Finally making some progress

I’ve finally, after two weeks (total, not consecutive) of not doing anything on it, I’ve finished the first level of my dungeon. I’ve changed my plans a lot in the process- this is a lot of work, especially since, though I’m trying to make every encounter potentially deadly- I don’t want them to be utterly hopeless. I also don’t like most of the low-level monsters. They are mostly animals, or mooky humanoids. I can dig the benefits of potential allies in the dungeon, but I also don’t want to use any goblins except “The spooky magic kind with shrill voices that scare birds and eat babies and make terrible things happen to you if you tell lies or touch their weird magic tree”.

So I’ve resized the first level to one sheet of graph paper (with a second page for details), and tried to scale up the treasure a bit. I’ve also made most of the encounters deliberately wierd, puzzly, friendly, etc. And in doing so, I think that I’ve split open my psyche and lightly sprinkled the page with it. I’ll give some samples, to try to give an idea of the general character of the dungeon, but first, a note on humanoids:

As far as one-hit-diers go, I’ve stuck with kobolds and Phuka. I read a Grognardia post on the drow a while back, wherein Maliszewski points out that you scare your players more when you use things that scare you. After a bit of thinking, I came up with goats. I hate goats. I spent a month staying at the house of a friend whose family keeps goats, which served to reaffirm my fear of goats even more. They have wierd, sideways eyes. They smell like death. They excrete much more than seems necessary (I had to take a couple wheelbarrows full down the hill during my stay). And let us not forget Orcus.

Then I read this: and it worked for me. Especially the Alan Lee illustration. I’m using these guys as a replacement for drow, gremlins, and orcs. I stat them as orcs, change the number appearing to match hobgoblins (they still keep the orc version of leader stats), and give their children stats as gremlins. I’m having them mostly use stone knives. When I was writing my dungeon, I saw that I had writ ‘Phuka’ instead of ‘Phooka’, and I’ve decided to just leave it like that.

The lair of Phuka on the first level is made up of three adjacent rooms, with one visible entrance and two secret. The lair is decorated by a human face, eyes, and tongue nailed to the wall.

My kobolds are at least partially based on the pikeys from Snatch. I’m calling them that, too. I like the word. They look like Hobbits/Daikini/Dwarfs in boots, with facial hair like Scottish Terriers. Their clan lives in a large, roughly carved room occupying 6 squares by 6 on the map. They live by petty theft on the surface or in the lower levels, selling equipment (stolen, looted from corpses, or bought) to anyone who’ll buy at substantially hiked prices, and occasionally eating the mushrooms growing in what I call ‘the waste room’.

The waste room is partially inspired by an episode of Planet Earth on caves- in one cave, the entire ecosystem relies on bats. The bats go out at night, eat and return. They poop in the cave. Massive swarms of cockroaches eat the poop, and are themselves eaten by other animals, including the bats. The waste room works much the same way, but add to the cockroaches ‘1d2 carrion crawlers and 3d6 telepathic fire beetles’. Also, the bats are huge and there are enormous mushrooms. The fire beetles, through telepathy, have formed a simple hive mind. They’re largely content to just burrow in the filth, though, so this won’t have much effect unless someone tries ‘charm person’ on a random beetle.

Speaking of random vermin- A small, out-of-the-way room containing 1d100 snails with silver shells. Yes, I stole this from Zak S. I did add that the snails are special, in that they eat precious metal and then excrete it with, if they choose, artistic precision. If the snails are in any way harmed, and any of them survive, and the PCs sleep in the dungeon, one of the PCs may wake up to find them trying to encase his face in several of his coins- or simply suffocate without waking up. I’m thinking 4 in 6 chance of waking up in time.

Speaking of things I stole from Zak, I also stole the ‘immortal piglet’. I also decided that the piglet is highly intelligent and unscrupulous (inspired by one of the comments on that post).

A bit of random wierdness inspired me to add a room containing a small creature with a lute, singing the Grateful Dead song ‘Dire Wolf’.

Inspired partly by the Black Sabbath song ‘The Wizard’ and partly by the cartoon ‘Regular Show’, In one part of the level there is a pepper plant, growing in a flowerpot full of what appears to be red wax. In another part of the level is the 5th level wizard Wisto Drazner, (appearance inspired by the cover of the Electric Wizard album ‘dopethrone’) who uses these peppers to prepare a vision-inducing drink he calls the ‘Louisiana Moonsperm’. anyone drinking it must save vs. spells, or their character will be unable to act for as long as it takes ‘What is and what should never be’ to play out-of-game.

At one point, there is a room containing three people dressed as a minstrel, a monk, and a knight in full armor. There are two passages besides the one you entered through, one of which leads to certain death. Only the mistrel and the monk know which is which, but one of them always lies- while the other always tells the truth. The knight stabs people who ask tricksy questions.


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