The Haunted Mansion

[When I transferred posts to this new blog, I came across this adventure inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion that I wrote in October of 2010. It was in draft form, but I’d swear I had already posted it when I wrote it. On the off chance that I didn’t … here it is for the month of October – enjoy!]

This is a bit of a rush job – I just thought of it this morning. I think the inspiration is pretty obvious. Hopefully it will at least give folks a laugh.

The old manor that overlooks the harbor is well known to the locals, who avoid it at all costs. Owned by a successful ship captain, it was once the jewel of the town. It seems the ship captain planned to wed a local girl of tremendous grace and beauty, and invited her to live in his home while he was away on a voyage. On his return, they would be wed. His only request was that she never venture into the attic! Alas, on the happy day the guests arrived at the manor and made merry in the ballroom while the bride was dressed and made ready. The handsome captain arrived home and sought out his bride, and was aghast when he discovered her in the attic. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she broke his only request and discovered his secret – a chest of pirate booty! The man strangled her and then hung himself.

 

If only this was the end of the sad tale – for the ghost of the pirate now descended on the happy revelers, sealing them into the manor and murdering them. Their spirits now haunt the mansion and challenge any who would venture in to discover the pirate’s treasure!

The mansion has wooden walls that resist all blows. Doors are also made of wood, but quite resistant to battering, and they always close on their own a few minutes after being opened. Windows are apparent on the outside of the manor, but on the interior either disappear entirely or allow no light to enter. The rooms and halls are appointed with candle sconces and candles lit with ghostly lights.

1. This entry hall is dusty and covered with cobwebs, but otherwise well appointed. An opening in the north wall leads into the gallery. Once the gallery has been entered, the opening is shut by a sliding wall that foils all attempts to force it open.

2. This gallery has a high ceiling and several portraits of aristocratic folk. Once the sliding wall has closed, the gallery will appear to stretch and the portraits will take on a sinister aspect, depicting their aristocratic subjects dying grisley deaths. A ghostly voice will call out, taunting the adventurers that there is no escape from the room. As the voice laughs menacingly, the gallery goes dark and then the ceiling is lit as though from a bolt of lightning, revealing a body hanging from the rafters. Each henchman with the adventurers must now make a saving throw or be possessed by a spirit of death that will transform them into mouldering coffer corpses.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

3. This dark hallway is decorated with pictures of mouldering corpses and two busts that follow the adventurers progress down the hall.

4. This room is a kitchen inhabited by a poltergeist. The kitchen contains numerous knives, rolling pins and other dangerous objects.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

5. At the top of the stairs one sees a long corridor lit by a floating candelabra. Once adventurers enter 10 feet into the hallway they will be trapped in a pocket dimension – no matter how far one walks in either direction, they cannot leave the hallway without fighting the phantasm holding the candelabra.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, desecration.

6. This conservatory holds a coffin that is partially nailed shut. A skeletal entity inside the coffin is attempting to escape while four murder crows look on from above. The crows will attack any who enter the conservatory. The occupant of the coffin is a cadaver – he cannot escape without help.

Cadaver: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + disease) and bite (1d6 + disease); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Disease (fever, -1d3 Con per day until two successive daily saves are made), regenerates 1 hp/rd after being dropped to 0 hp.

Murder Crow: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (1d4) and bite (1d6); Move 3 (Fly 30); Save 6; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Eye-rake (if both claw attacks hit, save or blindness), when killed it explodes into a swarm of normal crows.

7. The door to this room appears to bulge outward. The room is occupied by a bogeyman, a young woman of aristocratic appearance who made the sad mistake of attending the wedding those many years ago.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

8. As adventures enter this comfortable room a swarm of 6 shadow rats will emerge from one wall and attack.

Shadow Rats: HD 1d6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d3 + 1d2 Strength); Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Incorporeal (only harmed by magic weapons and spells).

9. When one reaches the center of this room, which is decorated with clocks, they will suffer from a slow effect. The room will appear to grow to five times its actual dimensions, and each round spent in the room will age the adventurers 10 years.

10. Two hapless apparitions of twin moneychangers occupy this room for eternity. Their corpses, hacked by a hatchet, are in the center of the room clutching a leather sack of 300 gold pieces.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

11. Three ghoulish maids feast on the remains of three bridesmaids in yellow taffeta. If the ghouls are dispatched, the bridesmaids’ skeletons will burst from their bodies and attack.

12. This was the room of the bride, now empty. The wardrobe contains rich clothing of velvet and silk (worth a total of 200 gp) and a jewelry box holds a golden ring on a severed finger. Anyone touching the ring must make a saving throw or be “magic jarred” into the ring – a mourning ring – their body being transformed into a vengeful demiurge.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

13. This séance room holds a round table and a tall wooden chair. Musical instruments float about the room, held aloft by a pesky poltergeist. A crystal ball rests on the table and holds the image of a medium’s head, one Madame Leota. Upon entering, Leota will say the following:

“Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat/Call in the spirits, wherever they’re at./Rap on a table, it’s time to respond/Send us a message from somewhere beyond./Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween/Awaken the spirits with your tambourine./Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond/Let there be music from regions beyond./Wizards and witches wherever you dwell/Give us a hint by ringing a bell.”

Asking her a question causes a tarot card to appear on the table. Picking up the card activates it as though it were from a Deck of Many Things.

14. This balcony overlooks a dining hall. The western portion of the room is occupied by a table filled with a gruesome feast being consumed by wights garbed as though from ancient Rome and Egypt. Other wights are riding chandeliers and drinking from bottles of wine (poison). Portraits of duelists hang on the wall, and the ghosts therein will, every 1d4 rounds, appear over their portraits and fire one of their ghostly guns (or crossbows, if you prefer) at an adventurer. Those hit by a bullet or bolt must pass a saving throw or be paralyzed for one round. The eastern portion of the room holds a dozen waltzing ghosts and a mouldering organ player. His ornate organ draws shadows from the Land of the Dead into the material world. 1d6 shadows appear each round to challenge the party. The organist is a wraith.

15. This attic holds a chest of pirate treasure (10,000 gp worth) and the ghost of the bride, turned into a bhuta by her brutal murder at the hands of her beloved sea captain. The only way out of this room is the window overlooking the graveyard.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

16. This graveyard offers the only means of escape from the dark dimension of the Haunted Mansion. Each round spent in the place carries a 1 in 6 chance that a mortuary cyclone will arise. Once defeated, the threat of the mortuary cyclone is ended.

The graveyard is filled with tombstones and stone crypts. The doors to the crypts are easy to open but difficult to re-open once the crypt is entered. Each crypt is a room with coffins sealed into the floor or resting on shelves in the walls.

17. This crypt is occupied by the ghosts of five musicians. A brass bell hangs from the ceiling, and when rung causes all undead within 10 feet to make a saving throw or be disrupted (i.e. stunned) for one round. Disrupted undead also suffer 1d6 damage. Each spirit has a golden harp that can be seized when the creature is destroyed. Each harp is worth 500 gp and can cast a charm person spell once per day in the hands of a trained harpist.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

18. This crypt holds two aristocratic corpses, now animated as ghasts.

19. This crypt holds the spirit of an executioner and a headless knight. Both are spectres.

20. This crypt appears empty. A loose flagstone reveals a brass lock made for a large key. If the key from area 21 is used, it will cause the entire crypt to sink down into the earth, revealing a long, dark tunnel lined with mirrors. Looking into the mirror will cause a wicked spirit to attach itself to the adventurer (treat as a Bestow Curse spell – no save). At the end of the corridor there is a stairway leading back into the real world, apparently depositing the adventures in a small, stone outbuilding of the Haunted Mansion and into the daylight.

21. This crypt is larger inside than it would appear on the outside. It offers a winding set of stairs down into the earth that end in a small chamber with three doors. The first door holds a gang of four barrow wights guarding a large brass key. The second door holds a crypt thing that will teleport the adventurers back to room 2 in the mansion. The final door holds another set of stairs that seem to go at least 100 feet down into the cold earth. The end in a cavern through which flows a black river of moaning souls. A skeletal boatman waits on the shore, beckoning adventurers forward. The boatman is a charonadaemon, and he will carry adventurers into the realm of Hades.

Barrow Wights: HD 6; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 slam (1d4+3 + level drain); Move 12; Save 11; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Gaze causes confusion, drain one level with slam attack (save negates), characters killed by a barrow wight rise as barrow wights one round later.

Crypt Thing: HD 6+1; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 claw (1d8); Move 15; Save 11; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, teleport.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

22. This is the crypt of a transplanted mummy. It wears a golden circlet worth 1,000 gp that is poisonous to the first person who touches it (save or die).

Apparition
Apparitions are ethereal undead that are only vulnerable to attack when they themselves attack. They are reluctant to approach mirrors or objects made of pure silver. Apparitions usually speak common. They surprise on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. Although an apparition cannot actually touch a victim, it creates the sensation of choking; a victim that succeeds at a saving throw is stricken with horror and must flee for 1d4 rounds, while a victim that fails his save must also make a saving throw or suffer a massive heart attack and die on the spot. A victim killed by an apparition will rise as an apparition in 2d4 hours.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

Bhuta
A bhuta is the spirit of a person who was murdered. For about 2 weeks they appear as they did in life; thereafter they begin to rot and take on a ghoulish appearance. When a bhuta hits with both claw attacks it fastens its hands around the victims throat and chokes for automatic claw damage each round. Breaking the bhuta’s grip requires one to roll 1d20 (adding their strength bonus or penalty) and meeting or beating 18.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

Bogeyman
Bogeymen look like translucent humans with delicate, childlike features. They can create phantasmic sounds and images (per phantom force) at will and those who look upon them must save vs. fear or stand frozen with fear for 1d6+2 rounds. Bogeymen can travel between shadows per the dimension door spell.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

Charonadaemon
Charonadaemons appear as skeletal boatmen in black robes. They always have a skiff and staff. They can cast the following spells: Darkness 15’ radius, detect invisibility, fear and teleport (including their skiff). Once per day they can attempt to summon 1d4 vrocks or another charonadaemon with a 35% chance of success. They can steer their skiff into the Astral and Ethereal Planes, as well as the plane of Hades. As daemons, they are immune to acid and poison and suffer half damage from cold, fire and electricity.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

Coffer Corpse
These undead resemble zombies. Although most coffer corpses attack with their fists, 25% are armed with weapons. Creatures hit by the coffer corpse’s fists must make a saving throw to avoid be grabbed around the neck and choked, suffering 1d6 damage per round automatically until killed; nothing can make it release its grip.

Normal weapon appear to do damage to a coffer corpse, but they actually do not. If the creature sustains 6 or more points of damage from a normal weapon, it will go down as though destroyed. It will then rise again, causing fear in those who witness the revival and fail a saving throw.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

Demiurge
Demiurge are incorporeal spirits that look like humans with sunken noses, empty eye sockets and semi-transparent flesh. Their gaze acts as a hold person spell. A demiurge can fly through a person’s body, forcing them to pass a saving throw or die instantly.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

Groaning Spirit
Groaning spirits appear as incorporeal female elves. Their touch causes one point of strength drain unless a saving throw is passed. Anyone viewing a groaning spirit must pass a saving throw or flee in terror for 1d6+4 rounds. Once per day a groaning spirit can emit a death wail that forces anyone hearing it to pass a saving throw or drop dead.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

Phantasm
Phantasms are spirits of pure evil. They look like hooded spectres with tentacle-like arms. The phantasm’s touch drains one level unless a saving throw is made. It can use the spell Magic Jar once per round to take possession of a creature on the material plane. The phantasm is surrounded by a 10-ft diameter aura in which undead are turned as though 3 Hit Dice greater.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, turned as a 12 HD creature.

Poltergeist
Poltergeists are “noisy spirits” encountered where they were originally killed. They are invisible and incorporeal and can only be harmed by silver or magic weapons. They can attack by throwing unattended objects, hitting as though they were 5 HD creatures. Creatures hit by a flying object suffer no damage, but must pass a charisma save or be affected by fear, fleeing in a random direction for 2d12 rounds. There is a 50% chance a victim will drop what he is carrying while fleeing. Holy water and strongly presented holy symbols will drive poltergeists back but not harm them.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

“don’t forget your death certificate”

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A Vintage Blacker than a Necromancer’s Soul

I knocked together a draft for an adventure tonight, inspired by a map made by the inimitable Dyson Logos – support his Patreon if you dig awesome maps.

Quick Note – the patchwork woman and belle dame sans merci monsters are from the Tome of Monsters (for first edition Blood & Treasure) and the forthcoming Monsters II (for second edition Blood & Treasure).

When a war has ravaged a land, a once thriving community can become overgrown and wild. Such was the case with a little village of men in a broad and shadowy woodland. Outside that village there was once a fine temple that was abandoned when its village was abandoned. This became the home of the necromancer Joachim, who slowly broke down the protections on the bodies interred in the catacombs and graveyard and used them for his experiments.

Joachim was an odd necromancer, seeking to understand and thus cheat death, maybe even seduce it (he had a belief that Death was a woman, perhaps due to severe psychological trauma brought on by a cold and abusive mother) rather than wedding it as does a lich – a sensuous immortality rather than a bleak non-existence.

The tortured little necromancer hatched a plan that involved the conjuration of an angel. He then killed this angel with a jagged claw plucked from a demon’s severed hand and used the celestial’s ichor to brew a potion of immortality. The potion, once imbibed, did not work as he had planned, and the crime he committed against nature with the killing of an angel warped the catacombs beneath the temple. The forgotten temple was forgotten yet again, and lay dormant, its riddle waiting patiently to be unraveled.

Enter the adventurers …

The Catacombs

Beneath the aforementioned temple are catacombs, and these catacombs have been dimensionally twisted. The map included was drawn by the great Dyson Logos, and present a very interesting dungeon to explore. The arrows and letters on the map indicate where passages lead, but I’m introducing yet another wrinkle – a wrinkle in time.

Whenever the characters move from along an arrow or through a letter, they also travel in time. For our purposes, there are three time frames – Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow.

D6    Time Frame
1        Yesterday
2-4   Today
5-6   Tomorrow

You see, once the adventurers enter the catacombs, they alert the remnants of Joachim of their presence. The potion turned Joachim into a sort of ooze – a sentient ichor that seeped into the cracks of the floor. It is now bubbling up, appearing to adventurers as jellied tendrils of a deep burgundy color. In the present – Today – these investigations are tentative. In the future – Tomorrow – they will be more fervent, frequent and dangerous. In the past – Yesterday – there are no tendrils, but the catacombs are still dangerous.

Leaving the catacombs snaps people back through space and time. They awaken many hours later scattered around the woods that surround the church (1d6 x 100 yards away, random direction). They suffer complete memory loss about the catacombs if they leave without solving the adventure, but their memories return if they enter the catacombs again.

Random encounters in the catacombs vary based on the time frame. Roll 2d6 whenever somebody turns a corner, opens a door onto a corridor, makes a loud noise or casts a cleric or druid spell.

Encounters for Today

2. Tendrils (1d3)*
3. Giant Rat (1d4)
4-12. No encounter

Encounters for Yesterday

2. Patchwork Woman (1)**
3. Skeleton (1d4)
4. Giant Rat (1d6)
5-12. No encounter

Encounters for Tomorrow

2. Tendrils (2d6)***
3. Patchwork Woman (1)**
4. Jelly Ghoul (1d3)****
5. Skeleton (1d6)
6-12. No encounter

* Tendrils in Today come from the floor or walls. Each is 10 feet long, has AC 12 and dissipates if it suffers 5 points of damage. They attack as 2 HD monsters and deal 1d6 damage.

** The patchwork woman is a unique creature – she is the animated corpse of Joachim’s mother. If she is destroyed as a random encounter she does not appear elsewhere in the dungeon.

*** Tendrils in Tomorrow come from the floors or walls. Each is up to 30 feet long, has AC 15 and dissipates if it suffers 10 points of damage. They attack as 2 HD monsters and deal 1d6 damage. If they grapple an opponent, they suffer 1 point of Constitution damage each round until freed.

**** Normal ghoul stats, but they are composed of thick ooze. They suffer half normal damage from non-magical bludgeoning weapons and must engulf people (with a grapple attack) to paralyze people.

In addition, in Today there is always a 1 in 6 chance of a tendril encounter in each chamber. In Tomorrow, there is a 4 in 6 chance of a tendril encounter in each chamber.

Today Room Descriptions (Kept Simple to Save Space)

1. Nothing much – we start here. Dusty chamber, alcoves hold slabs with bones of dead high priests that remain protected from the evil of the catacombs; the tendrils and undead cannot enter the alcoves.

2. Small necromantic study. Owlbear rug, creaky mahogany chair, shelves with a few books.

3. Joachim’s living quarters. Sparse, bed with feather mattress with a zombie inside, painting of Mother on one wall, wooden chest (poisoned lock) holding three changes of clothes, a silver locket with a picture of Mother inside, a vial of blood and a silver dagger.

4. Empty.

5. Old temple. Dusty, evidence of blood spatters and bloody footprints, remnants of a marble idol – just the sandaled feet left.

6. Twelve casks of old, excellent wine. One cask is poisoned.

7. Workroom – flesh golem here is complete other than head, which is unattached and lying on a table.

8. Library of necromantic tomes.

9. Crypt – holds caskets for Mother and Father. Mother’s casket is empty save for her clothes and a locket holding a lock of Joachim’s hair. Father’s casket holds his cracked and trampled bones. When presented with the locket, the patchwork woman is treated as though affected by the hold monster spell.

10. Empty.

11. Empty.

12. Bones of Saint Hypatia in an iron-bound casket.

13. Bones of the Brother Umphal, a trio of crusader knights.

14. Ossuary of old priestly skulls.

15. A chapel of the Lawful faith turned into a chapel of Chaos. 1d4 ooze tendrils are always encountered here cradling a small wooden bust of Mother’s head.

16. Necromantic supplies such as weird solutions in vials and jars, bandages, embalming tools, hard chunks of wax and fresh smocks.

17. Bodies were once prepared here for internment and was used as a workroom for Joachim.

18. Room holds three vats, sealed. Inside are zombies with swollen heads.

19. Bodies of two women wrapped in leather straps and the patchwork woman – all three are in alcoves.

20. A casket in chains; inside is a vampire that is held in place by a silver sword of salvation. If the sword (+1 longsword, +3 vs. undead) is removed, the vampire can attack. It looks like a corpse until re-animated.

21. A dagger stained with burgundy ichor and a magic circle of silver dust that has been breached (probably by a human foot) and five white candles. The angel’s body has disappeared. 2d4 tendrils will always appear in this room from a crack in the floor.

22. Dancing dead (7 skeletons with iron crowns with a small sapphire that can fire a single blue ray that deals 1d6 points of cold damage) and three large ooze tendrils, one bearing Joachim’s face with crazy eyes. The goblet stained with ichor lies on the floor and radiates intense magic and good.

Tomorrow Room Descriptions (Kept Simple to Save Space)

1. As above plus three skeletons with jagged broken swords (save vs. disease).

2. As above, but trashed beyond all utility.

3. As above.

4. Two sallow zombies vomiting green slime.

5. As above, but swathed in magical darkness and guarded by two jelly ghouls.

6. As above.

7. As above, but the flesh golem’s head is alive and active, and can mess with people’s minds via telepathy; 1d6 tendrils will appear three rounds after people enter the room.

8. As above, but the books scream when opened.

9. As above.

10. Empty.

11. Empty.

12. Bones of Saint Hypatia in an iron-bound casket with two jelly ghouls pounding on it.

13. Bones of the Brother Umphal, a trio of crusader knights now animated as 3 HD skeletons with greatswords and burning eyes that can blind once per day – their chainmail armor is now gleaming black and +1 in enchantment. This enchantment does not last outside the catacombs, where the armor turns rusty and useless.

14. As above, plus the skulls weep with poisonous (Poison III) tears.

15. As above.

16. As above, but three zombies are here.

17. As above, but three skeletons are here.

18. Room holds three zombies with massive heads – so massive they must hold them up with their hands. They only attack by biting, and they can swallow small creatures.

19. Two belle dames sans merci and the patchwork woman.

20. As above.

21. As above, but the angel’s body has disappeared. 3d4 tendrils will always appear in this room from a crack in the floor.

22. As above.

Yesterday Room Descriptions (Kept Simple to Save Space)

1. As above, but four skeleton guards with shields and swords.

2. As above. A small table next to the chair holds a goblet of wine.

3. As above.

4. Empty.

5. As above.

6. As above.

7. Workroom – scraps of human flesh – a flesh golem that has not yet been sewn up. A head is in a jar of chemicals.

8. As above.

9. As above.

10. Empty.

11. Empty.

12. As above, but evil cannot enter this chamber.

13. As above, but evil cannot enter this chamber.

14. As above.

15. A chapel of the Lawful faith turned into a chapel of Chaos with a wooden bust of Mother on the altar with several candles.

16. As above.

17. As above; three corpses are on the slab prepped for animation.

18. Room holds three vats filled with bubbling chemicals that put off a foul-smelling cloud.

19. Two corpses of women who were beautiful in life and are preserved with only minor rotting with dark magic, plus the patchwork woman.

20. As above.

21. A smallish man with curly auburn hair and a pallid complexion is here, holding a +2 dagger and looking at a brilliantly illuminated humanoid with wings who is within a magic circle of silver dust. A golden goblet (200 gp) is on the floor near the magic circle. The angel appears concerned, but resigned to being a sacrifice – it is forgiving the man, who appears to be at least half-mad. If the angel can be saved from the necromancer (8th level), who is guarded by three zombies, the catacombs return to normal and the curse on the place is removed.

22. A simple tomb.

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Menace of the Mer-Mongrels

Here’s a quickie dungeon for you, featuring mer-mongrels (essentially aquatic orcs), just in case you need something dark, wet and dangerous for your game.

Overview

This is underground and near the sea. Sea water flows down the entrance corridor. Everything is slimy and the water is about 2 feet deep (so gnomes and halflings might need floaties) throughout.

There are clumps of phosphorescent sea weed here and there, giving a dim glow to the caverns – so dim as to be useless, but enough to create weird, wavering patterns on walls.

Mer-Mongrels

HD 1, AC 13, ATK Claws (1d4) or weapon (1d6) or barbed net (1d3 + entangled), MV 20′ (Swim 40′)

Room Descriptions

1. Corridor is broken here by a waterfall – water leaking in from the ceiling. Just on the other side of the waterfall there is an aquatic assassin vine attached to the ceiling. Just beneath the waterfall, to the extreme left of the corridor, is a pit that leads to the corridor just to the right of [1] on the map (the one that leads to area [14]). That corridor is completely submerged until area [14].

2. Two lacedons are chained to the walls here. The mer-mongrels have a winch in [11] that shortens the chains, but otherwise the lacedons can wander throughout the room.

3. Water swirls around the walls, ceiling and floor of this tunnel, creating a vortex of confusion. Save vs. confusion or become dizzy (-1 to hit, AC and save) for 1 hour.

4. Three mer-mongrel guards are in this room playing a gambling game that involves plunging half a coconut into the water and seeing which player gets splashed. Each has a shagreen pouch holding 1d10 gp. One mer-mongrel has a barbed net, the other two have tridents. All three have daggers.

5. A small natural chimney in this room leads to the surface. The air is fresher here.

6. This is a supply room, containing bits of flesh wrapped in seaweed and stuffed into cubby holes, floating bottles of wine, floating boxes of candles and an odd assortment of tridents and daggers (1d6 of each).

7. Two mer-mongrel acolytes dwell in this room. They have silvery bodies, and each can cast one 1st level anti-cleric spell (chosen by GM). They are armed with footman’s maces with heads shaped like octopi with opal eyes (worth 35 gp each). A curtain of barbed chains blocks the passage to [9].

8. The high priest of the mer-mongrels (3 HD) dwells here. He can cast two 1st level anti-cleric spells and one 2nd level anti-cleric spell, and wields a mace like his acolytes (but with pearl eyes, worth 150 gp). The room is also occupied by three white fish who roam around randomly, but who can be commanded by the high priest to swim in a circle, creating either a magic scrying pool or a magic whirlpool (per a water elemental). A sunken iron chest holds 250 sp, 50 gp, a gold bracer (65 gp) and a potion of healing in an old rum bottle.

9. Mongo, the living clam god (a giant clam) dwells in this chamber, the temple of the mer-mongrels. The clam rests in the alcove in the far portion of the cave, and a coral altar has been set before the clam. A young man in rough shape is chained to the altar as a sacrifice. The altar juts about 1 foot above the water, and there are many candle stumps and a few burning candles on the altar. Right before the altar there is a submerged pit (save vs. falling – no damage from fall, but 5% chance of drowning do to an accidental inhalation of water).

10/11/13. Each of these chambers is inhabited by 1d6 mer-mongrel males armed with daggers and blowpipes from which they shoot poisoned sea urchin darts (save vs. poison or slowed for 3 rounds). Each chamber has a small stone chest containing 1d4 x 50 sp and 1d6 x 100 cp. One of the mer-mongrels has a small topaz (30 gp) hidden under his loin cloth.

12. Several sea urchins are kept in this alcove. The water here is envenomed by their presence (save vs. poison or 1d6 damage).

14. This spawning chamber is home to five female mer-mongrels. They are armed as the males, but also carry two nets. There are three young in the room, and they will fight to the death to defend them (and send them fleeing into [16] at the first sight of trouble. A stone chest here holds 200 gp and three bottles of fine wine. The chest is trapped with a sea urchin spine (save vs. poison or 1d6 damage).

15. I forgot to put this number on the map!

16. This is the lair of Yort, the chief of the mer-mongrels. He is a erudite man (he trained in the humanities at a sea elf university) who returned to his tribe when his father was slain by adventurers. Yort carries a +1 trident that can make the water boil in a straight line up to 20 feet long (1d10 fire damage, save for half damage) three times per day. He also has a silver dagger and a chest containing 500 gp, 1,200 sp, a small sapphire (200 gp) and a bottle of giant octopus ink. Yort will offer to pay adventurers off if they leave he and his people alone, but if a child is harmed will pursue them to the ends of the earth to exact bloody revenge.

 

A Gargantuan Success

Patrice ‘Kabuki Kaiser’ Crespy was kind enough to send me a review copy (electronic format) of his Castle Gargantua, and may I just say – Bravo!

This is the kind of Old School product I love – innovative. It takes a difficult concept and makes it concrete and playable – something truly different for players (and referees) to experience. Hey, a good, old-fashioned dungeon is fun, and I think most of us get the urge to run or play in one every so often. But it’s these innovative adventures that keep everything fresh.

Now, I’m not going to go into how it’s done, because that would ruin the surprise for the players. Suffice to say – Castle Gargantua gets it done. I can affirm this because I tried to do something similar with the city of Dis in my Hell Crawl a while back, and KK does it better. Quite a bit better, in fact. Dang it.

1) You get moody, evocative art by Jeremy Hart and excellent maps by Dyson Logos

2) You get fantastic rumors to drive the adventurers on – I really enjoyed these

3) There is a random element to the dungeon, so there is the possibility of repetition. I think referees might need to veer from the script from time to time. A minor quibble, and it does not detract from the quality of the composition or execution, because …

4) … the random elements are awesome – super fun to read, and probably super fun for players to experience. Having written a few hex crawls, I can attest to the quality of the imagination in Castle Gargantua and the effort it must have taken to write.

Final thought … buy the book. For $5.00, the PDF is a steal. I’m going to shuffle off and buy a hard copy myself.

Drawing Dungeon Maps in Excel – A Quick Tutorial

Well, I think I just about have this whole mapping in Excel thing down, so why not share the techniques with everyone else. Quick note that I’m doing these maps with the latest, greatest versions of Excel and Paint and nothing else.

STEP ONE

The first step is setting up your grid. In general, this involves eyeballing the fields into squares, and then adding a border to all of those squares using whatever color you like. In the example below, I’m using a light blue.

STEP TWO

Now, I color in all of those squares with the same color blue, and then cut out the passages and chambers by changing those squares to “no color”, though I suppose coloring them white would work just as well.

STEP THREE

At this stage, you can add in walls using thick lines (again, using the same color as above), doors (they’re just small rectangles), stairs (see below, took me a while to get these right), pillars, statues, etc. The newer versions of excel also allow you to freestyle draw shapes, which are good for irregular pools. For pools, I do a tight, white dot pattern over the blue. For chambers that are going to be natural caverns, just get the overall shape right at this stage.

The secret door is just an “S” (Arial 12 pt.) in a text box with no outline and no background.

The stairs are a long trapezoid, no outline, with a pattern of vertical lines or horizontal lines, depending on the direction the stairs face. Yeah, I’m kinda proud of figuring that one out – I originally tried drawing in the lines, but could never get the spacing correct.

STEP FOUR

To make the pointed room, I added a couple right triangle shapes of the blue color. I then add room numbers using Arial Narrow, 9 point. You can also add outlines of rounded shapes over rooms, coloring in the bits outside the outline in the next step.

STEP FIVE

We now highlight our map, hit CONTROL-C to copy, and open up MS Paint. In Paint, we paste in the map. If we want to turn any of our passages or chambers into tunnels or caverns, we just use the paintbrush (same color as background) to draw in the natural walls.

And, lo and behold, we have a workable dungeon map. It’s not perfect, and there are some limitations, but it’s not bad for using a couple pretty basic programs. Whether this will work with the Open Office version of Excel, I don’t know – I’d love to hear from somebody who tries it out.

The Caves of Llosh

The Caves of Llosh is a multi-part dungeon for the Pars Fortuna rules, for characters level 1-3 that I decided to publish here, piece by piece. I’m going to start doing the same for Space Princess and the Catacombs of Old Mars soon … let’s see how it goes.

[No Map Yet … Been busy but wanted to get this ball rolling, and the intro area is pretty straight-forward]

Well beyond the city of Viacrux and the Pyroxist Mountains, past the steading of the cyclopeans and to the west of the Titan’s Door, lie the Caves of Llosh, one of the many entrances to the infamous Spire that lies at the center of creation and, they say, offers one a chance to rewrite that creation if only they can climb to its pinnacle.

The caverns are accessed via a small cave in the base of a mountain shrouded in spiny ygoraa bushes that drip their maddening sap when the moon is full. The upper reaches of the mountain are stark and on the rocky ledges perch beady-eyed hraeths (giant ravens), who often attack adventurers making their way to and from the caves (3 in 6 chance, 5 in 6 if laden with treasure).

HRAETH (1d8): HD 1; AC 15; ATK 1d4 (talons); Move 3 (Fly 18); Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

1-1. The entry cave measures about 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, and the ground and ceiling both angle downwards from the entry. The floor and walls have been worn smooth by dozens of adventurers who have dared the caves, and bits of graffiti are to be found chiseled into the walls, including a large admonishment to “Never Bite an Oort” and a plea to “Bow to The Dam”.

There are three exits from the cavern. One is a sinkhole with glistening walls (not wet, just a characteristic of the rock). The sinkhole has an opening about 15 feet in diameter – a sort of cone – with several iron spikes driven into the rim, and usually (2 in 6) a rope tied to at least one. About 20 feet down, the air becomes foul and difficult to breath (save or suffer -1 penalty to attack and save for 2 hour; or simply cover mouth and nose with a thick cloth), and about 40 feet down you might come across additional spikes driven into the walls, where people made a perch for themselves and tied off additional ropes. In all, the sinkhole is 80 feet deep and leads to chamber 3-1.

The next exit is a rather large cave mouth at the back of cave 1-1. The air in the mouth of this cave is quite chilly, and one can even see crystals of frost on the ground leading into it. This cave leads into a tunnel about 40 feet long, that winds back and forth gently and descends at a 15-degree angle to chamber 1-2. The tunnel is guarded by four cavern crawlers with mottled, white skin that allows them to blend in with the frosty tunnel (surprise on 1-2 on 1d6).

CAVERN CRAWLER (4): HD 1d4 (4, 2, 2, 2 hp); AC 12; ATK suffocate (drop); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Suffocate (see monster description).

The final exit is hidden by an illusion, making it look like part of the east wall. It is a stone portal, large enough to be carved by bo’al, and bearing the tell-tale signs of their aesthetic (i.e. boring, angular, sturdy, etc.). Beyond the illusion (not the work of bo’al, but of a party of caledjula who long ago met their demise within the caves) there is a hallway about 10 feet long and an iron door (locked, trapped with an acid spray that deals 1d6 damage and has a 13% chance of ruining a thief’s lock pick). Beyond the iron door there is a spiral stair that leads down about 30 feet to chamber 2-1. This engineering feat was a result of a party of bo’al being guided by a prophetic dream, and breaching the second level of the dungeon from a pathway its inhabitants never quite expected.