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For the purpose of this article, I will use BD&D, so anyone with Old School Essentials, Labyrinth Lord, or Lamentations of the Flame Princess can use it one-to-one., and people with AD&D-based systems like OSRIC or Astounding Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborrea will be able to do so with minimal work.
Also, If you like this adventure, an updated, cleaned-up and slightly expanded version of it is now available on DrivethruRPG.
For purposes of this article, I will write the encounter in the format I use for my pamphlet Adventures. I have a more optimized method I'm using for writing larger modules, but this should be sufficient for our needs; not to mention fairly familiar to most people who read older Dungeons & Dragons modules.
Consider everything below this point to be part not in a sidebar to be of a module titled "The Bloody Engines of the Dinosaur Men" (working title) done under the OGL.
1. The Plateau
A huge trapezoidal archway opens into the Cliffside at the edge of this stone shelf. Aeons of erosion have worn away most of the ornamentation around it, but there are still traces of strange markings around the door. Wet air that stinks of blood and offal comes out in hot foggy blasts every few moments, accompanied by hissing and gurgling sounds.
This doorway is guarded by two Salisstach and a Biomech Triceratops. If they detect the PCs approaching one will run back to the door (Location A) and shut it. This takes him 4 rounds to complete. The other will command the Biomech and fire on the PCs with his spine musket.
The door is heavy and plated in bronze and fossilized bone. It is controlled by weights and pulleys. It requires a combined Strength of 40 to force open. The other Salistach Guard will alert the others then guard the entrance with its musket. The door will close automatically if not opened by the lever controls at Location B. Getting caught in the door causes 3d6 damage and 1d6 crushing damage every round afterward until the door is forced open.
Players who scout the area have a 3 in 6 chance (4 in 6 if they have infravision) to notice the tunnel into the garbage pit (Area 2).
Armor Class: 7 [Ascending: 12]
Monster Type: Humanoid
Salisstach are humanoid dinosaurs. They stand roughly 7' tall and bear claws and numerous horns positioned around their heads. Some males have feathers around their scalp and neck as well. Females tend to be bright green, males vary in striped patterns of greens, blues, and golden colors.
The Salisstach developed complex clockwork, alchemical, and biological technology as well as primitive magic before becoming extinct during an ice age. A few survivors placed themselves in an alchemical stasis in hidden, sheltered locations where they could preserve pockets of the ecosphere they were adapted to.
Salisstach generate venomous spines of keratin in a pouch in the back of their throat. As an attack they can spit them up to a range of 30'. Creatures damaged by the dart must save vs. poison or fall unconscious for 1d3 hours. A Salisstach can generate up to five darts at a time, and can grow new ones at the rate of one every two days.
Many Salisstach carry technological weapons like the spine muskets. 1 in 6 carries a Chemical Mortar.
Salisstach speak their own tongue. Roughly half of the personnel of the processing plant speak common thanks to the help of biomancy; they forcibly ripped the knowledge from a prisoner's brain and imbibed it.
Terrain: Cave or Jungle
Hit Dice: 9
Monster Type: Construct
An example of the horrors of Salisstach technology at its most vile. This Biomech is made by replacing the muscle and sinew of a butchered triceratops with leather, tar, copper cables, and clockwork. It's replacement parts are driven by probes embedded in the Biomech's brains, which are kept alive by proto-Necromancy. While weaker than a living Triceratops, the Biomech is stupidly loyal and fearless. They are used as beast of burden and machines of war by the Salisstach.
Spine Musket: This rifle-like device is molded from hard organic resins, with bottles of fluid in various chambers protruding from it. Salisstach can load it by injecting their poisonous spines into a mouthpiece on the top. It can hold a magazine of 10 in a cooled chamber in the weapon. When fired, the musket launches the spines with deadly accuracy to a range of 200', dealing 1d6 damage. Targets damaged by the spine musket must save vs. poison or fall unconscious for 1d3 hours. It can also be loaded with metal flechettes with some slight modification. Most Salisstach carry fully loaded spine muskets. Weighs 52cn
2. The Garbage Pits
This pit is filled with heaps of rotten tissue, offal, and organic sludge floating in reddened scum-covered water. The stench brings bile to your throat. Luminous fungus and corpse-lights fill the air with pale violet light. Among the heaps of mushroom-coated sludge you can see the fast-decaying remains of both humans and something smaller and more ape-like. Somewhere a pitiful whimper comes from one of the vile heaps.
The air in this environment is toxic. Every 3 rounds the PCs must save vs. Poison or take 1d4 damage.
The chute to Area 3 is a sheer surface that a Thief is best suited to climb. The stairwell to Area 11 has a locked and stuck door of bronze-bound wood.
The Australopithecus is laying in one of the few high and dry spots in the chamber. She is badly hurt with only 1hp out of her 11 maximum remaining, Although the stench and spores do not affect her she has an infection on a wound inflicted by the slaughtering machines in area 3, and cannot walk unless she is healed, then taken to a sanitary location to have the infected tissue removed (A Wisdom check at -4). If they do not attend to her, she will die of sepsis in 1d3 turns.
If the PCs save the Australopithecus, she will try to help them. She does not speak Common, and understands only a little Salisstach; a comprehend languages or tongues spell will let her communicate. Here is what she knows:
- On the far side of the factory is an entrance to a "world within walls of stone" that the Salisstach have "ruled for all time."
- The Salisstach became ill and needed to sleep. They have slept long enough that their temples and cities have crumbled to dust.
- The Salisstach froze the world within out of time, so that the Great Beasts they tamed and fed on - and their slaves, would be waiting when they woke.
- Now that they are awake, the Salisstach have been making as much food as they can to feed their empire when it awakes. This place prepares and preserves the meat of the Great Beasts,
- Several spies have passed through here into the world beyond the walls to learn about the new slaves they wish to take.
- The humans here have been forced to work. A few were killed so the Salisstach could drink the language of the world without out of their brains.
- Her own people have been waiting for this day, and are hidden. They know a way to escape to the World Without.
- She also knows the layout of the factory and can draw a map.
Armor Class: 8 [Ascending: 12]
Monster Type: Humanoid
Arla is an Australopithecus adventurer. She is a small ape-like creature about the size of a halfling. Her race are highly resistant to disease and poison, she takes half damage from either. She has the following thief skills: Climb Walls87%, Move Silently 30%, Hide in Shadows 20%, Hear Noise 40%.
What Arla Wants
What Arla Does Not Want
- Arla's people have been preyed on by the Salisstach for aeons. She regards them like demons or evil gods. While she knows where Salisstach can be found, she avoids them.
- She knows a great deal about prehistoric creatures.
- She is terrified of magic.
3. The Abattoir
- Corrosive: Deals 1d6 damage to a living target, but corrodes metal, dealing 3d6 to metallic targets. If the target is wearing non-magical metal armour, the AC value of that armor is reduced by 1d6. When found, there will be 3d3 rounds of this ammo type.
- Sleep Gas: Every living creature that can sleep within 15' of the target must make a Save vs. Poison or be knocked unconscious. When found there will be 1d3-1 of these.
- Glue Bomb: When a creature is hit with this weapon, it must Save vs. Wands or be immobilized for one turn. Large creatures get a +4 to the save. When found, there will be 1d6 rounds of these.
- Stench Bomb: creates the effect of a stinking cloud spell at the target. When found there will be 1d4-1 of these.
- Light Bomb: This bomb covers an area with a 10' radius around the target with luminescent sludge, creating illumination like a bonfire. Creatures caught in the sludge shed light like like a torch after leaving the area, making stealth impossible. The effect lasts 24 hours, or until it is washed off. When found there will be 1d4-2 of these.
4. The Hallway
5. The Staff Quarters
- Several scrimshawed bone plates depicting their recent awakening (worth 350gp as a set, weighing 50cn) along with bronze carving tools to make them (20cn).
- A kit for doing alchemical work that is alien in design to what any character already versed in alchemy may be familiar with, but, easily adapted to (180cn). It contains samples of Sleestak venom enough to coat 3d4 weapons (5cn/dose), and four hand thrown poison gas grenades that cause any creature within 15 ft of the target to Save vs. Poison or fall asleep (10cn ea.).
- A collection of 4 rarefied fossils worth 100gp and weighing 3cn each.
- A suit of dinosaur hide armor, nearly completed. An armor-smith could easily finish this and fit it to a player character with a day of work and 10gp (AC 5 [+4], 200cn).
- 19 resin discs the size of dinner plates covered in writing. 12 comprise a mythic account of a mighty dinosaur hunter. Five comprise a poetic telling of the coming of the ice age and the duty of those suspended near the surface to wake and feed their brethren. Two are instruction manuals on the maintenance of the slaughtering machines (70gp and 10cn each).
- A trio of glass and resin hookahs filled with a euphoric drug. There's enough of the drug for 10 doses. It has little effect on non-sleeve stacks other than making them feel relaxed. The hookahs are covered in brass leaf Pteranodon imagery, and are worth 45gp and weigh 30cn each.
- A collection of exotic feathers and shells (30gp, 6cn).
- An alchemy kit (as 2) and three potions of giant growth
6. The Control RoomA series of pipes, valves, and dials fill this room. The chamber is steamy, and hisses gently from hot pipes and spigots from which tiny brass bells and collection of feathers are hung. Shiny resin discs hang on hooks in several places, covered in writing. A large open window overlooks the abattoir. Several decayed raffia stools are arranged around the room.
This control room allows the Salisstach to adjust the abattoir machines for different prey, or to control the shutoff and cleaning systems. An operator's manual in the Salistach tongue can be found across 16 resin discs tucked into one of the stools (worth 1120gp, 160cn). Another bundle of five resin disks have detailed instructions for the control of the boiler (worth 350gp, 50cn).
7. The OfficeThis large chamber contains reliefs of numerous large reptilian beasts as well as portraits of the creatures controlling this facility and working laboratory equipment or mastering ape-man slaves. Bone and leather tables arranged around the chamber in several places. Gigantic flowers the size of halflings hang in several places; they overwhelmed the stench of gore and reptile with perfume. The room is almost as hot and wet as a sauna and the hiss of steam is strong from the far entrance.
There are four workstations in this office for different tasks, but they are all manned by a single High-Caste Salisstach. If the alarm has been raised by the guard in Area 1, or by loud fighting occurring in Areas 3 or 4 he will have overloaded the boilers, and will taunt the player characters that they and the prisoners might actually be palatable if boiled. He will also activate the Boiler if the PCs pass him on the way to Area 10, 11, or 12.
This High-Caste Salisstach wears is a ring of fire resistance, and will have drank a potion of water breathing hidden in one of the desks. He holds the keys to the chains for the prisoners in Areas 8 and 9, and the key to the cell door n Area 11 on his person.
Unless attacked, he will not fight the PCs as a group; He will taunt them, while keeping his distance as best he can. If he is attacked, he will use his poison spines and tentacle grenades to disable as many as he can, then leave them to be boiled. If PCs move through the chamber alone or a lone character tries tampering with the boiler he will try to disable them with a poison spine. Once the packing room (Area 8) is flooded will retreat there relying on his magic to keep him safe.
Armor Class: 5 [Ascending: 14]
Monster Type: Humanoid
This High-Caste Salisstach serves as the manager and slave-driver of the facility. He carries a Macahuitl (a wooden sword embedded with obsidian razor blades) and wears a metallic harness that improves his armour class. He also possesses a ring of fire resistance and 5 Tentacle grenades.
Terrain: Cave or Jungle
Tentacle Grenade: This is an example of a the peak of Salisstach Biomancy. When thrown, this clay pot explodes open into a fast-growing life form that is little more than a hungry mass of rubbery, suckered tentacles. (AC 8, 18hp). Any creature within 10' of the point of impact must Save vs. Wands or be coiled in thrashing tentacles. If they fail the save, they are immobilized for 3 turns. Each round they may try to break free as Strength Check at -3, but will take 1d4 damage in doing so. After 3 turns the creature dies and liquefies.
8. The BoilerIf the boiler is overloaded, The boiler room is dangerously hot. Characters attempting to guess the machine's workings and vent it may do so with an intelligence check and then a strength check. Using some kind of lever can add a plus 3 to the Strength check. If they have found and translated the manual in Area 6, they may automatically succeed at both.
While character is in the overloading boiler room, they take 1d4 damage on the first round, 1d6 on the second, and 1d8 damage every round thereafter, as if being damaged by fire.
If a player character successfully vents the boiler add 2d6 to the current timer, and that character no longer takes damage while in the room until this additional time runs out.
9. The Lava Tubes
This room rattles, hisses, and grinds as several steam-powered pistons work pumps attached to a glowing hot pipe that a human could easily walk through, bending up to the dripping ceiling. The heat stings your eyes, and you can barely look long enough to notice a rivulet of lava leaking from the pipe and dropping onto a pile of jagged volcanic glass.
The pipe in this room pumps lava from the Salisstach lava-pump network to where it can heat the boiler. Sabotaging the lava pump will prevent the explosion in the Escape section.
The heat in this room is unbearable, however, and characters take 1d6 damage per round that they spend within 15' of the tube, and 1d8 damage if they touch it. Treat this damage as fire.
10. The Meat-Packing LineA series of gory conveyor belts carry hunks of meat in jerking stop-and-start motions along a shelf in the wall. Sitting on stools made out of bony dinosaur crests, human prisoners chained together by the ankle - all men - are equipped to take turns cleaning, steaming, adding seasoning, carving fat with a tiny knife, oiling, wrapping, and wax-sealing the hunks of meat. They bare fresh bloody scars from the whip that hangs coiled on one wall. The heat in the room is unbearable, and aside from the blue flames, a dull red glow comes from the passage to your right.
11. The Store-room
This massive chamber is full of shelves of packed meat. A wheelbarrow of bone and hide sits overturned to one side. A slick of grease runs along the floor to a stairwell on the Eastern wall. Occasional puffs of a putrid stench and cool air erupt from that passage. In a nook in the wall there is a bronze barred door with a strange mechanical lock. Beyond it an old woman and several children huddle together.
The Salisstach keep prisoners that are not useful to them except as hostages in a converted high-security locker for storage. The door is locked, and strong enough that it applies a -1 penalty to attempts to force it open. The High-Caste Salisstach in Area 7 holds the key. Because of the alien design, picking the lock requires 1d4+1 rounds.
The old woman, Marga, can tell the PCs about the location of the other prisoners and that the passage on the East wall leads to the garbage pit (Area 2) but that the door is stuck and cannot easily be opened. She is feeble and can only move at a speed of 45' (15') unless carried, and weighs 920cn.
12. The Machine Room
This room reeks of grease, and is almost deafening with the sound made by boxes of grinding gears and steam pumps that work everywhere. Massive grinding cogs threaten to eat limbs of the unwary. Here a group of grimy and weary women are chained together by bronze loops on leather collars wrapped tightly around their throats. Their work has covered them in grease and soot. Their chain is battered from attempts to break it, and their skin bears marks from a whip hanging on the wall for it.
Five human female prisoners are kept here coffled by the necks together by a single chain and lock to a massive gear hub for the machines. They are responsible for greasing the parts with rendered dinosaur fat, patching hoses with tar, attending to fussy valves, and replacing wooden parts as they break. They know where the other prisoners are being kept.
A whip hangs on a hook by the door. There are an assortment of tools and several buckets of dinosaur oil which can be used to fill lanterns and flasks,
Breaking the chain that holds them together on the line requires a blow from a weapon using a Strength Check at -4. Only one attempt may be tried each round. A failure by 10 or more damages the weapon instead. Clever characters might feed the chain into turning gears while the women hold on to protect their necks. This automatically breaks the chain. Cutting the leather coffles from around their takes takes 2 rounds each. Picking the lock holding the chain in place requires ad4+1 rounds.
If the boiler is overloaded, the machines in the lower abattoir (Area 3) will go berserk, requiring saves every round to avoid being damaged. Because the room fills with obscuring steam, saves to avoid the blades are at -2. With the sound and steam it is possible for a character to get confused and move in the wrong direction. If they fail an intelligence test they lose the round moving in circles. Escaping by the garbage chute through the abattoir will take the PCs to Area 2.
When Area 12 floods, so will Area 2. After that, any creature wading through the boiling toxic sludge will take 2d6 damage per round from the heat until they reach the tunnel leading out.
Area 4 will be dark and filled with steam. Finding a way out up the stairs can be perilous, assuming there is still a catwalk to cross at all. The only light will be the open doors to Area 13.
13. The Dino-Pen
You first out of the gloom into the light from a clear sky. Massive scaly creatures wheel above on leather wings. Below you is a valley full of sprawling jungle vegetation. On the plateau on which you stand has a vast animal pen of colossal bone and spun metal wire. Several huge triceratops wander the pen. The doorway behind you, less eroded by time is a mirror of the one you first arrived by.
If the boilers have been overloaded, steam and the noise of groaning and warping pipes will rumble behind the PCs. 1d4+1 rounds after the PCs leave the door, the machinery within will explode. Any character within 15' of the rear exit of the dungeon must Save Vs. Wands or take 3d6 damage from steam, concussion, and shrapnel. Area 4 will be closed by a cave-in.