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Deconstructing Dungeon Crawling


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I was surfin’ the web looking for tips on writing and plot creation in hope of finding some inspiration for my next campaign. I stumbled upon an article which discussed the basic three act structure. I have read about this structure many times before but the following line struck me this time.

As the story progresses, there is a rising and falling of tension with each crisis, but an overall rising tension as we approach the Climax.

I believe this is the reason I do not care for dungeon crawls. The tension does not rise. It is stagnant. For me, the ‘big boss’ does not create any more tension than every other encounter that proceeded it.

Is this a failure of my perception, the modules themselves, the GMs I have played under or is it a fundamental flaw of the style itself?


That's why I almost always write urban or event-based adventures, so that I can ramp up the tension in just that way. And, really, how many underground mazes can there be? And who excavates all those things?

Qadira

CourtFool wrote:

I was surfin’ the web looking for tips on writing and plot creation in hope of finding some inspiration for my next campaign. I stumbled upon an article which discussed the basic three act structure. I have read about this structure many times before but the following line struck me this time.

As the story progresses, there is a rising and falling of tension with each crisis, but an overall rising tension as we approach the Climax.

I believe this is the reason I do not care for dungeon crawls. The tension does not rise. It is stagnant. For me, the ‘big boss’ does not create any more tension than every other encounter that proceeded it.

Is this a failure of my perception, the modules themselves, the GMs I have played under or is it a fundamental flaw of the style itself?

Correct. Dungeons are fundamentally like mini network of 'points of light' balanced stagnant across their group of points unless there is something happening in a given location that is "Event-Based" Just as a Temple hidden in a swamp can sit dormant until cultists show up to Activate it, or Bob the Black Dragon sets up a base from which he manipulates his army of Kobolds...similarly as you enter the dungeon passing through points you exert a momentum of change and ultimatly create a tide of resistance in an Active system.


I do not follow your ‘points of light’ analogy. Would you please elaborate.

In my experience, which obviously may not be the norm, few dungeon crawls are event based. Even those that claim they are only pay it lip service. Sure the temple has been recently awaken by the cult so the PCs can go room to room clearing out some ‘monster’ that has suddenly taken up residence. A ‘monster’ that never leaves its lair to eat and gets along perfectly well with all of its neighbors.

The dragon waits deep within his lair as the PCs divide and conquer his minions room by room.

Qadira

CourtFool wrote:

I do not follow your ‘points of light’ analogy. Would you please elaborate.

In my experience, which obviously may not be the norm, few dungeon crawls are event based. Even those that claim they are only pay it lip service. Sure the temple has been recently awaken by the cult so the PCs can go room to room clearing out some ‘monster’ that has suddenly taken up residence. A ‘monster’ that never leaves its lair to eat and gets along perfectly well with all of its neighbors.

The dragon waits deep within his lair as the PCs divide and conquer his minions room by room.

That is what I am trying to get across. For Rich Baker and his 'Points of Light' Memo that defines the new game, individual locations can go on irrelevent of what is happening around them. However, this is the direct opposite of how such a network should work - they respond if they are active points. A PC presence once discovered should trigger increasing resistance. For a Dragon of power and experience (a veritable spider on a web) the threshold of the trigger of awareness should be sufficiently low that the PCs may have been lured to "the lair" by the Dragon without their knowledge.

If the Temple was inactive - no cult - then you would have a high trigger threshold for those insects and critters that are hold up in the assorted chambers. Some might have a low interest trigger and come by to investigate while others find distant noise simply something that woke it from sleep.

Dungeons are badly understood by DM and Game creator alike.


yellowdingo wrote:

That is what I am trying to get across. For Rich Baker and his 'Points of Light' Memo that defines the new game, individual locations can go on irrelevent of what is happening around them. However, this is the direct opposite of how such a network should work - they respond if they are active points. A PC presence once discovered should trigger increasing resistance. For a Dragon of power and experience (a veritable spider on a web) the threshold of the trigger of awareness should be sufficiently low that the PCs may have been lured to "the lair" by the Dragon without their knowledge.

If the Temple was inactive - no cult - then you would have a high trigger threshold for those insects and critters that are hold up in the assorted chambers. Some might have a low interest trigger and come by to investigate while others find distant noise simply something that woke it from sleep. Dungeons are badly understood by DM and Game creator alike.

And some people say the Dingo is crazy! They should see posts like this one. He's hit the nail perfectly on the head with this one (or bitten the wallaby perfectly on the arse, if you prefer...). Nice one.


Um, on a more pragmatic level, most of the better dungeons I've been through have a cascading ramping up of tension and danger. It is like concentric funnels, where each level/area/whatever leads to the next, greater area. Look at Temple of EE for example. It starts out with some atmospheric fluff, then BOOM serious action, then a tapering off until you are funneled either down a level or into some certain other areas, etc. until finally you are fighting the climactic battle. Yes, I would say dungeons can more easily capture such a 'vibe' than most other locales. Good dungeons can be quick like a haiku, or long like dirge, where entire destinies are forged, lost, then forged again. Basically.

J~

Qadira RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

Kirth Gersen wrote:
And some people say the Dingo is crazy! They should see posts like this one.

One doesn't rule the other out.

Andoran

i don't know how germaine this is to the discussion, but i've run one prefab 1e adventure that had the "cascade effect" yellowdingo is talking about.

WG4, lost temple of tharizdun (i think that was the title, close enough, anyway).

if the party didn't somehow get pass the (were they norkers or gnolls?) guards without either letting some get away or alerting others close enough to hear, pretty much the entire organized part of the dungeon's population would come to the front to defend the complex, with the BBEG coming out with his bodyguards (a mountain giant and his hill giant henchmen).

the scenario showed a timeline that accounted for how far from the entrance the reinforcements were and how long it would take to grab their weapons (it was in the timing, not explicit, but implied).

most of the other modules i've seen paid a little lip service to the concept, but that was the only one i can recall that resulted in no one waiting in a room to get killed by the party for some arbitrairy reason.

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:

Um, on a more pragmatic level, most of the better dungeons I've been through have a cascading ramping up of tension and danger. It is like concentric funnels, where each level/area/whatever leads to the next, greater area. Look at Temple of EE for example. It starts out with some atmospheric fluff, then BOOM serious action, then a tapering off until you are funneled either down a level or into some certain other areas, etc. until finally you are fighting the climactic battle. Yes, I would say dungeons can more easily capture such a 'vibe' than most other locales. Good dungeons can be quick like a haiku, or long like dirge, where entire destinies are forged, lost, then forged again. Basically.

J~

Rarely is that ramping of tension associated with the PC's movement through the Network of tunnels in the dungeon. THe old Dungeons like Cladwells Castle simply allowed you to go room to Room from a Common hallway (except for the three Merchants - who signal for help when you kick the door in) and there was no escalation.

Then there were the dungeons which (as you say) were written in as an escalation the further you penetrate (but this is a static change not a dynamic one).

The Problem is that it would be pretty rare to encounter a Dungeon where your presence creates escalation only when you "rouse the guard". If you are avoiding all the Traps and Alarms and garotting all the watchmen then there are no grounds for an escalation until you stumble across a random and unexpected trigger event - Bob the BBEG rushes to the toilet because he now has a stomach bug because the raw mince halfling was bad (- one halfling hostage).


Static or dynamic wasnt the original question, it was about the rising and lowering of tension, but I see where you are coming from. That is something between the DM and his creations (or the module-creator) but yeah, my party often seems to end up in these running battles thru the halls that often attracts nearby enemies, and on a personal level, I do not like the "each room is a new surprise" trype of dungeon where there is a beholder in one room, a fire trap in the next, and a liche beyond tha, it can get ridiculous, except.... in the case of magical created dungeons, etc.

The most recent dungeon I made was an old dwarven burial tomb recently inhabited by orc raiders, so in room building I got to use a great assortment of ancient tomb traps, new orc-made traps (in my world orcs are brutish but cunning) orcs, and even some undead. It IS dynamic, but that is the way I like the ordinary dungeon. Each to his own.

Osirion

I think that "3 Faces of Evil" from the Age of Worms AP is an excellent example of an adventure written with the PCs' entrance into the complex as a triggering event. IMO, that is the best example I have ever read of an event-based adventure disguised as a location-based.

That is the VERY rare exception, however. For the vast majority, I agree with yellowdingo.

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:

Static or dynamic wasnt the original question, it was about the rising and lowering of tension, but I see where you are coming from. That is something between the DM and his creations (or the module-creator) but yeah, my party often seems to end up in these running battles thru the halls that often attracts nearby enemies, and on a personal level, I do not like the "each room is a new surprise" trype of dungeon where there is a beholder in one room, a fire trap in the next, and a liche beyond tha, it can get ridiculous, except.... in the case of magical created dungeons, etc.

The most recent dungeon I made was an old dwarven burial tomb recently inhabited by orc raiders, so in room building I got to use a great assortment of ancient tomb traps, new orc-made traps (in my world orcs are brutish but cunning) orcs, and even some undead. It IS dynamic, but that is the way I like the ordinary dungeon. Each to his own.

Tension is purely the ability of the PC to cope with a stressful environment.

A Balanced - static Dungeon would have a low and steady stress structure - you hit one and it disapates - on to the next.

By subjecting the PCs to the Dynamic dungeon, they can find a half dozen Kobold troops showing up during their noisy fight in the Shrieker mushroom cave. What would be evenly paced to allow a PC to recover and de-stress becomes a surge of hostile encounters getting closer and closer together. Next thing you know, failing those stealth checks means you cant get near the Dragon Lair with all the Kobolds cueing to enter the cave they have you trapped in.


Ya I think we are in agreement, and I see your point about the rising crescendo of doom however, that seems to me to be nothing more than the DMs handling of the dungeon, not the dungeon itself. In a perfectly dynamic world, the kobolds might use the pcs as a lure to attract the dragon's attention while they slay the dragon or steal its treasure. It is chaos theory, or in other words the DMs ability to anticipate actions and re-actions of multiple species. But none of that directly corresponds to the layout of the dungeon, it is simple facts of life. Or in other words, a rose is still a rose...


I have never seen the goals or motivations laid out in dungeon crawls. Granted, I do not read a lot of dungeon crawls.

Sure, if you are familiar with all of the beasties involved, you should have a good grasp of how they will respond to one another. However, I think it is imperative on the layout to explain why the kobolds are chillin’ with the dragon. Why hasn’t the dragon eaten them? Is there some kind of pact? How much does each side trust the other to uphold this unspoken pact?

Another issue are the traps. How do the lair denizens know where they all are and how to disable them? How come I have never once encountered one already sprung despite all the tales of adventures who ventured into the dungeon but never returned? I guess they were killed by the hoard of level 13 rogue kobolds who then drug the bodies to the dragon for din din.


I think the issue here is that RPGing is a unique kind of story-telling. What you read was about novel plots. What works well as a plot arc in a movie or novel often doesn't work well as an RPG, and vice versa. I doubt a movie about adventurers going from room to room in a dungeon would be highly entertaining, just as many novels don't work well as modules (Avatar Trilo comes to mind). A campaign should feature some kind of arc, but you shouldn't expect each dungeon to be a self-contained small arc.

Qadira

CourtFool wrote:

I have never seen the goals or motivations laid out in dungeon crawls. Granted, I do not read a lot of dungeon crawls.

Sure, if you are familiar with all of the beasties involved, you should have a good grasp of how they will respond to one another. However, I think it is imperative on the layout to explain why the kobolds are chillin’ with the dragon. Why hasn’t the dragon eaten them? Is there some kind of pact? How much does each side trust the other to uphold this unspoken pact?

Another issue are the traps. How do the lair denizens know where they all are and how to disable them? How come I have never once encountered one already sprung despite all the tales of adventures who ventured into the dungeon but never returned? I guess they were killed by the hoard of level 13 rogue kobolds who then drug the bodies to the dragon for din din.

I loved the old D&D books with the skulls and bones of assorted intruders sitting in the Dragonhoard...as to the Kobolds guarding the Dragon's back entrance, I think it more a case of Kobolds trying to wear the Dragon down.

"The big bugger wont last another century if we can disrupt his sleep cycle and wear him down...then the gold is ours." Kobold Prince Tuggik scratched his stone knife against his leathery skin.

"How about we lure some Adventurers in?" Furnip was always second with a Good Idea. It kept him alive. Prince Tuggik nodded.

"Have to wear them down first...wouldn't want them to claim the horde. Have some of the other Kobold check those traps near the entrance." Tuggik stared down the tunnel toward the Dragon.
"Hello my prettypretty, this is your wakeup call."

Qadira

Dungoneering: Lets build one

Dungeons are networks of interacting nodes. Each node has its own threshold of interconnectedness.

Original Dungeon Purpose{mine, natural caves, hidden temple, escape route, ect.}: Lets say escape route for Cloudspear Keep (I dumped that somewhere in the 4E section) + Natural Caves.

Throw a d20 in the air and get the number of nodes in our natural cave (15). OK so there are fifteen points in our dungeon and one of them wll be-

Node 15: the cave at the bottom of the Keep's well - our connection into the castle - a vertical climb up a well shaft of fifty feet. Because this is a natural cave - our well room is not the end of the network rather part of it.

Just so we know there is a problem with the Castle, the well shaft can be climbed without a rope because there are upturned skulls for footholds embeded in the brick face of the shaft. They will support a small creature making the climb (although a few will crumble under foot providing some risk). To see/access the shaft the PCs must wade out into the waterpool.

Generating the Mesh Connectivity: Anyone care to roll 15d6 dropping them on a sheet of paper with an x-y grid?


Now we're talking, but hold on a second, why not go with the nuggets of a plan we already have? How about a clan of kobolds (draconian in nature) are the slaves and servants of an aged and decrepit (blind?) dragon. The adventure is for the kobolds to draw an unwitting party to their demise so they may claim the hoard?

I like the ruined castle with shaft and natural cave idea. I would like to add some cave entrances, say on the opposite side of nearby hills, cliffs, in which some creatures have been lured to make their lairs, as in they must fight thru enemy lair to reach kobold caverns and the dragon. Maybe a pair of ogres/leucrotta/old burial mound w/ skeletons led by wight or ghast/ goblin new-comers moving in on the kobolds (have no idea about dragon)

I am chennaling (lol) Keep on the Borderlands, which actually had an intricate balance to it, albeit lacked in the 'crescendo of doom' we seek.

Wait, wasn't kobold-dragon used in the first 3E module, or something similar?


Alfred Hitchcock wrote:


There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.

Think about the opening boom shot in Touch of Evil. The audience sees the bomb go in the car. They know it will blow up. It's not the conclusion, that is a forgone thing, but rather how we get there that pulls in the audience's attention.

Qadira

Cloudspearkeep can be found here.

The Quarstonbaily Sinkhole

node |y-pos |x-pos |adjoining |extras
1 |-130 |-165 |Surface, 2 |-
2 |-85 |-170 |1, 3 |-
3 |-100 |-155 |2, 4 |Partially flooded
4 |-115 |-70 |3, 5, 15 |flooded
5 |-60 |-175 |4, 6 |-
6 |-115 |-175 |5, 7, 8|-
7 |-95 |-230 |6 |-
8 |-130 |-130 |6, 9 |-
9 |-50 |-100 |8, 10 |-
10 |-90 |+55 |9, 11, 13|-
11 |-135 |-195 |10, 12 |-
12 |-65 |-210 |11 |-
13 |-135 |-85 |10, 14 |-
14 |-55 |-45 |13 |-
15 |-100 |0 |Well room, 4 |Partially flooded

What have we got? A Descent through caves to a partially flooded cave (3). This is then an underwater swim through a fully flooded cave (4) to the Cave at the bottom of Cloudspear Keep's Well (15). The rest of the Cave network is isolated down a branch in the flooded cave(4).


Otto R. Ringus wrote:

Now we're talking, but hold on a second, why not go with the nuggets of a plan we already have? How about a clan of kobolds (draconian in nature) are the slaves and servants of an aged and decrepit (blind?) dragon. The adventure is for the kobolds to draw an unwitting party to their demise so they may claim the hoard?

I like the ruined castle with shaft and natural cave idea. I would like to add some cave entrances, say on the opposite side of nearby hills, cliffs, in which some creatures have been lured to make their lairs, as in they must fight thru enemy lair to reach kobold caverns and the dragon. Maybe a pair of ogres/leucrotta/old burial mound w/ skeletons led by wight or ghast/ goblin new-comers moving in on the kobolds (have no idea about dragon)

I am chennaling (lol) Keep on the Borderlands, which actually had an intricate balance to it, albeit lacked in the 'crescendo of doom' we seek.

Wait, wasn't kobold-dragon used in the first 3E module, or something similar?

2e's Dragon Mountain super-adventure had a whole tribe of kobolds working for a tough dragon.

3e's first adventure The Sunless Citadel had a tribe of kobolds keeping a very young (or younger) dragon.


Yellowdingo lost me with that table of insanity, but I like the kobold/dragon idea that I mentioned above. I might use it myself, if no one wants to play the design-a-dungeon game with me.

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
Yellowdingo lost me with that table of insanity, but I like the kobold/dragon idea that I mentioned above. I might use it myself, if no one wants to play the design-a-dungeon game with me.

The Table of Insanity as you put it is the x-y co-ordinates of all our little dungeon nodes (as no one was interested - I rolled a bunch of dice onto a large grid...) and how they interconnect (for those who prefer to work from this interconnecting node level - it confuses any players who happen to look at what we do here).

The Well Shaft functions as point zero. any comments?

Qadira

DESIGN A DUNGEON GAME
Somewhere in this Cloudspear Keep/ Quarstonbaily Sinkhole superdungeon is a Dragon and some Kobolds.

Discuss the Kobold/Dragon relationship - is it (a)Parasitic, (b)master/slave, (c)adversarial, (d) Other?


Ok I get it now. I do not have my scientific calculator on me (yet another reason for that I-phone!) I am visualizing these random nodes as best I may. It is a pretty random 15 nodes but there is no Z coordinate so I guess we need to better define DESCENDING which is usually seen as a clear shift in tension. Also, multiple entrances/exits should be considered. These factors weigh far more heavily on the structure than almost any other source than the encounters themselves.

I say the sinkhole is the flooded deep dungeons of the ruined Keep, where the delvers unwittingly cracked into natural caverns, this could have been the downfall and ruin of the keep, and why it was never re-occupied. The keep is on, or abuts, a large ridge or hillock, which offers caves and lairs of various sizes that also over the eons have managed to break into this natural cavework, and as a breeding-ground of the night, it filled with the fantastical as such is wont.

The dragon came first, and flew down the well and dug a great hall in the belly, and like vermin, the kobold came to worship her. But they loathed her as well. It is often the littlest enemies en masse that drag down the mighties fowes, and so the kobolds hope, for she is aged and blind now. But they want to speed the process a tad, so they may take the riches for themselves. Hence the work on the caverns constantly being done to lure and trap adventurers. And their never ending battle with the other natural wildlife and monsterlife that covets the space.


Maybe the dragon-kobold relation has been done to death I dunno, but for my party of characters it sure hasn't so I don't mind one wit. In fact I think the draconic link of dragons and kobolds is a pretty nifty relationship. I propose the age group after ancient to be doddering and so I propose Cholorene, doddering old green dragon.

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:

Ok I get it now. I do not have my scientific calculator on me (yet another reason for that I-phone!) I am visualizing these random nodes as best I may. It is a pretty random 15 nodes but there is no Z coordinate so I guess we need to better define DESCENDING which is usually seen as a clear shift in tension. Also, multiple entrances/exits should be considered. These factors weigh far more heavily on the structure than almost any other source than the encounters themselves.

I say the sinkhole is the flooded deep dungeons of the ruined Keep, where the delvers unwittingly cracked into natural caverns, this could have been the downfall and ruin of the keep, and why it was never re-occupied. The keep is on, or abuts, a large ridge or hillock, which offers caves and lairs of various sizes that also over the eons have managed to break into this natural cavework, and as a breeding-ground of the night, it filled with the fantastical as such is wont.

The dragon came first, and flew down the well and dug a great hall in the belly, and like vermin, the kobold came to worship her. But they loathed her as well. It is often the littlest enemies en masse that drag down the mighties fowes, and so the kobolds hope, for she is aged and blind now. But they want to speed the process a tad, so they may take the riches for themselves. Hence the work on the caverns constantly being done to lure and trap adventurers. And their never ending battle with the other natural wildlife and monsterlife that covets the space.

Do we want the well shaft dug out a bit? The dragon use could the well room as a lair and climb to the bottom of the well for a drink.

If the Keep was bad before (not abandoned rather the occupants no longer come out) - the Populace have brands that prevent them from entering the Keep or fleeing the village, The Wellshaft had upturned skulls embeded in the brick of the shaft for footholds - is the Dragon necessarily evil? Is the Dragon the reason or a survivor of what has gone on.

I like the idea of flooding the excavated dungeons - even if the Dragon did it in an attempt to make the Sink hole an escape route.

Quarston Baily quarry stone (Its a Mining Community at the base of a silent keep - Quarried Stone is its only comodity).

So potential entrances are - The Well Room, The Sink Hole and something exposed at the Quarry? Any others?

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
Maybe the dragon-kobold relation has been done to death I dunno, but for my party of characters it sure hasn't so I don't mind one wit. In fact I think the draconic link of dragons and kobolds is a pretty nifty relationship. I propose the age group after ancient to be doddering and so I propose Cholorene, doddering old green dragon.

CHOLORENE: (Doddering ancient green dragon)? What is the relationsip between CHLORENE and the Kobolds - are they her/his dragonkin offspring?

Qadira

QUARSTONBAILY: A Community in the Shadows

Located beyond the Walls of the Keep is the Community of Quarstonbaily.

Population 50+10% children
Export (Quarry Stone)
The Quarry is 20 workers producing 304 tons of stone per year for export - they sell it to merchants in the absence of any leadership from the keep.
Annual Quarry Income (2128sp)

What they Know:
1. They have lost all contact with the Baron and his minions within the Keep.
2. They are all branded with some curse that prevents entry into the Keep or Departure from the Village.
3. Merchants make their way here once a month to buy Good Stone and sell grain - something they cannot produce thanks to the cursed brand.
4. If anyone askes about caves, There is a Sinkhole in the wood behind the Keep and a fissure in the Quarry.

Qadira

ADVENTURE SECRET UP FOR CONSIDERATION

Spoiler:
The Baron and his Minions all died of old Age over night due to exposure to a temporal artefact being built as a weapon of mass destruction. The Green Dragon meerly got old and doddering.


I like it, the methusalean old dragon gets old, while the short-lived humans have had time altered to suit their early demise? Why not!

I would like to also suggest some sort of adversarial shift in the fabric of the universe to allow for the temporal flux. Perhaps these 'stones' the branded slaves (undead?) mine are actually solid chunks of compressed residuum, and indeed, they form the crust of the bubble that begat all creation? it could be a world-destruction event, like those outlined in a supplement I cannot remember which. Ah, the hilarity will ensue when they crack (the pc's of course) thru the last layer of protective residuum and unleash the big-bang! Hope they brought a mirror!

I deflect the emerging blast of the big bang with my silvered mirror.

You dont have it equipped.

I drop the pick-axe as a free action, and my mirror is always swinging on a leathern thong about me wrist.

For what purpose?

Such as this.

Roll acrobatics check

I am untrained in acrobatics, but I do know dance!

Why would you need to dance?

Out of the way of the emerging big bang.

You could just hold the mirror in front of you.

OK I do that.

Roll.

What?

Acrobatics!

I thought I was dancing!

Whatever. Where do you deflect the blast?

Back into the cauldron's inferno.

It isnt a cauldron, it is a globe, now cracked open, a geode of all existence.

I deflect the blast back into it and then plug or seal, as needed.

Excuse me?

Ya, the glue stuff.

OK.

What happens?

The universe ends.

!

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
I like it, the methusalean old dragon gets old, while the short-lived humans have had time altered to suit their early demise? Why not!

Yay! Someone likes one of my ideas...

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
I would like to also suggest some sort of adversarial shift in the fabric of the universe to allow for the temporal flux.

So an accident unleashes some artefact temporal weapon immediatly aging everyone two thousand years:


  • what would we want with the fall out through the Keep?
  • Zones where you can be lost into the distant past?
  • Others where you age a year every time you pass through a location?
  • The Artefact should be un-usable by the PCs?

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
Perhaps these 'stones' the branded slaves (undead?) mine are actually solid chunks of compressed residuum, and indeed, they form the crust of the bubble that begat all creation? it could be a world-destruction event, like those outlined in a supplement I cannot remember which.

Have to oppose you on this in part...I want the PCs to claim the Keep as their own - the people need to be normal - that way when they the PCs for taking away their freedom again...it will be guiltfest for killing weak little peasants.

Im unfamiliar with Residiuum (maybe I'm getting old). Care to brief me on your triantiwantigonal element?

Was hoping to let the PCs access a global conspiracy that begins here (rather than something that will wipe out the globe).


I think that with such an universe-twisting artefact as this, is is only acceptable that the PCs themselves must somehow learn to use and harness the power of the artefact as the ultimate challenge. (post Cholorox) they would slay the dragon, and near-dead and dragging themselves towards the hoard (kobolds yet to fight or already dealt with? I say dealt, twouldst be too anti-apexual to fight hordes of the cretins at this point. 'O no, they have a bigger chore, to use the powers of the artefact to

1-To prevent the artefact from doing more damage by shutting down or destroying. And or/
2-Undo damage done during adventure due to agist anomalies hilariously old fighter, pathetically childish elven wizard)

But the villagers still strike me as... odd. I still think they should be 2,000 yr old walking dead. Concious or otherwise...

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
I think that with such an universe-twisting artefact as this, is is only acceptable that the PCs themselves must somehow learn to use and harness the power of the artefact as the ultimate challenge.

Would they be able to use it though? If the Artefact went off accidentally, in the Keep - They were planning something greater - an attack on "peace talks" between a couple of Kings or something - effectively taking out the leadership in attendance. If they can Harness its power - should it be like all artefacts? Should it come with Handicaps (ten percent chance it goes off accidentally on a full moon/user ages a year every time it is used sucessfuly) or should it be a one off device that is now expended?

The idea was that the Artefact somehow failed to function correctly...the fallout was limited to the radius of Cloudspear Keep and the Village huts leaning against the outer wall.

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
But the villagers still strike me as... odd. I still think they should be 2,000 yr old walking dead. Concious or otherwise...

So the villagers have found a corpse drained and desicated in a Villager's hut leaning against the outer wall: So the PCs will be presented with a single piece of evidence as to what is in the Keep -

RUMORS AND FACTS

Spoiler:


  • Some kind of Vampire sucked old Mr Deskar dry.
  • His hut is right up by the outer wall.
  • His Corpse was sucked dry.
  • There is a Vampire in the Keep.

Qadira

Village of Quarstonbaily

Dwelling|ypos|xpos
#1|+15|-130
#2|+40|-80
#3|+70|-90
#4|+75|-120
#5|+125|-105
#6|+110|-85
#7|+150|-85
#8|+110|-45
#9|+120|-25
#10|+95|+20
#11|+125|+40
#12|+130|+10
#13|+145|+30
#14|+160|+/-0
#15|+120|+65
#16|+130|+100
#17|+160|+105
#18|+180|+125
#19|+130|+150
#20|+210|+170
#21|+85|+160
#22|+70|+100
#23|+50|+120
#24|+40|+100
#25|+25|+120
#26|+95|-50

There you have it: The dwelling locations in relation to the Keep.

Qadira

Heightening the Tension from the Beginning

PLAYER DESCRIPTION (ARRIVING AT CLOUDSPEAR KEEP ON THE EVENING OF THE FIRST DAY)

You emerge from the tree obscured road to the view of a keep of almost seamless shadows and dark beauty. The towering keep of Cloudspear looms over the community of Quarstonbaily only partly obscured by the black and choking smoke of a fire around which numerous people have gathered. You can hear someone screaming over the raised voices of the gathered mob.

By the look of it, the locals are burning someone at the stake.

PLAYER DESCRIPTION (ARRIVING AT CLOUDSPEAR KEEP ON THE SECOND DAY)

You can smell the residual aroma of cooked meat and wood smoke. It seems to have blanketed the entire region. Through the tree-line you can see what appears to be a huge black Monolith looming over smaller buildings of far less significance. Is that Cloudspear Keep? It is unlike any Keep you have seen. Seamless, Curved, windowless.

THE VILLAGE

There are Holy Symbols nailed to Doors and over windows. The Villagers are really concerned about the Vampire hold up in the Keep, They have just got done burning one of their own Villagers at the Stake (unless the PCs Rescue the Victim) on unfounded allegations of Working with the Vampire.

Qadira

CLOUDSPEAR KEEP (FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE)

Recent History
The Keep recently went quiet and the local lord, and staff were no longer heard from. They realize that there is some sort of problem but the keep was for them impregnable (everyone in the Village of Quarstonbaily carries a magical brand that prevents them from leaving the village area or entering the castle).

Description of Cloudspear Keep and Village of Quarstonbaily
The keep sits at the top of a cliff overlooking the village of Quarstonbaily. The village itself backs against a sheer quarried face and is populated by poor folk who get by cutting and exporting stone.

Map of the Castle
A large 140' high tower and four 80' high small towers at its 90 degree spokes. with a 20' high outer wall linking the smaller towers and similar walls linking each small tower to the central large tower.
The Outer Towers are linked to the maintower by spars that reach from the Central tower some fourty feet up.

Location...................Room
Level: A
West Tower.................1/Gatehouse & Cells
S.W. Yard..................2/Inner Bailey
South Tower................3/Stable
S.E. Yard..................4/Horse Exercise Yard
East Tower.................5/Wellroom
N.E. Yard..................6/Vegetable Garden
North Tower................7/Sorceress's Residence(Bedroom)
N.W. Yard..................8/Private Garden
Central Tower..............9/Barracks

Level: B
West Tower.................10/Gate control
South Tower................11/stores (Fodder)
East Tower.................12/kitchen
North Tower................13/Sorceress's Residence(Lounge)
Central Tower..............14/great hall

Level: C
West Tower.................15/Priest's Quarters
South Tower................16/Guest Quarters
East Tower.................17/Kitchen meatstore
North Tower................18/Research Laboratory
Central Tower..............19/Chapel

Level: D
West Tower.................20/Guest Quarters
South Tower................21/Guest Quarters
East Tower.................22/Wine Racks
North Tower................23/Laboratory
Central Tower..............24/Informal Hall & Library

Level: E
Central Tower..............25/Martial Training hall

Level: F
Central Tower..............26/Lord Jarvo's Bedchamber & residence

Level: G
Central Tower..............27/Camera Obscurer & War-room

Qadira

Otto R. Ringus wrote:
I think that with such an universe-twisting artefact as this, is is only acceptable that the PCs themselves must somehow learn to use and harness the power of the artefact as the ultimate challenge. (post Cholorox) they would slay the dragon, and near-dead and dragging themselves towards the hoard (kobolds yet to fight or already dealt with? I say dealt, twouldst be too anti-apexual to fight hordes of the cretins at this point. 'O no, they have a bigger chore, to use the powers of the artefact.

1. But where is the Hoard?

2. What is the Dragon's Relationship to the KEEP?

3. If the Dragon was Visiting when the "TEMPORAL NUKE" went off, would its Hoard be elsewhere?

4. Would it be possible to convince the senile dragon to Divulge the location of the Dragon hoard?

5. What is the weapon (single use-expired or active-reusable)?

6. Should there be secrets about the weapon in the Keep - Archaeological secrets spread through books in the Library, or Directions on it's Construction (from rare materials - the blood of a Wraith, The Heart of a Time Elemental)?

7. Penetrating the Caves offers (currently two ways in) down the Sinkhole that serves as village well, a Long swim underwater through a dark cave network or (should they choose the fissure in the Quarry?) a descent through natural caves and a swim underwater through flooded caves (although shorter).

The Question is should we have the Kobolds:


  • In the Natural Caves.
  • Inside the Keep - looting it/setting up base.
  • just arriving at the village while the PCs are entering the Keep - culminating in a Siege with hundreds of Kobolds?

8. Should Time be an Issue?

Qadira

Something Special for the natural Caves

Pre-empting the Whole decision making process, the Natural Caves have something unheard of using the Pathfinder Manual.

Cavehunter (Wizardflail)
Type: Small Animal
HD: 3d8
HP: 20
AC: 14
CR: 2
No Appearing: Lone Hunter(1), Pod(2-5), Spawning Lair(2-20)
Damage:
Grapple/Strangle (1d3)
Bite (1d4)

Stats:
STR(6), Dex(12), Con(8), Int(1)

Special Abilities:
Hunts by Sound vibration R=60', Detect Warmth (as primitive Darkvision) R=10'.

Description:
This Animal functions as a 4' tall warm blooded Amoeba with a Basic Stump and three Tentacles (at the centre of the tentacles cluster is a small beak with which it bites). It is refered to as a Wizard Flail because of its agressive assaults on Wizards using Spells with a Verbal component.

Treasure in the Caves
Someone was attempting entry into the Keep. They were killed by the Wizardflail (cave hunters). One of the Cave hunters has a Ring of Swimming in its stomach.

Qadira

In the Shadows

A basic Adventure Outline.

Part 1: Urban Adventure - While Gathering intelligence The PCs must restore law and order in the community. Arriving early, they may be called on to save the life of a villager from being burned alive or simply prosecute his murderers.

Part 2: The Natural Caves - Down the Sinkhole is the long and dangerous swim underwater to the cave at thebottom of the Keep's well.
Alternatively the Fissure in the Quarry wall can be expanded to allow access to the long way in through Caves occupied by Cavehunters.

Part 2.5: A Dragon blocking the Way - The Doddering Ancient Green Dragon is hold up in the Well room of the Keep.

Part 3: The Keep - Stricken with Traps and Temporal Anomoly (Thus explaining the Dinosaurs in some of the Rooms) the PCs must explore without Perishing or being lost through a Gate into a Dinosaur populated past. Though time is of the Essence, the PCs can discover an assortment of secrets through the Keep.

Part 4: The Siege - The Village and Keep is raided by an army of Kobolds on the Second Evening. The PCs had a single day time limit (Time must be accounted for during exploration of the Caves and Keep). The Kobolds attack at Twilight. If the PCs have failed to access the War Room and Gate Control they will not see the Army of Kobolds approaching through the Woods and will not be able to release the Villagers from their Curse (The Brand that ensures no villager can enter the Keep nor leave the Village area).

Qadira

Module Templates

Anyone interested in putting what we have done so far into a Module template, one can be found at www.keyourcars.com.

Qadira

The Lower Levels

Node|y-axis|x-axis-(Connectivity)
1|10.5|11-(6)
2|17.5|9.5-(Exit/Entry, 3, 7,13)
3|22|16-(2, 13,14)
4|25.5|10-(12)
5|25|2.5-(6)
6|18.5|22.5-(1, 5, 9)
7|2.5|5.5-(2, 8, 13)
8|4|36-(7, 12, 13)
9|24|24-(6, 11, 13)
10|23.5|30-(12)
11|22.5|35-(9)
12|33.5|31.5-(4, 8, 9, 10)
13|35.5|24-(2, 3, 7, 8)
14|35|9.5-(3)

Functioning as a concealed pit in the Wizardflail lair, this sinkhole descends into the lower levels making it even more difficult for PCs to make their way back to the surface.

Qadira

The Occasional Temporal Vortex

If there are temporal warps in the keep, and some link reality to the past any thoughts on "Dinosaur" versions of regular D&D Monsters.

examples

Spoiler:


  • The origin of the Shrieker and the Violet Fungus is an agressive plant that screams and has grapple fronds.
  • The Origin of the Kobold is a 2' tall snapdragon

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