Monday, June 29, 2009

Beneath the Tower of the Lich King

Drawing close to the end of my 20th anniversary retrospective on my homebrew campaign setting, the Lands of Lornn, I thought I'd present some samples the iconic dungeon of the setting, the "castle greyhawk" of Lornn, if you will. While not necessarily a Megadungeon, in that it is a finite space (so maybe its more the "Temple of Elemental Evil" of Lornn?), it is still vast, and in-game, large areas remain unexplored to this day, despite lots of play hours put into it. Of all the dungeons I've done over the years, this was the most involved, right down to my own "art" for player handouts (see above). I'm no Erol Otus, obviously, but it was fun to try and do this at least once, I think its the most I've drawn since I was 12.

Though the dungeon saw action in 2 different editions of D&D and one D&D-inspired rpg (castles & crusades), it was intended from its first scribbled notes to be as old-school in tone, design, and flavor as it could possibly be. Each room was to have some little tidbit to inspire the players' curiousity and investigation. There was no attempt at "balance" of any sort, the players were responsible for gaugeing whether or not they could handle an encounter or must run away. Magic items found could be a boon, or a curse, or both at once.

Hopefully, some day I'll get to return to it, and see a group of players make it to the very end.

Here are couple of samples, one from the introduction, and pair of rooms. One of the examples, the treasure-rich Cavern of the Corpsewurm king, illustrates a foible of preparing something for possible publication under the OGL: no Carrion Crawlers allowed;)

The ancient tower of the legendary Lich-King has stood near the center of the bustling metropolis you call home for centuries, a monument to a long-gone conflict that has faded into mythology and now serves as nothing more than a curiosity to visiting tourists. Or is it? The legends hint of the foul, unnatural servants of the Lich-King who were sealed away deep beneath the tower along with their vanquished master. They speak even more about the hoards of treasure, both mundane and magical, lost forever behind the impassable seals set in place by the forces of good to prevent any chance of the evil resurfacing. But now rumors are being spread, in taverns and alleys, of a few bold souls actually finding secret ways into the Lich-King’s halls. Some have even returned, though somewhat less than whole. So if the horrible dangers really exist, might not the fabulous treasure?

In the beginning, the players will hear rumors of the discovery of a secret “back door” into the dungeons beneath the crumbling old “monument” that has always loomed, half forgotten, over the lives of the city-folk, and perhaps the adventurers.

1.1 The Grim Foyer

“You find yourself in a 30’ cube-like chamber. The walls were white-washed once, maybe a century ago, but now slime and moisture seep through, and burn marks and suspicious rust-colored stains also mar the surface. There are doors in the center of the North, South, East, and West walls, and a circular opening in the ceiling reveals a rusted iron ladder extending strait up through a narrow tunnel. The North wall is painted with a faded mural depicting two faceless, robed beings holding aloft a glowing staff of bizarre design. The door on the north wall appears to be made of glass, and inscrutable clock-work gears are slowly moving beneath its surface. A single, round keyhole is in the center of the door.
The sad remains of a Halfling are hunched against the West wall, a steel crossbow bolt protruding from its bloated, decaying neck”

The ladder from the well far above descends 30’ through the open air onto the center of this room’s floor. The charred corpse of a halfling rogue lies sprawled at (a). He was slain by one of his own compatriots, who was driven insane by the statue at area 1-3. His charred purse contains a lump of platinum weighing in at 14pp’s worth and one dagger on his charred and useless bandoleer seems to have escaped the ravages of whatever fire consumed this poor soul. It is a dagger +2. If speak with dead is attempted, the halfling’s spirit only babbles insanely about “eyes in the dark” and being “a good boy from now on”.

The door leading north is covered in inset, iron runes and features a single, round doorknob in the center. A mural depicting two robed figures holding a glowing staff aloft surrounds this door. The door radiates magic. The runes above the door may be deciphered only with a read magic spell: “The Master Welcomes You All.” Check normally for traps and locks on this door, but if it is opened, it sets off a telepathic alarm that alerts the lieutenants at areas 1.25 and 2.2 to the party’s presence. These lieutenants will not take any direct action against the party, but cannot be surprised by them either.

The eastern door at (b) has a rough note scratched into it in common: “Stay away from the Pit”. Three triangles of black parchment lie scattered on the floor in front of this door. Check as normal for locks and traps on all four doors leading out of this chamber. These doors are all closed.

1.5 Cavern of the Corpsewurm King

“This huge, dripping cavern is crawling with tentacled, wormlike creatures. Pools of fetid water fill the area, fed by a thin waterfall that drains from an opening high along the southeast wall. Beyond the pools, a sandy beach is covered in mounds of pale, globelike eggs and heaps of coins.
Amid the heaps lurks a crawler of immense size that rears up and hisses, summoning its sickening minions to the fight…”

PC’s who investigate the openings allowing the crawlers access to area 1.4 discover a large natural cavern behind the shrine. Soft phosphorescence in the stone here bathes the entire cavern in dim purplish light. Filthy pools and streams meander around the cavern floor and thick, gray mold clings to the stalactites and stalagmites here.

A foul-smelling cascade of yellowish, sulfurous water falls from a crack in the cavern ceiling over the east wall. A wide, natural stone stairway leads down to area 3.10 at (a). A secret door may be found behind the waterfall at (b).

Thirty corpsewurms make this cavern their home, and act as consorts for an immense Corpsewurm King (see New Monsters Appendice). The Corpsewurm King sprawls over a heap of bones, treasure, and slimy eggs at (c), and will direct his consorts to soften up invading PC’s before using his paralyzing breath weapon and finally entering the fray himself.

The Corpsewurm King’s bed contains 196pp, 675gp, 1253sp, 46 10gp gems, 12 100gp gems, a +2 spear inscribed with the word “Pain” in Elder Common, and a sealed ivory tube containing three scrolls of neutralize poison.

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