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Preliminary Application Dungeon

This is the first dungeon that I ran last week to kick-off the Showing of Colors campaign. My players survived to earn entrance to the competition, although not without some wounds and a couple ink-stained team-members. Here is a rough draft of my own outline. Feel free to use it, modify it, or copy it so long as you comment back here to let me know how it went. I may release this with more details in a pdf pay-what-you-want in the future.

~Players enter a large room through thick wood doors swinging inward. Fancy paintings adorn the walls of old, mostly dead university leaders and alumni. A trio of cloaked figures, obscured by magic and their cloaks ask questions.

+Faint pungent odor to the room, newly built chairs, and the smell of old dust/smoke/pipe

-Describe your team name and philosophy.

-How did your team form?

-What are your goals in competing and winning?

-Who are each of you?

-Now, please come forward and sign your applications. That should conclude our questioning, we will use these answers in our promotional materials, guiding you to appropriate sponsor quests, and our own records. Assuming, of course, that you can pass the preliminary test and turn in an application… 

~The cloaked figures collapse into their chairs, and the shadows fade, revealing that they are large wooden dolls, and after a short time, a wall will slide open to reveal a horde of fire-beetles. If the players try to approach the entry doors, a trio of stone columns quickly slide down to block the doors. There are secret passages to two adjacent rooms behind the paintings.

~The beetles are weak but deal fire damage, attracted by pheromones in the ink you signed with. Don’t let them burn it! (1d4 beetles spawn on their turns, -1 for each “spawn” of beetles still alive)

~Beetles: S, 5 hp, 10 AC, 20 ft movement (climb 10 ft), +1/+1 pincer (1d4-1 piercing, 5 ft.)/ember spit (1 fire, 30 ft): Upon death, fire beetles explode their glow-gel in a 5 ft. burst. Creatures coated in the glow-gel take an additional 1d4 fire damage when they take fire damage. It is slightly acidic to the touch.

~The beetles target the application or its holder unless blocked by hostile creatures. If the original application is burnt or bleached, they instead target the nearest and most vulnerable creature.

~If the character holding the application takes any fire damage, the application is burnt. If in a pack or container, they may make an easy dexterity save to protect it.

~The beetles continue to be summoned at a slow rate in the next room, crawling up from small burrows in the stone walls around the edges of the room, wooden doors lead out. A good camouflage of paint hides the summoning circle runes hidden on the stone block. If the holes are blocked up, the beetles will find their way into the secret passages to show up later. Looking at the tunnels would reveal they dead-end pretty quickly to un-fired clay blockages and not coming from actual burrows). Careful timing would see the faint flash of summoning. 

~A trapped room of three columns that do not extend all the way to the ceiling. A painting hides its side of the secret tunnel to the first room. If the chest is disturbed, the statue attacks strongly but is ponderously slow and prefers to guard its treasure. 

+The chest is locked and sealed with clay, it contains a bronze key along with a healer’s kit and a healing potion. 

+One of the doors is hot to the touch.

+Lion Statue: M, 20 hp, 12 AC, 15 ft movement, +3 bite (1d6+1 bludgeoning damage), resistance to slashing/piercing

+The columns can be removed with an easy dungeoneering, craft, or strength check, they are tall enough to prevent the stone columns from coming low enough to block the doors in the first room. A proctor waits just outside in the hallway who can accept an application.

+Inside the clay-lined and waterproof chest are a healing kit, a healing potion, and a large bronze key. The key is too large to fit anything in this dungeon, but with a historians help, identifies a useful clue for an upcoming event (in my campaign, the first trial).

-The next room reveals a corpse in a pool of blood, marrred by a large bolt sticking from their chest. 

+The corpse appears looted, only having scribe’s tools remaining. There is a healing potion in a hidden pouch, revealed by a moderate search check. A moderate medicine check reveals them to be alive (this is actually a proctor who can accept applications if directly asked, or more generally give hints about the dungeon as if they were a previous applicant). This proctor will pretend to be barely alive if moved, threatened, or attacked. 

+A crossbow trap is armed and ready against the first to step out into the t-intersection. +5 attack (1d8 piercing damage) 

+It guards a bookshelf of simple books (Barrister’s Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Basic Alchemy, plus a few other dry collegiate texts). Some of the collegiate texts have blank pages at the back that could be salvaged to forge an application. The bookcase hides a secret passage to the first room, swinging out, it just barely avoids clipping the crossbow trap.

+There is a small worktable in the corner, in a messy state, with a few woodworking tools/scraps. It contains a woodcarver’s kit and a set of mason’s tools.

+A filthy door is slightly ajar to the next room. 

~A muck filled room is filled with swirling winds, and a few scraps of parchment can be seen stuck to the walls, black with ink. The muck is full of black ink that will soak through anyone falling in very quickly, as the hand prints and footprints around it show, drying almost as fast. A rickety ladder and a distant log are the only dry ways across. Easy dexterity or acrobatics checks are needed to reposition the ladder or balance across it while it sits on the floating log. Any character that falls in or walks through will have black ink wick up quickly to dye their whole body and all their possessions black. If they are holding the application, they can attempt a moderate dexterity save to toss it to another player who must make a moderate dexterity save to catch it unless prepared. Otherwise, the application is turned ink-black and unreadable.

~The heated door leads to a coal filled room, blasting heat and swirling embers around. Creatures that end their turn in this room suffer 1d6 fire damage. The door at the other end is warped but a good shove will budge it (moderate strength check).

~A final puzzle. This room has iron bars setting a large rail system out of reach. A cart can be pulled forward or backwards using a loop of chain on a crank, with one end coming in reach of the bars and at the other end is a test proctor lounging in a stone chair. 

+Along its course, the small cart dips past two vats of bleach. Applications or objects that come in contact with the bleach are completely stripped of color (leaving a light grey parchment).

+As the cart is pulled back, the mechanism pumps the bleach back into two jars with valves that are closed by the movement of the cart. When the cart goes forward again, it pushes the valves open, dumping bleach onto the cart and its contents.

+Possible solutions: using magic to block the flow after triggering the valves, clogging the valves with thrown muck, shooting the application past the whole mechanism, protecting it in chest, neutralizing the bleach with firebeetle glow-gel, giving applications to the fake dead proctor, escaping the front door to turn in applications to the waiting attendant there, etc.

+Hints: The monster books can be used to identify the acidic content of the beetles, discover they only glow when drawn by pheremones of a female, or notice their burrows are unnatural magic conjurations. The barristers guide will be helpful to anyone trying to create a new application, helping them remember the legalese on the original form, and the alchemical tome would identify bleach being neutralized by acid. It also covers basic waterproofing of alchemical storage containers, identifying the chest as waterproof.

-Lost applications can be re-written using the scribes tools or even using the muck in combination with scrap paper from the books and beetle parts as quills. Upon turning an application, so long as the group gives confident ascent to the attendant asking if this is their complete application, they pass. 

~In my campaign, this is only the preliminary examination for entrants, but in the next trial, they want to split teams into roughly random groups, so they are given a color based on how the aspects of their performance.

Black: Perfection and mastery of skills, power

Red: Thinking outside the box, daring

Blue: Using knowledge to outsmart a challenge, genius

Green: Careful approaches to trivialize an obstacle, wisdom

White: Leveraging connections and others to win, prestige

{}Loot: healing kit (2.5), x2 healing potions (50), books x 5 (25), damaged crossbow (12.5), calligraphers kit (5), woodcarvers tools (.5), damaged mason’s tools (2.5), ELSE: Furniture (1d10), inkmuck vial/flask (1d4), bleach vial (1d4), statue(2d10)

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