|The Free Marches of Dreilac
My Campaign setting,
To make this possible, I gathered a ton of one-page and five-room dungeons. Some are seeded on my campaign map, and some are there to pull out of my hat in case the players zig when I expect them to zag.
Tonight, there was some serious zigging. When one of my players cancelled last minute, they decided to bring out the "B-Team": the other funnel survivors they choose not to play in my training dungeon, and head off in a different direction than the characters they had played for the last few sessions.
Thankfully, they decided to chase rumours of bandits in some nearby ruins. I set that rumour to lead to Jobe Bittman's one-page dungeon "Into the Demon Idol." Reproduced here:
|Into the Demon Idol © 2013 Jobe Bittman, Released under
a Creative Commons by-Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License
Because I knew where they were going, I just grabbed this document out of my Google drive and did a quick scan, and put a minute of thought into how to enrich it and make it work in my campaign. It was a simple process that only took a minute in my head. But, I realized that what I did was actually pretty complicated, even if I did it very quickly.
I decided to parse it out and turn it into an article.
Making it Work
There are a few things a game master needs to do to use a one-page dungeon or a five-room dungeon to fit them into a campaign. I will go over each, and then I will show exactly how I executed each for "Into the Demon Idol."
First, you need to Hook your players. You are probably already familiar with the term. You need a reason for player characters to go explore the dungeon that is relevant to them. If you are expecting that motivation to be treasure or magical power (the default reasons given for dungeons), then you will have to make sure events unfold early in your campaign that make those things relevant to your players.
If they are not interested in treasure or magic, you have to find other reasons why this dungeon will interest them.
Next you will need to fill in the details on Getting There. Some one page and five room dungeons are completely self-contained. They start at the dungeon entrance. If this is the case a short journey with maybe one wilderness encounter if you have an outdoorsy type in your party, is all you need.
Other one page or five room dungeons are meant to be integrated into something larger. In that case, you'll need to plan an upper floor or entrance that fits your hook and will blend in with the oe you are using.
"Into the Demon Idol" is an example of the latter. It is part of a room on the first floor of a dungeon, and then several rooms of a lower floor. What is around the idol and how to reach it are left to the GM.
Third, you are going to need to make sure you have system-specific Adaptation Notes. Most one-page dungeons are system neutral. Making it work in your system of choice requires a little work. Monsters need rudimentary stats, treasure needs to be valued as suitable to your campaign, and magic items need to be worked out in your system.
Finally, you need to decide how finishing the adventure will Impact your campaign so that the PCs actions have consequences. This can be as simple as a few if-then statements. Other options are possible, though.
I've made it a point to make sure treasure means something in my campaign. My PCs are trying to repair an ancient warship created by Jötunn dimensional sailors so they can get home, about 780 miles away (or way more by an actual traverseable route.) I also give a little XP for treasure, so gold is an easy motivator for the whole party.
In every town I have a list of rumours the PCs can hear if they ask about them. When asking about ways to earn gold, this rumour came up:
"There's some bandits causing trouble around Tomlin's Mill. Enough that the Baron's put a price on their heads... But you have to hurry if you want to collect; there's monsters under the old fort they are hiding in. They'll be lucky to last out the month..."
Once at the location where an adventure is set, i make sure to have just a little more for them to hear. At Tomlin's Mill, they learned:
"The ruins they are in belonged to some mad sorcerer who set himself up as a tyrant a few hundred years ago, back before the Ostgraad Empire settled these lands proper. It's cursed, but we occasionally get fools settling in thinking they can live like lords there because there's a mostly intact fort. Most die or run off after a month. But the baron isn't tsking chances. They stole some heirlooms he wants back before they're lost forever."
This is more than enough to have my PCs go charging in with abandon.
Getting to the Idol
Getting the PCs to Judge Jobe's dungeon is a little tricker. Basically, this one page dungeon is the second floor of another dungeon that features the Idol. Getting them through the ruins to the idol is the first step.
I will start by having the PCs find a campsite in the bailey of a crumbling fort. There is blood, sludge, and a trail of both with drag marks going back into the motte of a crumbling fort. This gives clues about the Gelatinous Humanoids below, who are the star villains.
I need a few locations to make this work.
- Bandit Camp
- The rest of the bailey
- A few floors of ruined tower
- A huge hallway with some hints about demonology.
- A junction room.
- An idol room
- Stairs down
- Blocked stairs to the upper keep.
I'll just steal part of an Elder Scrolls: Oblivion fort map for my purposes, as I can visualize it clearly in my head.
So, here are some simple notes. Based on what I managed to jot in five minutes during my game session:
B1. The Bailey
Mossy. Poisonous plants grow near a puddle (hemlock, deadly nightshade), unnatural toadstools in the shade. Skeleton buried in rubble.
- The poisonous plants might be refined by a PC into a usable poison.
- The toadstools are skull shaped and creepily patterned. They suggest otherworldly influence. Eaten, they give terrible knowledge a dose of madness (+2 INT, -2 PER permanent)
- The skeleton, if excavated, has a pouch of infernal rubies (150gp value) on a decaying belt and a kris dagger
B2. Bandit Camp
Shoddy tents, an archery dummy made of rich clothes, firewood, fletcher's workstation, treasure left behind in a crate, slime and blood everywhere, signs of a struggle, obvious trail.
- There are 14 arrows at the fletcher's station, and a hunting bow.
- The wreckage of the battle include a lost shot sword and hand axe, a ruined shield, and bloody manacles with skin on them.
- The slime is mildly acidic, and spattered like blood. It kills plants and polishes metal. Smells of ozone.
- The trail includes slime, blood, and indications that people were dragged to the motte. All moss on the trail is dead.
- The treasure crate includes a fine engraved lock, 15gp, 238sp, a tax collector's badge, 6 agates (3gp ea.), 4 gold rings (7gp ea.), a silver locket (4gp), a tax ledger, and an antique mithril circlet.
- The mithril circlet looks like a wreath with jade leaf decorations in geometric knotwork. The runes on the vine declares the wearer a friend of an ancient elvish tribe. Worth 500gp to the right collector, it is the Baron's family heirloom and he will pay 300gp and a favour for it. Keeping it or selling it to anyone else will insult him.
T1. Lower Tower
Rat's nest in ruined fireplace, crumbling, puddle on floor, more otherworldly toadstools, no ceiling.
- The rat's nest has a swarm of rats within, but they will only attack if the nest is disturbed. Nothing of value.
T2. Second Floor of Tower
Banner of Obitu-que, Book covered in fungus on lectern, ruined chairs, rotted carpet, bookshelf. Huge hole in floor.
- The banner of Obitu-que includes glyphs on contacting him for a patron bond, and grants a +2 on Patron Bond, Invoke Patron, and Patron spells from him if borne.
- The book on the lectern is covered in polyspore, but if scraped clear, appears unharmed. It is a Black Book of the Seven Eyes, a book of rites of Obitu-que that, if offered to him, grants another +4 on Patron Bond. It details how to gather tormented souls to fuel a furnace.
- The bookshelf is a mess of ruined moldy paper, mildew, rotted leather, and silverfish.
T3. Tower Third Floor
Rotted bunks, odd bronze chamber pot, oil lamp on broken nightstand, washbasin full of fungus, huge hole in floor
One surviving bandit cowers here, terrified by the attack he witnessed.
- The chamber pot is shaped with a face in a look of despair. It is inhabited by the trapped spirit of one of Stoya's enemies. Given to a favoured apprentice. An invocation on the rim allows the spirit to speak. It is quite mad.
T4. Tower Fourth Floor
Broken bits of an orrery still move in rubble, roof completely gone, only a few timbers poke up from stonework.
The orrery is complex, fine work. Spare parts for the demon idol or the ship could be salvaged here.
M1. Grand Hall
Caryatid collumns of demonic entities, horrid murals, bleached mosaics, graffiti, high ceiling, deep sloped angle.
- The eight Cayatids depict demonic patrons including Obitu-que, Sezerkhan, Bogbubibilz, Azi-Dahaka, Herne, Azazel, Davaron the Scribe, and the Jötunn Queens.
- The Murals depict the process of rendering mortal spirits into fuel for demonic machines, and their flesh into alchemical components. The Gelatinous Humanoids are depicted as an interim stage.
- The graffiti reads "Fuck Stoya! He sacrificed some of his own for his great engine! We fed him to his own circle. Burn forever!"
- The trail follows a path where the mosaic has been bleached by years of the gelatinous humanoids' passage.
Note: This might be a great place for some kind of clockwork guardian with a demonic aspect, if PCs are getting bored.
Clockwork Devil: Init +0; Atk: smash +4 melee (1d8 +2) or eye-rays +2 missile fire (1d5 fire); AC 15; HD 3d8; 14hp; MV 20'; Act: 1d20 + 1d14; SP: Unstable, Immune to Mind-Altering Spells and Poison; SV: Fort +5 Ref -2 Will +0; AL: CA rough prototype of the Demon Idol this lanky mechanical beast lurches through the hall groaning and belching increasing amounts of steam. By the third round of combat it whistles like a kettle. Every round it's critical failure chance increases by one. On a critical failure it explodes for 3d5 damage affecting everything in a 10' radius. A DC 12 reflex save reduces the damage by half.
M2. Junction Room
Huge and Circular. Stairs up to upper floor of motte completely collapsed.
M3. Idol Room
Bloody altar with dead bandit, Still burning coal braziers, Unholy banners. Iron tablet on facing wall.
- The bloody altar has a dead bandit, still in armour sprawled across it. A sacrificial maul sits by his head. Has a dagger on his belt and a silver disc (4gp) hidden in the heel of his boot.
- The shrine is consecrated to Obitu-que, and spells relating to him are at +4 here.
- The iron tablet details how to cast Summon Monster, but it weighs 75lbs.
- The demon idol itself sits here. Players may discover a way into 1 this way.
M4. The Stairwell
The trail goes down... Damp and smelly, moist walls. Talking brazier about Stoya's screaming audible.
- A bronze brazier with an agonized face and hot coals piled high coming out of the top of its head animates to speak its warning. It contains a spirit, just like the chamber pot in T3, and can be invoked. It is programmed to wake when strangers approach, and cannot rest until it speaks the message... it feels the coals as if they were on its skin while awake.
"Please, turn back while you still live! Beyond is the sacred labs of Stoya, none may enter! I intruded below... now look at me!"
Now, The Module Proper
Okay, we are two or three encounters into the module. Now I will stat this put to be hard, but not impossible for a bunch of 1st level characters. I will make short notes room by room.
1. The Head
Once in the head, the PC in charge can control the Demon Idol proper by wearing the headband. Let's give it some stats.
Demon Idol: Init: -2; Atk: punch +6 melee (2d10 +5) or Eye-rays +3 missile fire (3d4 fire); AC 18; HD 15d8; 68hp; MV 15' (or 30' if inner machines are restored); Act: 1d16 (or 1d24 if inner machines are restored.); Crit: on 20-24 1d12/G; SP: Immune to disease, mind control magic, and poison, resistant to fire; SV Fort +5 Ref +0 Will As PilotThis giant-sized brass war machine is powered by a magic furnace heated by the torment of damned souls. It matches a fire giant in strength and size. It is controlled by whomever wears the control headband, and has no mind of its own.It currently is partially paralyzed due to the machines on the right side being broken. It uses only a d16 for actions and moves only 15' per round. If a blacksmith, miller, tinker, or artisan spends an hour tinkering in the belly, the idol uses a d24 for actions and moves 30' per round. Be sure to roll for random encounters here.
2. The Chest
PCs here can repair the Demon Idol to restore it to full mobility and action dice (see above.) During combat, a character with an appropriate background may roll a DC 13 Intelligence test to restore 1d4 hp to the Demon Idol.
3. The Belly
Here's where I can put some limits on the Idol.
The spirits bound in the Demon Idol's belly are sufficient for 3d7 days of activity, although combat can absorb a full day of energy. After it is expended they need to use Summon Monster, a ritual from The Black Book of Seven Eyes, or by invoking Obiu-que. A fully fuelled idol contains 56 days of fuel.
4. The Cave
The monsters in this cave are the stars here.
Gelatinous Humanoids (4): Init: +1; Atk: Slam +2 melee (1d6); AC 14; HD 2d8; 9hp; MV 20'; Act: 1d20; SP: Half Damage from Slashing and Piercing, Grab; SV fort +4 Ref +2 Will -2; AL: C.Half gelatinized and already suffering torment in the lower planes thanks to their semi-detached souls, the gelatinous humanoids are the living remnants of Stoya's horrendous sacrificial method. They get partial relief from their suffering through sacrifice to Obitu-que. They are not aware that penance and service to a good deity would relieve them of their torment far more effectively... and are too insane to care.When a gelatinous humanoid strikes a target it may choose to turn its arm into a coiling pseudopod to entangle them. The gelatinous humanoids may use later actions to deal 1d6 constriction damage automatically or force the target to move 20'. On their turn a target may make a DC 12 Strength check to break free. Any other action is performed at -2d.Giant Crab: Init: -2; Atk: claw +4 melee (1d10); AC 16; HD 7d8; 31 hp; MV: 20' or swim 30'; Act: 1d20; SP: crush; SV: Fort +5 Ref -3 Will -2This hulking freshwater crab lurks in a flooded cavern connected to the underground river (Area 8). When attacking from the hole into Area 4, it is at -2d on its attacks. When the Giant Crab hits a target, it attempts to shatter bone and muscle with a surge of force. A target hit by the crab must make a DC 8 Reflex save or take an additional 1d10 damage.
5. The Mine
Each pound of polished marble is worth around 3sp, making the lode in total worth about 600gp
6. The Vault
Flame Jet: Deals 3d4 damage to everyone in the room. DC 13 Reflex save for half.
Poison Needle: +4 Attack on person opening chest, inflicts 1 hp and Asp Venom.
Treasure: 200gp, 5 Amethysts (20gp ea.)
7. The Portal
The demons of torment are a potential random encounter. Showing up on a reselt of 1 on a 1d6 when the pcs enter 7, or spend significant time in 5, 3, or 2... such as when repairing the Idol.
Stoya: Init: -1; Atk: Staff +3 melee (1d4 +6); AC 11; HD 6d4; 13hp; MV: 20'; Act: 1d20 + 1d14; SP: Spellcasting +8; SV: Fort +4 Ref +3 Wis +6; AL: C.Spells: Level 1: Cantrip, Choking Cloud (roll d24), Invoke Patron (Obitu-que), Mending (roll d16), Patron Bond, Read Magic; Level 2: Arcane Affinity (summoner), Monster Summoning (roll d24), Rend Soul (Obitu-que +2); Level 3: Consult Spirit (+2 from staff), Binding (+2 from staff), Demon Summoning, Melt (Obitu-que, +3)Possessions: padded armour, wizard Staff, grimoire, ruby pendant (25gp), ornate porcelain mask (15 gp)Riddled with corruption, the wizard Stoya is barely human now. A master of clockworks, the former tinker was obsessed with fusing summoning monsters, manipulating souls, and animating machines. He built a cult of apprentice mages with useful skills to help him build his clockwork monsters. To curry favour with the lower planes, he developed a new and horrible way to use all of his sacrifices for favour, fuels, and for alchemy. Eventually, he turned on his own cultists for resources, leaving several of them trapped as gelatinous humanoids before the rest cast him into his own summoning circle.Cinder Beast: Init: +2; Atk: claw +3 melee (3d4 fire); AC 14; HD 8d8; 36 hp; MV 40'; Act 1d20; SP: Ash Cloud, Burning Flesh, Immune to Non-Magical Weapins, Water Vulnerability; SV: Fort +2 Ref +3 Will +0; AL: C.A living cloud of ash, the cinder beast will attack both the freed Stoya and the PCs, raking with claws of hardened flame. Any who strike it with a melee attack are showered with embers, raking 2hp of damage. It may take an action to emit a cloud of smoke, which acts like a choking cloud spell with a check result of 18. The cinder beast takes 2d6 damage if sprayed with water or 6d6 per round if immersed.Demons of Torment (Type 1) (1d4): Init +1; Atk Constriction +4 melee (); AC 11; HD 2d12; 13 hp; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP darkness (+4), half damage from fire and nom-magical weapons, infravision; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +0, AL C.Hunched, horned creatures with ape-like bodies and horned bovine faces, the demons of torment are made from jagged obsidian marbled red gemstone and salt. They grab hold of foes and grind their victims across their razor-sharp bodies. They speak common and infernal.
8. The River
Rather than have the river surface 1 mile away, I will make this a potential further adventure, with several coracles stashed here. The river will have a 5-room dungeon some miles further down, and then enter into the Sarckenhold city cistern.
What Having the Demon Idol Means
The Demon Idol has a lot of fun potential in this campaign. I am not at all worried about balance, I see it as an opportunity:
If the PCs take the Idol
- The PCs dumped a bunch of Jötunn bodies into The Sagunda. In my campaign, Jötunn are immortal, but can be reduced to a horrid, immobile husk without food or water. Now that they are in a place where they can rehydrate and find nourishment, they will eventually rise from the lake to threaten the Sarcken-Sagunda region. Now the PCs have an awesome giant-killing mech... I will push that event up.
- The Idol is the right size to use the giant scale parts and gear on the ship, and can be carried on it. It might be usable as a ground transport once the ship sails to its location. This reduces over land travel issues... which is fine in Dreilac... might be a problem if they sail to Hot Springs Island
- The fuel source presents a moral hazard, when it runs out it might be fun to role-play. For maximum discord, plant the suggestion souls could replace whale oil for powering the starship.
- The ritual to refuel the Idol might require an exotic ritual item hidden back in the dungeon, necessitating a return and exploring the buried upper parts, or hunting down the cultists that banished Stoya.
If the PCs Free Stoya
- He is not prone to gratitude, but needs new minions. Becoming their patron... even offering them the idol will let him square away debts to Obitu-que.
- He will want revenge on his enemies. This might be an alternate lead into Elzemonn's Blood-drinking Box of Glipkerio's Gambti.
- Patron quests for Obitu-que could lead to sinister fun.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License By Brian C. Rideout