OSR: Learning Dungeon, Level 3

This is the third level of my Learning Dungeon. You can find levels 1 and 2 here.

When you first start up Super Mario Bros, the game doesn't give you any instructions. The first level is cunningly designed to teach you the rules: jump on enemies, pick up mushrooms, look for secrets, get coins, avoid pits. There is no tutorial. The game itself is the tutorial.

This dungeon is designed to take a group of non-gamers - even non-video-gamers - and teach them the basics of dungeoneering. The 1st level covered the basics. Level 2 covered some advanced concepts. Level 3 covers more advanced concepts and contains a few very interesting challenges. It's also open-ended, so you can bolt extra dungeons or rooms on as required.

My players, keep out. There are spoilers below. Also, I've edited the map and introduced a few nasty surprises to the variant you'll be playing through. Don't test me.


The first two floors of the dungeon are linear to ensure some major concepts are covered. This level branches and loops. There are several broad sections:

Outer Halls: 22-26
Dressed stone, slightly damp, mold and slime on the lower walls. The air is cold, especially close to the chasm. Some dry and dusty areas. Everything of interest has carved or painted snakes on it. 

Sacrifice Pit: 27-30
Dressed stone, but worn, with better mosaics. The air is warm but foul, and gets worse as you approach Room (30). 

Xiximanter's Lair: 43-46
Finely cut stone, covered in dust and cobwebs. Purple lights and bubbling alchemical flasks. The glimmer of glass, and the clatter of bones.

Goblin Warren: 47-52
Dug through collapsed tunnels and rooms, or through natural caves. Filthy. The floor is thick with guano, beetles, and rot. You can't tell if the chittering is beetles or goblins. 

This level also contains wandering monsters. Use whatever rolls you prefer. They are attracted to noise, light, and heat. They won't move to the upper layers of the dungeon.

Skeleton Jellies
A skeleton covered in ooze.
Stats: as a skeleton, but dealing 1d4 damage (they're really weak).
Moves at half speed. Immortal and nearly indestructible. Any attack that deals 4 or more damage knocks them back 5'. Solutions: run away, get the basilisk to petrify them, throw them into the chasm, tie them up, lock them in a room, or put them in the pit trap in room (25) or (37).

There are 4 skeleton jellies in the dungeon. If the party managed to completely immobilize all 4 of them, you can remove them from your wandering monster table. Just a pit trap or rope isn't enough (they'll eventually crawl free).

Fungus Goblins

Pale stunted creatures with huge oval heads full of teeth and two tiny red eyes way too close together. They wear cutlery and desire food.

Stats: goblins, but sticky. Texture like baked potato mixed with white glue. Appear in groups of 1d10+1, with 1d6 more hiding just out of sight, waiting to see what happens.
The goblins aren't hostile at first, and will try to crown someone as the Goblin King. They will follow their King loyally until the next full moon, and then swarm, drag the King to an altar on a hill, and gut them. They speak a chattering and limited goblin dialect. They are easily bribed. They will try and warn the party about the Basilisk, but do not know about the secret passage in (39) or anything about the upper levels of the dungeon. The Stone Cobra Guardian kept them out. The goblins use the stairs in Room (41) to sneak to the surface at night.

If the party kills some of them or acts in a hostile way, they flee, and begin preparing the first of many ambushes. They are cunning and patient. They can (slowly) climb the walls and ambush the party from above. They'll use buckets of water to extinguish torches, ropes to entangle, and the dungeon's existing traps to maim and isolate the party. They will also harass their camp at night, bite the legs off their horses, and steal shiny objects.

Unless the spawning pits in Room (48) are burned, the number of goblins in the dungeon will always be "too many goblins". The fungus goblins are escaped experiments. While Xiximanter doesn't mind having them returned, they aren't much use to him.

(20) is a narrow path along a bottomless chasm. The path is 10' wide and slightly slippery. The chasm is 60' wide. The opposite wall isn't visible unless the party uses flaming arrows or has a very powerful light source. If the party angers the goblins, this will be their preferred ambush point. The goblins are sticky and ignore the slippery stone floor. The party won't be so lucky.

Lesson: pick your fights carefully.

The path is filled with dungeon barnacles at (21). These stone-covered mollusks devour any warm-blooded creatures that pass near them. Any characters who have spent time in tombs, caves, or tunnels will recognize and avoid the creatures.

Lessons: this path is closed. Think of a solution (poisoned meat, exploding frogs, etc.) and come back later.

(22) is a stone door recessed into the wall, held closed by a heavy stone bar.  It contains the same type of hammer trap as room (5). The trap is easier to dodge this time, but if struck, PCs must Save again or be flung into the bottomless chasm.

Lessons: Traps repeat in dungeons. Be cautious around bottomless chasms.

(23) Is a ceremonial room used by the snake-man priests to prepare and meditate. It contains several low benches, ancient wall hangings, and a dry fountain. The goblins have pried the gold statue from the fountain and hidden it in their throne room. A few scraps of gold remain.

Lessons: some rooms are safe. Look for what is missing.

Room (24) is a long narrow hallway sloping downwards to the south. It contains one Skeleton Jelly. The creature moves towards noise.

Room (25) has a false floor. Step anywhere but a 1' wide ring around the walls and a pit trap opens below you. Take 1d6 falling damage and Save or take a further 1d6 piercing damage from the spikes at the bottom. The false tiles are fairly easy to spot. One is even missing. The pit contains several desiccated skeletons and a gold ring worth 2 gp. The goblins replace the tiles. They use the pit to catch food.

Lessons: check the floor.

(26) is small locked passage leading from the chasm pathway. The door can be forced. Room (27) was used to keep slaves. Iron manacles a still lie on the floor. The air is foul and warm. There is a distinct hissing from the south. The manacles are enchanted to lock around the legs of anyone who approaches within 1'. The rusted metal is weak and can be pried free easily.

Lessons: not all traps are deadly. Beware of wandering monsters and delays.

(28) is a grand domed hall with a locked iron door on the south wall. The key to the door is embedded in the basilisk's neck. The door isn't magically locked but it would take a team of people hours or days to pry the doors open or crack a hinge.

Room (29) contains... whatever it is you want to put at the bottom of your dungeon: a boss fight, a rare item, stacks of treasure, plot hooks, stairs to more dungeon levels. It goes in this room. 

Room (30), however, contains a sunken eternal flame (the Sacrifice Pit). The flame is kept going by natural gasses piped in from a deep and ancient mine. There is a 2' wide walkway around the edge of the pit. Carbonized bones coat the bottom. While the air here is foul, it isn't dangerous unless you fall into the pit. Creatures in the pit must Save or take temporary 1d6 Constitution damage, and slide down to the flame unless they can climb free. There are runny streaks of gold around the flame, and a few carbon-coated gemstones glitter in the orange light. Not all the sacrifices were poor.

Lessons: some hazards are invisible.

(31) is a grand hall, with statues of snake-man guards in the corners. These statues are incredibly life-like, and much finer than any other carvings in the tomb. They are petrified snake-men, placed there as punishment. If de-petrified, they will fly into a murderous rage for 10 minutes, then slowly give in to despair. The statues, if transported to a major city, are worth 50 gp each, or more to a wizard who recognizes their nature.

Lessons: look for explanations of things that are out of place.

(32) is a long narrow room with a huge pile of junk (broken shields, bent swords, candlesticks, branches) in front of it. Clearing the pile takes 20 minutes and makes a hell of a racket. The room inside was once a summoning chamber. It contains a bound succubus, summoned by the snake-men to answer questions about the lower hells. She will appear as a young botanist of the same race as the first PC she sees, and of an amenable gender. She will say that she was captured by the goblins and kept as a prisoner. The shackle around her ankle is an illusion. All she needs is for someone to step across the (dust-covered and mostly obscured) circle binding her. The room also contains a small altar, 2 gold bowls, a +1 magic dagger, and a wavy stone snake.

The succubus isn't hostile to the PCs, but she will try and isolate and kiss one of them (Save vs Death, 1d6 permanent HP and Con drain if survived, age 1d10 years. +10 to Save if she likes you) so she can refuel and fly away. Her true name (Baltoplat) is written on a scroll in room (15). The goblins are terrified of her. Xiximanter can see her true nature, but he assumes the party knows as well. She immune to petrification and very, very good at dodging (AC as plate).

Lessons: some monsters have hidden agendas. There are illusions. Don't let yourself be isolated. Don't make noise.

Room (33) contains a shrine to one of the many cobra-headed gods of the snake-men. The statue has two holes in the base large enough to fit a human arm. The statue can't be lifted but it can be turned. Turn it counterclockwise and release a poison gas trap. Turn it clockwise and a lot of gold (2d100+10gp, 2d100 sp) spills out, rolling over the floor. Some pieces will roll into (35).

Lessons: treasure is hidden behind statues. Some traps follow a pattern.

The hallway area (35) is a trap. Stepping on any of the raised tiles will activate 4 swinging blades that slice down from the ceiling. Save vs Dex or take 1d6 damage. Moving through the marked squares requires a Save vs Dex for the first 3 rounds after the trap activates. If you fail, you take 1d6 damage and don't move. On the 4th round, the entire trap comes crashing down in a tangle of stone, blades, and springs.

Lessons: traps are not always reliable. Move quickly out of danger. Check the floor.

Room (36) is a small vestibule. Anyone pressed against the west wall cannot be seen by the Basilisk. A hallway slopes down to room (37).

Room (37) contains a pit trap identical to Room (25) The snake-men really didn't want their sacrifices escaping into the rest of the tomb complex. This pit contains nothing of value.

Room (38) is the Basilisk Hall. A huge stone chamber filled with broken pillars (8 total, in two rows along each side of the hall). The ceiling is lost in darkness. Bats roost up there. The floor is littered with broken statue pieces, including very accurately carved stone bats, spiders, and goblins. A torch illuminates about halfway across the hall.  

The Basilisk lurks in darkness. A thick iron chain links it to the ceiling. It cannot leave the hall. 

Lessons: some monsters have unconventional attacks. Use teamwork to defeat a creature or avoid it completely. Pay attention to details

(39) is a secret passage from the second level to the hall. The door on the basilisk hall side would have been unnoticeable as originally built. Time has worn the mosaics away, revealing the door's outline. A narrow stone tunnel leads to Room (17). 

Lessons: dungeons have loops and shortcuts

Room (40) is hidden behind another secret door, and this one is intact and difficult to find. It's on the exact opposite side of the Basilisk Hall from (39), and in the same style, so clever players will locate it quickly. Though the walls are smooth and well-made, the floor is thick with goblin detritus and the air stinks.

Room (41) is a staircase to the surface. It opens under the roots of a tree. Human-sized creatures can crawl to the surface, but clearing a larger passage requires axes and time.

Lessons: dungeons have loops and shortcuts. Monsters have ecologies.

Room (42) is a rotating stone door at the end of an ornate hallway. It's a cylinder of stone with a chunk big enough for two people missing. It rotates in both directions if pushed. Turn it counterclockwise and it turns to face a stabbing spear trap (1d6 damage/person/round until rotated to safety). Turn it clockwise, and it faces a stone idol with two golden bowls worth 10 gp each. Turn it 180 degrees to reach the goblin caves.

Lessons: some traps follow a pattern. Send hirelings in first.

Room (43) is entrance hall to Xiximanter's Lair. It is a purple hall, ribbed like the inside of a creature's gullet, and lit by magic purple lights.

Xiximanter is an ancient snake-man wizard, twisted but immortal. He looks like a dried human corpse (with fangs) fused to a snake tail at the waist. He wears tattered robes. His eyes are red pinpricks. He isn't unreasonable, and will greet the party with "Hello, bipeds," if the enter the hall. Xiximanter desires living creatures, preferably intelligent, ideally wizards. He distills them to make his potions. Xiximanter, while utterly amoral, is neither rude nor murderous. He firmly believes that he is close to a breakthrough. He also believes that the city of the snake-men still sits above him, that the tomb is full of priests, and that the party must be barbarian visitors on a tour. If confronted with evidence, he will become enraged.

Stats as a lich or something. He has a ring of protection against petrification.

Room (44) is Xiximanter's potion brewing room. Alchemical flasks, dusty instruments, and gleaming shelves full of beautiful flasks. PCs will not be allowed past the hall unless they agree to be Xiximanter's apprentices (or victims). His most powerful potions take decades to brew. He will trade potions for living creatures, spells, rare ingredients, and apprentices. He will not accept coins or treasure. If the party is openly carrying looted items from the tomb, he will become suspicious, and try to poison, capture, or manipulate them.

Aside from an assortment of random potions, his shelves always include:
  • 2 potions of spell mutation 
  • 1 potion of moderate immortality (extra 20+1d100 years of natural life) 
  • 1 potion of undetectable poison (tastes like a random potion but kills you in 1 minute) 
  • 2 potions of cure wounds
Room (45) is Xiximanter's ingredient storage chamber. Barrels of ancient herbs and powders. Kegs of acid and stale water. One flask contains powdered saffron (200gp worth), while a tiny bottle contains seeds of a now-extinct plant (worth 30gp each to a collector, Garden Wizard, or ambitious farmer). Xiximanter will not trade these unless he can get even more rare or valuable ingredients from the party.

This is also where Xiximanter keeps his victims. Six stone oubliettes with brass lids, like wine vats sunk into the ground, are scattered around the room. Racks of syringes, prods, and slicing tools cover one wall. The pits currently contain 1d10 fungus goblins (crammed into the same pit) and nothing else except ancient stains.

Lessons: use diplomacy. Some enemies can be reasoned with. You can trade within a dungeon. You can betray your friends for power.

The giant door at the end of the Basilisk Hall is made of intertwined stone snakes. One snake is missing. It's in room (32). If replaced, the door will slither open, revealing a throne room (46) made of red stone, gold, and mirrors. The 8 palm-sized mirrors are worth 10gp each if sold in a major city. The throne is worth 250gp and is really, really heavy. Anyone sitting in it must Save or desire lordship and conquest.

Xiximanter has a secret passage from the throne room to his lair, but he hasn't used it in centuries. The passage is thick with dust. If the PCs use it, he will be surprised, and possibly enraged unless they think of a plausible excuse.

Lessons: not all secret passages are safe. Rooms in dungeons are linked. Sometimes, there is a ton of treasure.

Room (47) is part of the Goblin Warren. It's a low cave (5' high). It's clear that the rooms here collapsed centuries ago and were hollowed out by the goblins. They used this room to store feathers, rags, and bowls of grease. A thorough search of the debris coats you to the neck in guano and beetle shells, and reveals 2d6 silver knives and a dented brass bracelet (worthless).

You need to crawl into Room (48). It contains the goblin spawning pit, a hideous mash of fungus, dead animals, and bloated sacks of fluid. Save vs nausea. The pit reincarnates the souls of dead fungus goblins, and is one of Xiximanter's failed experiments in immortality. There is no treasure here, but unless this room is burned, the number of goblins in the dungeon will always be "too many goblins". 

Lessons: it is difficult to clear a dungeon. Fire is useful.

Room (49) is the goblin throne room. Most of the time, this room contains 1d6 (exploding on a 6) fungus goblins, eating bats, fighting, or worshiping their current king. If they haven't recently found a living creature to crown, they'll make an idol out of sticks and mud. The goblin crown is made of bent cutlery and sticks. They used to have a real crown but they lost it. It's in Room (50), unless you want to put it elsewhere.

Lessons: use diplomacy and tactics. The goblins will flank you and stab you in the dark. There are always more goblins.

Room (50) is the goblin farms. Goblins plant anything to see if it grows. Sickly plants rot in darkness, accompanied by buried fingers, weapons, and gold. If you dredge this room, you'll find 2d10 gp, a ruby worth 30gp, and the Crown of the Serpent Kings. 

The crown is worth 300gp for the materials and gems alone. It is made of 8 tiny entwined serpents made from gold and platinum, with emerald eyes and diamond teeth. The crown is also magical. Anyone wearing it who is not a snake-man must Save or spend the next hour gibbering and hooting in terror. If three consecutive hours are spent in this state, the effects are permanent. The crown can be removed by another person.

Seasoned poisoners or wizards might recognize the blue mushrooms here as being dungeon cucumbers, capable of curing petrification if sliced and rubbed on the skin. The person will recover in 1d6 days, but will experience permanent nasty side effect.

Lessons: look for treasure in strange places. Goblins are bad at farming.

Room (51) serves no particular purpose to the goblins, but at any given time, 1d6 (exploding on a 6) fungus goblins will be present during the night and 3d6+10 (exploding on a 6) during the day. The goblins will be asleep in either case, but will wake up 2 rounds after the PCs make significant noise in any adjacent room. They're almost invisible in the debris.

Lessons: sneak past your enemies. The dungeon changes during the day or night.

(52) is a mostly collapsed room used by the goblins to store weapons. It contains 2 pitchforks, a pile of silver cutlery (worth 20sp) and hundreds of sharpened sticks. One goblin is present on sentry duty. He wields a large broom which he uses to push away the Skeleton Jellies. If the players enter from (28) by opening a half-broken stone door, he pushes them back with the broom while protesting. If they enter from (51), he runs away, making an awful racket.

Lessons: Your enemies might use odd weapons for a reason. Chasing a goblin around in the dark is no fun.

The Chasm
You could add stairs leading down to other dungeon levels. You could add a bridge, just past the dungeon barnacles (21) to a boss fight on the other side, with (29) being a way to bypass the barnacles. You could use Veins of the Earth to generate an entire cave system. 

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