Last Time on Dungeon Design I shared how I had begun to design a quest and dungeon in the “Midden” area of my new game Fields of Carcosa.
We created two monsters for this area: the Rabid Urchin and the Nun Toad.
Small / Humanoids
Someone has cursed these street urchins with a rabid fever and painful growths. The urchins have grown spikes and suppurating sores. They’re hunched over and sport nasty spikes.
HP: 15 (Upon death they trigger their spike attack.)
Damage Immunities: poison
Dagger: Melee weapon attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+2) piercing damage.
Sling: Ranged weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 60ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) bludgeoning damage.
Urchin Spike: Anyone within 5ft of the urchin is pushed away 5ft as their spikes extend violently. Those pierced must make a CON or DEX save of DC 10 or take 2d8 poison damage. Other urchins hit by the attack take no damage and trigger their own spike attack.
Large / Beasts
A huge toad with alert eyes and a white stripe painted down it in chalk. Preparing potions against acid would aid in this fight.
Speed: 15ft / leap 50ft
Sticky Tongue: Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8) bludgeoning damage plus 4 (2d4) acid damage. Once struck a target is grappled requiring a DC of 14 to escape.
Confessional Purification: Once stuck to a nun’s tongue the target is dragged into the air where they begin being coated by thick acidic juices to “cleanse” the spirit. This does 4d8 acid damage. Once dead the nun swallows the target whole. As an action the nun can stop its grapple and throw the target 15ft away from itself.
Telepathy: The nun speaks in whispers in the minds of those around it. As an action the nun can launch a mental assault on a target. If they fail a WIS save of DC 12 the nun can issue simple commands.
Loot: Toad Tongue. (25gp) This reach does 1d4 bludgeoning damage and grapples target when hit. The target must make a DC 10 DEX save to escape.
With these enemies designed we can begin thinking about how to lay out the galleon. First lets sum up the information we want to use:
- The nun is a semi-boss fight that should challenge the players.
- The toad can leap, and can use its tongue to grapple targets from a distance.
- The urchins are pretty easy to kill, but on their deaths they trigger their spike attack, and this can cause a chain reaction with other urchins. The spike attack pushes targets away from the urchin.
As with all game plots there must be a reason for the players to go in where others do not. In this case Noatalba needs a reason to want the players to go in, and why he can’t. For one he’s a coward, unlikely to fight even though he is a priest of some significant power. Furthermore as stated the galleon has been locked and the urchins inside have the key.
This also provides the first design question for the area: how can the players get inside?
Since this is a galleon it must have several entrances already. There will be hatches on deck, a possible doorway into a captain’s cabin or fore-cabin, holes in the sides for an anchor or hatches for cannon. The ship could also have cracks that players could sneak into.
Hatches on the deck and a crack or hatch hidden somewhere around the side will be fun. One will require a dangerous climb up the side, the other will require searching for hidden crannies. There is also the locked door where Noatalba stands. Players could just knock it down, but the priest would likely frown on destroying his temple no matter how temporary. However its good to remember it’s there.
I also have an idea for several rooms:
- Narrow hallways with multiple slave cells off of them. This would be ripe for traps, hidden treasure, and ambushes.
- A large open area with an altar, some sort of balcony and/or raised areas. This is probably the central encounter with the nun and the last of the urchins. I like the idea of the players being able to enter this room on high up balconies and skirting around it before getting into a proper fight.
- Other rooms could be cabins for important crew, open decks with rows of rusting cannon, or storage rooms.
The urchins are also clever and unlikely to have invaded something as valuable as the galleon temple without having planned on protecting themselves, so they may have left traps and scouts to warn each other.
I think the route of the dungeon will be a vertical fork, so to speak, with one path from the hatches on top and one from a lower crack that is hidden below. There might be minor or hidden paths between these but they will generally meet at a central point where both converge on the wide open room with the altar.
The top route from the hatches will be the one the urchins expect, filled with traps and ambushes. The lower route will be a forgotten area, left alone but harder to travel through. Several places will cross between them where someone in the lower route could break through and surprise the urchins or skip traps. Otherwise players taking the upper route might find a hidden entrance to the lower one and avoid danger that way.
Well number the upper route 1 and the lower route 2.
1.1 Climbing to the Deck
The sides of the Galleon are plated in rough iron scales. While climbing the sides are easy the rough metal is often sharp. Climbing the sides is DC 12. Failing the check results in 1d4 slashing damage. Often I forget to include the result of failing an ability check. This is especially important when describing places where someone can fall. More than once I’ve bee running a game and realized that a failed check is probably an instant death as they fall into some abyss. Think about the consequences of each roll you require. If they aren’t interesting or too risky you might need to change them.)
1.2 Deck Hatches
The deck of the galleon hasn’t been used in years. Trash fallen from the Palace above lies in haphazard piles, partially covering the starboard hatch to the decks below. (The hatches are the most important thing here so they’re described early on.)
A large grate, now rusted in place and immovable, opens above the yawning slave pit in the galleon’s heart. Light can be seen flickering below as Rabid Urchins scurry around filling sacks with loot. One urchin, with several criss crossed belts can be seen fiddling with some keys at a door. As the urchin manages to open the door a giant toad tongue snakes around the door and pulls her inside. The toad leaps through the door and leers around at the urchins around the hall. The urchins begin to back away slowly, however after a moment they stop and seem to nod at some silent voice and return to their looting. (To make this dungeon riskier I like the idea of the Toad Nun mentally controlling the urchins, however this means the toad nun needs a telepathic power and during the fight killing the nun might cause the urchins to flee after its control is broken.)
Shooting through the large grate imposes a penalty die. If any urchins or the toad are hit they will retreat into the rooms around the outside of the pit and hide until the danger has passed.
The starboard hatch to the lower deck is easy to lever open. A steep ladder descends foreword to the 1.3 Cannon Deck.
1.3 Cannon Deck
A long hall lined with rusting ancient cannon. (I’d like the first encounter with the urchins to take place here. It can also teach the players that the urchins are laying traps.) A turn away from the Adventurers is a trapdoor with two urchins behind the raised hatch only partially visible. Another turn behind them is a third urchin attaching something to a door in the bulkhead at the other end of the hall.
At the beginning of their turns the two urchins at the hatch will lower the trap door and move behind the rusted cannon nearest them to use their slingshots as cover. The urchin at the back will close the door and move forwards. (The Players normal reaction would be to rush the urchins, however the trapdoor requires them to go around it. The urchins will use their spike attack to try to push them into it. Meanwhile they will use the extra time to pelt the players with rocks while in the relative safety of cover.)
The trapdoor is a simple trap with a flimsy rod holding it closed. When stood on an Adventurer may make one quick action before it falls open and deposits them into the chamber below. Throwing themselves off the trap door requires a DC 12 Dexterity Save. Falling does 1d10 bludgeoning damage. It also takes a DC 12 ability check to disarm the trap while out of combat. The chamber below is Prison Cell 2.
The door is rigged with a thin trip wire. When triggered a heavy spiked iron ball dripping with poison on a chain is released and swings into the doorway hitting anyone in front of it. The Adventurer who triggers the trap has a quick action before it strikes them. It requires a DC 14 Dexterity Save to leap out of the way. It does 1d6 bludgeoning damage + 1d4 poison damage. It requires a DC 14 ability check to disarm the trap while out of combat. The door opens onto 1.4 Stairs.
The door opens onto a square space with a steep staircase descending.
1.5 Slave Hall
The stairs end a deck below in a narrow hallway. The hallway is 5ft wide and only allows one person to pass at a time. Ask for marching order before the Adventurers continue.
Along the hallway are eight cells with 5ft of iron bars on either side with a sliding iron bar door in the middle. The cells doors are spaced out 20 feet from each other. Each cell is 15ft by 15ft. The cells are numbered 1-4 on the left from the stairs and 5-8 on the right from the stairs.
Cell 1 & 5
A tripwire has been placed between the open door of cell 1 and the closed and locked door of cell 5. When broken it triggers another swinging poisoned spiked ball. DC 14 Dexterity Save or take 1d6 bludgeoning +1d4 poison damage. DC 14 ability check to disarm.
Cell 5’s door is locked and requires a DC 14 ability check to unlock. Inside is a skeleton shackled to the far wall. Around their neck is a metal chain with a flat collar. On it reads: “Slave 5: Morris Strong Tall Healthy”
Cell 2 & 6
Cell 2 and 6 are open. A Rabid Urchin hides in cell 6 and won’t attack anyone until they are standing directly in the middle of the cells. Cell 2 has a trapdoor that will break and drop a person into #######.
Cell 6 has a hole in the wall. Inside has been pushed a purse containing two shards of ruby worth 50gp each. There is also a note. “For anyone who finds this, This ship is evil and this treasure is a testament to my sins. I worked for a decade bringing prisoners to the slave docks of the City of Song, sold like cattle to the Ravenous Resort, Death Masks in the rift. No matter where we went we disposed of human goods for gold. Now I repent. When humans become items to be sold any human appears to be worth a sale. My eternal regrets. H.Z.” The note is from Harrington another NPC in the Hub.
Cell 2 has piles of skeletons on either side of the trapdoor. 1d6 gold coins are hidden in the piles. There are three metal slave collars: “Slave 2: Tanya Weak Short Healthy” “Slave 3: Anya Strong Short Sick” “Slave 6: Palia Pretty Short Healthy”
Cell 3 & 7
Cell 3 is locked. It requires a DC 12 ability check to open the door. Inside are two skeletons locked to opposite walls. One still wears a worn cloak that seems not to have decomposed. On closer inspection the inside is embroidered with green threads in complex droplet patterns. The holes in the cloak seem to have been melted into it. The cloak is resistant to poison and grants +1 poison damage to all attacks while wearing it. It is worth 100gp. The skeletons both have slave collars: “Slave 4: Aboraga Pretty Tall Healthy” “Slave 7: Gustovus Strong Short Sick”
Cell 7 is unlocked and the back wall has been broken away. The boards have been put back to hide the hole. Anyone with Passive Perception above 8 will notice the hole. The hole leads down into the deck below to the 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop. A slave collar has been left on the floor with a broken chain: “Slave 1: Troya Strong Tall Healthy”
Cell 4 & 8
A trip wire crosses the hall from the bars of cell 8 to the door of Cell 4. If triggered another poisoned ball swings across and strikes anyone in the hall. It takes a DC 14 Dexterity Save to avoid, or DC 12 ability check to disarm while out of combat. A Rabid Urchin hides in cell 4. The Urchin will attempt to use its spike attack to push people into the trap.
Cell 8 has a table set up in it with a ribbon, a vase with a wilted flower, and several candles on it. The candles have mostly melted down. A note is attached to the table by a large knife. In the center of the table are two salve collars. “Slave 8: Sophie Strong Tall Sick” “Slave 9: Maia Weak Child Unhealthy.”
The note reads: “You were the fairest port in any storm and in the calmest weather. I always knew I had you to come back to. I will forever look for your wave and glowing lantern smile as I sail. I will find you again under the ocean or in the stars. Fare ye well.”
The Knife is the Knife of Sword Revenge (100gp) does 1d4 piercing damage and no attack bonus is added. If you target the last enemy that has done damage to you it does an additional 1d4 damage per point of damage you took. (This weapon is probably overpowered. However it ties into Harrington’s story so letting the players know something is this important can be useful. Use at your own risk.)
Cell 4 is empty.
The end of the hall opens onto 1.6 Catwalk.
A railed walkway of 5ft in width extends around the large multistory open space in the center of the galleon. Ahead of the players against the starboard side of the hull the walkway has collapsed leaving a huge gap. To the left the walkway crosses the ship to the port side. There it crosses to the foreword deck of the ship.
Below two floors can be seen, a second walkway mostly in ruin with several rooms off of it, and the bottom deck where pews and an altar have been arranged. At least five urchins scurry back and forth looting the temple while a huge Toad Nun gloats from atop the altar. Falling from the walkway does 1d10+10 bludgeoning damage.
If the Adventurers make too much noise the nun will angrily croak and the urchins will begin pelting them with their slings. It is DC 12 the sneak around the walkway. The Nun will hide in one of the adjoining rooms if threatened. The urchins will also run for cover if they take too much damage.
To the left the walkway extends to the port side. But halfway along a portion of the floor has been broken. The railing is still supported and a dexterous person could walk across it. It takes a DC 15 ability check to cross. To the left is a door. Another two doors can be seen on the other side of the hole. The door leads to 1.7 Overseer’s Office.
The second door leads to 1.8 Armory. The walkway ends at the Port side of the hull where it continues forward.
The second door past the hole is to a cell hall like the one on the starboard side. Broken beams have filled the hall making it unpassable. A Rabid Urchin hides inside the doorway and will try to surprise attack passing Adventurers. She will try to use her spike attack to push adventurers off the walkway.
At its end it enters 1.9 Crew Quarters.
1.7 Overseer’s Office
A rectangular room with a built in bed against the left wall. A large table is bolted to the floor. There is a large cabinet on the right next to a door in the middle of the wall to the 1.8 Armory. Behind the table in the middle of the back wall is a open door way and a ladder descending to the 2.6 Powder Room.
Two Rabid Urchins are scrabbling around searching the room. They have a sack of loot worth 200gp already from the candle sticks, plates, and silver plating from the room.
If the urchins are attacked they will be joined one turn later by two more urchins from the 1.8 Armory.
The cabinet is locked and requires a DC 15 ability check to open. Inside is a note, a Tricorn (50gp), and a small purse of 1d10+12 gold coins.
The note reads “Captain Rince, I warn that if we continue with this plan Grin will discover what you’ve done. We should return the woman and her daughter to the islands. If he finds out and still has a heart beating in his chest he will search you out. Me too if I am not careful. Theodora Baggs, Overseer.”
There is a door to the 1.7 Overseer’s Office and another to the far side of the hole on the 1.6 Walkway. There is a large iron door at the back of the room that contains another Nun Toad.
The rest of the room is lined with low chests containing old weapons. Most are so rusted they are useless. One contains a Rusty Cutlass that is still useable. It does 1d6 slashing damage + 1d4 poison damage and is worth 50gp.
Three Rabid Urchins hunker around a cannon. It is too big to wheel through the doors. If someone enters the room one of the urchins will light the fuse. It fires directly into the Overseer’s Office and does 4d10 bludgeoning damage to anyone fails a DC 17 Dexterity Save to get out of the way.
If the urchins hear fighting in the office two will go and join the fight while the third will wait until an enemy is in line with the doorway and they will fire the cannon. It takes them a full round before they can reload the cannon. They can fire it every other round.
If an Adventurer approaches the iron door at the back of the armory they hear a whispering voice in their head. The Nun Toad tries to convince them to let her out. She will try to dominate them. It requires a DC 12 Wisdom Save to not be taken over. She can issue simple commands including instructions to open the door.
1.9 Crew Quarters
The walkway continues along the port side of the hull to an open doorway. Inside is a long rectangular room extending from port to starboard with posts in the center of it. Hammocks have been hung across the room haphazardly. They swing back and forth eerily. The room can be crossed by zig zagging around the hammocks or crawling underneath them. There is nothing else in this room.
At the end of the crew quarters is a ladder descending a small empty room that opens onto 3.1 The Hall.
2.1 The Hidden Entrance (And now we go back to the other entrance. They’ll meet up again at 3.1)
With passive perception of 12 or higher or succeeding on a DC 10 ability check a secret entrance can be found.At the edge of the paved area in front of the Galleon is a walkway constructed of planks of wood balanced on beams over the Ocean far below. It snakes around the aft of the ship to the flat back where a huge rudder hangs over the water. A crack has formed in the aft of the ship which can be used to sneak inside.
(While this is a place where you might include an ability check having the Adventurers fall to an early demise in the Ocean isn’t a great way to begin the dungeon.)
The crack at the back of the boat leads into the galleon’s bilges, filled with the water and the garbage washed off of the decks.
(I’m tempted here to add in a new monster, something one off. But no I’ll hold to my design so far and make the environment the challenge. This means that there have to be choices of path for the players, if there’s just a series of ability checks all this is doing is forcing the players through a series of hp sucks.)
The bilges on the galleon are larger than most ships, the crack at the back has slowly drained the ballast that would take up most of the room leaving the back end where the crack leads a rubble filled beach slowly dipping into dark dank water. (A weird quirk of this game is that its supposed to be a MMO in my Call of Cthulhu game, so I can’t use smell, or temperature descriptions. Feel free to add your own disgusting scents.)
A gouge has been taken out of a bulkhead 30 feet up above the water leaving deck planks dangling over the water. Climbing the planks would be very difficult, slick with moss and over the deepest part of the pool. There is a slight ramp of ballast against the hull that curls to nearly just underneath the far edge of the hole opposite the planks. But a slip could cause the whole pile to collapse potentially pulling the climber under it.
It’s a DC 12 Ability check to swim in the pool, failing it means the cold over comes them and they must make a DC 12 Con Save to not take 1d4 cold damage. Climbing the planks takes a DC 20 Ability check and falling back into the water incurs another Con Save.
Climbing up the ballast takes a DC 15 Dexterity Check. If the Adventurer fails the pile collapses into the water and does 1d8+4 bludgeoning damage as huge stones crush them. It can’t be attempted again.
The hole leads to 2.3 Lost Storage Room
2.3 Lost Storage Room
A tiny room at the back of the Galleon that once contained carpentry materials. It has been lost long ago to the inhabitants of the ship since it has been added to the Midden.
(Because why not lets add in a new mechanic here. Cobwebs that can only be burned through. Players with torches will have an excuse to use them, wizards can waste their fire balls here. I’ll break my design a little bit by having some wandering urchins with torches as well. Not to mention cobwebs are a great way to make the players think there are some dangerous giant spiders around.)
The room ends in a broken bulkhead with a narrow crack 20ft long. Half way along on on the left of the crack are thick cobwebs. It takes a DC 12 Dexterity Check to pass them without being stuck to them. A DC 12 Ability Check is also required to pull someone off of the web. Once stuck in the web the player is not able to move their limbs. The webs can be broken with fire of any kind. Behind the webs is 2.5 Hidden Passageway. The crack in the bulkhead leads to 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop.
Under one of the boxes is a small chest containing a bag of 80 gold coins and a dagger worth 25gp.
2.4 Carpenter’s Shop
A low hall that extends 100ft in a gloomy half light. Low tables, capable of hiding one person, have slidden against the wall. There are five clumps of three tables every 20ft. The tops of the tables are strewn with old carpentry tools and scraps of wood. These are flammable.
Halfway along the hall is a urchin searching amongst the old carpentry tools. The urchin holds a torch shining a light 60ft around him.
There are two doors halfway down the hall. The left one is coated with a spider web and leads to 2.5 Hidden Passageway if the urchin is left alone at first he’ll move over to the cobwebs and burn them. He’ll proceed down the passageway and search the chest there unless he hears movement.
The right door is open and opens onto a ladder that leads to a small room that opens onto 3.1 The Hall. There is also a door at the far end of the hall coated in cobwebs. Behind the webs are stairs leading to 2.6 The Powder Room.
2.5 Hidden Passageway
A hallway connecting the Lost Storage Room and the Carpenter’s Workshop. In a nook near the door to the workshop is a chest. The top of the chest has the name “Zell” scratched into it. Inside is an old battered shield worth 50gp, a heart shaped ruby with a crack on it worth 50gp or 100gp if sold to Harrington. It grants +2 AC when wielded and as a reaction the person holding it can take the damage meant for a different ally within 10ft of them. The wielder then takes the damage minus their AC. (The assisting action of these shield is powerful, but it’s meant to let a player play a serious tank with less penalties to helping others than protecting oneself.)
2.6 Powder Room
A square room with a central wall splitting it down the middle with 10ft gaps on either end. The wall is surrounded with shelves with bags of gun powder stacked around them. If any of the powder is touched by flames they start to burn and after 1 round explode doing 10d8 damage to anyone in the room, 4d8 to anyone in adjacent rooms and 2d8 to anyone still in the ship as the explosion rips out the ship’s bowels, throws shrapnel everywhere and the galleon slowly disintegrates.
(Here is my first draft for this room. Note that the players could get their hands on multiple sacks of gun powder. While the video game nature of FoC could negate this problem it seems unfair. Instead I’ll reduce the quantity, turn it into a treasure item (flash paper, which I use in a later area as well) and lower the damage and threat of the room.)
A square room with a central wall splitting it down the middle with 10ft gaps on either end. The wall is surrounded with shelves where bags of gun powder were once stacked. A few bags remain. If touched with fire they explode doing 2d8 damage to anyone in the room. However the bags are old and if anyone tries to remove them the powder spills out and is spoiled. Careful collection of powder results in enough to create 1d6 Flash Paper, which when applied to a weapon converts all damage to fire for 10 rounds or 1 minute. Flash paper is worth 25gp in the Hub and 1125gp in the Rift. (That price hike is massive yes, but understand that the prices are tiered to level and area. Plus in the Rift there’s way more undead so it makes sense that an item that lets you do fire damage would be in more demand. By the time the players get to the Rift they should be level 14 and 1125gp will seen like a lot less.)
A ladder at the far end climbs to 1.8 Armory. On the other side is a doorway clogged with webs leading to the 2.4 Carpenter’s Shop.
3.1 The Hall
Here’s the big boss fight room… aaaaand this post got really long. So there’ll be a part III!