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Dungeon 23: Ants and Ooze

Dungeon 23: Ants and Ooze

Throughout 2023, a roster of Kobold Press superstars are working together to create a full dungeon for the Dungeon23 project. Each installment contains a few areas that will stack up to a full delve! Catch up on previous articles here.

Dungeon 23 Community Highlight

RPG cartographer and level 1 cleric, Richelle, has hypnotic timelapse videos of her Dungeon 23 cartography on her Twitter page at https://twitter.com/SoundPukeyGirl.

Dungeon Prompts

Seven words have been created to to help inspire this set of dungeon rooms:

  1. Eatable
  2. Pregnant
  3. Garrulous
  4. Imminent
  5. Untidy
  6. Gamy
  7. Lacking

The author can use any or all of them. See if you can spot where and how these ideas get used!

The Dungeon Map

map by Dyson Logos

This level of the dungeon uses a Dyson Logos map, Wylgarak’s Hole (use this link for a player version without area numbers).

This map offers diverse paths for the PCs to explore while pursuing their adventure hook, which should resolve in Area 18.

This installment of the dungeon covers areas 15–17 of level two.

Area 15: Reanimation Examination

As the door opens, the wretched air of death assaults your nostrils. A body lies on a slab, its skin stretched taut across its bones. The remains of another misbegotten soul occupy a second slab, reduced to bones and dust. Beyond the slabs, double doors lead ever onward.

This chamber houses Dr. Mirin’s most recent attempts to create an undead army for the “monster upstairs.” Unbeknownst to the doctor, his amateurish necromancy yielded a breakthrough.

The emaciated body is the reanimated remains of an adventurer who narrowly avoided the traps around the lake but succumbed to the acid vapors trying to open the door connecting areas 7 and 17.

The corpse was brought here and reanimated as a beggar ghoul (see Tome of Beasts 1) who speaks Common. The ghoul’s sole memory of life is of its lungs burning away as it died. Confused, the ghoul has played dead while trying to remember more.

The ghoul made friends with the pile of bones on the other slab, which includes a skull lantern (see Creature Codex). It has a set of clacking teeth (see Vault of Magic) set in its jaws. The lantern loves jokes, but the beggar ghoul has run out of new ones.

The beggar ghoul is desperate for cheer, whispering “tell us a joke” once the characters explore the room. After speaking, the ghoul resumes playing dead, although PCs can discover the beggar ghoul’s true nature with a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) or Wisdom (Insight) check.

If caught, the ghoul confesses that it knows nothing about the dungeon. Nevertheless, it begs to hear a joke, promising to reveal the doctor’s secrets in exchange. (The ghoul knows no secrets and concocts absurd lies like, “The kobold is working on a formula to distill the science of geometry into liquid form!”).

PCs who make successful DC 10 Charisma (Performance) checks can tell a joke. Failure by 5 or more makes the ghoul groan, revealing its identity. Succeeding by 5 for more makes the skull lantern clatter its teeth in a mockery of laughter, targeting whoever told the joke.

The target must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be confused for 1 minute. While confused, the target acts as if under the effects of the confusion spell, but can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

If threatened, the beggar ghoul pretends the skull lantern is a demilich and orders the characters to leave. If pressed, it tries to acquire the acid ant aquarium from the nearby closet (area 16) to smash it on the floor, releasing the ants.

The nook in the western wall has a set of shelves haphazardly loaded with a set of alchemist’s supplies. PCs who make a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check locate a jar of grave reagent (see Vault of Magic).

Designer Insights: Downs and Ups
Low CR monsters can provide the chaotic fun of an upbeat social and exploration-focused encounter, yet are easily dispatched if things turn violent. Between the mistaken identities and the confusion effect, things could get absurd before they get deadly serious again in area 18.

Area 16: Surprise Closet

Crates, boxes, tools, and a glass aquarium are piled haphazardly in this closet.

A character who opens this door must make a successful DC 13 Dexterity saving throw to keep the contents from spilling out. If they succeed, they stop the door in time. On a failure, the contents tumble out and the ant aquarium smashes open, releasing the acid ants.

The ant aquarium houses a number of acid ants (see Creature Codex) equal to the number of PCs. They haven’t been fed in over a week and are highly irritable, attacking the closest creature if released. A character can throw the aquarium for a distance equal to their Strength modifier times 5 (minimum 5 feet), where it smashes on impact.

The aquarium also contains ant jelly. A creature proficient with alchemist’s supplies can convert the jelly into a potion of resistance (acid) by making a successful DC 15 Intelligence check. They can apply their proficiency bonus to the check. If they fail the check by 5 or more, the jelly is ruined and an acidic cloud fills the area within 5 feet. All creatures in the area must succeed at a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or take 5 (2d4) acid damage. The cloud disperses afterward.

The closet also contains a bottle of cleaning concoction, an elixir of focus, and a potion of bad taste (see Vault of Magic).

Designer Insights: Alchemist’s Closet
This area is about reinforcing themes of the level: the acid lake and kobold craftiness. An alchemist’s closet is a perfect opportunity to give the players a few one-use common magic items to see how they creatively use them.

Area 17: Into the Cold Dark

The door’s hammered brass bindings have a faint coating of frost.

The double doors to area 15 are safe to touch and open. The door to area 7 is frozen shut. To open it requires either an application of non-magical heat for 5 minutes, 20 points of magical fire damage, or three successful DC 20 Strength checks. Each creature that spends 1 minute in area 7 must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 5 (2d4) acid damage and become poisoned for 1 minute from the vapors streaming off the lake.

A freezing shadow ooze (see Creature Codex) lurks in area 17. Its job is to keep the area chilled and dark for the drake in area 18. It doesn’t attack unless it is attacked first. It flees combat if it starts its turn at 30 hp or less.

Designer Insights: A Monster’s Purpose
A monster’s lore and abilities can inspire use for something other than combat. In this case, the ooze chills the area and snuffs out the party’s lights, hopefully leaving them guessing and perhaps a little nervous. This sets up the anticipation of worse things to come in area 18.

Delving Deeper

In two weeks, it’s time to meet the monster directing the whole operation.


If you’re looking for a notebook to jot down your Dungeon 23 ideas, check out the Kobold Press TeePublic page!


about Andy Dempz

Andy Dempz was a Red Box kid who took a twenty-five year break from the hobby and returned to 5e. He has written for multiple D&D Adventurers League campaigns, DMsGuild, and Kobold Press. He lives in the biggest small town in the midwest, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with two children, two dogs, and two 3D printers. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndyDempz.

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