Friday, April 26, 2019

30 Minute Dungeon: Orc Lair

(From Holmes Basic, I believe)


Orcs have been seen wandering the wilderness! You have heard tales of their cruelty and monstrous capacity for violence, and from the looks of it, these ones are armed for war. A few remote hermits have had their shacks burned to the ground and their livestock ripped to shreds, though some survivors claim that it wasn't the orcs that killed their livestock, but something horrible that travels with them, The orcs seem to have made their lair in a nearby cave.


A warband of orcs called the Rusted Teeth are camping out in a cave, leaving by night to raid and pillage. They are small in number, but have an enslaved troll which they use to make up for it. A farmer named Frederick has been kidnapped by the orcs.

Combat Encounters

Orc Guards
Some orcs stand watch, clad in armor made from stitched together leather and rusted steel. One of them wields a heavy crossbow, while the others are equipped with spears and shields.
The orcs with spears and shields will attempt to protect the crossbow wielding orc. If any of the orcs are killed, one of the remainder will flee to the barracks to alert the others.

It smells like a pigsty in here, and it isn't much cleaner. A number of orcs lie sleeping on cots, while a few sit gambling on a fight between beetles. 
As soon as the orcs notice the party, they will awaken the sleeping ones (including their leader, Balfrug. Alternatively, the death rattle of one of them may awaken the sleeping orcs, if they don't have time to react. The orcs will try to use their cots as cover, and wield a variety of weapons, such as crossbows, pikes, slings, and axes. There is a chest in the corner full of the gold the orcs have looted.

Troll Lair
Before you stands a huge, monstrous humanoid, covered in cancerous growths and cysts. It reeks of rotting meat, and it has a strange silver collar around its neck, covered in mystic symbols. Stalactites hold up the ceiling.
The troll is wearing a magical collar, stolen by the orcs, that makes it susceptible to the commands of the one who put the collar on it (Balfrug). The troll is under standing orders to kill anyone who isn't part of the Rusted Teeth warband, and it will follow this order without any care for its safety or survival. The troll may try to break the stalactites in the room to bring down the ceiling. If the collar is removed the troll will be grateful, and will flee into the wilderness. The magic collar can be re-used by the party.


Bear Traps
It looks like there was a fire in this room. Piles of ash, bits of burnt wood, and a few small piles of oddly unburnt leaves cover the floor, and drawn on the wall in charcoal are crude images of murder and destruction.
Hidden under the leaves are bear traps. A golden amulet, dropped by one of the orcs, lies hidden under the debris.

Tripwire Bucket Of Oil
There seems to be some spiderwebs in this room, including a long thin strand across the floor, numerous cobwebs, and a funnel web in the corner. 
The long thing strand of web is actually a tripwire, and if activated, a bucket of oil will fall on the triggering character's head, coating them from head to toe. The bucket, upon hitting the flint stone floor, will make a spark, causing the character to go up in flames.

Empty Rooms

Hanging Animal Skins
Hung up on the wall are a number of animal skins. Some are crudely sewn back together, as if they were torn apart before being hung up.
These are the skins of the animals killed by the troll. The orcs intend to use them as clothing, once they are sufficiently dried out.

Shrine To A Pig Demon
A small statue of a pig-like humanoid sits in a niche at the end of this chamber.
This is the object of worship for the Rusted Teeth, and represents a grotesque swine deity to which Balfrug has pledged himself. The other orcs will be fearful if the statue is threatened with destruction by the party, believing destroying the statue will release the demon to slay them. This is just a lie told to them by Balfrug in order to maintain fear.

It smells disgusting in here, and you can soon see why. A vile puddle of urine with piles of feces nearby show that this is where the orcs "take care of business".
Human teeth can be found in the feces, including a gold tooth.

Special Rooms

In stark contrast to the rest of the cave's natural form, a set of cut stone stairs lead down in this room. You cannot tell how far it goes.
The staircase descends down several miles, all the way down to the underworld. The orcs avoid this room, for fear of the what might come out. Strange whispers and unfathomably alien sounds can be heard emanating from the stairway if one listens long enough, beckoning the listener to descend down into the depths. After a while, these noises can put a listener into a mindless trance, compelled supernaturally to go down the stairs.

Non-Player Characters

Kidnapped Farmer
A skinny, black haired young man with soft brown eyes is tied up with rope, next to a bucket of dirty water. He is gagged with cloth, and struggles when he sees you.
The man's name is Frederick, and he is a simple farmer who was kidnapped by the orcs. He was to be made a meal for the troll, but he managed to convince the orcs that he knows where some great hidden treasure is. He claims that he cannot tell them until the full moon (which is in 3 days), for he has a secret treasure map tattooed onto his skin that is only visible by the light of the full moon. None of this is true, Frederick is just a very good liar and desperate to not be eaten.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

30 Minute Dungeon Expanded Concept

Right so everybody on my blog should know about my 30 minute dungeon formula, but if you don't here is a brief recap:

Based on my experience as a dungeon master, I find that the perfect ratio of rooms in a dungeon is as follows:

30% combat encounters
30% empty
20% traps
10% NPCs
10% weird stuff

Which, in practice when it comes to making a quick dungeon in 30 minutes, is 3 combat encounters, 3 empty rooms, 2 traps, an NPC, and something weird to fiddle with. Also one magic item, thrown somewhere in there.

Now this is all well and good but I've found myself realizing that even I didn't really full "get" what made a good one of any of these archetypical rooms in a dungeon. What separates a good trap from a bad trap? When is a combat encounter just a boring die rolling competition, and when is it tactical and neat? How do I a huge dumbass write interesting characters?

Here is what I came up with to answer these sorts of questions:

What does a good combat encounter need?
  • A reason for the party to fight. The enemies should be blocking off an area they need to get to, there should be treasure that is being guarded, or maybe there is an innocent person to save.
  • The environment needs to be interesting and exploitable. There should be stuff in here that both the enemies and the party can use to their advantage. Tables that could be knocked over and used for cover, chandeliers that can be knocked off the ceiling, explosive barrels, etc. This encourages the players to think tactically and makes combat actually interesting.
  • Enemies should think tactically and act in ways that make sense. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, a mindless zombie is probably gonna be less intelligent than a bandit, but the general principle makes sense. Enemies should flee when wounded, take cover from ranged fire, coordinate with each other, and select targets logically.
(This is taken from the Wolfenstein 3d mod Medevil, and I think this forms the basis of a neat combat encounter. There is a table in the middle that acts as cover, two different enemies with unique tactics and strategies. If this were in a D&D game, the players could even utilize the tapestries on the wall to their advantage, maybe throwing one over an opponent to blind them!)

What does a good trap need?
  • Some sort of reason for the players to want to bypass it. If there is just a side room with no treasure and a chest with a poisoned latch, that's not a good trap, you're just being an asshole. A proper trap should reward the party for overcoming it in some way, through either treasure, access to more of the dungeon, etc.
  • A way to bypass it or deactivate it. Sure, logically a dungeon builder would want a trap that can't be avoided or stopped, but you're not running a game about killing player characters, you're running a game about fantastic adventure! Put in a sneaky hidden lever that deactivates the crusher, or a magic word which makes the spikes in the walls retract. Or just add a way out that avoids it all together! A death trap shouldn't be a death trap, if that makes sense.
  • A way to actually notice the trap before it does its business. You don't need to necessarily tell the players anything when the enter the room, but if they start looking around and asking you questions, answer them! If they look closely, let them notice that tripwire or pressure plate. Reward exploration and observation.
(I love this illustration from D&D 4th edition, its a little bit over the top for my taste but this image of the adventurers fleeing from a huge boulder while being shot at by arrows is so cool)

What does a good empty room need?

  • An empty room should have a reason for existing. There should be doors or corridors that lead to other rooms, some treasure, or some lore and story behind it. 
  • Something should be in the "empty" room that relates to the dungeon's theme or history. For example, a wizard's labyrinth might have a portrait of the wizard, or a small laboratory in great disrepair. 
What does a good special room need?
  • Honestly do whatever you want with this, this is your chance to put something in the dungeon that is wacky and out there. Just think about something weird that you could semi-reasonably explain its reason for being here, and then plonk it in. 
  • Screw balance, this place doesn't follow the rules. That doesn't mean it has to be super deadly or game breaking, it could just be some weird effect or encounter, like an ogre which doesn't actually exist or something.
What does a good NPC need?
  • Mannerisms or a distinct voice. Give that fella a silly voice, go ahead, it will help the players remember them.
  • Goals and motivations are also important. Why is this person in the dungeon? What do they want?
  • An NPC also needs likes and dislikes. A character who is deathly afraid of rats and is oddly attracted to wizards is a lot more interesting than someone without any preferences for anything.

Friday, April 12, 2019

30 Minute Dungeon: The Crypt Of Radok The Cruel

(This is me right now)

Hey, I'm still alive. I haven't been posting much because of general stress combined with me being quite busy. My initial goal of posting a dungeon a day was far too optimistic for what I'm capable of right now, with a real job and college. But, I don't want this blog to fall by the wayside, and I still love D&D, so lets make a dungeon.

There have long been tales of a buried sorcerer and his treasure in the hills, but they have never been substantiated until now. A local explorer trekked inside, and brought back a centuries old golden coin.

Centuries ago a powerful sorcerer wandered the lands, plundering and killing as he willed, and he amassed a following of impressionable young occultists. This spellcaster was named Radok the Cruel, and by the time he retired, he had gathered a large amount of treasure. But Radok was dying, he had spent too much time adventuring and performing black magic in his youth, and now that old age had taken him, his body was beginning to decay at a rapid rate. He ordered his followers that he be buried, along with his treasure, in a tomb in the hills.

Combat Encounters

Giant Spider
Cobwebs cover almost every inch of this room, some sheets are thin as fine silk, but others are vast ropey masses of sticky fiber. 
A pale white giant spider lurks among the web, waiting for victims to move closer. A skeleton, wrapped in web, can also be found in this room, with a pouch containing a few coins.

Undead Bandits
Around a wooden table are seated several human corpses, long since desiccated and mummified. The table has a small pile of coins and jewels on it.
If the treasure is touched, the corpses spring to life and attack.

Animated Statue
An easel stands in front of a beautiful statue of a goddess. On the easel is a canvas, on which is drawn the sketch of the statue before it.
The sketch depicts the statue in a different pose than it currently is. The statue is animated, controlled by a bound demonic spirit, and will attempt to slay the interlopers when given the chance.


Incense Of Eternal Slumber
A delightful perfume pervades the air of this rather fancy and comfortable looking room. There are cushions and blankets strewn about, and a table in the center has several candles on it. Some figures in the room appear to be sleeping peacefully.
The perfume dulls the senses, and makes anyone who enters feel relaxed and sleepy. It even has a minor hallucinogenic effect, requiring some effort to realize that the sleeping figures are rotting corpses. Anyone who falls asleep in this room will never wake up unless they are removed from the room.

The Gorgon's Book
This room is cramped, and contains only a small lectern and a lantern next to it. Atop the lectern is a closed leather-bound book. 
The book is both a deadly trap and a potent magical weapon if its power is discovered. Anyone who opens the book will see remarkably lifelike portraits of gorgons drawn on every page. Nobody who sees the true face of a gorgon can continue to live, and will turn to stone unless they manage to look away before viewing the creature's form.

Empty Rooms

The Fountain Of Wine
A fountain bubbles and splashes in this room, spewing forth a translucent red fluid that smells faintly of grapes. The walls, floor, and ceiling are decorated with mosaics of a vineyard.
The fountain is magical, and ensures that the wine flowing through it remains potable and delicious. The wine can be bottled and sold for significant profit, though there is a limited supply.

The Art Gallery
Dozens of paintings of a stern faced man with a black goatee stare down at you from the walls. 
The paintings are all portraits of Radok the Cruel.

Taxidermy Room
Several stuffed predatory animals are arranged in threatening poses in this room, including a bear, a lion, and a wolf.
All of these animals were, in life, the pets of Radok the Cruel.

Special Rooms

Random Telepad
A circle of white light glows in the stone floor, surrounded by curious arcane symbols.
Anyone who steps in the circle is teleported to a random room in the dungeon.

Non-Player Characters

Radok The Confused
Before you, on a throne of carved stone, sits an evil looking man with a black goatee, dressed in fine red robes.
This is a holographic projection of Radok the Cruel. It fully believes it is the man himself, and does a very convincing job at acting the part. However, it cannot cast any spells (though it will threaten to do so), and doesn't actually know that much about Radok's life beyond the basics. The real Radok is dead, the throne being hollow (there is a way to open it around the back) and containing his mummified corpse. The corpse is wearing red robes of the finest quality, and is buried along with piles of coins and jewels.

(This is the kind of vibe I'm going for. Picture is of Roger Delgado as The Master in Doctor Who)