Dungeon Sunday – A Quiet Neighborhood
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.
Type: Dungeon Crawl
System: D&D 5th Edition (Forgotten Realms)
Ideal Party Size: 4-6
Recommended Levels: 3
During a routine wilderness trek, the player characters are drawn towards a dark tower that houses a viciously-kept drow secret! Beyond the undead sentries lies a dungeon that weaves a tragic tale of magic and forbidden love! Survive the terrors within and reap glorious treasure!
This elven mini-dungeon takes place within the wilderness, so it can easily be added to any nature setting.
Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:
“As you recuperate from the trials of extended travel, you are suddenly set upon by a terrible chill. A biting zephyr howls through the treeline, extinguishing your campfire and filling you with dread. This abrupt cold has a hint of necrotic aura lingering within it, and its source lies deeper in the woods.”
[IF THE PLAYERS WISH TO PROCEED, KEEP READING]
“You force a slow but deliberate path, your movement hampered by the thickness of the brush and the gradually upward sloping terrain. Eventually you arrive at a cliff overseeing a thirty foot drop. The cliff edge is overrun with plants and descends counterclockwise towards a dilapidated tower at the bottom.”
Read the following flavor text as they PCs approach the tower.
“As you cautiously descend towards the crumbling tower, you notice that the plant matter is decaying the closer you approach the foreboding structure. The moment you arrive at the entrance you hear foreboding words. ‘NO…WITNESSES…’ And a pair of glowing and hateful purple eyes greet you from beyond the archway.”
The party is immediately attacked by an undead drow (Wight x1, MM pg. 300) and its sired undead (Zombie x6, MM pg. 316). If any of the party members are slain, they are later raised as members of the undead.
A successful Religion (Intelligence) DC 16 will reveal that the sentinel is a Zin-carla, meaning “spirit-wraith”; it is a special undead created through a ritual performed by Lolth’s clerics and his eyes are a direct line to a matron mother. His drow sensitivity to light is greatly amplified by his undead form, which can be exploited through clever positioning.
The wraith is intelligent and can be communicated with, but will not show any mercy. If directly addressed, he will announce himself as Dewein’agal, a loyal sword to House Kovarra.
The tower is shaped like a lighthouse of grey-blue stone. A single internal staircase leads upwards to the top, but there are also plenty of breach-points through the glass windows.
The surrounding trees form a canopy that shrouds the pit in low light, with some patches of direct sunlight.
The top of the tower contains a model of the planets of realmspace orbiting the central star Sol. The orb that represents Sol dimly glows with radiant energy, bathing the room with amber light. There is a riddle written on a raised platform at the center of the room.
“What had two faces, but now only shows one?” → Abeir-Toril (i.e. Earth)
“What shines brightest, and is second to none?” → Sol (i.e. the Sun)
“What’s caught between two, a torn-in half soul?” → Selune (i.e the Moon)
“Aligned but apart. Separate, but whole.” → alignment of the celestial bodies
“To touch would be an impossible feat.”
“Under a hole in the sky is where we will meet.” → eclipse makes a “hole” in the sky
Solution: Manually rotating the model to bring Selune (moon) between Toril (Earth) and Sol (Sun) to simulate a solar eclipse reveals a secret stairway that leads deeper underground.
Read the following flavor text as they PCs uncover the secret tunnel.
“The stone slab parts and allows you passage to a stone corridor ten feet wide, twenty feet high, and extends forty feet towards another door. Upon the distant portal there is the carved visage of an elven warrior cupping their hands over the center of their chest. On opposing sides of the starting region there are two similar elven stone statues, each clasping a vibrant and iridescent jewel in the shape of a heart.
The door leading back to the surface suddenly rolls shut, and you hear a rythmic clicking noise, like as if unseen gears have begun turning. Upon the left side of the wall a mural begins to shift in sync with the ticking. It looks like a vibrant yellow orb being eclipsed by dark grey circle. On the opposite end of the corridor, the elf statue uncrosses one of their arms and presents it palm up.”
The following section is a simple timed puzzle. The aim is to send both jeweled hearts from one side to the other with the correct timings and sequence. The circular glyph on the leftmost wall begins to move in sync with the clicking, slowly showing the phases of a solar eclipse.
There are two elven statues bearing jewels on the starting side of the room. The one on the left is bearing the insignia of the sun, and the one on the right is bearing the insignia of the moon. Since the sun first has to be visible for an eclipse to occur (from the perception of someone viewing it on the planet), the sun jewel must be placed into the open palm first, followed by the moon jewel. They have two rounds (approximately twelve seconds of in-game time) to place the jewels into the palms of the receiving elf at the exit.
If they fail the puzzle, the floor literally rolls forward on a pivot at the center of the room, throwing them downwards into a deeper part of the dungeon. The characters drop 20 feet and take 2d6 damage from the fall.
If the players succeed, the door opens and they are taken into the final chamber.
The players failed the bridge puzzle and landed inside a crypt-like structure that houses a Black Pudding (MM pg. 241). Its purpose is to dispose of those who shouldn’t have access to the final chamber. The party can attempt to defeat the creature or flee. There is a hidden exit behind the walls, and characters that succeed a Perception (Wisdom) DC 15 can feel a draft.
Beyond the hidden exit there is a narrow tunnel that leads upwards and back to the surface. However, the way out is guarded by a Phase Spider (MM pg. 334). They have essentially “failed” the dungeon at this point, but they can try again if they successfully backtrack and return to the entrance.
The final room of the dungeon is a cube of forty feet length. There is an artificial river of water rushing across the room on the far side, and the ceiling terminates at a glass ceiling that looks up to the sky.
The chamber is scarred with several blackened marks outlined with shattered stone, indicating the usage of powerful fire magics. There is also the silhouette of a humanoid figure permanently etched against a wall beside a steel door that is held shut with a glowing and shifting floral pattern. Directly underneath the ghastly shadow there is a pile of fine grey ash surrounded with miscellaneous charred body parts.
This secret room is held shut with an Arcane Lock (PHB pg. 215) spell which requires a Dexterity DC 25 to lockpick. Alternatively, the PCs can attempt to destroy the door with whatever they have on-hand.
Searching the pile of ashes yields a Necklace of Fireballs (DMG pg. 182) with only two beads left.
Below the top platform there is a large chasm that leads into the Underdark.
Read the following flavor text as they PCs enter the final room.
“The instant the door swings open, a layer of dust fills the air, and your nostrils are greeted with the scent of death and decay. Inside the secret room you find a large mattress covered with fine silks and laid atop an elegantly carved wooden frame.
At the base of the bed you spot an elf corpse adorned in desiccated leather scales laying facedown upon a bloodstained wolfskin rug. There is a curved sword with an green and golden handle still grasped in its right hand. The other hand is lighting grasping a skeletal hand attached to a slain drider. The monstrosity has the upper torso of a once-beautiful drow and the lower half of the body belongs to a massive tarantula.”
This deceased moon elf is still holding a Silvered Scimitar +1 (DMG pg. 213) and the dead drider is wearing a Ring of Protection (DMG pg. 191).
Three Carrion Crawlers (MM pg. 37) are drawn from the Underdark by the commotion of the PCs searching he final area. The party must defeat them or be devoured. Successfully slaying them yields an opportunity to harvest Carrion Crawler Mucus (DMG pg. 258), which is a powerful paralytic poison.
After looting the final room and surviving the crawler attack, the party can exit the dungeon in three ways. They can continue traveling deeper into the Underdark, but at their current levels that is borderline suicidal. They can backtrack, but that will require them to re-solve the bridge puzzle in reverse. Alternatively, they can simply shatter the glass ceiling and climb upwards to freedom.
“Who builds these empty expanses? These great vaults and temples to unnamed gods?” An elderly, pointed man takes a taste of brandy from his arm chair. “I do. I, Azwald premier dungeon builder, build premier dungeons. For who else would house bandits and monsters of various types? Who else would give them a place to hoard treasure and murder adventurers? None. Only I am that good natured. Cleansing the worlds above from these unsavory sorts. Goblins, trolls, …adventurers. Things are much nicer here where green grass grows and the only chants are those to the sun and moon.”
“So… why such a classic? Sometimes you need to return to basics to regain an appreciation for greater works. You can’t make a Temple of Zjnarak everyday and the world always needs more dungeons. Something familiar that new adventurers can study and prepare for. It is like… community service. For I am a great and wonderful man, wishing only to share with the world. Oh. Hmm. It appears our time is up. I have a new type of impenetrable stone brewing and I need to observe this reaction. If you will excuse me.
“I don’t rightly know how it happened.” Ms. Annette Bridgemire scratched her head. “One day I was wishin’ to see the world an’ the next I were above it like now. Good weather usually up here. Sometimes we dip juss below the storm to get some water for myself an’ Bessy over there. Bessy’s my cow. Think she’s gotten used to this whole thing too, though she didn’t make milk fer at least a month after the ‘Upsidaisy,’ as I like to call it.
“So when we’re goin’ over the ocean there’s good fishin’ and sometimes on festival days the island gets low enough for me to drop down the ladder like the one you climbed up on. So all things considered its a pretty good life up here. Don’t gotta deal with crows, or my papa tryin’ to get me suitored up. Just get to do my farmin’, my fishin’ and my dabblin’ in the ar-cane arts.”
Standing atop the upper platform a shadowy figure stood despite the persistent glow around them. “Welcome, friends… To the Heart.”
The young woman stepped forward, her face twisted in confusion at the lights and sparkles around her. “What hell did we just step in?”
A tall man in an even taller hat walked up beside her examining a book. “I don’t know I’ve never heard-“
“Oh! How pained such words have!” The shadowy figure swooned and the lights below them flickered. “To be so close to my Heart yet without even the knowledge that I exist. No, this won’t do!” The shadowy figure jumps down from their platform and lands with their feathery cape flapping in the non-existant wind and a top hat covering their eyes. “I… am Fabulous.”
“More like ‘show-off.'” The woman unsheathed her sword.
“No no my dear. That is my name. And you will quickly find that I am invincible.”
“‘Es right!” The short member of the party had finally reached the top of the stairs and was now clinking his axe against Fabulous’ shins. “Don’t much like that.”
“See? Your friend here understands. I’m am untouchable. Though…” Fabulous’ cape swished through the air as they turned to the short one. “If you wish we could dance and maybe then show you the true meaning of passion.”
The short one looked over to his friends, shrugging his shoulders. “I mean I dun mind.”
“We don’t have time for this.” The woman looked at her sword and then to the ground. “Can you give me a boost?”
The tall man nodded suspiciously and began casting his spell. “Why?”
“You’ll see.” She smiled as her feet began to grow lighter and then launched herself into the air and into the darkness above.
“Oh, she’s no fun.” Fabulous smiled at the two gentlemen.
And then it dawned on everyone what she was doing and they all let out a collective swear.
Her sword pierced the Heart. The reality shattered and they returned in front of the strange standing door they had entered. As they dusted themselves off the door fell over.
“Another mystery solved then.” The tall man collected some of his scattered books.
The young woman sheathed her sword. “I’d be better if we got paid for it.”
“Ken always check in town, see’n if there’ were some bounty for it then.”
“Fine. Grab the thing. Let’s go.”
Type: Dungeon Crawl
System: Pathfinder or D&D 5th Edition
Ideal Party Size: 4-5
Recommended Levels: 1-2
This is a simple yet fairly difficult dungeon crawl for fledgling adventurers. It is meant to plant the seed for an epic treasure hunt, as well as provide the players with magical loot and treasure! This scenario takes place in a desert setting, and involves the party traveling underground to explore a mysterious sinkhole that turns out to be an hourglass-shaped dungeon guarded by the undead!
The dungeon is designed to teach the players the basic mechanics of play such as overland travel, resource management, exploration, solving puzzles, and combat!
Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:
“Life in the desert has always been a struggle. Whether it’s the constant heat of a scorching sun or the intermittent threat of attack from hostile bandits, settlers of the sands are as tough as they come. You are no different, and seek to carve out your fortune and fame amidst the endless salt of the wasteland. One day, an opportunity to test your mettle presents itself.
Sinkholes have been spontaneously appearing along the desert trade routes and swallowing up large portions of caravans. Dozens have been injured or killed and countless goods have been lost under the sands of the desert. Several days would pass before these sinkholes mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear again in another catastrophic event.
The merchant group known as the Gilded Sparrow has put out a sizable reward for whomever is brave enough to investigate this destructive phenomenon and prevent it from recurring. The most recent incident took place the day prior, and is located approximately twenty miles away.”
The PC’s journey to reach the dungeon can be an opportunity to teach them the basics of overland travel as well as resource management and environmental hazards. This is a good time to introduce them the tiers of travel speeds as well as testing them with appropriate Survival (Wisdom), Perception (Wisdom), and Knowledge (Intelligence) checks. Since they are in the desert, the party may encounter obstacles such as intense heat and quicksand. Try not to do anything too serious, and deplete resources such as food and water if they fail. If damage is inevitable, err on the side of caution and deal nonlethal damage (if applicable) instead.
Alternatively, the PCs can simply arrive at the entrance of the dungeon.
After following the primary trade road, the PCs will discover the sinkhole. This area is situated between two large cliffs and is strewn with debris from the incident. All loot has already been picked clean by scavengers.
The entrance is circular and roughly 20 feet across, and hole drops down 50 feet into a diamond-shaped 40 feet by 40 feet chamber [B1 MAP, Area 3].
If the players succeed a Perception (Wisdom) vs. Stealth, they can notice that there is something moving along the sand at the bottom. At this distance they are unable to ascertain the exact nature of the beast. The creature is actually a small earth elemental (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 122) with a body composed entirely of finely ground sand instead of dirt.
If the PCs possess enough rope, they can safely descent to Area 3 with a successful Climb/Athletics (Strength) DC 15, but the sand elemental will not wait for them to safely land before it starts attacking them.
If the PCs search for an hour, they can find an alternative entrance to the dungeon [B1 MAP, Area 1]. This path takes them downward at a more gradual decline, so they don’t need to risk taking falling damage. The area is low-light at the cavern entrance and becomes total darkness at the far end. There is a flowing pool of safe-to-drink freshwater 30 feet deep that flanks the sides of a natural bridge. A darkmantle (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 55 or D&D MM pg. 46) awaits on the ceiling disguised as a stalactite and will drop down upon the first person that crosses the bridge.
If the PCs are brave enough to swim underneath, they can find a secret passageway that leads straight to the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4] with a successful Perception (Wisdom) DC 25. To traverse the hidden path, a PC must perform a tight squeeze with an Acrobatics (Dexterity) DC 15. Failure will result in getting stuck and potentially drowning.
There are two paths to take from the alternative entrance. Going north takes the PCs to the sand pit with the sand elemental [B1 MAP, Area 3], and the east path takes the PCs through a puzzle [B1 MAP, Area 2].
This path presents a simple puzzle for the PCs to fix that involves bouncing around a beam of light. Below is the diagram of the map in its starting configuration. There is a scarab-shaped jewel embedded into the post of the entrance and it generates the light beam. On the floor there is a riddle: “Walk the path of light and thou shall never fear death.” Because of the beam, treat this area as if it was well-lit.
This area is trapped; if a living creature strays out of the light beam, the five skeletons (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 250 or D&D MM pg. 272) in the following room will become active, and slay anything they find. Otherwise, the skeletons remain inert, unless physically provoked. The skeletons are wearing golden scarab pendants, signifying their connection to the puzzle. Stealing this artifact requires a Sleight of Hand (Dexterity) DC 15 without awakening all the skeletal guardians.
The obvious solution is to walk within the path of the light beam, but the third mirror from the origin is broken! An unknown scuffle had taken place and knocked the mirror out of alignment, terminating the light prematurely. It will require a Strength DC 15 to successfully move the heavy object. After the first failure, a follow-up Dexterity DC 12 is required to handle the antique mirror with finesse. Failure to do so will cause it to break altogether.
If the PCs possess any mirror-like objects, they can craft a makeshift reflector with successful crafting checks at the DM’s discretion.
Below shows the main solution to this rudimentary puzzle. But if the players think outside the box and come up with inventive alternative solutions (generate their own light with spells, remove the scarab jewel and carry it, etc.), they should be considered and decided upon at DM’s discretion.
This area is mostly low-light except for the pillar of light produced by the hole in the ceiling. It is also ferociously guarded by a sand elemental that will attack any creatures at enter. It uses the sand on the ground to hide itself as it uses hit-and-run tactics.
At the center of the pit, there is another hole 10 feet across that drops 30 feet into the final chamber [B2 MAP, Area 4]. The hole is partially obscured by sand build-up.
The final chamber is guarded by a skeletal champion (Pathfinder Bestiary pg. 252) sitting atop its throne. It will immediately engage with intruders and try to kill them.
Since this area is the lowest part of the hourglass structure, it is entirely dark. There is also a large pile of finely-ground sand 20 feet across and 10 feet at its deepest. The sand pile is treated as difficult terrain. At the south side of the final chamber there is a pool of water that connects to the entrance.
If the players survive the difficult encounter with the skeletal champion, they acquire an ornate (cursed) crown, a masterwork longsword, a full set of ancient metal armor, and several miscellaneous jewels. The highly-decorated nature of the final boss implies a royal lineage of some sort.
Inspecting the throne will reveal that the structure belongs to “King Valcyan.” A successfully History (Intelligence) DC 20 reveals that King Valcyan once reigned over the vast kingdom of Ako-Jorak thousands of years ago. However, the kingdom had so greatly offended the gods that it was swallowed up by the sands. This teleporting hourglass structure has some function in raising the lost civilization. The details are sparse, but the method is apparent; the hourglass appears and swallows up material, and whatever gets trapped within is destroyed into a fine powder that collects in the final area.
But before the PCs can ponder any further, the structure begins to crumble, as the magic has been interrupted by the slaying of the King. The PCs must escape before the collapsing dungeon traps them underground forever. After the dust settles, there is no trace of the underground structure, the sinkhole, or the side entrance; it was like as if they were never there.
If the PCs wish to uncover the secrets of the ancient kingdom, they must seek out the hourglass once more.
By Ethan Hudgens
“The Shambles… A stack of village buildings, masonry and architecture that has confounded the people of New Lingston for ages. The people there are afraid of the mass of wood and stone, and with good reason I say! The origins of this place are a mystery. Was it once a village stacked atop itself by bored giant vagrants? It certainly leans towards such uninspired aesthetics. Lazy, some would call it to stack and smash building together in such a way. And yet you cannot deny its impossible standing. Which is why I do not believe the giant theorem. In such events the ground floor house, but a cottage with simple wood and stone construction, could not support the weight of any of a guard’s tower, a barn filled with animals nor what appears to be a statue of the Fool. The fact that it hold all such things on its simple foundation leads me to believe that it is impossible. Which leaves us to our other two candidates…”