Friday, March 23, 2012

Open Friday: Revisiting Dungeon Locales

One of the lessons I learned early on in creating Dwimmermount was that most levels, if not every level, ought to have some locale or feature that encourages return visits to that level. So, there's the "Cleric Tree," a weird tree-like plant that bears fruit that act as potions of healing and the Moon Pool, whose waters have various potentially beneficial effects. These locales and many others scattered throughout the dungeon encourage repeat visits and provide the referee with the chance to restock rooms with monsters and treasure. They are, in my opinion, a vital part of keeping a dungeon "fresh" and making it feel "alive."

For today's Open Friday question, I'd like to ask people to share some of the locales in their dungeons that players return to again and again, even as they explore deeper into them.


  1. The Paladin in my 1st edition game is very motivated to return to one of the upper levels of the Lonesome Hill Dungeon, where the newly recovered crypt of Saint Ulthar sits amidst the wreckage of a number of conquests over various dungeon denizens. While wandering vermin pick over the remnants of earlier battles nearby, the other members of the party periodically cool their heels as the Paladin cleans up the crypt. Securing and maintaining a holy site inside a dungeon has proved a challenge for him, as well as a test of the other characters' patience. Ah, Paladins...

  2. Longspear's Halfway Inn on level 5 and the Bazaar on level 8 are two examples of that in The Darkness Beneath. But those are almost town locations within a dungeon.

    One thing you see often that can be useful is a place of rest/succor - e.g. the lone shrine of good in the maze of darkness, where if the PCs bothered to clean it up they can return there to rest and heal. Your Cleric Tree and Moon Pool examples are just right as well - the weird and wondrous to go along with the place of safety and the place of commerce. A fourth kind of example would I suppose just be something like a mine shaft, crumbling cave, garbage pile etc. that you sometimes got rewards and sometimes got trouble poking around in - PCs will come back looking for the shiny sooner or later.

  3. Gateways to other spaces. I'm a keen advocate, but Gj shows the power of the approach in the Bujilli online adventure, especially the latest episode:

    The Hereticwerks settings in general make good use of the idea.

  4. In my megadungeon, there is a secret chamber with the relics of a saint. When the PCs pray and sleep within this secret chamber, they are sometimes blessed with an encounter with the saint. These encounters have resulted in healing spells, conversations where vital information was gained and even a quest or two.

  5. I've used long, widing staircases that decend multiples levels. This is a useful shortcut for the player-characters. It also is a great place for the NPCs to place new guards and traps to intercept them on the way down.



  6. I like the idea of reoccupying a dungeon as it's cleared. Kind of like Balin and the Dwarves, each level that is cleared, there is a group of settlers waiting to fill the empty chambers along with guards/mercenaries to fend off the next level. Some of those settlers, will be family members - either as workers, servants, business owners etc.

    Though more along the lines of what you were originally talking about is the Addiction Fountain. The players drink from it will be healed as a cure light wounds spell (but using a 1d10 instead of 1d8), but the downside is they will be compelled to return in 1d10 days. Each time, they drink though, the need to drink again is stronger and the effects are lessened, so the second time they drink, it will be a 1d8 rolled for being compelled to return and 1d8 for healing, the 3rd time, a 1d6 for both and finally on the 4th time 1d4, 5th - 1d3, 6th 1d2, and after the 7th use they have to return everyday to drink and will be healed 1 hit point. They can attempt to resist it, but it requires a Save vs. Poison being made 2 times in a row. For every day over the number rolled they do not drink, the PC gets a -1 to all skill checks, -1 "to Hit" and -1 to AC (or +1 if your using descending AC) up to a maximum of -5 when withdrawl set in. After 30 days, the PC will finally kick the habit, but the fountain will forever haunt them.

  7. The Whimsey Wheel. A big ' wheel of fortune " like device mounted on a wall on the second level of a megadungeon of my design. You can get anything from a 300 GP ruby to having a goose head replace your own.

  8. In the Vats of Mazarin, there is a pool of Cursed Wish Fish - 5 left - that the players have made there was too on several occasions.

    The actual Vats have received return traps to collect magical substances (similar to the pools in B:1).

    There have also been several puzzles that took a few attempts to solve by various groups. Once of which took 8 months between its original discovery to bypass.

  9. In my visions apears a seer, who can answer questions and provide guidance. But in every cases he gives to the party quests. (double benefit for the dm :) )

  10. The Red Castle is the most infamous megadungeon in my campaign world, The Realm of Quindia. Besides multiple levels of chambers and caves, there are several gates to pocket dimensions (usually only another isolated dungeon level). When The Wizard still resided in the Red Castle, these gates were stable, but with his disappearance decades ago (some believe him lost in his own dungeon), various maintenance rituals were neglected or forgotten and the gates have taken to 'wandering', though normally they end up on the same level. This sometimes leads to PCs re-exploring levels to find the confounding things.

    One of these dimensions contains a maze-like library with volumes and scrolls mostly reduced to dust, but still staffed by a Quasit named Tigger (yeah, I know - the original heritage mini we used on the Quasit's first appearance was painted orange) that claims to know everything the place held. He trades information (normally on the Red Castle) for treasure (normally a magic item).

    Another contains a single room with a cowled figure who sits at a small wooden table. In the center of the table is a Deck of Many Things. When the party stumbles into this gate, they may draw one tile before they are transported back to the dungeon proper. They will find the gate has vanished (and will reappear in another location in 1d6 weeks).

  11. The Well of Seers. A small pool supposedly containing the spirits of drowned prophets that characters can visit and toss in coins/items and get answers to assorted questions.

    The depth of answers vary according to the value of the item thrown in (a gold coin = magic 8 ball type answer, Hand of Vecna = complete dungeon layout, etc...) and which seer happens to be answering the question (most are at least moderately helpful, one is clearly malevolent and lies).

    No character (yet) has tried to loot the Well of all the treasure that's been tossed in over the centuries...will be interesting if/when they try.

  12. I played a fighter in a campaign which I also helped the DM with (he was new to it) in which we found a library. After a truly epic fight with thirty orcs when there was about ten of us, we claimed the room. It was very well defended because of the bookcases and such. So I got the bright idea of using it as a base of operations. So basically we set up shop there, translating the dwarven books, counting the loot and tending to the wounded. It was great, totally fortified, not that the orcs didn’t try retaking it.

    Long story short, inter-party conflict left my fighter, his three spearmen and the magic-user behind while the others rampaged the countryside. The campaign fizzled out but I remember the library quite well.

  13. One of my larger (and more whimsical) dungeons from back in the day had a large tavern/inn (it extended into both the 4th and 5th levels I think). It served both the intelligent residents who would like such a place goblins, dwarves from the forge level, Rakshasa, etc (it was sort of a neutral zone, and also acted as a mini-market place), unique regulars from other places in the world (the 5th level of the dungeon had several gateways to different parts of the world and even Asgard I think), and of course any visiting adventurers. Although barroom fights were common, there was magic that prevented anything but daggers from being able to harm a living creature (the tavern guards could of course harm others with weapons) or any damaging spells from being used.

    It was a safe haven for beaten-up parties to recover and hang out - for a pretty penny. A place to resupply to a degree as well. It was all pretty crazy and wacky in retrospect, but I was going to reuse it for a dungeon I was doing up for my group a couple or so years ago while we were still new, but I ended up taking the campaign to The Night Below instead. Now I'm sort of past my nostalgia for funhouse dungeons, so it's doubtful I will ever use that out of place local in a dungeon setting. Ah well.

  14. I much prefer the magical pool and magical tree and indeed all good stuff to await adventurers in the Enchanted Forest. I always love adventures in an Enchanted Forest with the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carrol, Clive Staples Lewis and Peter Pan.

  15. The area that got revisited the most was actually the fair just outside the entrance. It started out with some enterprising merchants setting up shops and stalls to provide adventurer needs. Permanent construction was prohibited, but this didn't prevent setting up booths and stalls. Technically they weren't permanent...

    They sold all sorts of adventurer supplies, magic potions (some of which even worked as advertised), 11 foot poles, maps of the dungeon (surprisingly authentic ones), etc, all at a modest mark-up. Merchants and money-changers would be there to convert your loot into something more portable. There even was an armourer and blacksmith with portable forges for those repairs. In addition their were food vendors selling bubbly pies and rat-on-a-stick, entertainer, people selling souvenir T-Tunics with humorous sayings ("I visited the dungeon and the only loot I got was this lousy* T-Tunic"],

    You could hire guides and henchmen, and people looking for a fellow party members would gather there (there was indeed, a tavern under canvas for those wishing to indulge in the stereotypical dungeoneering behaviour of meeting in a pub). For a while there were even a party running tourist packages down into the dungeon for civilians, including an attack by some fearsome ravening kobolds, but that fell apart when another party of player character adventurers accidentally wiped out the kobolds.

    I'm not exactly sure why the dwarven steam calliope happened to be there, but it was a pet project of one of the player characters, who felt the fair should have one. Fortunately he died before he could start on the merry-go-round or ferris wheel.

    The only semi-permanent structure (if those terms could ever be applied to troll-based engineering sciences), was the infamous "Gobbledoks Vegetarian Restaurant - We Serve Elves", the rather infamous troll-run restaurant that was a particular favourite of the Palace Guard and City Watch (which explains the few times that the elves tried to burn it down (with the chef de cuisine inside), they failed miserably).

    In the actual dungeon itself there were a number of locations with interesting effects, but none were really all that popular. "The Colliseum" was popular with both adventurers and denizens of the dungeon - it was a small arena that actually made a roaring business hosting fights. It was run by a group of medusae, and got the name colliseum from the large number of life-like statues decorating the outside of the arena from those who violated the neutrality of the area. Again, a safe harbour allowed the creation of ancillary enterprises. Who knew that Kobold Cockroach Beer was actually quite yummy? [Kobolds tended to survive by instantly surrendering to anyone bigger than they were, so they were probably the most ubiquitous species in the dungeon, and could be found everywhere making deliveries and doing general custodial duties.]

    "The Bridge of Sighs" was another common meeting spot, mainly because it was a bottle-neck between what people considered the inner and outer dungeons. But the views were magnificent (which is why the dungeon master** installed powerful light spells here and carved viewing galleries on either side of the bridge), so I like to think that adventurers spend their downtime here admiring the view...

    1. The missing footnotes...

      [* There was truth in advertising in this particular case.]

      [** Yes there was an actual living*** dungeon master who had built the dungeon and maintained it for a very specific reason. There was a publicly known entrance (hence the fair). Someone actually came close to managing to assassinate the dungeon master, and would probably have succeeded if he had of chosen his friends more wisely.****]

      [*** Well, it was a lich. Who technically ruled the city under whose palace the dungeon had been built (the city was actually run by the orcs of the Palace Guard who discovered - never buy a used chariot from an orc!).]

      [**** I like to think of it though as being stopped in sheer surprise at seeing a lich resting comfortably in a big armchair near an open fire ("the bones feel the chill when you get as old as I am"), wearing a dressing gown, night cap, and pair of pink bunny slippers,***** and watching his magic mirror playing a scene of adventurers in the dungeon.******]

      [***** Players were disappointed that the slippers weren't made from real bunnies. Who did they think it was - a barbarian? (Insane on the other hand, quite probably.)]

      [****** Not the reason for the dungeon, btw. Just a useful side-effect.]

    2. Fantastic stuff, your group will remember your sessions forever.

  16. In the Dungeon of Voorand, I had one room be the Teleporting Inn. On a roll of 1 in 6, it was there. Otherwise there was just some faint lingering junk and distant crowd noises indicating that something was there. It caused a revisit by my curious players.

    Another one I put on level one, to make it more interesting to revisit, even when they mainly explored lower levels. It was a room with small booths along one wall, with levers in them. The summoned small monsters, served up some treasure or increased a random attribute. It was popular to revisit, especially when bringing new characters into the dungeon.

    I seem to remember one of those summoning a Skullbomb once. It flied around the room, biting and being a nuisance, before exploded at zero hits, killing the poor sod who summoned it.