View Full Version : A rather creative dungeon crawl.

Dread Angel
2012-09-30, 06:48 AM
Hello Playgrounders!

I've just been designing this dungeon for a portion of my campaign that I anticipate the players probably reaching tonight.

Small background: The party is running about the continent (Golarion, pathfinder setting) fetching various magic items from various locations to help them break the BBEG's haha-you-cant-hit-me shield. They've just finished winning a rather cool swordbow in a gladiatorial tournament up in the north in the Lands of the Linnorm kings (the PC that won the tournament played so well it amazed me, with tactics and forethought and everything!!! I NEVER see this from this group!) and one of the ones they're intending to go after soon is a pair of magic gauntlets.

Now, these gauntlets are in the possession of a Mercane named Zjakklin (an homage to my best friend, Zack Lynn) who is a bit of a sleazy, used car salesman type guy....except he hawks souls. He is based in Katapesh, in the Nightstalls (massive open bazaar for literally everything and everyone across the planes, very very very fun location). The PCs find him, but likely won't be able to pony up the asking price (level 2 and he wants basically a stack of magic items for these gauntlets, mercanes don't do cash). As they're discussing it, another NPC walks up and bargains for the soul of a young gold dragon (this is me foreshadowing the sequel to this campaign, this NPC is a very important dude and the BBEG of it is a gold dragon...lots of good material here but I'll explain it at some future thread)

Zjakklin agrees, and goes to fetch the soul from his magic chest...which blatantly refuses to cough up the proper item. After an embarassing amount of searching, arguing and cursing, he offers the PCs a deal - fix the chest and they get the gauntlets.

The magic of the chest itself is actually a semisentient spell used to store and retrieve all manner of items in its own personal miniplane.

Zjakklin will transport them into the miniplane, but warns them that the magic is alive enough to recognize intruders and defend itself against them, but not actually enough to recognize that they are trying to heal it.


The PCs end up in a very colourful dungeon with a very outright magical atmosphere - no ceiling, just boundless stars and galaxies that don't really exist (or do they?), blue-stone floor and walls with glowing golden veins through them etc etc.

What sets this place apart is that the dungeon itself is alive. There are no actual monsters per se here....but there ARE a ton of magic items, not to mention souls of creatures. And the dungeon animates the items as the PCs find them. Example of such an encounter:

The PCs find a room with a blue tunic floating in the middle of it. This tunic is a Bolt Shirt, essentially allows a 60ft line of sight and effect teleport once per day as a move action (3.5 magic item compendium). The door vanishes as they enter, the walls begin showering sparks. The sparks fill the shirt, which assumes a vaguely humanoid form and begins teleporting around the room zapping the PCs for small amounts of damage. As its body is a constantly-renewing "swarm" of sparks, I gave it DR5/bludgeoning, but minimal HP. The tunic itself teleports around the room, and the sparks where it teleports refill it, so it heals itself for 2 HP every time it teleports...which is often.

Once the PCs defeat a given item they get to use it for the rest of the dungeon, but the items don't transfer with them when they return from the chest. They know this from the outset.

On top of that, the dungeon uses the souls trapped within it to "create" shadows and afterimages of the creatures. So they might end up fighting...pretty much anything Zjakklin has a soul in his inventory of...but at far less power than usual. So perhaps a gold dragon, for example, but with massively scaled down stats.

Not only is this a seriously cool variation on the normal dungeon style, it allows me to let the PCs get a taste of some seriously cool magic items without actually endangering the campaign itself, as they don't get to keep them or use them outside the dungeon at all ever.

What do you folks think? I absolutely love this idea I've had.

EDIT: Whenever they run into a soul spawned monster, it is bound to a nearby crystal embedded in the surface of the dungeon. When they reach the final room, they see one of these crystals, but it is covered in a dark purple mineral growth of some kind. It spawns the soul of the young gold dragon the NPC was asking about, which attacks them. As they defeat it, the growth spawns a black mist which infuses the corpse and reanimates it. The growth is the corruption which is attempting to take over the souls of all the creatures within the chest. Defeating the dragon spirit will destroy the intelligence behind the growth and fix the box. :D

2012-09-30, 08:46 AM
You could take a page from Skyrim, and have the bound souls cry and shout about how they're sorry, they didn't mean to attack the PCs, since they are bound and have no choice. Maybe have some more-faded souls gibbering in madness about how they've "got to get out of here got to get out got to got to get out... Purple rocks ate jimmy's head, got to get it back, fish it out, out of the rocks... noooononono... rocks too dangerous, can't go in there, NEVER"

Perhaps some of the souls think they're in Hell, but don't know why.

Rooms where the walls themselves try to crush them (treated like a Slam attack). Doors might also try to close themselves on the PCs in a similar attempt to injure/dismember them.

Magical turrets and constructs seem appropriate for the insides of a magic box. Perhaps the "non-corrupted" have blue crystal imbedded into them, and ask for a password to let the PCs by and kill them if they get it wrong. Corrupted ones have irregular growths of purple rock growing through cracks in their armor, and spout gibberish like . Sometimes they see "normal" and "corrupted" golems fighting each other.

Also, stick the Bound Souls' memories throughout the dungeon, too, as though they were projected images. That could make for some interesting encounters. Especially if the PCs fight a very weak ragged man with sunken, hopeless eyes. In the next room, they see a memory of the same man (a lot less ragged now, but still obviously poor) begging with Zjakklin about owing him a lot of money, Zjakklin insisting that they follow the "agreement", and pay his "debt". As Zjakklin draws a familiar soul-storing gem from his coat pocket, the poor man begins to scream in terror "No.. no! NO NO ANYTHING BUT THAT, PLEASE DON'T! I CAN PAY, JUST A FEW MORE- PLEASE NOO!!!".

This reminds me of the Mass Effect "Overlord" mission, in which Shepard goes into a virtual intelligence and fights Geth (programs?) therein, which were corrupted by an insane operator. Throughout the mission, the program shouts gibberish at Shepard.. but it gets more clear as you progress through the mission, and it turns out he's really saying "QUIET PLEASE MAKE IT STOP". Something about that feeling of madness and corruption in a simulated reality feels relevant here.

Dread Angel
2012-09-30, 11:06 AM
Mmmm I REALLY like the idea of having the souls doing the Skyrim thing, dunno why that didn't occur to me....Elder Scrolls freak that I am.

I dunno about the magical constructs....as they aren't in the chest itself so much as actually within the demiplane that the chest's magic uses to store the items, and as such is only represented as the dungeon. It's actually far more abstract than that, of course.

The place wasn't made to be invaded, or to have people running about inside it, and as such wouldn't actually have active defenses like golems turrets etc. Although I may stick an unguided-magic-missile-turret in one of the hallways, as there are multiple rooms that allow them to skip areas of hallway/passage if they actually venture into the room. The thing is, they will get quite careful quite quickly I think....

Once they go into any room at all the doors vanish until they deal with whatever is in the room..

2012-09-30, 07:59 PM
This reminds me a bit of EarthBound's Moonside (http://lparchive.org/Earthbound/Update%2018/) and Magicant (http://lparchive.org/Earthbound/Update%2030/). Perhaps play the Moonside Theme (http://tindeck.com/listen/vjcp) for this area.

Nyes the Dark
2012-10-01, 02:13 PM
I think it is an excellent concept, and I'd enjoy the taste of power you can look forward to. Plus, it has the benefit of letting you know, "Okay, so Jon likes the Armor of Resistance (or whatever), now I know he would enjoy finding a real set later".

If I had to think of a problem, perhaps the linear path might make it repetitive. Perhaps instead of doors vanishing and reappearing, they swap around or lead to new areas, complicating exploration. So you may have to walk through the same door 3 times in a row to make progress. That might be difficult to map, but it would be kind of exciting to get just a little lost.

2012-10-01, 04:13 PM
/sign Nyes

This setting screams non-euclidity to me... I've never done something like that before, but just imagine seeing the faces of your group when, after leaving a room through the "north" door, then took a left, a right, and another right, they just to reappear "3 rooms back", through the "east" door...
For additional fun, going back the way you came leads somewhere else completely...

Just number your rooms and each door in the room, and write down where each of the doors lead to (i.e. 5a->17c). If each door appears exactly once on each side of the "door key", it should be consistent.
Note that this way, going north, left, right, right in the above example ALWAYS leads back to the first room, so a logical approach remains possible.

Now how do I put that into my campaign...?:smallamused:

2012-10-02, 10:47 AM
If you ever make a full module of this I would certainly run it. This is an amazing idea.

2012-10-02, 12:32 PM
If you ever make a full module of this I would certainly run it. This is an amazing idea.
Agreed, this sounds awesome.

2012-10-06, 02:57 PM
Is it just me, or is a deceptively large pocket dimension built for storage turned into an ad-hoc mind-screw dungeon a job for a Hypercube dungeon?

Here are some previous takes on the idea you might enjoy:



(warning, some NSFW content at that last one, although not in the particular article that I linked)

2012-10-06, 06:22 PM
If you ever make a full module of this I would certainly run it. This is an amazing idea.

Agreed, or play in it for that matter. Sounds awesome!

2012-10-07, 01:34 AM
If you ever make a full module of this I would certainly run it. This is an amazing idea.

Yes. This is the stuff of legends. If I had the money, I'd pay for its publication myself.

2012-10-07, 07:55 PM
In the hypercube vein, how about a magical "sorting system" that is constantly moving items between rooms and re-arranging the rooms themselves. I'm picturing wallmasters from the Zelda series. There should be some way to disable the system that the players will probably have to use if they want any hope of navigating. But they'll need to turn it back on before they leave or the chest ceases to function.