Friday, August 14, 2020

Dungeon: Wild Man's Grave

Discord user "Great Job!" once facetiously suggested an adventure scenario: "Julius Caesar battling it out with Odysseus and Achilles over Enkidu's grave goods." Taking inspiration from that idea, this scenario is a simple dungeon with time pressure, putting the players in the role of adventurers seeking to loot the grave goods of an ancient hero before it can be pilfered by one of two other forces. To keep things generic, I will use names like Caesar and Achilles, but you should adapt them to your setting.

This dungeon is fairly linear and features no wandering monsters. The focus is more on simple problem-solving and the recontextualization of the space as soldiers begin forcing their way into the dungeon after you.
Rebecca Yanovskaya

Before Play

The party can either be self-interested tomb robbers, or actually hired by the authorities to remove the grave goods of Enkidu for safekeeping. In addition to their cultural significance, there are goods known to possess magical power. Have each player roll once on the table below to see which item they have heard of in myth or song, rerolling duplicates. Optionally, sage-types with knowledge of legend can roll an additional time.

d8 Objects of Power

  1. Ox-Tail girdle: makes you intangible.
  2. Immaculate Drum: summons and commands a zodiac creature.
  3. Golden Rod and Ring: tap together to issue up to three brief commands.
  4. Sissoo wood siege: if you sit on it, you cannot stand from it until the magic word is spoken.
  5. carnelian bowl filled with honey: antidote to all harm.
  6. lapis lazuli bowl filled with butter: deadly poison.
  7. Bull head lyre: makes projectiles fail.
  8. Statue of gold with a chest of lapis lazuli: comes to life and attacks any who touch it.
The party starts play outside the door of the tomb with reasonable tomb-breaking gear-- perhaps some torches, thirty feet of rope, iron crows, and the service of a couple porters. They know that the armies of Rome and Mycenae are not far behind.

 The Tomb of Enkidu

The entrance of the tomb is a cyclopean edifice built into a hillside. Engraved on the stone doors is the phrase "Ye men of Ur's lands passing by, the one who raised your walls was I. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones." Opening the heavy doors requires the combined strength of three people, and as soon as the doors move a hiss and faint odor escapes from the tomb.

The first room is a shrine to a nature god. Entering the tomb without waiting for time to pass risks damage from accumulated gas (test con or take 1d4 damage). In time, this danger dissipates as long as the doors remain open. The center of the room is filled by a stone statue of a plum tree, its fruit carved censers and its roots fed by carved warriors. One warrior clutches Lerato's Plucking Iklwa.

Through a doorway, the next room can be seen as soon as one walks around the tree statue. It is filled by a 10 foot moat full of rusted spikes, with a 2 foot ledge around either side. Both of these ledges have several pressure plates disguised as the unworked blocks in the floor. Stepping on one triggers one of three traps:

1. A stone in the wall at shoulder-height shoots out to push you into the spikes. (1d6 falling damage, 1d6 impaling damage)
2. A rod near the floor sweeps your legs out from under you, pushing you into the spikes. (1d6 falling damage, 1d6 impaling damage)
3. A spike in the pit swings up to impale you. (1d6 impaling damage)

The next doorway leads to a rocky slope that goes about 60 feet down before coming to an underground stream. The water is clear and cool, originating from small cracks in the ground. It continues down a 6-foot-high corridor, coming up to the 4.5 foot mark. This continues about 200 feet.

After such distance, the corridor opens to a large cavern with a thin strip of sandy land around its perimeter. Torchlight can just barely make out that there is an island in the center of the cavern with a stone construction. Most of the cavern remains shallow, but there is a stretch about 20 feet wide that gets as deep as ten feet. Swimming in this cavern is an ancient alligator. It may be hostile but will avoid anything that could seriously endanger it. If a PC dies, this alligator could be a fitting replacement character.
Rebecca Yanovskaya

The isle mausoleum has a front door, barred from the other side. It also has four windows around the near side of the cavern. Within the building are a group of scorpion men in a group equal to the number of PCs plus one. If alerted to the party's presence, such as by torchlight, they will hide by the windows, assuming the PCs will attempt to enter through them. They have arsenical copper swords (1d6 damage, shatter on a fumble) and chitin which acts as chain armor. The scorpion men also have stingers, which have reach like a polearm and deal 1d4 damage. Those afflicted must save or suffer the Sigyn Curse: their sweat shall hereafter be poisonous. This deals 1 damage to them whenever they get fatigue, but that poison can be collected and coated onto weapons.

Within the mausoleum entrance is a large lapis-breasted golden statue of a hairy man with a club. His off hand has been removed, and is on a pedestal in several pieces, stained with blood. If anyone touches the statue or his hand, he animates and attacks them. This statue is remarkably strong and resistant to most forms of damage. The room also contains a set of double doors, which have been crudely shut by a wrapping of copper wire which was later melted. Finally, the room has an open doorway into a side room.

The side room contains a carving of a man wrestling a bull on the wall facing the room the double doors open to. On the opposite wall have been lined several mummies of Enkidu's lovers, as well as the mummy of a dog. Among them is jewelry worth 200 coins. They are all staring at the bull's head in the carving. Pressing on this spot opens a secret door into the grave site.
Rebecca Yanovskaya

Behind the double doors is the grave site. An embalmed figure lays on a pedestal, accoutred in bronze and orichalcum arms and armor. All around is coins and simple artifacts worth 400 gold (600 to state authorities or antiquarians). These surround the greater prizes:
  • A girdle made from an ox tail. When you put it on, all other items fall away from you. As long as you wear it, you and the girdle are intangible.
  • A painted drum: Banging on it summons a random creature representing the zodiac. (Whether that's the astrological signs, the chinese zodiac, or one of your own invention is up to you.) It serves you as long as you bang on the drum or until it dies. The creature summoned is the same for the rest of the day, and shifts the next day.
  • A golden rod beside a golden ring. When these are tapped together you can issue a simple command to someone that would take only a few seconds to do, and they will do it. Can only every be used against someone three times in their life.
  • A reddish-brown throne. if you sit on it, you cannot stand from it. There was once a magic word to release you from this fate is written on the bottom of the chair.
  • carnelian bowl filled with honey: Taking a sip heals you 1d6 hp or an injury. Contains five sips. If you drink it all at once it definitely heals all injuries, no matter how many.
  • lapis lazuli bowl filled with butter: Taking a sip causes you to save versus death. Contains five sips.
  • A lyre whose body is carved to resemble a bull: While playing this lyre, all missiles automatically miss you and anyone within ten feet. This includes arrows, stones, and javelins.
This is is end of the dungeon, but likely not the end of the scenario.
Rebecca Yanovskaya

The Armies

If the party spends time waiting for the tomb gas to clear, they will see both the Roman Legion and the Greeks arriving. Unless something truly unexpected happens, both sides will attempt to gain control of the tomb, and this will follow a certain progression. Whenever time passes, such that you would normally roll for a random encounter or mark off an hour, progress the siege track by one:

Siege Track
  1. Rival armies arrive and form a perimeter. 80% of it is Roman, 20% Greek. 
  2. Light skirmishes between armies as Rome entrenches.
  3. More light skirmishes
  4. One of the armies (50% either) takes the entrance and shrine, beginning to test the spike moat.
  5. The first army is beaten back into the river, the second taking the entrance through to the moat.
For each passage of time past that, both advance 1 room. This will almost certainly put the party in a dangerous position, where they will have to use cunning and either their new loot or diplomatic know-how to escape from Enkidu's tomb with their lives.

The Roman army is led by Julius Caesar (acolyte 2), who will delegate the room-by-room fighting to his colleague Brutus (warrior 1) and Marcus Antonius (thief 1). The Legion moves methodically, its perimeter bolstered by earthwork and stake fortifications. Caesar values acquiring the grave goods, aggrandizing his ambition, and getting an on-paper victory.

The Greek army is led by Odysseus (thief 2), nominally. The vanguard is led by Achilles (warrior 3), who cannot be killed except by injuring a specific part of his body, which you should probably change from the traditional ankle. He is accompanied by Patroclus (warrior 1). The Greeks fight in a passionate dueling style more like the Iliad than true history. Odysseus values acquiring the grave goods and getting back to his distant home. Achilles values glory and the well-being of Patroclus.

1 comment:

  1. Spam: Aaah, very good, very good. I was something of an Enkidu myself in my youth. But the years turn and churn and we arrive at Erebus before we know it.

    Some spammers would have you believe that posture can make you a vampire. A vampire! Ha! By the mere positioning of the spine. To live forever by the blood of the innocent, with just a vertebrate or twelve out of Godly place.... hm... not for I is that crimson-stained path.

    To the lich?! A travesty of spirit. Look how Harry Potter has brought them low. Split your soul, why don't you, and find that you've made yourself a Voldemort!

    For the hag, perhaps, there is something left of dignity... perhaps moreso in the past but this fallen culture places no value in the elderly. Neither in children it must be said, for the dreadful state of their care and education.

    So it falls upon I, semiurge, to pose my ultimate alternative. Seeing present, forward, back - that's the oracle's trick. But step outside why don't you! It's a matter of perspective. Is the lady young or an old crone? A rabbit or a hare? A glance and twist of the tongue decides reality. Have a looksee here for my demonstration: