Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Failed Experiment

As I am preparing to run a new D&D game soon, I thought it would be good to stretch the old design muscles a bit. Maybe get some feedback that doesn't involve players whining as their character is slowly digested. You know, like they do...

This adventure, titled Failed Experiment (not to be confused with expirement, which is failed spelling), is an adventure which touches on multiple arcs of my Doorways campaign, and as such I can't give a lot of details on the backstory. Descriptions will be based on what the players encountered.

If this adventure is used outside of the context of Doorways, one clue needs to be provided to the players ahead of time, or the encounter in 3 should become something less dangerous. During the orientation, the new explorers are told of a password "fealty" which was found to control the clay golems that were guarding the Doorways when they were discovered. Since that time the password has been changed to keep them under administrator control, but if a clay golem is encountered while exploring, that password should be tried.

1 The entryway - this room is tiled with five foot stone slabs (conveniently enough for mapmaking) with various geometric shapes. The slabs marked with a spiral symbol may be safely stepped upon. Magically levitating or flying over an unsafe square will still trigger a trap effect. Non-magical flight will not trigger a trap, or any weight under 30 lbs.

Description "This room, roughly 40' by 85' in size, is illuminated brightly by glowing patterns on the five-foot square slabs which make up the floor. The ceiling is 10' tall and dotted with neatly spaced circular holes, so that 2-3 holes are above every square. Similar holes are present on the walls all around this room, and each slab (except the first one immediately in front of the door, which is unmarked) has a circular hole in the center. A llitter of bones and fragments of grey-black eggshell is scattered about the floor in this room."

Any time a weight of 30' or more is set upon a square (or something of that mass is levitated over one) roll a d10 and consult this chart – if they step on a safe square, roll anyways and ignore the result. All traps are spell-based, assume a caster level of 8, and a relevant attribute of 18.

1 nothing happens

2 burning hands is cast from the floor – 5d4 damage to anyone in the triggering square, and to anything flying or levitating in an adjacent square. Reflex dc 15/half

3. Magic missile is cast from the west wall targeting the first person or object to trigger this square. 4d4+4 from the four magic missiles.

4 nothing happens

5 stinking cloud is emitted from the floor. Effects as per http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Stinking_Cloud 20’ radius, fortitude dc 17 negates, 8 round duration

6 web spell is cast from the ceiling above the triggered plate, http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Web 20’ radius, reflex dc 16

7 darkness is cast from the east wall, caster level 8, targeted on the triggered plate - http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Darkness

8 nothing happens

9 flaming sphere is cast from the west wall, every round for its 8 round duration it will simply bounce in this square. http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Flaming_Sphere – 2d6 damage per round for anyone in that square, reflex 16 negates.

10 lightning bolt is cast from the east wall, targeting in a straight horizontal line through the triggering square. The west wall absorbs the bolt rather than reflecting it. 8d6 electricity damage, reflex dc 17

The secret door on the west wall will not cast any trap spells, so ignore any results indicating a trap coming from that section of wall. It appears the same as the rest of the wall otherwise.(search dc 18)

2. Hallway

Description 'This hallway is neatly carved and smooth, apparently cut from the native stone and seamless. There is no dust, and the stone appears polished. Immediately beyond the door are two statues set into the left and right wall, each in the form of a grinning gargoyle, holding a stone shield and club, apparently carved from the same stone. The gargoyle on the left bears the spiral symbol on its shield, and the one on the right has a simple skull etched into the shield. '

The spiral and skull represent a warning, as between this point and the laboratory(5), any right turn leads to traps and other dangers.

The large X-in-rectangle represents a 30’ pit trap hidden by a hinged trapdoor(spot dc 23, search dc 18) which will drop with as little as 40 lbs of weight - the walls are as smooth as the rest of the dungeon, and are difficult to climb (climb dc 19) – in the bottom the adventurers will find a metal belt buckle, several dozen rivets from a suit of studded leather armor, and a +1 short sword of spell-storing (contains web, cl 10) – none of these show any sign of corrosion.

The stick figure icon in the top-right corner of the map is a clay golem – if not pacified with the command word “fealty” it will attempt to grapple a party member and take them for holding in room 3. If it suffers 25% of its hit points in damage, it will begin fighting more violently. Remember that while in the 5’ passageways it will take penalties to movement and combat for being squeezed http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Movement,_Position,_and_Distance#Squeezing

2a The false door

Description 'As the hallway turns it becomes a more stately 10' corridor, with a double-door at the end, cunningly crafted from the same native stone.'

Starting at the door and for 15 feet, the corridor has an acid pit concealed by a trap door which opens downward. The weight of one medium creature (and his gear) will not trigger the trap, but two or more party members on the trap door will cause it to open, letting them fall in.

The trap may be escaped with a dc 18 reflex save for those on the north and south edge (moving to safety or clinging to the false door), and a dc 22 reflex save for anyone caught in the middle. A swim check (dc 15) is necessary to move in the acidic slime, and climbing out at the north edge is a climb difficulty of 15. Climbing up in the middle or door side is a dc of 19, with another climb check dc 15 required to slide along the wall to safety in the next round.

Anyone immersed in the acid will suffer 2d6 damage per round, and those who have been immersed will suffer an additional d6 damage for 3 rounds thereafter as the acid neutralize it. Attempting to wash the slime off with water or otherwise neutralizing it will reduce the damage by 3 points and the duration by 1 round.

The double-door at the end of the hall is a cunningly crafted fake, (search dc 23 will reveal the trickery - the dwarven ability to detect stonework will also work). On any lesser search result, the door appears to be unlocked, but stuck shut.

3 The guard room

This room is bare and empty except for four clay golems – they are under orders to hold any intruders (they will attack if they suffer 25% or more of their hitpoints in damage) – They may be commanded with the same word “fealty”

Needless to say, the golems don’t have any way to meet the needs of a prisoner for food and water, so time will be limited if the party plans to return to rescue them.

4 The quarters

This room is bare but shows signs that there was once habitation here. Depressions are in set in the floor where the feet of two beds would have been, and several iron nails are scattered in the room, along with several gold teeth and a silver dagger. 43 gold and 25 silver coins are scattered about the floor, and the broken remains of a water basin. An everflowing flask of water is sitting in the corner, deactivated.

5 The pit

This rounded chamber, and the narrow passageways leading to it, are used the black puddings that inhabit this dungeon – the passages are appropriately sized for a small-sized or smaller creature, but the puddings can pass through slowly. While the puddings are drawn for reasons unknown to the laboratory in 6, they use the steep downward shaft leading down from this chamber when driven to feed – where it leads the team was not able to learn, but it is at least 50’ straight down.

6 The laboratory

This room, once used for research, has three entrances, two concealed entrances on the east wall (search dc 18) , and one of the pudding-tunnels behind a workbench.

There are three stone workbenches in this room, covered with the remains of broken beakers and glass tubing. If handled delicately, 3d4x10 gp worth of alchemical equipment can be recovered, and the optics for three pairs of goggles of minute seeing. A silver dagger has fallen behind one of the workbenches.

In any of the areas aside from 1, there is a 10% chance of encountering a black pudding – no more than 2 will be encountered in total unless the party spends 10 hours or more in this dungeon(a third will return from the depths). The clay golems will ignore the puddings and vice-versa, unless they are keeping a prisoner in which case they will defend him or her.

And that is the adventure – it has a bit of a killer DM feel to it, and I don’t intend to run it for my current party (especially after posting it here), without doing some fine-tuning.

If you’re asking “where is the treasure?” then you have not been paying attention – the clay golems are worth 40,000 gold each, if controlled – it is probably far more wealth than this dungeon should have generated for them. This is more of an exercise, stretching my design muscles. I will say that I don’t feel any of the challenges are unfair for a 3rd-7th level party – a black pudding is tough to beat, but can’t keep up with the party and can be dealt with at range. The golems can be used, if controlled, to defeat them as well.

If the party turns off their brains and play this like Diablo, things will go very badly. I think this represents the design philosophy I am planning on – fair but very tough.

Am I hitting that mark?

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