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Dungeon 23: Gruesome Greed

Dungeon 23: Gruesome Greed

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

Our Dungeon 23 attempt is only part of the broader community. Each week, we highlight another member of the community for you to check out.

This week, we want to ask you how you’re doing with your Dungeon 23 project. Let us know in the comments below, and maybe we’ll highlight you in a future article.

Dungeon Prompts

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

  1. Savory
  2. Aberrant
  3. Obsolete
  4. Fragile
  5. Ad hoc
  6. Deafening
  7. Colorful

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 Dyson Logos’ map, The Eleint Passages: The Ruined Fane (use this link for a player version without area numbers).  

This installment of the dungeon covers areas 16–18.

Area 16: Butcher’s Block

Blood smears the room’s walls and floors, prominently on and around the tiny mesa situated in the north. A trail of viscera leads westward toward a closed door.

The hellforged derro chop up their prisoners and sacrifices here in preparation for their ultimate destination in Area 17. Rusted, blood-stained cleavers and knives litter the floor. The blood and guts create a path to the door, and the unpleasant odor emanating from behind it should warn of the horror awaiting the party once they open it.

Designer Insights: Set Dressing
In addition to respite, an empty room can telegraph what’s coming up. In this case, it further demonstrates the derros’ depravity.

Area 17: Collected Victims

Opening the door to this chamber unleashes a nauseating gale of rotting flesh. Flies buzz around a pile of bodies stacked to the ceiling.

This chamber provided a convenient, out-of-the-way location to dump the corpses of sacrifices and prisoners and keep the stench of the decaying bodies from permeating throughout the level. That means nothing for the stench in this room, however.

If they are unprepared for the stench (with coverings over nose and mouth, for example), PCs within 30 feet of the corpse pile must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. A poisoned creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, but it has disadvantage while within 30 feet of the corpses.

The spirits trapped within the pile of bodies animate as a corpse mound (see Tome of Beasts 1) for 1d4 rounds when a dwarf comes within 10 feet of it. The mound becomes inactive for 1 minute afterward. It focuses attacks on dwarves before turning on other opponents. PCs who make successful DC 19 Intelligence (Religion) checks discover the animating spirits. When armed with this information, PCs who subsequently make successful DC 14 Wisdom (Insight) checks realize dwarves likely rouse the mound.

Patience and a successful DC 16 Intelligence (Investigation) check uncovers a rift orb (see Vault of Magic) within the pile the derro failed to notice.

Designer Insights: Turning the Tables
A corpse mound is a tough monster at the PCs’ current level, but let’s suppose the monster isn’t intended for them. A clever party may discover the truth about the pile of bodies and take advantage of that information to eliminate some foes.

Area 18: Shrine to Mammon

The northern wall features the image of Mammon carved in bas relief and painted gold and crimson. The carving stands watch over a glittering pile of gold and jewels.

This altar stands in clear view of the derro populating this level as a reminder about one of their two patrons. The derro are aware the hoard belongs to the devil lord and leave it untouched after they make offerings.

A devilbound derro priest (use the stats for a devilbound gnome from Tome of Beasts 1) and four supplicants (use the stats for a derro guard from Tome of Beasts 2) tend the shrine and prevent intruders from defacing it or stealing the offerings to Mammon. If derro fleeing from elsewhere in the level alert the devilbound derro to trespassers, it casts invisibility on itself. All derro fight to the death in their fanatic devotion.

The hoard consists of a total of 2,750 gp worth of coins and jewelry. However, Mammon’s influence weighs heavily on it. A creature that takes any portion of the hoard must succeed on a DC 19 Charisma saving throw or become cursed. While cursed, the PC is subject to the following effects:

  • At the end of their next long rest, the PC gains an additional ideal or flaw related to greed. As GM, discuss with the player how to create a compelling flaw that doesn’t unnecessarily eliminate the agency for the player.
  • Once per long rest, the player has advantage on all attack rolls against a creature whose trappings of wealth the player can see. This may include magic items, ornate jewelry or even a monster’s hoard. This effect lasts for 1 minute.
  • 10% of any subsequent wealth obtained by the PC teleports to this shrine as a tithe to Mammon. This calculation takes into account an estimated market value of magic items.

Removing the curse requires remove curse, wish, or similar magic.

Designer Insights: Curses and Flaws
The bestow curse spell tends to focus on the mechanics of the game. As GM, I like to use curses and other effects that impact or add to a PC’s personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, to give curses more of a roleplaying aspect. However, avoid imposing behaviors on players. Work with them on how the curse affects the PC, leaving them room to decide how their character behaves. In addition to providing a player control over their character, this discussion helps ensure player buy-in—and players tends to bring it to the game more when they choose it.

Delving Deeper

In two weeks, discover the underboss behind our third and fourth dungeon levels.

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

about Mike Welham

Mike Welham started gaming some time in the Mesozoic Era and has played at least one game in each edition of D&D. He has been happily writing for Kobold Press for over ten years and is partially responsible for all the darn drakes flying around Midgard.

3 thoughts on “Dungeon 23: Gruesome Greed”

  1. Mike Welham.. you are so talented and amazing! Thanks for all you do to keep so many entertained. You are definitely my fave!!

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