Friday, October 29, 2010

Ruins of Thetra Mage College Lower Levels

Just enough dungeon to connect all the stairs slopes and trap doors from level 1 and outdoors. Numbered but not populated. C' connects the sloping passage from B14 with the trapdoor from B2, and the hidden staircase from B15.
D' connects the long staircase near B16 with the staircase from A4, and the open area off of B9. E is reached by a secret door in the trunk of the Tree in D3. Had intended to expand these levels as play on level B progressed. However the TPK on level A, followed by a lifetime ban on this dungeon from She-who-must-be-obeyed, rendered that effort moot.
P.S. for an interesting corollary of the problems this dungeon encountered read this review of Death Frost Doom .
Unfortunately, sometimes even the best sounding dungeons on paper do not click with the players in the field. This dungeon did teach me a lot about player-DM interaction. Most of my modern dungeons are a lot less scripted and adapted on-the-fly to suit the players motivations. Good for playing, bad for producing a module for publication and universal appeal.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ruins of Thetra Mage College level 1

As promised, key below the map.

Level 1

1. The walls of this room are covered in soot. There is a large pile of burned timbers in the southeast corner of the room under the stairs Mixed with the timbers is a 3’ metal rod. The rod is a wand of secret door and trap detection. It has only 9 chares left. If it is picked up it will glow indicating the secret door to the south.

2. Trapdoor drops any who stand on it 20’ to the second level

3. On the North wall are five plaques. On each plaque is a name, two dates, followed by many mystic runes and symbols. The first is labeled Gnithil 101-228. Opening it will fire five magic missiles into the party. There is nothing inside. Next is Dloc 228-354. Opening this tomb will release a blast of cold air. The inside is lined with frost. A vaguely human form can be seen in the bottom. Anyone reaching into the tomb will feel intense cold. Anyone persisting in holding their hand in will take 1-6 points of damage per round. Underneath the frost is the body of an ancient man. On the body are a jeweled ring and a pouch of 5 gems. The third is Kesom 354-463 after opening dense black smoke will pour out. The smoke will drive all from the room. The fourth is labeled Powane 463-561. A pair of animated swords will attack the openers of this tomb. The swords attack as fifth level fighters and are not harmed by normal weapons blows, although anything capable of destroying a normal sword will destroy them also. The magic of the swords be disabled by grasping one sword and striking the other with it (roll under half your dex to grab the sword: sword is AC 4 for purposes of hitting). After the swords strike each other both will crumble in flakes of rust. Inside the tomb is a skeleton in rotted robes. Along side the skeleton is a red hide scroll case filled with rotted parchment and a box holding four dry bottles with crystals on the sides. The scroll case is of salamander hide and impervious to fire. The bottles contain the remnants of potions; filling the bottles water will restore the potions to operating condition. The last is labeled Rothi. Inside are a copper crown set with a topaz and a long sword. A voice will warn of dire fates to befall any who touch the items except the “rightful” owner. In this case possession is 10/10ths of the law. All tombs will be found resealed after the party leaves the area though any item removed will not be found there again.

4. 10 beds line the walls of this room: 6 on the west, 4 on the east. The remains of two more are piled in the south-east corner of the room. In front of the of the second and fifth beds on the west and second on the east, there is a large trunk. In the bottom of the trunk in front of the fifth bed is sack with two gems. In the ticking of the third bed on the east are 185 gold pieces. The whole room is infested with giant rats. The rats will not be readily apparent but anyone looking under a bed will be attacked by 1-6 rats. There are 24 rats in this room, but they will only attack all together if all party members are wounded.

5. On the south wall is a painted mural of blue sky with clouds and sea gulls. In the northeast corner are 5 silk, feather filled pillows mostly rotted. The mural on the south is enchanted. Anyone staring at the mural for long periods of time must save versus magic or fall asleep. Underneath the pillows are two sleeping giant centipedes.

6. In the center of the room is a round oak table. On the table sits a large silver bowl studded with gems. Seated by the table is a human skeleton with both elbows on the table staring at the bowl. The skeleton wears ragged robes and a peaked hat. Anyone touching the skeleton will cause the skeleton to collapse into a heap of bones. Inside the cap is a scroll case strapped in with leather thongs. Inside the scroll case is a magic scroll. Back to the bowl. Anyone looking into the bowl will see a dancing blue flame and must save versus magic or be entranced by the flame. Entranced persons will do nothing but stare into the flame until the flame is extinguished or blocked from their sight. The flame may be put out by any normal means, but spread to any burnable item touches.

7. This room is filled with broken furniture. In the back of the room is a large chest. In front of the chest are a scattering of silver pieces (47). The chest is filled with 2000 silver pieces. While the party is investigating the room two large spiders will drop from the ceiling over the entrance arch and attack the party. Hidden in the le of a broken chair is a scroll

8. In this room 12 rats are chewing on a body in the northwest corner. Strewn round the room are the bones of various creatures. Closer inspection of the body will reveal that it is a human adventurer. Its backpack has been emptied and its belt pouch slit. Hidden in the body’s boot is a magic dagger +1, +2 versus smaller than man size. Note: the door to room 9 is locked and has a spy hole.

9. This is the lair of two wererats. Furnishing the room are two beds and a table with two chairs. Normally one wererat will stand guard while the other sleeps. If there is a fight in room 8 both will be up and ready to fight. If the wererats are alerted and the party continues on to room 10 they will set up an ambush in room 8. Their treasure is in a small box under one of the beds. The small box is trapped with a poison dart which will fire at the opener. Inside are 20 platinum, 5 gems, a gold broach and 2 potions

10. Nothing

11. Trying to open this door will cause three spears to drop from the ceiling. One is +1.

12. In the center of this room is a large pillar. On the pillar sits a pillow with a large gem sitting on it. A curtain covers the northeast corner of the room. Behind the curtain is a mural of a man dressed in black whose face is totally devoid of features. Anyone removing the gem will disappear. Following this what appears to be that person will step from behind the curtain. This is actually a doppelganger. The party member will be found with the gem in room 13 Underneath the pillow is a small scroll with the following inscription.

“Canst thou face the faceless man? Seeke ye the light of day while thou still can. See the once proud tower almost gone. Sit ye there and wait for dawn. Underneath the Sun the key does rest. Bring it hence and place it in the place that’s best.”

A small keyhole will be found in the face on the mural

13. In this room is a pile of 3000 gp, a magic sword and a scroll. A small stream of water trickles down from the southwest corner. On the wall is the inscription “Canst thou eat gold?”

14. This room holds 8 skeletons. Two of these stand guard at each exit. Although the guards can be clearly seen from the entering corridors, none will attack until the party members attack or try to pass the guards

15. This room is the same as 14 except there are 11 skeletons

16. The ceiling of this room has collapsed. It is filled with broken rafters and sand. A minimal amount of digging from the west door will uncover a suit of +1 chaimail.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Death 4e Style

Well it actually happened! I actually killed a character in 4e, and not some low level but a 15th level wizard. Here's how how it happened:

For some weird reason all my friends highest level characters seem to be wizards. So here they are running through one of the new second season Living Forgotten Realms high level modules (to those unfamiliar with LFR it seems after getting their feet wet with softball mods the LFR writers have stepped it up a notch with killer mods) with a party composed of three wizards and a druid/assassin. They are in the last encounter fighting a solo elite with a couple throw-away 100 hit pointers (against the wizards 100 hits will last about a round and a half). Luckily the solo elite has a few trick up his sleeve, like an interrupt that teleports players attacking allies next to him, a recharge on a 4,5,6 6d10 encounter attack, and a +4 vicious weapon that does an extra 4d12 on crits and action points (Trust me an actual 15th level player swordmage is going to have all this and more). So after the wizard attacks one of the 100 pointers, the elite solo whip the wizard out to the center doing a bit of damage, and hits the wizard on his turn with the encounter, at which point the wizard is down to 2 hit points. Being the kind of DM I am and having played 4e long enough to know that most players can come back from 2 hit point to maximum in a single round, what do I do? I action point. What do I roll 20!? Well the wizards not dead until minus -42 so there's still a chance as crits base damage is only 36, but then the extra 4d12 get rolled 1 point, 2 points O.K. so far but then a 9 and a 12 for a total of 60 points. Game over! Of course 4e players are not used to death so the player storms out of the room complaining about viscous DMs, Evil adventure writers, and claiming he's selling all his 4e books on e-bay never playing again, before his fellow adventures can explain they have a scroll in their pocket that will bring him fully back, or the druid/assassin can crank out three 100 point crits in a row to bring the elite soldier down.

I think I played the encounter as the rules allow and the writer intended, but having angry players always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. So what do you think? Should I play the dice as rolled , or fudge the damage so he is at -41 unconscious but still alive, or not have used the action point in the first place? She-who-must-be-obeyed points out that since a mere 3 points would taken him out the crit would have been far better spent putting 60 points on the druid/assassin and represents a total waste of 57 points, but that's just the way she rolls.

P.S. Due to the fact that this is the weekend for Con-on-the-Cob, level 1 of the Ruins of Thetra Mage college may not appear until next Friday.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ruins of Thetra Mage College: Above Ground Key

As promised here is the key to the map posted earlier this week. I am afraid the mountain lion encounter is what gave this dungeon it's killer reputation. He's a bit more than a first level fighter can handle.

The Ruins Above Ground
General: The ruins of Thetra lie half a mile east of the village of the same name. The whole area is covered by drifting sand. Taking the road which lead west from the village, the party will round a large sand dune and come upon a ruined wall with a 20’ wide opening in it. The road leads through the opening.

1. 10’ high walls crenelated though many of the merlons are missing with a walkway on top. Generally in a bad state of disrepair

2. Large courtyard paved with flagstones

3. 30’x30’ one story stone building with a pyramidal shaped roof of slates. In each wall there are 3’ 6” tall 6” wide arrow slits.

4. Staircase leading 15’ down to a set of oaken doors studded with iron spikes. The doors are shut and appear to be barred from the inside

5. Ruins of a large tower wall ranges from 10’ to 15’. In the SE corner 10’ up is a 3’ wide 5’ high arched window. The top of the arch is broken off. Next to the window is a staircase going down. The sill of the window contains a secret compartment with a large iron key and a small gem

6. The trapdoor will drop a person stepping on it 20’ into a corridor heading N and E

7. Bones of some large reptile, probably a dragon, buried in the sand. Underneath the dragon are the skeleton of a man, some pieces of chainmail and a broken corroded sword carved with strange runes thrust into one of the vertebrae.

8. A great gnarled tree. Around the base of the tree will be found the bones of wild animals. Occasionally a freshly killed animal will be seen hanging in the branches. There is a secret door in the trunk which leads to a ladder going down.

9. In this depression are the burrows of a band of 18 desert foxes. One of the burrows leads to first level. All of the burrows are large enough for a small man to crawl through, and can be enlarged fairly easily. There is a 1 in 10 chance of finding the right tunnel without the foxes help and the 8 adult foxes will attack anyone who tries.

Encounters (roll a six sided die)

1. Old man with a sieve sifting sand. Old man is a 9th level MU. He searches for the ring of the netherworld. If the party helps him there is a 1 in 100 chance a party member will find it.

2. A party of 7 men, 2 dwarves, a mule and a camel collecting dragon bones. Men are a 4th level mage, a 3rd level Cleric and five second level fighters. Dwarves are 3rd and 6th level fighters.

3. 1-4 foxes. These will run off towards the west (see 9)

4. Mountain lion lurking in the oak (8). He will attack anyone who investigates the oak too closely

5. Large beetle crawling across the flagstones of the courtyard. The beetle is metallic blue with a faint outline of a face on its back. The beetle is a polymorphed 8th level magic user.

6. Nothing

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ruins of Thetra Mage College

The infamous killer mini dungeon. Outside in the sands. Key Fridayish. Level one next week

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