Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Temple of a Forgotten God

This is a small dungeon I made for my level 9-14 players. They are on a long journey south to the megadungeon, and I put this in their way as a potential trap. It's meant to be claustrophobic and constricting and to subvert regular sandbox expectations in an unpleasant way, but despite appearances, its not too big and not very difficult to beat. There is some very good treasure if characters search thoroughly, and some very difficult encounters if they're unlucky.

Players, since you beat the dungeon and can't go back inside, it's safe to read this if you'd like.

I present to you,


This temple rises from the city like a claw grasping at the sky. His last priest keeps a funeral pyre burning at the top of the tallest tower. After the slow apocalypse that emptied the city, the temple continued to collect sacrifices, hold masses, and pray for the death of the outside world. One by one the priests were ritually slain to please the nameless god, and he was pleased, and extended his protection to the last adherents. Pilgrims making their way to the temple were brought to an inner chamber and made to contribute to the last sacrament. Finally, at the end of time, no sacrifices have been brought to the temple for an eternity, and the god’s power has waned, his interest has all but faded. The temple’s last priest maintains the ritual pyre, if only a few more bodies could be added to the pile, perhaps the decline of the city could be slowed.

The priest, over the long millennia of his holy life, has laid a trap for travelers to the city. His unwaning desire has warped the fabric of the city around the temple. Anyone who strays too close cannot leave, any path away from the temple leads them directly back to the plaza containing the pool.

POOL: In a wide Vatican plaza, a long rectangular pool, lined with dead trees. A single long fish swims the pool counterclockwise. It has one red cyclops eye. If eaten, deals 20 damage.

At the base of the hill, the temple already seems larger than it did at a distance. It squats on top of it, utterly still and silent. Dead and crumbling sedge grows out of the rocky shale. It’s a tough climb, or you can take the stairs. As you climb, the temple grows larger and larger, and the city recedes beneath you. It grows to the size of a mountain, the towers stretching as high as a colossus into the sky, though the light of the single fire always remains in sight.

Putting out the fire breaks the spell and allows you to leave. 

EXTERIOR: Like an ant crawling up a human. As you ascend the exterior it grows larger and larger. It’s impossible to reach even halfway up. It’s an occam’s razor type situation. If you try to enter from the exterior, roll 1d10-1 to see where you end up.

TRAVEL INSIDE THE TEMPLE: Moving from one point to another takes about an hour. 40 minutes at a fast pace, 90 minutes at a slow pace. Basically you’re moving through a labyrinth of hallways and cells, in a general direction, and it’s not too tough to find your way back in the direction you came from, though everything is so similar it’s difficult to tell. 

No matter how long you spend inside the temple, when you exit, it has always been 44 minutes.

ENCOUNTERS. Roll d6 every 2 hours. When an encounter is beat, just cross it off. This dungeon gets easier as you complete it.

1. d4+1 Stone spectres. They look like human-shaped sheets of marble floating through the halls. 

HP 30 AC 16 1 attack +8 d20 to max HP, or possess DC 17 to kill or maim self or others. Resistance to all damage except divine magic and psychic damage. Undead resistances. Unharmed by normal weapons. May turn invisible every other round.
2. Two paired black stone hands the size of cars. 

AC 18 Speed 60 HP 120 3 atks +10 for d20 dmg, or grab and crush +6 for 3d20. Perception and Stealth + 7
3. A rush of wind passes down the tunnel, blowing out any torches, Dex DC 12 or fall down.
4. A goblin has been lost here for decades
5. A rival adventuring party, The Deadboyz, also lost in the temple. Exact stats for these blokes are secret, but in my game they are 3 clearly powerful, armed to the teeth adventurers, served by more than double the number of henchmen the players have. 
6 A toll-door is found, instructions state that bleeding 100hp worth onto it will lead you closer to your desire. Skip 1 room closer to your desire in the temple.


ENTRANCES: A series of high arches that all lead up to the same high arched foyer. All exits lead upward to ONE.

1 CATHEDRAL. This oblong cathedral proceeds upward as high as a skyscraper, its heights lost in darkness. Walls are weathered and cracked. Weathered rows of pews face the center in arcs, where there’s a melted stump of stone vaguely resembling a figure. EXITS: 100’ up are stairs leading up to 3. Hallways along the floor lead west to 2.

2 STATUES. Spiral guggenheim-shaped galery. At center is huge Beksinski statue holding a blue veiled figure, along upper galleries are smaller ones. They all look like they’re attempting to carve variations on the same creature. 

Around the huge Beksinski statue flap 4 dots of light wreathed in silvery veils, these are stone spectres. Perception +8. If they see you, they will possess you, and if that doesn’t work they will possess statues.

HP 30 AC 16 1 attack +8 d20 to max HP, or possess DC 17 to perform most violent acts. Resistance to all damage except divine magic and psychic damage. Undead resistances. Unharmed by normal weapons. May turn invisible every other round.

As statues: HP 25 AC 19 2 atks +6 d20, Strength +10, Resistance to all except bludgeoning, psychic, and anything else that can affect stone. When killed, the spectre is expelled and stunned for one round. As a bonus action on its turn, the spectre can switch to another statue within 60’.

If the veil of the held figure is pulled back, there is nothing underneath. However the veil radiates magic, if placed over a corpse, its weight is reduced to 1 pound.

If the box in room 5 is destroyed, all the statues come to life. Assume somewhere around 50 statues total.

3 STAIRS MAZE The stairs from the top of the cathedral lead to a tangle of stairs weaving in and out of each other and changing direction unexpectedly. Various nexuses of stairs are identical and difficult to differentiate. 

Navigation requires an INT check DC 20 (assume anything a player does to help them through the maze gives a cumulative +1-4 bonus), otherwise you travel for an hour and end up at: 1. Cathedral 2. Ossuary 3. Pilgrim Ritual 4. Cistern (how did we get here? no matter how hard you search cannot find way back to 3). East exit is marked by archway of vertebrae, west exit has dark souls 3 style petrified pilgrims bowing towards it.

At one nexus is a chalk outline of a door. This can be found if the maze is carefully searched, otherwise there is a 25% chance of encountering it. Tf tunneled through somehow there is a dead monk meditating amid dead candles, as well as 1000xd4 gold worth of trinkets, and a bell that when rung can do a healing word 3x per day (d10 charges left).

4 SPIRAL TUNNEL. A smooth-bore perfectly circular tunnel spiraling upwards. It’s a hard climb but leads inexorably to a crossroads gallery, west smells of stagnant water, east is marked by dark souls 3 style pilgrims.

5 PETRIFIED PILGRIMS RITUAL. Inside a kiln-of-the-first-flame-type giant yert are rows of men kneeling and bowing towards the center.  They are turned to a kind of crumbling ash, the forms near the center are crumbling away, the forms nearest the exterior are weathered but crisp and their faces are devout and pleased. At the center on a metal stand is an organic-looking stone box with organic holes, like a cube of flesh turned to stone. It radiates evil and transmutation power. The lines of ritual are left on the floor in uncanny design.

This place was used to extract the souls from all the pilgrims who came here. They are being eaten by the box. The ritual can continue, or the souls can be released. An Arcana check DC 20 can show how the ritual can be modified to speed up or slow down the soul extraction, though the details of the ritual are contained in the document in room 11. If the box is destroyed, the souls of the dead are released and swapped back into the corpses. There are 111 in total — HP 1d4+1x10, AC 19, 1 atk +6 d20 or Bite +8 d10 to max HP, Speed 30, All undead resistances, scream wildly, and filled with cunning to perform violent acts. The souls that don’t make it back into bodies are released as d6+5 spectres which try to possess anyone in the room.

If properly prayed to, will transform all within chamber to that stone over the course of 1 minute, Dex DC 20 to resist. Ritual is described in 11. Stairs up lead to 8, east exits lead to 6.

6 PIT. A wide room, at center is pit the width of a football field. Edges are crumbling and unstable, cracks easily visible from a distance, walking on them requires Dex DC 20 or they slide and all within 30’ must save or fall and take d100 damage. Bottom of pit is filled with cracked bones. EXITS: Stairs spiral up outer wall of room, leading to 13. West exit marked with petrified pilgrims.

7 OSSUARY. Rows of galleries of interred remains of monks. Holes stuffed with bones. Eventually towards the top, hallways are formed of bones. Carefully searching vaults for an hour yields d8x1000 gold worth of ancient trinkets. Exit at middle of gallery leads to 9, exit at top of gallery leads to complex of stairs leading up to 15.

8 CISTERN. Stairs up from below shows increasing smell of stagnant water. In this area the tiled floors are all ankle deep in water. It is easy to find a great stepwell filled with water. At center of stepwell is crouched a giant statue, its arms raised out of the water, but missing its hands. This is the source of the evil stone hands. If a spectre enters this statue, it has 200 HP, ac 21, deals 2 attacks for 3d20 damage. same for if the box is destroyed.

Exits from west to east lead up to 10 (, 11 (a faint perfume, the smell of dead flowers), and 12 (door and stairs marked with finger gouges)

9 CROSSROADS MIRROR. At a crossroads is a great polished sheet mirror 24 feet tall. Exit up to 14 is hidden behind this mirror.

10 TELESCOPE. A steep climb leads up to a window where a great telescope stands. It looks at the belltower. It can be swiveled to examine any part of the city in detail. There is also a cube-globe of the earth depicting all the planes — advantage on checks re: geography when consulting the globe.

11 DEAD PRIESTESS. A steep climb leads to a series of rooms filled with tattered curtains, tarnished metal furniture, a penitent’s cell, and a room with a bed covered in sheets and a woman sleeps upon it. She is dead and wears a necklace of twisted stone, this can be used to cast MASS SUGGESTION at 1/week, but you then have disadvantage against psychic attacks and vulnerable to psychic damage until after resting make a DC 20 Charisma save. A small bible describes how to perform the penitent’s ritual to offer the flesh of your body to the god XXXXXXXXXX (name scribbled out), replacing it with ash. Also contains spell FLESH TO STONE.

The bible contains the weird words necessary to trigger the box, if spoken within 100’ of the box in a penitent kneeling position, the souls of all within the room will be extracted over the next minute (during which incapacitated and in excruciating pain) and kept in the box forever, and their bodies are transformed into ash.

12 HANDS. A steep climb leads to a series of room that appear to be gouged out of the stone. Here lives the pair of evil hands, its nails blackened with ancient blood. 2 hands: AC 18 Speed 60 HP 120 3 atks +10 for d20 dmg, or grab and crush +6 for 3d20. Perception and stealth +7. Stacked corpses of other explorers provide a variety of weapons and armors (you name it you got it), as well as d8x1000 gp.

13 PYRE. A steep climb leads to a lonely chamber looking out over the city. Crouched next to a bonfire (literally set upon bones) is an ancient priest, malformed by devotion to his god. Crouched, long of limb and long of arm, twice as tall as a man, his hair as grey and thin as a mane, his teeth are broken yellow shards, he howls at the sky. Long ago lost to insanity, his only task is to tend the fire that keeps his god connected to the city. He has forgotten the god’s name and purpose. 

The bonfire deals 4d6 damage.

At the beginning of each round, his god intervenes to provide aid. The same power will not be deployed two rounds in a row.

1. Two targets of the god’s choice switch places
2. The sun darkens in eclipse. The priest turns invisible for a round and gains a saving throw to re-resist one magic affecting him.
3. One target experiences a harsh buzzing in their head and a malicious presence, Cha saving throw DC 16 or attack self or nearest ally with reaction, this repeats each round until the saving throw is made. 

HP 200 AC 18 2 atks +8 2d10, if both attacks hit he can throw the target up to 40 feet, they fall prone, OR he can savagely bite them with an extra attack +8 2d6 damage to their maximum and current HP, healing him, and they remain in his grasp.

3 legendary actions per round, taken as a reaction either after an attack or after a player's turn: 1. If someone hits or misses him, he may attack +8, and if successful pushes the target 1d4x10 feet. 2. If he makes a successful opportunity attack, he may grab them 3. He throws someone in his grasp up to 40’.

Saves: Str, Cha, Wis +8, all others +4. He may burn d10 HP to add that amount to a save. Twice per day he may automatically succeed on a save.

When reduced to half hitpoints, he begins to pray continuously. His attacks now deal +4 damage. The bonfire explodes, dealing 8d6 damage to everyone within 20’ (including the priest, Dex DC 16), and now deals 6d6 damage to anyone thrown into the fire.   

If the fire is put out, the priest despairs and throws himself out the nearest window. The god has no remaining worshippers, and forgets the temple and the city. There is a sense of a presence leaving, and a sigh. The temple resumes the normal dimensions of an imposing cathedral, and the contents of each room are emptied and replaced with something simple, harmless, and non-valuable. 

14 MIRRORS Every room in this tower is filled with mirrors. You get the spooky feeling you’re being watched. Everyone who enters this tower, their doppelgangers enter the world and follow them, seeking to undo their every action and eventually slay them, harvest their soul, and feed it to their god's pyre. At top of tower is a hand-mirror suspended from a chain with a cloth over it which, goosebumps style, will turn you invisible for an hour if you look into it, though your reflection will stay in the mirror, and if the mirror is shattered during that time, you are killed. The cloth can only be moved 1/week.

The Doppelgangers:

They look like the PCs in body, but are completely unlike in attitude, name, and dress. They are characters of the same level as the PCs, but different classes. I made them all spellcasters with 100 HP and AC 18.

They are spirits of the city clothed in the players’ flesh. Their powers are limited until the PCs die — upon a PCs’ death, the corresponding doppelganger holds up a dirty metal candle to harvest their soul, and their soul alights upon the candle in the form of a false flame in the shape of the PCs body. This causes the doppelganger’s hitpoints to double. They then bring the candle back to the funeral pyre and use it to light the pyre, destroying the soul forever. The soul can be retrieved from the candle by holding the flame up to their body’s nostril.

When they die, they curl up into a greasy black lump of stone, and their face falls off into an ultrarealistic mask with a mirrored back. The candle they carry is keyed to the soul of the PC only, it can't be used to harvest other stray souls.

15 MACHINERY. This tower is choked with dense, unfunctioning machinery serving an unknown purpose. Stone gears, pulleys, wheels, clog the tower, making movement very difficult and eventually blocking access to the top except for a very tight squeeze (about the size of a head). The top chamber  contains a single pull lever, STR 20, which when pulled causes the machinery to reactivate for 1 minute, during which every round Dex save DC 20 or get crushed for 3d20 damage per round. This causes a lens to open, sunlight/starlight to filter in, and a single drop of sparkling sunlight will condense and fall. This may be eaten to provide the effects of a HEAL (90 HP), or thrown to provide the effects of a SUNBURST.