Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Microdungeon: The Understudy



I couldn't help myself. I had to post one.

This was going to be a five-room minidungeon but I changed my mind. It's also adapted from a minidungeon I ran recently as a solo game for a friend of mine --


The Understudy

In the solo game, this microdungeon was placed under the shattered ruins of a recently-destroyed Magic-User's tower at the edge of a small village. (The tower was destroyed due to a spectactular and rather pink-and-green explosion.) The PC was asked to investigate after one of the locals was poking around and was attacked by the dragonflies.

It could be placed just about anywhere, even as a lone poke-hole somewhere in the mountains or as a "getaway" accessable only by magic.

Map scale is one square = 10'.


0. The Access. In the original a 100' spiralling staircase, accessed through a trapdoor, that had the usual trick stairs and other unpleasantness scattered along its length. The end of the stairwell is marked with a "trapdoor" icon on the map.

Collapsing or heaving stairs require a successful Dexterity check to keep from falling down the next dozen or so steps, inflicting 1-4 hit points of damage.


1. Foyer. This irregularly-shaped chamber is paved with white granite and the walls are decordated with (rather tasteless) bright murals of humans hunting magical beasts. In the centre of the southern wall is an open passageway.

Attempting to cross the chamber will trigger two brass dragonflies [AC3; HD 1/2; hp 2, 3; Mv 360' (120'); Att 1 bite + scorch; Dam 1 + 1-2 fire; Sv F1; Mr 11; XP 5] to be released from small hatches in the ceiling.

In the centre of the chamber stands a lifesized bloodwood statue of a female human in elaborate robes and carefully-detailed jewelry. The statue is animated [AC7; HD 2+2; hp 12; Mv 120' (40'); Att 1 fist; Dam 1-8; Sv F1; Mr 12; -1 init.; double damage from flame; immune to nonmagical weapons; XP 35] -- however, it will not betray itself or attack unless a living being enters the final chamber and then attempts to leave the complex.


2. Corridor. The floors here are still granite, but the walls are unadorned dressed stone. The door at the end of the corridor is of oak bound in iron; though the door is unlocked touching it will trigger a brass dragonfly to drop from a ceiling hatch and attack.


3. Study. A strangely homey chamber, with dusty rag-rugs scattered on the floor, faded tapestries hung on the walls, and well-worn furniture. Against the eastern wall is a sturdy oak desk scattered with books (the most notable of which are a seven-volume set entitled Being an Omnibus of the Behaviour and Habits of Wyrms); against the western wall rests a small cot, a stout wooden chest and the remains of a large shattered mirror. A screen of multicoloured glass beads curtains a doorway in the southeast corner of the chamber.

The chest contains, in addition to many random trinkets: a satchel containing 37sp, 92ep, 85gp, and 30pp; and a tiny round box carved from slices of an alicorn, it's lid decorated with knotwork (100gp). The box contains a gold ring inlaid around the band with garnet flames and jade leaves (400gp).

Disturbing the cot will unearth a hungry ivory scarab [AC4; HD 1; hp 5; Mv 90' (30') burrow 60' (20'); Att 1 bite; Dam 1-3 + drain; Sv F2; Mr 8; XP 13] tucked amongst the rumpled bedclothes.


4. The ... dearly departed? Floored in granite, the walls panelled in goldenoak, this chamber has a single feature -- a low bier in the middle of the floor. On the bier rests the dusty and skeletal remains of a human; possibly female, as the skull is surrounded by a cloud of long, dark hair.

Examination of the remains reveals a few anomalies. Though clothing has decayed to rags and dust, the bones of the skeleton are perfectly cleaned with no sign of decaying flesh. Stranger still, the hair will prove to be a wig ...

Around the shoulders of the skeleton rests a perfectly-preserved red silk shawl shot through with gold; this is Nasri's burning grace.

9 comments:

trollsmyth said...

Intriguing. I like the way you left in a few mysteries, and I enjoy the feel of the place provided in the details. When you collect these into a single, hard-back volume, you should get Brian Froud to illustrate the cover.

The designer in me grimaces at the linearity of the dungeon. On the other hand, it's so small that if you attempted anything else, it would probably turn into a circle, which is just a line that has a bad habit of repeating itself.

About how long did it take you and your player to run through this one?

taichara said...

Intriguing. I like the way you left in a few mysteries, and I enjoy the feel of the place provided in the details. When you collect these into a single, hard-back volume, you should get Brian Froud to illustrate the cover.

Hehe. Even aside from notions like Froud, I don't know that I'd ever be brave enough to try to publish anything ...


The designer in me grimaces at the linearity of the dungeon. On the other hand, it's so small that if you attempted anything else, it would probably turn into a circle, which is just a line that has a bad habit of repeating itself.

That, and it was a basement for a tower. Most basements don't have a lot of branching *grins* My way of looking at designing says make the map suit the purpose; this one did that admirably enough. But I've noticed that I'm less concerned about linearity than many, sometimes.

And it's true, as you say; when you want to work on a really small scale, you have to work within certain constraints. I improvise ;3


About how long did it take you and your player to run through this one?

Including the character bantering and prep work and deciding not to scale the crumbling remnants of the tower, somewhere between one-and-a-half and two hours, as I recall.

trollsmyth said...

Even aside from notions like Froud, I don't know that I'd ever be brave enough to try to publish anything ...

I was mostly joking, but only mostly. Your site is a wealth of imaginative original content. Thank God for the 'net, and that we get to share stuff like this.

That, and it was a basement for a tower. Most basements don't have a lot of branching *grins*

Yeah, but... And I imagine it just comes down to personal taste and style. I assume I can never throw too many choices at my players, an assumption I've proved false on more than one occasion. ;)

Including the character bantering and prep work and deciding not to scale the crumbling remnants of the tower, somewhere between one-and-a-half and two hours, as I recall.

That sounds about right. I'm afraid I've been spoiled with marathon sessions. Just playing within the 3+ hour constraints of my Thursday game is making me feel rushed. The fact that you could do so much with so little is inspiring.

taichara said...

I was mostly joking, but only mostly. Your site is a wealth of imaginative original content. Thank God for the 'net, and that we get to share stuff like this.

Thank ye very kindly! I do admit to sometimes wondering about reception of what I'm posting -- which is why I'm leery of "actual" publishing -- so that makes me feel a good deal better.

I'm considering collecting things into some pdfs once there's too much backlog, though, to make it easier if someone wants it.


Yeah, but... And I imagine it just comes down to personal taste and style. I assume I can never throw too many choices at my players, an assumption I've proved false on more than one occasion. ;)

That too ;3 And that I'm running for a single player; so if said player gets stuck or can't reach a decision there's no one to bounce ideas off of, so more elaborate things aren't as useful to me at the moment as they've been in the past.


That sounds about right. I'm afraid I've been spoiled with marathon sessions. Just playing within the 3+ hour constraints of my Thursday game is making me feel rushed. The fact that you could do so much with so little is inspiring.

Alas, I can't remember when I used to be able to have 4+ hour long sessions. Four years or so, at least. (bleah.) But I'm always happy to inspire! :3

eliyes said...

Having played through this, I almost want to share a piece of advice -- except that it did work... When my character was attacked by the wooden statue, he got the bright idea to set it on fire with his torch, since wood burns and his (non-magical) weapon wasn't having much effect. Of course, it kept coming after him for a few rounds. *facepalm*

David said...

This is a great little adventure! What was your player running as a character?

taichara said...

@David:

The PC in question was a first level cleric. My player has a summary of the events over here ~

David said...

Very cool... are you currently running any games? I'd love to see some more actual play type posts, especially if they use your own stuff!

taichara said...

@David:

Theoretically Leo is still trundling around out there -- unfortunately time and opportunity has conspired against us.

It'll surely be posted when/if we get the chance, though ;3