerrinsalastraya into a dracolich and now serves as her phylactery.

One ancient dragon zombie and two young dragon zombies guard this room and attack any living creature who enters.

Dragon Body Parts. The dragon body parts in this room are mostly rotted through and through, however the tips of many of their claws remain intact. A creature proficient with smith’s tools can cut off the tips to make dragon bone arrows. These function as +1 arrows and there is enough bone material to make 50. It takes 1 hour to harvest all the material and 1 hour for the person crafting to make 10 arrows.

Kerrinsalastraya’s Phylactery. Any time a living creature enters this room, Kerrinsalastraya’s phylactery can sense its presence and location. If the zombies in the room attack, the crystal tries to defend its creations. At the end of a round of combat, the crystal casts bestow curse (save DC 18) on a random living target in the cell. The phylactery stops doing this once all the zombies in the room are dead.

Once per round as a reaction the phylactery can cast blight (save DC 18) on a creature which deals damage to it. The phylactery has AC 20, 100 hit points, and a damage threshold of 15.

If the phylactery is destroyed, all creatures within the room must make a DC 15 Reflex saving throw as the crystal explodes in a burst of necrotic energy. Creatures who fail take 44 (8d10) necrotic damage and 11 (2d10) piercing damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage.

Undead Rising. The crystal causes undead dragons to rise in a matter of days and affects non-dragon creatures in minutes. Any non-construct, non-dragon, non-undead creature who dies in this chamber rises as a zombie 1d4 rounds after it died.

D6 – The Vault Hall

The hall here is marred and marked, as if a creature with massive claws has scratched every surface.

Magic glyphs used to guard this hall. Slowly but surely they were scratched out by Kerrinsalastraya. She has put her own security measures in this hall leading to the old weapons vault. Eight wyrmling dragon zombies stand watch over the vault door at end of the hall which leads to the vault.

D7 – The Vault

Before the smashed, solid adamantine door multiple burn marks scar the floor, a sign that this entrance was once heavily trapped. Inside the massive vault seems empty.

Almost everything of value was taken from the vault to make Kerrinsalastraya’s massive drill. Yet, the adventurers could still find some things of use in the chamber, particularly a crystal embedded in the floor hidden by a pile of rubble.

Inventory Crystal. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check determines the piles rubble in this room was actually placed where it is by a creature because the pattern of dust suggests the rubble was swept from the place it fell into a pile. A successful DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check catches a glint of orange somewhere at the bottom of the pile.

The orange inventory crystal is embedded in the floor and it takes 1 hour of work for one creature to clear the area of rubble. For every creature that helps, the time is cut in half. So it takes 2 creatures 30 minutes, 3 creatures 15 minutes, etc.

A creature who touches the crystal and makes a successful DC 12 Intelligence (Arcana) check is telepathically given a list of the items which were in the room before the aberrations left Shuzal. Most of the list is low-level magic weapons (like +1 longswords), however the name of importance which comes up is Servitor.

Treasure. Amongst the rubble is a small pouch containing potions Kerrinsalastraya clearly did not care about. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check spots the bag in the rubble which contains three potions of greater healing, two potions of flight, and three potions of firebreathing.

D8 – Collapsed Hall

This hall is blocked by a wall of adamantine rubble.

The hall here is blocked because Kerrinsalastraya intentionally triggered a falling ceiling trap the aberrations placed in the hall to shut Maxathaltros up. Their last meeting came about because Maxathaltros was filling the entire cell block of the prison with tremendous roars to annoy Kerrinsalastraya. His plan worked too well, for his sister tortured him to the point of near death and then set off the trap to seal off the sounds coming from her brother’s cell.

A successful DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check made near the wall allows a character to hear Maxathaltros’ renewed and now muffled screams of rage. A DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check allows a character to determine the pieces of rubble in the collapse are a little too perfectly shaped to be the result of a simple accident.

It takes 1 hour of work for one creature to clear the area of rubble. For every creature that helps, the time is cut in half. So it takes 2 creatures 30 minutes, 3 creatures 15 minutes, etc. If the rubble is cleared while Maxathaltros continues bellowing (instead of say, waiting for him to go to sleep), it could attract some attention. Four of the young dragon zombies come from area D10 to investigate.

D9 – Maxathaltros’ Cell

The locked cell door before you is the first you’ve seen intact. Thick bars run up and down and side to side to make up this cell door. Staring back at you with disbelief and wild eyes is a massive silver dragon who can’t seem to decide if he’s happy, confused, or terrified to see you. The dragon’s body is covered in wounds and its breathing is ragged and uneven.

Maxathaltros, the adult silver dragon, is the only dragon still held in a cell in Shuzal. He would rather die than join his sister in undeath and gain freedom. When the PCs arrive he hopes they could be his ticket out of Shuzal, but also fears they could just be his sister’s latest victims.

Cell Door. Maxathaltros’ cell has the only remaining intact door in the entire Shuzal cell block. The door is immune to all damage dealt to it from inside the cell. Outside the cell, the door is still tough, it is resistant to acid, cold, fire, lighting, and thunder damage and immune to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons. The adamantine door has AC 23 and 300 hit points. Long ago these doors were locked and unlocked by the Shuzal monolith in area C9, but Sepora’s tampering with the prison’s magic has severed that connection.

Maxathaltros. The silver dragon is in no condition to have a full on confrontation with his sister, nor does he desire to be the one to kill his kin. Still, he knows it must be done and implores the adventurers to do so. He explains that his sister’s mind has been warped and she is no longer the Kerrinsalastraya he knew before their imprisonment. He knows how bad it would be for the area around Shuzal if Kerrinsalastraya and her undead dragons managed to escaped. He tells the PCs that should they kill Kerrinsalastraya and then free him, he will lead them to his sister’s treasure hoard and let them take it all.

D10 – Wyrmling Cell Hall

Small cell doors lie in ruins all over this hall. A series of smaller cells line the halls here.

This is where the aberrations would keep any wyrmling dragons captured in battle, usually to be ransomed back to their parents for information or concessions. Kerrinsalastraya broke into the cells here and turned all the captives into zombies.

Each of the four cells at the end of the hall hold a young dragon zombie. The four zombies come out into the hall and attack as soon as they hear any creatures coming down the hall they don’t recognize.

Ceiling. The ceiling of the tiny cells here is only 10 feet high.

Kerrinsalastraya’s Scroll Stock. A cell at the end of the hall holds a small chest built into the floor. This was once a miniature vault. If Kerrinsalastraya finds herself in a situation where she might need to take refuge because the aberrations return in full force or powerful intruders try to take Shuzal back from her she is prepared. She can retreat to this hall and grab her collection of scrolls looted from the vaults.

The adamantine (AC 23, 100 HP) chest is locked. The lock can be picked with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check made with thieves’ tools. Note that a flame jet trap is built into the floor in front of the chest.

Inside the chest is one scroll of wall of stone, one scroll of antimagic field, one scroll of hold monster, and two scrolls of delayed blast fireball. The spell saving throw DC for these spells is 15.

Flame Jet Trap. The trap is triggered by a hidden pressure plate directly in front of the chest. Any weight of more than 20 pounds placed on the pressure plate triggers the trap. The pressure plate can be spotted with a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check and the nozzle can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character studying the area can determine the pressure plate is a slightly different color than the rest of the floor with a DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Wedging an iron spike or other object under the pressure plate prevents the trap from activating.

A creature who steps on the pressure plate must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid the sudden burst of flame which rises up from the floor. A creature who fails takes 22 (4d10) fire damage. A creature who succeeds takes half damage.

D11 – Young Dragon Cell Hall

Smashed cell doors line this hall. It seems that this hall held cells for dragons larger than wyrmlings, but not much bigger than horses. A strange, soft lullaby melody comes from somewhere within the hall.

After liberating the young dragons from this hall, Kerrinsalastraya has avoided this hall because of the music box trap.

Malicious Music Box.This self-operating music box is hidden within a panel in the ceiling at the center of the hall and plays hauntingly enchanting music. Any creature within 40 feet of the music box who can hear it must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw at the start of its turn. A creature who fails falls prone and must use its action to engage in a violent dance, throwing itself against the floor repeatedly, dealing 11 (2d10) bludgeoning damage to itself. The creature cannot move from the space it occupies under its own power and is under this effect until it can no longer hear the music box. On a successful save the creature is immune to the effects of the malicious music box for 24 hours.

The secret panel holding the music box is expertly crafted and requires a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot, though a character can pinpoint where the sound is coming from with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. The ceiling is 20 feet high in the hall tunnel.

The music box is made of a magically treated wood and much tougher than it looks. It has AC 21 and 100 hit points.

Treasure. One of the young gold dragons Kerrinsalastraya murdered and turned into a zombie has managed to smuggle some pearls into Shuzal through its stomach (gold dragons love to eat gems and precious stones). In the cell at the end of the hall, there is a small hole (DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot) the dragon carved into the adamantine slowly with its claws where it deposited the pearls and was rationing them as treats. There are still 18 pearls worth 100 gp each in the small hole.

D12 – Collapsed Hall

This entire hall collapsed when one of the dragon zombies set off a massive trap. It used to lead to a cell that was the home an ancient gold dragon, whose corpse now guards Kerrinsalastraya’s phylactery.

D13 – Druggulolo’s Cell Hall

A large shadow looms at the end of this hall. You can see a hulking zombie dragon, its silver skin hanging off as it patrols the hall.

The tight quarters make the fight with this adult dragon zombie brutal, as it blocks the hall with its form, using its bulk to stop adventurers from getting to the door and breathing necrotic breath as often as possible. A fight in the hall alerts Druggulolo the PCs are coming, who happily flies as high as he can and prepares a breath weapon.

D14 – Druggulolo’s Cell

The floor in this room is covered in waist-deep adamantine dust. Flying above is a cackling, gleeful dragon. Its scales shine with the greenish tint of copper coins. “Finally. Something to kill! Something to eat!” Drool falls from the dragon’s mouth into the pile of adamantine grit.

Druggulolo, an adult copper dragon, is one of the more fanatical and certainly the most insane followers of Kerrinsalastraya. He desires to be let free so he can unleash his fury upon his former tiefling allies who never came to free him. He misses the taste of food so the chance to eat some adventurers before turning into a dracolich is very appealing to him.

Adamantine Dust. The cell floor is covered in adamantine dust from Kerrinsalastraya’s drilling operation. She leaves it in Druggulolo’s cell since he doesn’t seem to mind. The dust counts as difficult terrain. Medium and smaller creatures have the potential to sink into the dust. When such a creature ends its turn on the dust without moving from the spot where it started its turn, that creature is restrained. As an action a restrained creature can attempt to free itself and end the restrained condition with a DC 12 Strength saving throw.

D15 – Kerrinsalastraya’s Chamber Hall

The long hall here is eerily quiet at first. As you travel further down it you can here a whirring noise coming from the end of the hall.

Kerrinsalastraya is in this cell, which used to belong to the adult silver dragon guarding Druggulolo. She spends most of her time in this chamber working the drill, which is the noise the characters hear.

D16 – Kerrinsalastraya’s Chamber

A massive dragon made of bone and silver scales turns glowing red eyes toward you as you enter the chamber. Its massive head seems twisted in some sort of sick smile. Behind the dracolich a large pole extends from the ground into a massive hole in the ceiling. The dragon let’s loose a mighty roar. “You will not stop me. The hour of our escape is near. The world will learn – undeath is the future.”

Kerrinsalastraya is hellbent on getting out of Shuzal. Her drill is close to the surface and so she fights until the bitter end (especially if her phylactery is intact). She is arrogant and believes fully in her mission to turn the world into an undead paradise.

Earthquake. Kerrinsalastraya’s drilling has caused the magic of the demiplane to be unstable in the cell. At the end of each round, roll a d10. On a roll of 1-3 an earthquake occurs. Every creature standing on the ground must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Kerrinsalastraya’s Drill. Kerrinsalastraya’s drill in this chamber is operated by any creature attuned to the object. To become attuned to the drill a creature must spend one hour touching the drill and communing with the magical energies of the former weapons now melded together.

A creature attuned to the drill can make the drill extend upwards or downwards at a rate of 20 feet per round. The drill’s maximum height is 100 feet and its minimum height it 10 feet. When the drill hits adamantine it begins to drill through it at a rate of 1 inch per day. At the start of the adventure, Kerrinsalastraya’s hole is 30 inches from the surface or Shuzal. Except for Servitor, all the weapons used to craft the drill are now useless. The drill is 10 feet around and weighs 10,000 pounds.

Servitor. The tip of Kerrinsalastraya’s drill is made with the artifact Servitor. It can be pulled from the top of the drill with a successful DC 20 Strength check.

Next Time…

…I’ll show off the unique creatures in this adventure.

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 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!

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!

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!

A new episode of my podcast, Gamer to Gamer, is up on The Tome Show’s website.

I sit down with author and novelist Erin M. Evans to talk about the games she loves to play, her personal gaming life, and her career. Erin’s the hottest name in official D&D novels since Bobby Salvatore. Her books include the Brimstone Angels series and The God Catcher. This podcast was recorded on January 15, 2015.


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

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!