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Welcome back, Dice Fondlers. I’m back with the next installment of the thing you yell when players kill important NPCs that held critical plot details because “they looked high XP to me.”
Today, we’re going to focus on putting together a dungeon with rich history and ties to our primary villain. (In many games, I’d say antagonist. This is DnD. Most of the games run hew pretty close to standard “kill unambiguously bad entity before badness happens/to stop badness. This doesn’t mean you can’t play it that way. Some of the best ethical challenges I’ve ever faced in RP came up in DnD games. Just
Our first random chart lets us know that our dungeon is located beneath a temple. This is a promising start indeed, as strange happenings and temples tend to go together like bananas, peanut butter, and dietary imbalances. The following chart tells us that this dungeon was originally created by humans. Specifically, according to the next two subsequent charts, Neutral Good Human Barbarians (patent pending.) Now, the next two tables give us the real juicy part of our dungeon; why was it built and what has happened in the years since its creation?
Bizarrely, this dungeon (found beneath a temple, mind you) was built to be a lair for creatures/monsters of some variety. Odd. Note that this could easily have been totally normal if we were saying “Oh, it became a monster lair,” but really, given the game’s premise, that’s kind of assumed. We were rolling for actual intended purpose. Someone built a monster pit beneath their temple.
Or at least, they built a monster pit beneath somebody’s temple.
Second, we find out that this dungeon was abandoned due to a plague. This is in stark contrast to the temple above. The original inhabitants held an outpost here until a plague drove them off. Perhaps that’s the strange phenomenon we’re investigating?
Quick summary before moving on: our goal lies in a lair of monsters beneath a temple. The lair was created by Neutral Good Human Barbarians (patent pending) who abandoned it because of a plague. Got it? Good. Here’s where it gets tricky.
Our main question here is “Why do I care?” What part of this dungeon is going to compel our players to find exploring it interesting? Why would these explorers come down here? What non-railroady explanation do I have for this weird mishmash of history? The easiest answer is to roll in with our dungeon story bare bones and let rampant player paranoia fill in all the gaps you couldn’t figure out.
Filling in the Plot: Who the Heck Puts a Monster Lair Under a Temple?
In the interest of fairness, I’m going to attempt to fill out this story a bit further, explain our plot hook, and build up the importance of the villain’s plan.
Let’s look first at our creators. Neutral Good is a good place to start. While I’m no big fan of alignment systems in my tabletop games, this helps us out a bit. These folks weren’t abjectly out for selfish ends. They were looking to do right by society/their community. However, they certainly weren’t above breaking the laws of the land in order to do so. As we so gleefully stumbled across as while rolling out the dungeon’s specifics, there isn’t anything saying that the temple and the dungeon were created by the same people. What interesting plot devices could we consider if these humans were actually undermining a temple full of evil beings, literally?
Barbarians make sense here. While the class type isn’t the friend of nature that Druids are or Rangers can be, they still hold a reverence for nature with the fits of berserk rage for those in their way. Maybe our Barbarians knew a legend long past of something slumbering beneath the temple that could drive out the evil infesting it? So our creators infiltrate the tunnels beneath this temple and begin to dig. They excavate temporary shelters in their search for the creature(s) of legend. Then, a plague chased them out. Was the plague the result of the temple worshippers? Or from the creatures deep in the cave?
Let’s take a look at what sort of creatures our party could possibly handle. In the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, there are lists sorting creatures by Challenge Rating. While we’ll get to encounter building later, the gist of the idea is this: parties of 4-6 vs. a creature of Challenge Rating equal to their level is a fair fight. There are ways to modify this to be more correct, but that’s the plan.
I’m planning on our characters hitting level 3 by the time they hit our end bosses, so our creatures probably shouldn’t be much more dangerous than that. Challenge Ratings 1-4 should work, depending on creature lethality and the number of them involved. The exact formula is based on experience, and to be blunt, the challenge rating system is hit or miss. Thankfully, it’s most accurate at lower levels. As I look, I see plenty of venomous and poisonous creatures. I see a few creatures that could be infection vectors in a plague. Then, under CR 2, I see it. Myconid Sovereign. Mycondids are sentient fungal beings with hive mentalities and whose spores can spread and take over other creatures. I think we’ve found our “plague.”
Putting It All Together
So, our Neutral Good Human Barbarians (patent pending) thought to unleash a legendary creature. In a moment of inspiration, let’s call it The Trembling Giant (Check out Pando if you haven’t before; the world is full of ideas). Tales spoke of a many-bodied, relentless creature that laid dormant beneath the temple. The NGHBs dug deep, woke it up, and, well, things didn’t go as planned. After too many of them were converted into spore slaves, they bailed on their project. Meanwhile, our evil cultists above probably didn’t fare worlds better. However, they had just enough time to devise a spell that would give them total control over the Myconid colony. If only they had time to use it…
And now we know why our villain is seeking the map. They wish to beat our heroes to the temple and use a ritual to enslave the infectious army of mushroom people living beneath it. That sounds suitably dastardly to me. It also starts to give us creatures to populate our dungeon without having to resort to someone else’s premade encounter table.
With this set of revelations, we’ll bring this episode of ARR! to a close. Next time, we’ll flesh out our NPCs, their motivations, and build the cast of characters our players will have the pleasure of lying to, threatening, conspiring with, and beaten up by. Until next time, remember….
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