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Dungeon 23: The Test of Flame

Dungeon 23: The Test of Flame

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.

Will the Human has taken a different approach to Dungeon 23, making a series of encounter tables and small dungeons. Find his mega thread here.

Dungeon Prompts

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

  1. Oafish
  2. Shiny
  3. Redundant
  4. Imperfect
  5. Complex
  6. Tawdry
  7. Natural

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 12–15.

If you enjoy random generation, roll 1d4 + 11 to determine which area the two hellforged derro (see Tome of Beasts 3) are in. Otherwise, they’re in area 13.

Area 12: Vestry of the Doomed

Clothing and gear are piled in the western corner of this small room. A stone feature in the north corner has been worked into a pedestal covered in etched runes. Crudely stitched black robes hang from the rough walls.

The derro prepare their captured victims for sacrifice here. First, they force them onto the pedestal to paralyze them. Next, the derro remove their equipment and dress them in the crudely stitched black robes before taking them to area 13.

Anyone sitting on the pedestal must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed for 10 minutes. Every 5 minutes, the target may make another saving throw. On a success, the effect ends.A detect magic spell reveals a magical aura of enchantment around the pedestal.

PCs who search the pile of clothes and gear for ten minutes can make a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. On a success, the PC finds something of value. On a failure, they find a swarm of rats. Roll 1d6 on the following table to determine what they find on a successful search. The PCs can continue to search until they get a duplicate result, after which no more items can be found.

d6Item Found (see Vault of Magic for results 1–4)
1kobold firework: priest light
2hat of mental acuity
3rift orb (destroyed after one use)
4whispering cloak
5potion of superior healing
6A platinum cloak clasp with the mark of a local noble house (worth 500 gp).

If the PCs find the swarm of rats, the resulting noise draws the attention of the hellforged derro in Area 13. After every 10 minutes, roll a d6. On a 1, one hellforged derro from Area 13 comes into the room to search the equipment personally.

Designer Insights: Press Your Luck
This chamber gives the PCs the opportunity to find some serious magic items if they’re willing to take their chances. Communicate the mechanic well and every die roll ratchets up the tension and excitement.

Area 13: The Blackened Chapel

In the room’s center, candles surround an arcane circle drawn on the floor in glittering silver dust. The surrounding floor is blackened. An iron wheel with a sculpture of a human face in its center is mounted six feet up in the northwestern corner, and coins are heaped below it. Stone shelves with neat piles of bones line the southern wall, and intermittent metallic grinding and creaking noises come from behind a curtain to the east.

The iron wheel is a cosmetic variation of a wanyudo (see Tome of Beasts 2). The fiend was captured by the hellforged derro while journeying through the infernal planes. The arcane circle has no magical power, but the markings are Infernal supplications for an unnamed fiendish lord to accept their offerings. The curtain blocks sight into area 14. Any creature other than the derro who comes within 5 feet of the curtain is subjected to the fear aura of the automata devil in area 14.

Inside the room are two hellforged derro who enjoy capturing adventurers and sacrificing them in the flaming breath of the wanyudo. If confronted with overwhelming numbers, they try to deceive the PCs into “receiving the master’s blessing” (which is the wanyudo’s breath). If a derro begins its turn with less than half its hit point maximum, it flees to area 14.

The wanyudo attacks with its Flaming Breath when anyone other than a derro enters the arcane circle or when ordered to by the derro. It is mounted to the wall by iron brackets laced with silver and has a speed of 0 feet until it is freed from them. The brackets have AC 18, 15 hit points, and are immune to poison and psychic damage. Assorted coins worth a total of 1500 gp are piled below the wanyudo—yet another offering from the derro.

Designer Insights: Leaving Room for Plot
Here, the platinum cloak clasp and the fiendish lord are detailed vaguely. As a GM, you may use them to heighten the fiendish feel to this dungeon level, or you use them for the next interlude adventure before we come back to the fourth and final dungeon level.

Area 14: Take These Chains

The passage beyond the curtain is filled with a nightmare of metal and flesh. A creature with mandibles and many arms wields a menacing whip. Iron wires, gears, and rune-covered silver chains are sewn into its skin.

An automata devil (see Tome of Beasts) is bound in the hallway by silver chains, blocking the passage and attacking anyone other than the derro. The devil wants to be free of the silver chains, to kill the derro who ensnared it, and to return to the Eleven Hells.

Whenever the devil takes damage, it can use its reaction to try to break free of the silver chains with a successful DC 25 Strength (Athletics) check.

The automata devil wears a band of iron thorns (see Vault of Magic) which it is attuned to and can use in combat. The band can be retrieved from its body after it is killed.

The devil is open to bargaining, but the PCs must make a successful DC 14 Charisma (Persuasion) check to catch its attention. The devil can offer either the band of iron thorns or the secret to get up the stairs in area 15 safely. However, only the devil can break its cursed chains, and it can only do so after taking damage, which it is reluctant to accept. It proposes a trade in addition to whatever other bargain is struck for its freedom: that it may deal the same amount of damage to the dealer after being freed.

Designer Insights: Fair Play
Magic items shouldn’t sit unused in hoards waiting for adventurers to come and claim them. Their keepers should use them!

Area 15: Vertigo

The passage turns and leads to a set of rune-etched rough stone stairs with a T intersection above them.

The derro left one more trap to cover their retreat. If the PCs are close enough to keep the derro in sight, they observe them going up the stairs in a madcap hopscotch pattern. A PC can deduce the pattern with a successful DC 18 Intelligence (Investigation) check. To replicate the pattern, they must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics or Performance) check.

Going up the stairs without performing the correct pattern of steps triggers runes which illuminate and swirl in a sickly mixture of greens and yellows. Any PC on the stairs must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the PC is poisoned, falls prone, and can’t stand up until they exit the area.

Designer Insights: Maintaining Tension
After what might be a pair of rough fights in close succession, the stair trap lets the characters off relatively easy. It keeps the pressure on without levying a hit point tax by helping the derro slip away to hide or set an ambush.

Delving Deeper

In two weeks, we find the hellish fork in our dungeon road.

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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