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Dungeon 23: Lower Levels

Dungeon 23: Lower Levels

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

Richard Ruane has morphed the Dungeon 23 concept into City 23, where he is fleshing out not one, but two cities. Since kobolds spend much of their time navigating the urban sprawl, we appreciate the faction-forward design Richard is using for his High Middle Ages version of Nottingham.

Dungeon Prompts

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

  1. Boundless
  2. Second-hand
  3. Acoustic
  4. Recent
  5. Moldy
  6. Spiky
  7. Resonant

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

For the third level of our dungeon, we’re using the 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 1–3.

Area 1: Reverberating Stairs

A musty, acrid odor permeates the area, leaving an unpleasant film on your tongue. Runes are haphazardly etched into the stone walls and floor, descending down the curving walls of the staircase in a litany of curses. A prolonged, pained cry echoes up from the darkness below.

The etchings on the walls are written in Derro. A PC who examines the writing must succeed on a DC 15 Intelligence (Religion) check to decipher the scrawling as intercessions to the arch-devils Mammon and Poena. The prayers are laden with foul metaphors and bleak allegory.

Noise in the stairwell leading to area 2 is amplified as it echoes. The PCs have disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks on the stairs, and creatures in area 2 are immediately aware of them if the party does not move stealthily.

However, a cry sounds from below every 30 seconds. With a DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check, a PC recognizes the consistent spacing of the noise. If they time their movements on the stairs to coincide with the noise, the PCs have advantage on their Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Halfway down the stairs, a character with passive Intelligence (Investigation) 16 or higher, or who succeeds on an active DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check while examining the runes sees one perfectly formed Infernal rune amid the madcap Derro ones. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana) check identifies the rune as a magical sensor that activates whenever anything passes before it. The rune is set at a height that allows Small creatures and crawling Medium creatures to pass without setting it off. The rune can also be destroyed, which terminates its magical function. It has AC 10, 20 hp, is immune to fire, poison, and psychic damage, and vulnerable to cold damage. It is destroyed if subject to dispel magic.

If the rune is triggered, an alarm sounds, alerting the denizens of areas 2 and 3 to intruders.

Area 2: Bloodletting Chamber

A bleeding, loincloth-clad dwarf is bound to the central pillar of this chamber. Several small, robed figures move about, one reaching out with a knife to carve a bloody rune into the dwarf—the source of the pained cries.

Six robed derro cultists of Poena are preparing the captive Sir Vestunn for sacrifice to their patron arch-devil. Sir Vestunn is a dwarf knight with 14 hp remaining. He is unarmed and unarmored.

Overseeing the preparations is a hellforged derro (see Tome of Beasts 3). A pair of derro guards (see Tome of Beasts 2) flank the stairs into the chamber. They are hidden from sight while the PCs descend the stairs.

If the PCs alerted the derro in this area after setting off the alarm or by failing to move stealthily through area 1, the derro in the chamber use the pillars and corners of the room to hide, waiting until the PCs approach the bound dwarf to attack.

The cultists are firmly devoted to their patron and fight to the death. If the derro guards start their turn with 10 hp or less, they attempt to escape into area 3, locking the door behind them. If the hellforged derro starts its turn with 20 hp or less, it flees through area 11.

The floor and walls of the northern and southern portions of the chamber are filled with acrid, blue-black mold. Moving faster than 5 feet per round through the mold causes spores to spray into the air in a 10-foot radius cloud per 5-foot section of mold that is disturbed. A creature that starts its turn in the spore cloud must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) poison damage and being poisoned for 10 minutes on a failed save, or half as much damage and not being poisoned on a successful one.

If Sir Vestunn is freed, he tells the characters what little he knows:

  • He was captured investigating the upper floors of the complex with his squire Brumhilde.
  • He doesn’t know where Brumhilde is, or whether she still lives.
  • He suspects there is a high ranking derro priest of Mammon somewhere in the dungeon.
  • The derro guards occasionally whisper about a shadowy, draconic presence.
  • Devils walk the corridors alongside the derro.

If provided with gear, preferably his own or on loan from the characters, or reluctantly scavenged from derro corpses, Sir Vestunn offers to guard the area while the characters press further into the dungeon. If the derro guards locked the door to Area 3, the lock can be picked by with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools. A PC can also break down the door with a DC 20 Strength check, although everyone in this dungeon level hears the breaking blow.

Designer Insights: The Value of Collateral
By 7th level, PCs are seasoned adventurers. Even a sizeable group of low-challenge creatures is a single fireball away from being ash on the wind. Throwing something into the mix that complicates the matter, such as a hostage, pushes them to think about their approach and might lead to a creative solution.

Area 3: Respite

Caltrops litter the floor of this room that seems scarcely wider than a hallway.

Caltrops have been scattered across the floor directly inside the doorway from area 2, as well as in front of the doorway leading to area 4. Each caltrop-strewn section measures 5 feet by 5 feet. If the derro guards from section 2 fled through here, they leaped over the caltrops to avoid them. The guards fear entering area 4, and they make their last stand here.

If secured, this room is a reasonable place to rest. The iron-banded wooden doors leading from this chamber can be locked. A creature can pick the lock with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools. The locked doors can be burst open with a DC 20 Strength check, which can be increased to a DC 27 check if the PCs wedge the doors shut.

A cave-in has sealed the door leading to the east. The PCs can excavate it, force it open with a DC 27 Strength check, or break it down (it has AC 15, 55 hp, a damage threshold of 10, and is immune to poison and psychic damage). There they find a hammer of throwing (see Vault of Magic) amid the tumbled stone and rubble. The passageway is otherwise impassable.

Delving Deeper

In two weeks, the adventurers push further into the dungeon and discover what challenges Hell has wrought for them.

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

about Kelly Pawlik

Kelly started gaming after her second son was born in 2012. She delights in worldbuilding and prefers campaigns that contain an abundance of intrigue and romance. Kelly co-founded Dire Rugrat Publishing in 2015 and has worked on many projects with Kobold Press. In 2021 she released the first three novellas in her middle-grade science fiction/horror/urban fantasy series, The Olympic Vista Chronicles.

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