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Dungeon 23: Riddles and Crumbles

Dungeon 23: Riddles and Crumbles

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 approach in Dungeon 23: Small but Fierce is but one entry in the broader Dungeon 23 community. This week, we want to highlight another member of that community—you!

Are you keeping up with your Dungeon 23 goals? If you are, good job — keep it up.1 If you aren’t (or if you’re struggling), it’s probably worth taking a look at some words of encouragement from Sean McCoy, the originator of Dungeon 23, who says, “Slow down, you’re doing fine.”

Dungeon Prompts

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

  1. Raspy
  2. Flowery
  3. Billowy
  4. Faulty
  5. Ajar
  6. Truculent
  7. Puzzling

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 4–7.

Area 4: Chamber of Whispers

A foreboding atmosphere hangs over this dimly lit dungeon room, accentuated by a stone pillar looming in the center. Its surface bears intricate carvings, a testament to the disturbed mind of its creator. The back of the chamber houses remains of wooden bookshelves. The sound of almost childlike giggles can be heard in the darkness.

There are two exits from this chamber: a locked door to area 5, and an unlocked door to area 6. The derro, Durvin, has a key to area 5.

The stone pillar in the room’s center originally had Infernal runes carved into it. Upon their arrival, the derro added runes of their own language, which altered the original magic into something darker.

A creature who tries to read the runes or passes within 10 feet of the pillar must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw as it hears maddening, infernal whispers. On a failed save, the target takes 13 (3d8) psychic damage and is under the effect of the confusion spell for 1 minute. On a successful save, it takes half damage and isn’t under the effect of confusion. At the end of each of its turns, a confused creature can make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw; on a success, the effect ends for it.

The giggles come from a derro shadowseeker (see Tome of Beasts 2). He is wearing a crawling cloak (see Vault of Magic) whose tattered strips resemble slithering tendrils. Exposure to the pillar has exacerbated Durvin’s insanity. He is one of the few derro in the dungeon who aren’t hellforged, and he prefers to sit in darkness and dream up riddles. This demented derro only wants attention, and doesn’t attack if provoked.

Durvin welcomes the PCs in between his giggling after they pass the stone pillar and asks if they wish to play riddles with him. He offers prizes if the PCs answer his riddles correctly.

Durvin’s riddles may include:

  • “I was carried into a dark room and set on fire. I wept, and then my head was cut off. What am I?” (Answer: a candle.)
  • “What falls but doesn’t break, and what breaks but doesn’t fall?” (Answer: night and day.)
  • “What can you break, even if you never pick it up or touch it?” (Answer: a promise.)

Durvin provides cryptic “prizes” for each successful answer:

  • After the first, Durvin gleefully tells the PCs, “Greeny is scared of cat sounds.” (This information can aid PCs in Area 7.)
  • After the second, Durvin offers a key that opens the door to Area 5, which he says, “My old friends are taking a rest, but I’m sure they won’t mind you visiting.”
  • After the third, Durvin gleefully offers the crawling cloak off his back.

After playing riddles, Durvin thanks the PCs for playing and then wanders around the area.

Designer Insights: Weird & Fun
PCs can just attack Durvin, but this is an excellent opportunity for characters with diplomatic skills to shine. And who doesn’t like a good dungeon riddle?

Area 5: Durvin’s Friends

The opening door creaks loudly, revealing a stench of rot and filth. The room is partially collapsed with debris, but on the left are the remains of three derro, sitting up in wooden chairs and held in place by broken boards, rusted knives, rope, and swords. A hole in the stone tile is used as a privy, the source of the foul odors.

The three corpses are derro who accompanied Durvin into area 4 but whose minds broke at the pillar. Durvin dragged their bodies into this chamber and erected their thrones so his friends could keep him company. The hole in the back of the chamber has been used for sewage remains.

Designer Insights: Making It Real
When designing a dungeon, some rooms reflect the state of that region on the map. In this instance, the chamber reflects the sad state of Durvin’s insanity.

Area 6: Crumbling Passageway

The stone floor here has crumbled away to reveal a passageway. Old, broken furniture litters the area, and the path forward is a narrow, 5-foot tunnel.

PCs with torches or light sources notice green paint splatters on both walls leading into the cramped tunnel. With a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) check, a PC realizes the paint is made from crushed plants.

Area 7: Greeny’s Spot

As you traverse the cramped tunnel, you come upon a small opening to your left. The tunnel continues through the darkness.

This side area is the home of “Greeny,” the nickname the Derro gave to their pet gelatinous cube. Greeny has been permanently affected by the various enchantments of this dungeon, so it stays in its cavern in the tunnel. Due to sustained exposure to this dungeon level, “Greeny” has developed something of a personality and is no longer immune to the charmed or frightened conditions. As Durvin may suggest, the ooze is now afraid of cats and becomes frightened if it hears one.

Designer Insights: Film Inspirations
While thinking of this area of the dungeon, I was inspired by the 1999 Movie “The Mummy”, in which the creature feared cats. I took that inspiration and applied it to a very famous ooze, which can make for an entertaining moment when the PCs discover who “Greeny” is.

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 Jonathan Miley

Jonathan Miley was introduced to D&D during his high school days when he quickly become the forever DM for his groups. Jonathan’s love for anything fantasy, science fiction, and horror fueled his desire to create adventures and monsters. His first published adventure was A Drinking Problem, where he fell in love with Kobold Press’s Rum Gremlins and created the Gremlin Rum Lord that appeared in Tome of Beast 2. Jonathan has since published various creatures in Tome of Beast 3 such as the Coastline Reaper, Shadow Lurker, and the Forgotten Regent.

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