Audio download available here.
Audio download – Episode 1 – The Hammer of Hommlet
I recently launched my Patreon page, and I felt it was important to a) let you know that it exists, b) tell you my thinking behind it, and where I’d like to go with it, and c) ask you to give towards it while making sure you know that I don’t expect anything from you guys at all. Anything you give is absolutely appreciated, is a complete surprise, and motivates me to work harder and harder to be worth the money you pledge. But more on that later.
I love writing for D&D. It gets me up in the morning, keeps me alive during work, and relaxes me when I get home. I am constantly running ideas through my head for new campaigns, new regions, new characters, new monsters. I want to do so much; I’m already running one online game on a weekly basis, and am recording it to put up as a podcast; I try my best to write for the blog at least once a week (something I’m failing at due to pressures from work and other projects); I will soon be running a Patreon supporters’ game on a monthly basis; I’m building a campaign world, and campaign arcs for other DMs to use, for eventual sale through private channels (since I want to be able to provide PDFs to Patreon supporters, DMs Guild is out of the question).
Eventually, I want to be running two physical D&D games, each fortnightly, alternating weeks, to help build out Talomire and playtest the setting. I want to start writing Talomire-based fiction to give the world flavour and texture. I want to hire people to write, draw, etc. I want to add YouTube videos to my content, complimenting my posts or discussing things I can’t fit into 1,500 words. Finally, I want to get some of my friends together for a irregular podcast chatting about the differing ways we prepare for games, build worlds and run adventures.
Patreon is a fantastic way for me to begin to build this venture. It allows me to reward patrons with exclusive PDFs, access to our Talomire Slack group, and even to the patrons-only game! I really want to expand this, allowing patrons to be included in adventures, help create storylines and NPCs, etc, etc. I love the concept of fans contributing to the development of the thing they love, and Patreon is the best way for me to do that.
Rewards and Goals.
At the moment I have three reward tiers:
$3+ – PDFs of every map I make, along with descriptions of the rooms, and how I plan to use them.
I plan on getting back into map-making proper, and release a new map every two weeks. Alongside this I want to include a Homebrewery-made PDF detailing each of the rooms in the same way I would for a published adventure. The idea is that DMs can use these maps and the room descriptions in their own personal campaigns as a ‘drag and drop’ feature, should they ever need them. Eventually I’d like to be able to move this to once a week (and way down the line hire someone to help with this), doubling the bang for your buck.
$5+ – PDFs of everything I release for Talomire, before they are released for general sale, as well as access to the Talomire Slack group.
This is the level I really think is going to be worth starting at in the next few months. There are a number of full length campaigns I want to detail, as well as regional supplements and homebrewed rules, all of which will be included in this deal. Previous tiers’ rewards are also included.
$10+ – Access to the patron-only, online game (limited to 5 patrons).
I’m really excited about this game, and already have two backers who want to play! It’s giving me a fantastic chance to explore new areas of the map, and begin to expand Talomire beyond the Northwilds, which is awesome.
Eventually, if I earn enough through Patreon to work on it full time, I’d love to open this up to more backers and run a second (or even a third!) game! At the moment things are fairly open, but I do plan on setting a firm time and rough length for the game, to help me plan my month out. When this happens, all patrons on this tier will be given plenty of warning, should they wish to either adjust or cancel their pledge if the game is no longer viable for them. Of course, I don’t want this to happen, so I’ll be working with you guys to make it work for everyone.
At the moment, my goals are as follows:
- $150/month – I plan on starting print runs of my PDFs, complete with commissioned artwork.
- $500/month – I plan on spending more time running the blog as a business, reducing my work hours to give myself more time to develop content.
- $1000/month – At this point I want to be working full time on the blog (subject to conversations with my wife, of course!). This would include the YouTube channel, podcasts, etc.
- $1500/month – This is where I get really pie-in-the-sky. I would love to hire somebody to come onboard. At the moment I’m undecided on the role, but it’s a toss up between writer and DM, hopefully with an artistic streak. This is very likely to be a way off (should I be so lucky), but I feel it’s important to treat these goals seriously, and mark out the path I want to be walking down eventually.
- $2000+/month – Here we enter the world of investing in people and products; the world of starting a business, publishing my work on scale. Again, this is in no way defined, it’s just an idea of where I want to go.
The Call To Action.
I can’t do this without you. It’s really that simple. The things I want to release and the content I want to write and record need investment of both time and money, and I want to be in a place to give both . If you enjoy my content, and want to see more of it, have a gander at my Patreon page and consider giving some money towards the dream! That said, please don’t feel that you need to. The map PDFs will still be summarised in much the same way that Aesolyn’s Halls were, and all the Talomire content will available for sale.
If you do give towards the blog, then you have my unreserved thanks and gratitude. Unless you’ve been given money by people to do what you love, you can’t know the humbling experience that it is. It makes me want to work harder, smarter and better to give you all the content you deserve. Hopefully I can do that.
My Patreon can be found here: www.patreon.com/sundaynightdm
To kick off this short series of ‘articles’ (I shudder to use the word; it makes me feel like I’m weighed down by my almost-three years of 5e DMing experience…) on the various DM resources I use, I thought I’d tackle the topic of education and self-improvement. As the DM it is often our choices that decide whether or not our players had fun. The words we choose to describe the player’s surroundings, options and action; the monsters we choose to throw in their way; the plot twists we choose to spring upon them. Every moment we make choices that can make or break the fun your players are having.
Now while that’s all very dramatic, and not always 100% true, it should get the point across that your job is, surprise, surprise, difficult. And if your job is difficult, you’re
always likely to get something wrong from time to time. That’s where these resources come in. They are designed to teach you the lessons of what must account to almost 100 years of D&D experience. Watch them, read them, absorb what you love, and put aside what you don’t.
1 – Matt Colville. Seriously, like, do I even need to say this?
Matt Colville is probably the best DM to watch online. Really. Regardless of how you feel about his DMing style, what he has to teach you in his Running the Game series is freakin’ gold. Wanna know how to control the flow of information? Here. Wanna understand the sociology of D&D? Here.
Matt has a wealth of experience, and puts it forward in such an infectiously energetic way that you immediately want to go and play the game. His videos, from the campaign diaries, to his series building a fighter in the early versions of D&D have inspired so much of what I run today. It’s incredible stuff, and I thoroughly recommend watching it from start to finish.
2 – Matt Mercer. King of the Geeks.
Yep, the other no-brainer. The obvious start point is his GM Tips series on Geek and Sundry, or Critical Role, but simply Googling his name and watching almost any video that comes up will do. Where Matt Colville has taught me the game, and how to run it, Matt Mercer has taught me the joy and the skill of roleplaying. This is his real strength, born from his career as a voice actor. His ability to drive narrative, switch between NPCs at the drop of a hat, to roleplay the good guys and the bad guys with such realism, all of this is truly inspiring to someone who has, only recently, attempted giving his NPCs accents, or even speaking in character. This literally changed my game.
All that is to say nothing of the man’s preparation. Whereas everything else on this list is specifically designed to educate, Matt Mercer is best watched and absorbed in his natural habitat; behind the screen. Seeing his prep, his ability to create new characters of the fly, his encyclopedic knowledge of Alexandria, and even the way he orders initiative, it is all a master class in DMing.
Lastly, I feel like a DM’s weaknesses are every bit as useful for teaching as their strengths. Matt’s constant use of certain words (I’m looking at you, Brackish, Energy, Entity, et al) has made me aware of how quickly someone can have their suspension of disbelief shattered at the jarring realisation that they’ve heard a word a lot in the last few minutes.
3 – Kobold Press’s Guide to Worldbuilding. 190+ pages of total genius.
This is something I literally discovered in Travelling Man Newcastle earlier today, so I don’t know a huge amount about it. What I do know is that after flicking through it and finding the essay on how to build realistic worlds that have a fantastical flair to them I needed to own it.
Truthfully, that’s about all I feel qualified to comment on, though I think you’ll be hearing more from me on it in the near future. Until then, go check it out.
4 – Drunkens & Dragons. The opposite of Matt Colville.
Hankerin Ferinale is a very different DM to the guys I usually watch. That isn’t a good reason not to give him a watch, though. Drunkens & Dragons is a much more mechanical game, where the DM screen is stripped away, where DCs are left out in the open for players to see, and where, often, big monsters’ actions are judged less by roleplay on the part of the DM, and more by predetermined reactions to certain stimuli (much like a series of If/Else statements in programming). The overall feel is more akin to a computer game in it’s mechanical fidelity than a shared narrative experience.
That said, there is so much depth and genius in here. From concepts like ‘room DCs’, where the DC for every challenge in a room is set to a specific DC, to countdowns, to creating video game-like patterns that the players can learn and use against the monster they’re fighting, there are mechanical wonders throughout these videos.
But there’s also a freedom to Hank’s game that was a breath of fresh air to me. Videos such as his Lair of Knowledge series introduced me to new rules systems, books on English landscapes and fiction that has had a lasting influence on the worlds I build. He doesn’t really play D&D. Sure, 5e is the backbone of his game, but stuff like DCC RPG, and his own Index Card RPG have made their way in, as he cobbles together all the rules he likes and just makes them work together through sheer force of will.
5 – WebDM. Thanks Andy, for this damned rabbit hole.
Again, I assume you already know about these guys, but they really are amazing. Good, long, 20 minute videos discussing a single topic, regularly things I’ve never really put much thought into. Lawful Outsiders, for example. Damn.
This one’s pretty cut and dry. They talk in depth about stuff, throw out ideas, and various ways to implement these monsters and concepts into your campaigns. They have a depth of knowledge, and they know the game incredibly well. They’ve played across a number of editions, and have all that lore to draw on. It’s amazing to sit and watch, and to learn from.
6 – Chris Perkins. The DM of all DMs.
The master himself, Chris Perkins has been writing and talking about D&D for decades. He was the lead developer on the Monster Manual, and is in charge of D&D story. The man is a creative genius. The Dungeon Master Experience is an amazing history of Chris’ home campaign, detailing his successes and failures, and how you can learn from them. Acquisitions Inc. is incredible. Until I saw Critical Role, Chris Perkins was the DM I emulated, and his various panels, games and articles are still teaching me to this day.
Without going into much detail, here are a few bits and bobs I think are worth investing some time into:
- Dragontalk – The official D&D podcast (especially Lore You Should Know and Sage Advice)
- Mike Mearls and/or Jeremy Crawford interviews
- Well Met, Adventurers – One of my favourite fellows here on WordPress. Lovely guy. Check him out, and tell him I said hi.
- The DMG. Really. I overlook it so much as a reference document, and ignore so much of the amazing content in there. Same goes for every other release. There’s something in every one of them.
If you have any other resources you love learning from, please comment and let me know. I wanna learn as much as I can so that I can give my players the best experience I can give them.
Also, in other news, I recently launched my Patreon campaign. If you enjoy what I’m doing here, and want to contribute towards my time (and pick up some rewards in the process), then head over to https://www.patreon.com/SundayNightDM and see what’s on offer.
Finally, on Monday, myself, @the.dank.dm, Liam Lowery and Declan Keane recorded the first episode of our Talomire podcast. I ran Baldun, Ezikiel and Ethos (respectively) through their first steps in my world, and boy did it go interestingly…I’m looking to have that online this Sunday, assuming all things go well, otherwise next Sunday (14/5). That podcast will hopefully be uploaded weekly. I have plans for a second, irregular podcast, the first episode dealing with me and two of my friends, and how we DM. Really looking forward to recording that one.
Anyway, thanks again. Feel free to follow me on my various social media accounts (links below…Instagram is bae), and drop me a line if you wanna chat.
Time had slowed to a crawl. The night air stung at her face as she drove her celestial mount on, the heavy plates of her armour beating noisily against each other with each movement of the strange mount. But now was not the time for stealth, or uncertain action. Her face was set towards the horizon, and whatever doom lurked over it. Tyrol was there, or so the Waterdhavian guard had said. So too was Yuki, in carriage destined for the beast’s lair.
Arveene settled into the familiar movements of the horse, the motions lulling her like a child’s song into a sombre meditation. She thought back to her childhood, to the old clerics of Red Larch and the kind years spent with them…she reflected on the sacking of the Sumber Hills, of the ruins of ancient Myth Drannor, and of the eight-winged solar Arius, terrible in his splendour, great in his mercy, and Inevitable in the telling of the doom held for her. Arveene bristled at this last memory, and the solar’s words came to her as clear as if he was whispering in her ear. The hairs on her neck bristled, and a shiver ran down her back. Settling once more Arveene closed her eyes, her steed knowing her thoughts and intentions, and slipped into her recollections. Maybe this time she would find the seed of inspiration, the key to understanding her doom. And if not, she would do what she had been taught to do all her life; protect those too weak to protect themselves, and smite those who would seek to do harm…
The Abbey at Red Larch – 13 years ago.
“Aasu-imarr, a Celestial phrase meaning ‘new-birth’, which has its roots set firmly in the draconic language. It also finds it’s way into the eastern tongue; Aasil Marai, ‘doom child'”. The old man closed his eyes sagely, nodding almost imperceptibly to himself, proud of the knowledge he had acquired over his long years. The small, blonde girl before him looked up at him, abject terror in her young face,
“Doom child?!” she wailed, “Doom child?! Abbot Diarmaid, what doom?!” She glanced hurriedly around, as if looking to bolt. Her older companion opened his eyes again and studied her. He quickly realised her confusion, and his error.
“Arveene, quiet yourself girl. I do not mean ‘doom’, as if you were to cause the end of all things. I would barter that you shan’t even end this village, never you mind this nation or world…no, no, no…’doom’ is an old world, heavy laden with meaning and subtly. It is fate, purpose. It is given by one with authority, or it is assumed as a mantle. A quest is a type of doom. Paladins of yore took their dooms from the divine soothsayers who called themselves avatars, when the world was young. Such practices have fallen away, however, so I should not worry. But, many had said the same of the Aasimar…” He looked into the small girl’s eyes, the burden of his many years weighing heavy on his tired frame. He smiled, and the girl smiled sheepishly back. “Come now, let us go to Master John and see what treats await us in the kitchens”.
Master John was bent over the blackened, iron pot when Arveene and the elderly abbot came silently into the tiny room. The air was hot and humid, and the space cramped. A decently sized table dominated the centre of the room, with racks of utensils, not to mention the overbearing fireplace and huge, iron stewing pot, scattered around the edges of the room. Raven glanced questioningly up at the abbot, who nodded slyly, gesturing with his cane to the unsuspecting master.
A moment later there was a high pitched scream, the sound of metal clattering across stone, and the hearty laugh of two young souls putting aside the burdens life had placed upon them.
The Stables Outside Waterdeep – 1 hour ago.
The armoured figure came at her again. She ignored the pressing danger and pressed her hand against the wound in Mellifluent’s side, the healing vitality spreading from the snow white gauntlet encasing it. Mellifluent gasped, her eyes snapping open. The old tiefling woman looked into Arveene’s eyes, then over her shoulder. Her mouth opened to scream a warning, only to be cut off as Arveene rolled her forcefully away, shouting a divine invocation to shield her from the blow aimed squarely at her head.
It worked. The weapon lost its way in the folds of her cloak, landing viciously on the shield affixed to her arm. She cried in pain, falling to one knee. Al, the foreman from Woodsmere, stood above her, his brutal, spiked armour glinting slightly in the moonlight, a cruel smile playing across his face. Arveene’s cry of pain morphed into a scream of primal, animalistic rage. She surged up at her foe, her warhammer, The Loyal Fury, bursting into white, ethereal flame as she swung it wide towards Al’s head. He dodged back, the swing catching his breastplate and staggering him. He caught his fall, but too late. The hammer carried its momentum and swung down again, catching Al square in the shoulder and shattering bones with the force of the blow. He fell hard to the ground, coughing blood as he felt his insides move in ways they shouldn’t.
Arveene surveyed the field. Mellifluent was caring for the cleric they had picked up on their last adventure, while Maljape and Mirabelle put their assailant out of his misery. The party was spent, injured, and desperately needed rest. Arveene sighed. Oyuki was on her way to Tyrol’s estate on her own. There was no doubt in her mind that Yuki would kill Tyrol, it was a skill of hers, but Arveene could not imagine a way in which Yuki would make it out alive. Speed was key, and information needed. She bent down, laying her hands on the exposed left shoulder of the prostrate foreman, the broken armour not so much as scratching the paint from the shining white gauntlet. Bones knit together beneath her touch, and bleeding slowed. There was nothing for it. Maljape and Mellifluent would have to remain behind to interrogate this prisoner. With any luck the rest of them could reach Yuki’s carriage before she arrived at the estate. In the worst case scenario the could provide some aid to her as she tried to escape. Once again the burden of doom laid heavy on Arveene, her white gauntlet shining in the moonlight, reflected against the plain, steel plates of her armour. So much death these past weeks…so much pain. For a moment the age old temptation to run rose it’s ugly head. To cast aside her weapons, her armour, to run far from this forsaken coast and back to the ruins of her home. To the Dales, to the broken stones of Myth Dranor…
Arveene stood, her warhammer held loosely at her side. She shook the heaviness from her, exorcising the bone-deep desire to flee, and set off back to the party, dragging the fallen figure who’s life she had so readily saved.
I my last post I began my run down of the Halls of Aesolyn. To go check that out, click here! But now, on with the rooms!
Behind a secret door (a stone wall which can be pushed backwards and moved aside), which can be discovered on a DC15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. The room is diamond shaped, with an alcove directly across from the door. In the alcove stands a leering demon statue, 6 feet tall and standing on a large, high dais. In it’s hand is a scimitar made of blackened steel, with a crossguard of bleached bone, and a human leather grip etched with golden script too ancient to understand. The scimitar is a +2 weapon with the following special rules:
- Bloody Wound:When you hit a living creature with this weapon, you can choose to make a superficial but bloody wound. The attack deals no damage, but the target suffers 1d8 slashing damage, minus their Constitution modifier (to a minimum of 1), at the beginning of each of it’s turns until it or an ally makes a DC10 Wisdom (Medicine) check as an action, or until it receives magical healing.
- The Devil’s Curse: You gain the ability to speak Abyssal and Infernal. Each time you speak one of these languages, all neutral and good creatures around you must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC = 10 + Charisma (Intimidation) modifier), or be frightened of you for 1 minute. (Recommended: DM only should be aware of this until it becomes apparent).
- Emnity of Halsh: Halsh, a Chain Devil in the service of a Lord of the Hells, becomes aware of the character attuned to this weapon. He will seek to take the weapon from the wielder, and kill them. He will then take the weapon back to The Hells, and there torture the devil that resides within, eventually destroying the weapon. (Recommended: DM only should be aware of this until it becomes apparent).
This room is the home of a Spirit Naga. As the party walk in they see a lush, but over grown room with a floor carpeted with various sizes of writhing snakes. The snakes are a clever illusion, which will be noticed by any character with a passive Intelligence or passive Wisdom of 15 or higher, or any character who rolls higher than DC15 on an Intelligence (Investigation) check. Lavish couches line the walls, paintings of lascivious men and women, intertwined with massive snakes with human faces. Snakes carpet the floors, and even seem to be used as keys by the individuals in the paintings. The party can make Intelligence (Religion) checks to recognise the bizarre, snake-like creatures:
- DC 20: Nagas are the legendary, immortal guardians of Stycian myth, that protect knowledge, rituals, magic items, and magical locations.
- DC 25: Neither starvation nor old age will ever claim a naga, but it can be destroyed. Some nagas abandon their roles as guardians to achieve personal power, setting themselves up as the rulers of primitive tribes of reptilian humanoids.
- DC 30: Different nagas guard different types of knowledge. Guardian nagas usually guard arcane secrets, rituals, and powerful items. Bone nagas guard necromantic secrets or the places of the dead—particularly tombs, sepulchers, and catacombs
where the remains of powerful evil creatures reside. They also guard portals to the Shadowfell. Dark nagas guard prophecies and oracles, along with relics and rituals related to the same. They also protect magical locations in the Underdark.
A Spirit Naga, old long before the elves took Talomire from the orcs and dragons of ages past, lurks in the deep shadows of the rafters, hidden from all sight. It will wait for an advantageous moment to strike.
There are two doors leading from this room. Both are locked, and require keys to open. The keys are, in fact, enchanted snakes. The door to Area I is opened with a small, green and black adder, and the door to Area J is unlocked with an evil looking King Cobra. When a character finds one, and picks it up, it stiffens, and twitches itself into the shape of a small, intricate key. These two snakes are the only real snakes in the room, aside from the Naga. They can be found with a DC20 Intelligence (Investigation) check, although other options (such as, for example, dispelling the illusion spell) will make this far easier.
This room is made up of a small, round room with a very high, domed ceiling, and three, hidden, rooms. Each of these rooms contains a spell scroll. Either decide which spells are in each room, or randomly decide on the spell scroll levels using the table on page 200 of the 5e DMG.
As the party enter, the notice a new, lithe, female figure amongst them. She walks ahead of them, and stops, looking at them. She speaks, and each character hears her words in their own native tongue. She tells them that there are three spell scrolls in this room, hidden behind the walls, and she tells them what those spells scrolls are, but not which door they are behind. She then points to each of the hidden doors and asks the players to choose one. When they have chosen, she picks one at random. The door she chooses opens, the scroll levitates towards her, and she informs the players which scroll she is holding. It bursts into flames, and is destroyed. Finally, she asks the players if they are happy with their decision, or if they would like to change their choice. The door the finally decide to choose opens, and the spell scroll levitates towards them, and is theirs to take. The scroll they do not take is destroyed at this point.
If the party attempt to cheat the process through magic or sleight of hand, the woman will warn them. If they try a second time, she flies into a rage and attacks the party, becoming a Ghost. She will attempt to use her Horrifying Visage on her first turn, and then will simply attack the party. She can also, as an action, summon one of the spell scrolls to herself, and can then attempt to cast it later, as an action.
The room is incredibly dark. In the centre stands a Yuan-Ti male, with a cobra head. He gives the party a choice; in one hand he holds a small, wooden owl. In the other he holds a golden apple.
The owl represents wisdom. In Aesolyn’s mind, the wise thing to do is to turn around and leave. These halls are not for the meek. Only the reckless and the ambitious can truly attain greatness in magic…
The apple represents knowledge, and a desire for power.
If any member of the party chooses the owl, they are instantly teleported to the entrance. The door closes, and the Halls vanish, reappearing in 1d6 months, within 3d12 miles. If a party member takes the apple, however, the Yuan-Ti smiles, then slowly vanishes, his gleaming grin disappearing last, like the Cheshire Cat. The secret door leading to Area K opens, light streaming into the room down the passageway.
Area K is a simple corridor, ending in a long, spiral staircase down into the next layer of the Halls, where Aesolyn’s true powers, and dangers, lie…
I hope this dungeon has given you some ideas to run with. It is by no means a complete dungeon, but that’s kinda the point. Take what you like, get rid of what you don’t, and make the dungeon your own. If you use this map, or any part of this dungeon in commercial work, then please do include credit, and a link to this blog (my name is Chris Hately, by the way!), and feel free to fire me your content, and I’ll happily review it on the blog!
Anyway, thank you as always, and I’ll speak to you soon.
When I started building Talomire one of the things I wanted was an open world, ready for the players and the DM to make their own. My main thrust, therefore, has been building overarching concepts and motivations, rather than individual stories (something I’ve tended to rest on in the past). It also means I need to have a whole lot of maps and locations hanging around for when my players decide they want to wander out west towards The Spine Mountains, and not to the plot hook set up in Northtower or Briarwood. So I thought, why not try to bat out a map or two a week, and stick them up here for people to use however they want?
The Halls of Aesolyn
The map I’m working on at the moment is the first level of a two floor (so far…) dungeon. The infamous archmage Aesolyn, the arcane mistress of the ruined city of Anghath, is rumoured to have store houses of knowledge through out the world, relics from her days of wandering the earth for lost arcane knowledge. These halls are one of those early storehouses, abandoned for decades to wither and rot…or so the rumours would have you believe…
My wife wants to play a wizard for the first time. Now, I’m houseruling the DCC RPG rules (see my earlier post) to make magic rarer, more volatile and to add an RP element to the learning and using of magic. Wizards do not simply learn any spell they wish when they level up; instead they must search for magic, kill other wizards and conduct their own research into their arcane art. This dungeon is designed to give her wizard a time to shine, and rumours to hunt down while, at the same time, challenging the whole party. It is designed for level 5 players, although I am not hugely interested in perfect balance.
I’ve included (as you might have guessed) a labelled and unlabelled version on the map. That way you can either use the same basic concepts as my dungeon, or create your own rooms, traps and encounters.
This room is designed to do two things. It’s opulent couches and decor are meant to tell the players that this place is filled with riches. They may not be the riches some players are thinking of, or wanting, but there are wonders held within these walls…
It also offers the players a choice. There are two, heavy doors (requiring a DC13 Strength check to open). The left hand door is decorated with a large, bronze devils head. The right hand door is the same, but with a leering Cobra with cursed rubies for eyes (dealing damage to any player who touches them with the specific intent to take them). Both lead down different paths, with different types of encounters. The Devil’s Road (rooms A-G) is filled with traps and encounters, bizarre puzzles and deceptions. The Snake’s Road, on the other hand, appears safe to begin with, but hides a lethal nature.
Aesolyn originates in the desert regions far, far south of Talomire. This room is the first real hint of that. It is also the first true deception. The room is lined with sandstone bricks, and two oak doors stand opposite the entrance. When opened, any player within five feet must pass a Dex save or be knocked prone and take damage. At the same time, the wooden boards holding the ceiling up crack and splinter, releasing a torrent of sand into the room. The players are on a timer from that point (I recommend either a 5 minute sand-timer (very thematic and evocative, considering), or entering initiative and giving the players 1d4 rounds to find their way through. After the first round (or the first 30 seconds, if you’re using a timer), movement is halved. If the time runs out, the room is completely filled, and players must pass Str saves in order to act, taking damage every turn they’re in the submerged room. Movement is halved, and checks are made at disadvantage.
There are, however, two secret exits. Both are simply thin sandstone with nothing behind them, where the rest of the walls are backed with natural stone. They are not easy to find; knocking on the walls and listening for echoes, or crawling on the floor, feeling for a breeze will discover them, but there is no secret latch or button to discover.
Area C(i) + C(ii)
This passage way is the time for rogues to shine. There are two traps, though one appears a couple of times, and all appear in the right angles of the passage. This is deliberate. The first trap is potentially lethal, depending on your party make up, and will (hopefully) drive a feeling of paranoia into the players. The subsequent traps, once the players work out the pattern, should be easily defeated, giving them a sense of satisfaction at having a) worked out the pattern, and b) beaten the trap.
C(i) is a fairly complex trap to explain, so let me do my best. There are three parts to it:
- The pressure plate. The pressure plate is in the first right angle of the corridor. The first time a character steps on the plate, it primes the trap, but nothing happens. The second time the pressure plate is depressed, however, springs the first part of the trap…
- The walls, and the rot grubs. As soon as the pressure plate is triggered for a second time, two walls fall from the ceiling, enclosing the player on the plate in a 5ft x 5ft space. Ideally, this will mean that one player is trapped, alone, on one side of the trap (herein called Player One), one player is trapped within the trap (herein called Player Two), and the rest of the party are behind the trap (herein called The Party), with no means of moving forward. The walls can be attacked, and have an AC of 15, and 20 hit points. To add injury to insult, the ceiling above the Player Two cracks, and a shower of Rot Grubs falls onto him/her. He/she has to make Dex saves each turn (its worth moving to initiative here, to make life easy for yourself), or have rot brubs bury themselves into their flesh. They deal 1d6 piercing damage in the turn they burrow into the character’s flesh, and deal 1d6 necrotic damage each subsequent turn. The necrotic damage also lowers the character’s hit point maximum. If the HP max hits 0, the character dies. Fire destroys the infestation in the character, though the character will take the full brunt of the fire damage. Lay On Hands can treat the infestation as a disease, and either Greater or Lesser Restoration will destroy the rot grubs.
- The crossbow trap, and optional combat encounter. Player One, having avoided the trap, will likely wheel around to see what has befallen his/her friend. While this happens, a delayed fuse ticks away. In the second round of combat, the trap triggers, firing a crossbow bolt at Player One, who must make a Dex save (at disadvantage, if they’re concentrating on helping their friend). Now, if you, as the DM, feel that The Party will break through the walls of the trap too easily, you can have one or two Dust Mephits attack from the ceiling. They’re 1/2CR creatures, and no threat to The Party…but they’ll be attacking the squishy members of the party, meaning whoever is on this side of the trap has to decide whether to attack the Mephits, or the walls. This could end with a PC death, however, so be careful.
C(ii) is relatively simple. At each right angle there is another crossbow trap, triggered by a thin tripwire at chest height. The tripwires are triggered as the characters turn the corner, with the crossbows firing down the length of that section of the passage. I haven’t marked every one on, but my assumption is that every right angled corner on the Devil’s Road has one of these traps.
If the players head through the other door, they enter a comfortable bedroom. On the bed sits a blind man, covered in a cowl. The man is a devil, held here by Aesolyn. He sits in silence, and if the party ask him any questions, he simply ignores them. If they attempt to touch him, he recoils and lashes out at them. His eyes are hidden in the room, one in a portrait of Aesolyn herself (the eye is two dimensional to look at, but one eyes looks significantly different to the other…out of place. If the party reach into the painting they can pull the eye out), and the other is on the bedside table, in amongst a set of small marbles. Once his eyes have been returned to him, the pit fiend, now in his true form, vanishes, throwing the room into a magical darkness. A single point of light in the distance leads the party through the. now open, secret passage which leads out of the room.
This room is fairly straight forward. The party walk in, and after a short period of investigation hear a low pitched growl, which is taken up by multiple voices around the room. Then, bursting from the cells, come six Hell Hounds. Now…that’s a truly deadly encounter…so I plan on halving the HP of each dog to around 20, and roughly halving their damage output. The fight will still be hard, but won’t be impossible.
The last room I’m going to go into in this post (it’s 22:45, and my wife is downstairs). I’m still a little unsure about what exactly to do with it. There will be one big baddy, and at the moment I’m leaning towards a chain devil, although multiple basilisks are tempting. The room will also be very dark, with sight reduced (magically, or course) to half distance. Also, and I’ll go into more detail in the next post, Area G will contain a cursed magical item which is very good at killing demons…but may also work to make you sell your soul to it. But we’ll get there, probably tomorrow.
Let me know what you think of the dungeon so far! I’m pretty happy with it so far, especially a couple of those traps. Also, huge props to @the_pickled_dragon for reminding me about rot grubs. That made my day.
Part Two is finished now too! Go check it out!