Caverns of Slime

Level 13 of The Darkness Beneath

Text by Alex Schroeder, Lior Wehrli and art by Ndege Diamond, Kelvin Green
(An edited PDF is available as well.)

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8068/8221269254_283e26d2b6_c.jpg
Caverns of Slime by kensanata, on Flickr

Random tables: Ideally you’ll scratch off any entries used and replace them with new stuff for your next session.

If you use skills in your game, replace some of the saving throws with skill challenges as appropriate.

It’s a trap! This dungeon level has been disconnected from most of the multiverse. There are ways to climb in and out of it, but if the players want to proceed further down, they need to disable the Fortress Dam of Ix. To emphasize this, I suggest to limit access to spells such as teleportation, plane shift and and spells that require contact with divine agents such as high level cleric spells. You need to find the right balance for your campaign.

I suggest that praying for divine spells of level four and above results in a vision and that the effect of these spells be reduced or their onset delayed appropriately:

Rituals will work down here. Rituals are the ceremonies and prayers that take many minutes to perform, usually powered by demon lords and devils.

Overview: Assuming the party descends the Fungus Falls from an upper level of the Darkness Beneath megadungeon and wants to reach the lowest level, the Tomb of the Black Lord of Nothingness – what needs to be done? The party descends through the Shroom Lord lands down to the Spider City. This provides access to River Travel. They will soon learn that the river Styx flows in a circle, down here. Somebody has been medling with space itself.

Following the river, the next two locations are essentially distractions. Bone Crusher is the origin of the roaming ghouls and the two panzer ships (metal warships) and the location of a marooned transdimensional ship, which the party could obtain once planar travel is no longer a problem. The Prison of Dis is where you can find another way out of this level, and you can get a Lion Helmet matching the Lion Shield carried by the troglodyte king of the Warrens of the Troglodytes.

If the party has been travelling along the river, they have hopefully met the orcs at one point or another. At the Shark Den the party can learn of a wizard spezializing in extraplanar slime called Gar. At the Vats of Gar, they can get him to research the problem. Eventually, he’ll realize that the Fortress Dam of Ix past the Bubbling Stench is causing this all. Once it is disabled, the river will eventually reconnect with the rest of the multiverse.

Gar will also tell the party about the Eternal Swamp where additional planar lore can be gained. This is where they learn about the hidden passage leading to the Ooze Lord and the Tomb of the Black Lord of Nothingness detailed in a future issue of Fight On!

Alternatively, use the Eternal Swamp as a starting point and have the party free somebody from the Prison of Dis and escape back up again.

Shroom Lord

“The waterfall from the mushroom forest up above passes through this area of powerful shroom magic. The fungi undulate to a silent music, phosphorous lights and dancing glow bugs illuminate dancing myconids and glistening towers of fungal growth on the steep walls.”

Theme: mushroom people, a king in exile, faerie light, vertical area

  • the black walls are slimy and wet, water is falling all around you
  • a patch of faery grass is glowing in pastel colors
  • dozens of spiders large as cats scuttle away into small tunnels
  • rocky pools are often filled with green slime

This section provides one of the few two-way access routes to the upper dungeon levels: the Mold Falls from the Fungus Forest (level 11) lead to the realm of the Shroom Lord. This realm is a cleft that reaches into the bowels of the earth and beyond, into the Caverns of Slime. Accordingly, travel up and down in this realm is difficult. A party descending the Mold Falls and following the pathways along the river will soon find that they are in need of flying magic or adequate climbing equipment.

When fighting on the small outcrops and grass patches, anybody hit with a natural 20 needs to save vs paralysis or stumble over the edge, taking 1d6×1d6 damage from the fall (unless prevented by magic). When connected by ropes, anybody on the rope team may attempt the save, but each failure adds another save that needs to be made by one of the remaining rope team members.

Encounters:

  1. a giant intelligent spider called Merquishti is hungry for meat – and conversation (HD 8; AC 4; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 15; when bitten, save vs. poison or fall comatose for 24h; can set up area web traps); it speaks the language of giant spiders, a dialect of subsurface elves and the common tongue of all demons; if asked about gold, the spider will know that a knight’s golden armor was carried down this way by devil worshipers a “very long time” ago; if asked about the destination, the spider will mention a city of evil half-spiders preying on the caverns and tunnels below; when the conversation ends, the spider considers capturing a party member by triggering a web trap (save vs. wands or be trapped in a web; the web prevents spellcasting; trapped victims need to deal 20 points of damage using a dagger or a similar small blade; free allies can aid trapped victims using larger blades), attacking and poisoning the least armored party member and carrying it off (when the rest of the party follows, roll just once for the best tracker of entire party; the chances of following the spider into the branching tunnels depend on the number of rounds head start it had: 1–2 rounds: 2/3; 3–4 rounds: 1/3; 5–6 rounds: 1/6; longer: you need a spider scout from the Spider City to track it); treasure at the lair includes 200 gold and 50 electrum pieces, armor junk and a helmet of terror (friends and foes within 10 ft. suffer a -2 to hit)
  2. these rocks extend into the plane of earth and not surprisingly, six earth elementals surface, eager to take back any gems the party may have “stolen” from the deep earth (HD 6; AC 0; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 9; immune against fire and electricity; can melt into the surrounding rocks in one round); their gem caverns are probably unreachable (otherwise the gem encrusted walls are worth 60 000 gold)
  3. larger pools of water have formed between the rocks; illuminated by sessile glow worms, a group of 1d6 nixies is enjoying a bath, apparently ignorant of any males approaching (HD 3; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 12 (swim); charm man 3×/day, kiss of water breathing for charmed men at will); as soon as there is a fight in the water, a further 3d6 nixies rush in through hidden tunnels; they will dive away through underwater tunnels and ambush any pursuit squeezing through into their lair; treasure: a mirror of comeliness (studying your face in the mirror grants +1 to reaction rolls for a day whenever appropriate), a golden lion breastplate of steadfastness +4 (can be used on its own or it can be swapped in as a replacement breastplate for existing plate armor, grants a +4 bonus on saves vs. fear, charm, and other mind bending effects), a closed, green helmet of the water lord with bulbous eye pieces (speaking to water born creatures at will, the ability to grow gills for permanent underwater breathing, the ability to grow fins and swim like a fish at will when barefoot, the ability to cast light from small, fast-growing antennas), 40 000 gold pieces and 200 000 silver pieces
  4. four stone polyps are growing on the stone walls, immobile, with their arms limp and soft; as soon as a warm creature passes nearby, however, they activate (HD 6; AC 0; Atk 1 bite (2d6), 8 tentacles (save vs. petrification of fall unconscious and be dragged towards the mouth); MV 3); treasure: hidden in cracks along the wall are the crushed bones of victims, a jade headband of the phoenix child (eyes will glow red at all times; shoot liquid fire from the eyes dealing 4d6 damage at will (save vs. wands for half); if the save succeeds with a 20 the target stares back, causing a little delay such that the fire immolates the wearer of the headband instead); a ring of the alph (minor telekinesis performed by an air spirit at will, and three air explosion protecting from fireballs, poisonous gas traps and similar emergencies triggered automatically by the air spirit when required; after the third air explosion the air spirit will leave); 2 000 gold
  5. the shroom lord is growing his own circle of psychotic colors (HD 15; AC 5; Atk 1 smash (2d6), 1 lick (poison); MV 9; licked victims must save vs. poison or be charmed); each of the twelve color mushrooms can release a cloud of spores at a simple touch by the shroom lord (he can affect six opponents per round; save vs. poison or roll a d6: 1. close your eyes for just a second and fall asleep immediately, 2. chase an erotic fantasy and fall of a ledge taking 1d6×1d6 damage, 3. bad trip paralyses you with fear, 4. drop weapons, bend over and barf, 5. close your eyes and enjoy the visions, 6. everybody else seems slow and stupid, take two actions); any enemies that fell asleep because of the spores will die over night and rise as spore zombies (HD 2; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (1d6); when smashed, anybody in melee must roll a d6 as described above); when in trouble, the shroom lord will try to crawl into tunnels, activating six spore zombies on his way in; far below the shroom lord the stones are covered in hundreds of broken bones covered in an inch of inactive spores: all the zombie victims eventually fall to their second death; sitting at a warm fire without washing off the inactive spores after walking through the spore dust will grant the spores one last attack (save vs. poison or turn into a spore zombie during the next night); the shroom lord is willing to make deals; he has the power to make a promise binding (breaking the promise causes visions of decay and decreases Wisdom by 1 per day spent in defiance)

If you own Fight On! #13, page 87 lists moon slime as an alternative to green slime. Page 91 describes fungeye and blast spores: one of these eye mutants is searching for enemies down here. The Gibbering Fungus God mentioned below makes an appearance in Fight On! #5, page 72.

The shroom lord can be observed for days as it sings its telepathic praise to the Gibbering Fungus God. A very patient person interested in mushroom magic can learn the following rituals through simple observation:

  1. the care of magic mushrooms requires an appropriate dark and humid cave, spores, a rotting corpse and a lot of spit; when cared for, these will grow up to three feet in height within four days; the mushroom will keep for a single day only
  2. the summoning of the Gibbering Fungus God requires a deep hole in the ground and a fresh magic mushroom; partake of the mushroom and sing the psychic psalm of the greatest mycelian panopticon (learning it requires some form of ESP even though anybody may notice that psychic energies emanate from the shroom lord as it sings to its flock); the fungus god will materialize in the form of a huge toad head within half an hour; licking it will grant servants visions of the future; on a failed save vs. poison these visions are confusing and wrong, otherwise they act as powerful and lurid divination magic (the divination magic will only work for those people that ate of magic mushrooms grown with their own spit)
  3. the circle of psychotic colors requires a circle of at least six magic mushrooms; each mushroom must be sacrificed a small animal such as a cat; the animal corpse is absorbed by the magic mushroom and a few hours later these mushrooms can be activated with a touch (save vs. poison or roll a d6: 1. close your eyes for just a second and fall asleep immediately, 2. chase an erotic fantasy and run away, 3. bad trip paralyzes you with fear, 4. drop weapons, bend over and barf, 5. close your eyes and enjoy the visions, 6. everybody else seems slow and stupid, take two actions)

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8061/8221268846_3d341ddfe4.jpg
Fungus Cave by Ndege Diamond, on Flickr

Spider City

“The tunnel opens into a big cavern. On the ceiling, you see a glowing city with light bubbles and hanging bridges and gray webbing holding everything together.”

At the far end of the cave lies a lake. The stone wall rising from the water is wet. A dark fungus moss grows here, fed by water raining down from a black hole above. Flying or climbing up this wet tunnel will lead you to the realm of the Shroom Lord.

  • spider webs cover every hanging house
  • rope bridges connect platforms
  • this huge mass of webbing is secured by glowing glas balloons
  • water is diverted from the Fungus Falls at the back and distributed using wooden half pipes
  • occasionally ropes reach down to the cave floor below
  • the cave floor itself is covered in broken bones, the fallen remains of what the spider people feed upon

This city is one of the few places down here where the party can make friends and rest.

Events:

  1. ghoul siege of the Spider City—will the party help the attackers, the defenders, or neither of them?—a company of 20+2d4×10 ghouls has set up camp (HD 3; AC 6; Atk 2 claws and 1 bite (1d6 each); MV 9; victims need to save vs. paralysis or be paralysed; these ghouls prefer to eat their helpless victims during combat; in subsequent rounds roll a d6 and loose 1. eye, 2. arm, 3. other arm, 4. liver, 5. heart, 6. brain; mutilated corpses rise as ghouls within the hour and grow terrible claws if an arm or two was lost); there is also a bulbous demon (HD 13; AC 6; Atk 1 bite (2d6); MV 3; victims need to save vs. paralysis or suffer the same fate as a ghoul victim; can only be hit by magic weapons) with 1d6 lemurs (HD 1; AC 6; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 3) and two psychic lampreys (HD 5; AC 5; Atk 1 bite (2d6) and 1 psi storm (save vs. paralysis or faint for 1d6 rounds); MV 3 fly) in their camp; they use a catapult and kites to launch each other up at the Spider City; spider warriors will lower themselves from ropes and counter attack while lightning bolts fill the air; upon enquiry the spider people will say that the lighning bolts were fired by the arachnomatrix Atraxaka; if the party does not get involved, the siege will fail; helping the ghouls befriends the bulbous demon: the party may join the ghouls on their march back to the Bone Crusher after the slaughter
  2. 2d6 spider warriors (HD 5; AC 3; Atk 2 weapons and bite (1d8, 1d8, 1d6); MV 9 climbing) will bring any allies or captives to see their arachnid queen Kilistrexta (HD 12; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 6 climbing) surrounded by another 3d6 spider warriors; she will try to enlist foreigners in her war against her many enemies: stop the ghoul warbands, stop the panzerships or stop the flying orc raiders in order to befriend her; treasure of the spider city: silken brocades with threads of silver and gold worth 100 000 gold; this will go down in flames if the siege is lost
  3. a thousand tunnels branch off from this main cave, all of them filled by giant vermin; six intelligent giant spiders are hunting for food (HD 6; AC 3; Atk 2 claws and bite (1d6 each); MV 9 climbing; save vs. poison when bitten or fall unconscious as your internal organs are slowly digested; terminal damage after one hour); these are effectively spider barbarians, cruel and angry, always trying to rob and steal from their city dwelling relatives; they respect violence
  4. the tunnels are also home to a nest of giant ants; occasionally a group of twelve giant ants on a war path can be found (HD 4; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (2d6), acid spray (3d6); MV 9); anybody able to speak with animals or with the power of telepathy will learn that they are in a perpetual war with all the other “chaotic” beasts down here; their nest is ruthlessly controlled by a vicious secret policy run by a strict and xenophobic matriarchy; there are 120 ants willing to defend the great mother against all intruders (HD 15; AC 4; Atk 1 bite (3d6), MV 3; pheromone powers: all giant ants will know when their queen needs help; the acid vapours in the queen’s cave require a save vs. poison every round to act); treasure: there are 600 football-sized eggs down here, individually, they would be each be worth 500 gold; in larger batches, the value drops to 50 gold per egg (30 000 gold total)
  5. rats without number populate these tunnels; one of the creatures feeding on them is a gargantuan centipede queen surrounded by a thousand eggs (HD 12; AC 3; Atk 1 bite (3d6), MV 6; save vs. poison or die in excruciating pain within three rounds); successful communication will reveal that this queen is in search of a king and she is willing to infect a man with the power of extra limbs (the victim will grow a chitinous breastplate granting AC 5 and four extra arthropod arms granting MV 3 when climbing); treasure: 20 000 gold; each egg is worth another 20 gold
  6. finally, one of the many source of the energy permeating these tunnels is a pool of earth blood; this looks like a glowing pool of cool lava with weightless globuli forming and dissolving in the air above; with the correct ritual, one can bathe here and gain the blessing of the earth which grants empathy with all creatures of elemental earth (mostly elementals) and the ability to cause a single earthquake by calling out the secret names of the seven titans; this is an alternative way of breaking the Fortress Dam of Ix; the ritual can be learnt from Gar (see Vats of Gar) or Beldilabdineb (see Bone Crusher)

The arachnomatrix Atraxaka is willing to trade in spells and information; she can act as a sage, too.

Spells of the arachnomatrix (level 13):

1st level 2nd level 3rd level 4th level
the friendship of lesser mindshunting and webbingthe tongues of strangersjumping through space on the strands of our forefathers
power of mimicrytriangulation of know objectselectric powers of destructionsubjugation of reason
communion with animalsconquest of gravitypowers of flightarachnophobia of the highest degree
telestrangulation using strands of webbingdetection of magical energiessilken words of binding
5th level 6th level 7th level
travel to the shadow landscommunicating with the ancient earth spiritsmysteries of astral chords and travel to foreign worlds
contacting the spider lords of the beyond(unassigned)
(unassigned)

Atraxaka also knows how to build a rod of electric destruction (shoots lightning bolts for 3d6 at will with a 5% chance to hit somebody near the intended victim unless the wielder has four arms to aim it with).

River Travel

“The turgid black river carries you along slowly, forever gathering up small rivulets, flowing past cave entrances and ruins built on top of steep cliffs.”

Theme: slow passage of time, all the sewers, drains, and pipes eventually end here

The river Styx down here is the ultimate sewer; it is the most hellish cloaca maxima there is. Ever wondered what happens to people who fall into toilets? Some of them get sucked down miles of pipes and end up falling into this forlorn underworld. Some of the stuff flushed down toilets also end up down here (see the list below).

Unless dealt with before, the company of ghouls can be encountered on their way to a siege of the Spider City. Depending on how the party reacts, the bulbous demon is interested in enlisting the party’s help against the spiders. In exchange for this evil deed it might offer any of the following (see Bone Crusher for details) or equivalent services in return:

  • an audience with its master, the earth mage Tonnhotz
  • passage on a panzer ship to any location on this level
  • the resurrection of an evil comrade trapped in hell

This is one of the ways to get access to a ship. Other options for fast river travel include the following:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8070/8221268968_13343c871e.jpg
Sky Shark by Kelvin Green, on Flickr

on the river:

  1. 1d6 mutant goldfish, jump out of water and try to bump people into river (HD 3; AC 7; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 12 swim; when hit on a boat, save vs. dragon breath or fall over board; when overboard in metal armor save vs. death every round or drown)
  2. rapids ahead; ignore if on a panzer ship; small boats can be carried over land (see shore encounters); if risking the rapids, save vs. paralysis or loose a random item in the chaos
  3. barrier ahead; behind a river bend a group of 3d4 ghouls have piled some debris on both sides of the river; they use mancatchers, meat hooks, harpoons and nets to snatch people from boats sailing through the narrow passage (save vs. paralysis when hit or be caught); a panzer ship will wreck the barrier and ghouls will jump aboard in desperation as their barrier disintegrates
  4. 1d4 giant alligators attack if travelling on a raft (HD 5, AC 6, Atk 1 bite (1d6), 1 tail slap (1d6); MV 12 short sprint)
  5. a dead humanoid adrift in the water (human, ratling, dwarf, goblin); 1/6 chance that it is in fact a ghoul; otherwise: carries something from the list of stuff flushed down the toilet (see below)
  6. 1d4 orcs on air sharks throwing bottles containing green slime at any of the above (see Shark Den for more info about the orcs)

on the shore

  1. 2d4 dogs are sniffing through garbage and will start following the party and attack at an opportune moment; they are in fact werehounds (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 2 claws (1d6 each), 1 bite (1d6); MV 12; can only be harmed by silver weapons or magic effects, eg. hit by a sword +1 only 1 point of damage is dealt; at the end of the day anybody bitten by a werehound must save vs. poison or contract lycanthropy)
  2. Uzitu the troll is fishing here; he is a pacifist, polite but reluctant to leave his favorite fishing spot; might be recruited if promised a share of treasure and a way out of these hellish sewers
  3. 2d6 survivors, ordinary humans that have fallen into toilets, been sucked down drains, or stumbled into gullets
  4. 2d6 ghouls; roll a d6: 1. spying on the party; 2. about to set up an ambush; 3. ambush! 4. busy attacking survivors; 5. snacking on former survivors; 6. searching through stuff flushed down the toilet (see list below)
  5. A huge slime or ooze colony of random color (ochre, grey, black, purple) blocks passage from shore to cave wall; if approached, it spits out barrel sized slime or ooze (HD 3; see random slimes and oozes)
  6. 1d4 orcs on air sharks throwing bottles containing green slime at any of the above (see Shark Den for more info about the orcs)

Ideas for useless stuff dropping from the ceiling (some toilets are inexplicably connected to these hellish sewers by a one-way pipes) or stuff to find in the possession of wandering monsters.

stuff flushed down the toilet

  1. A golden wedding ring, engraved “To F.G, with love” (50 gold)
  2. A bundle of 3 large prayer candles, each burning for 6 hours, each decorated with a well-known prayers (Player chooses any prayer they like when lighting the candle)
  3. A pack of 2d6 portions of weed; when burned and fumes inhaled, consult cabinet of neurological symptoms with 1d6
  4. A sash with 2d4 portions of dried shrooms: when consumed, consult cabinet of neurological symptoms with 1d6 but +1 per portion consumed (max out at 8)
  5. Stumble upon 2d4 poisonous snakes (HD 1; AC 9; Atk 1 bite (poison); MV 3; when bitten, save vs. poison or suffer three days of feverish paralysis before finally dying)
  6. a small homunculus drenched in blood which follows the party, cursing them (all future reaction rolls suffer a -1 penalty); can be killed with one hit

The weed and shrooms don’t have any magical effects. Instead, they have neurological effects.

cabinet of neurological symptoms

  1. nothing happens, it’s a dud
  2. intense ecstasy and joy
  3. complacency and passivity
  4. arrogance and audaciousness
  5. transcendent experiences of tremendous personality-shifting importance to the consumer
  6. exhausting nightmarish hallucinations
  7. seizures, paralysis and death within 4d10 hours unless healed
  8. total, death-like catatonia, death within 2d6 hours unless healed

Whenever the party meets oozes or slimes, consult the following list (HD 1-8; AC –; MV 1).

random slimes, oozes, molds, jellies and puddings

  1. transparent: attempted overrun (1d6); practically invisible; surprise on 5/6
  2. green: dissolves meat (1d6 automatic acid damage to its victim until killed)
  3. brown: deals cold damage (1d6/round to anybody in melee); immune to cold
  4. olive: dissolves wood and leather and slams (1d6); divides in half when hit by weapons
  5. yellow: save vs. spells or be forced to hit it; when hit, a cloud of spores rises; save vs. poison or begin slow transformation into yellow mold (treat as a disease, death within 24h)
  6. black: dissolves everything including weapons used to strike it (1d6 automatic damage to its victim until killed); immune to magic (but not to mundane fire)
  7. purple: forces creatures nearby to sweat blood (1d6/round to anybody in melee); if targeted by a spell, the spell hits a random creature in melee range; if there is no such creature, the ooze suffers the full spell effect
  8. ulfire: heats anything in its vicinity (1d6/round to anybody in melee due to boiling blood, an extra 1d6/round if wearing metal armor); immune to fire; if hit by magic fire effects, these are reflected back on the caster

Prison of Dis

“To the left and right you see canals with steep walls, and along the walls, thousands of barred windows. Cages are hanging from chains, carried by cranes, flocks of imps cling to every handhold and dance around big braziers.”

  • cries for help and mercy, howls of pain
  • chains rattling, metal clanging, subsonic pounding
  • the water looks like boiling grey mud and smells of rotten eggs
  • rows upon rows of cages and barred windows
  • fluttering imps that taunt and poke prisoners
  • a savage beatings with flying imps cheering the brutality
  • a road of crushed skulls and bones
  • cockroach devils torturing victims with imps sitting on beams and ledges nodding along

Some names to help you improvise:

  • imps and devils: Ahuratum, Belshunu, Etirum, Imgursin, Kudiya, Lugatum, Merghetor, Nasha, Olgor, Pushuken, Rish, Sagilzimu, Taribum, Warassuni, Yayatum, Zamaranum
  • prisoners and slaves: Asar, Herox, Isha, Kador, Lirdin, Medon, Nia, Oliof, Palok, Roxanna, Sar, Valon

Player characters will be entering the prison at the very bottom where the hot iron foundations of Dis rise from the stygian waters. What nobody knows down here is that the prison has been disconnected from Dis itself. There is a long and meandering skull road. “Just follow the road until you reach the great stair!” But after five days of following the skull road you end up back at the starting point.

All inhabitants of Dis lead lives marked by maliciously pursuing injustice: barrators, false counsellors, falsifiers, flatterers, hypocrites, murderers, panderers, schismatics, seducers, sorcerers, thieves, traitors and usurpers. Most of the prisoners are punished for no apparant reason—down here, everybody deserves to be punished.

Wherever the party goes, they’ll be watched by little imps and devils. Whenever appropriate, they’ll offer to help—for a price (see the end of this section for suggested pacts, their price and the seals and curses to go along with them).

If a significant number of prisoners are set free, there will be a prison revolt. The new masters will probably be just as bad as the old ones since both prisoners and wardens are on Dis for the same reasons. Just announce the revolt if the party has been releasing prisoners and expressed an interest in freeing as many as possible. The result will be an incredible massacre as demons, devils, and humanoids of various factions battle it out.

Random encounters during a prisoner revolt

  1. marauding devils looting some corpses (HD 5; AC 5; Atk 1 pitchfork (1d6) or flaming oil (1d6 for two rounds if hit); MV 3 fly, MV 6 on foot; can only be hit by magic weapons); treasure: 50 platinum; 500 silver; ring with ruby worth 500 gold
  2. doom captain Bizacht (HD 12; AC 0; Atk 1 obsidian sword (2d6, two handed, disrupts one memorized spell per hit); MV 3; teleport at will, immune to spells of level 3 and lower) and his 12 doom guards (HD 3; AC 2, Atk 1 sword (1d6); MV 3) are trying to put down the insurrection and require help (disobedience to be punished by death)
  3. a mob of 50 crazy inmates (HD 1; AC 9; Atk 1 spear (1d6); MV 12) is running through the streets and tunnels, killing everything that doesn’t join them
  4. a lynching of 20 innocent prisoners (HD 1; AC 9; MV 1 while chained) by 7 false inquisitors (HD 6; AC 2; Atk 1 mace (1d6 + 1d6 unholy blight granted by their demon while it lives; they prefer killing held victims of their demon); MV 3) and their floating protector demon, a weightless nightmare worm (HD 9; AC 3; Atk 1 psychic blast of pain (6d6 area effect, save vs. spells for half) or hold person (at will, save vs. paralysis or be held helpless for one round); MV 6 fly)
  5. a dying man, asking for water and asking for a mercy killing; as he espies his next life he cries “not again! noooo!”; if asked to perform one last good deed before departing, he’ll whisper “the siren Viseraina is innocent; save her, I’m begging you!” (true, but she needs to be freed); if asked for a way to escape from this hell alive, he’ll whisper “Parallax has been imprisoned but years ago he claimed to know a way to hell’s gates through the forge fires” (true, but it doesn’t work while the Fortress Dam of Ix still stands)
  6. a crazy battle on the square up ahead between men and devils; from the melee emerges a beard devil surrounded by a swarm of flies; he approaches the party and asks for their help: will you slaughter fellow men or will you fight the devil? (HD 12; AC 0; Atk 2 /flaming swords/ +2 (2d6+2); MV 3; teleport at will; prefers to kill magic users first; can only be hit by magic weapons; immune to fire; surrounded by an aura of disease: anybody who fought this devil in melee must save vs. poison or contract the wasting sickness and die in three days)

Encounters near the harbor

  1. weary looking merman Betran rises from the fetid waters and throws some food to a prisoner nearby, blows his horn of fog before any guards can target him and disappears; he can be befriended; he knows that the Styx whale will let them pass if calmed by the sound of a magical horn—and he will blow it for them if they will help him rescue the siren Viseraina from the vampire octopus Khalapol
  2. the vampire octopus Khalapol reigns in a steaming cave (HD 17; AC 7; Atk 8 scythe-tipped tentacles (2d6); MV 3 swim; every hit drains two levels and heals the octopus for 5 hp; on a natural 20 the target needs to save vs. death or loose the shield arm to the hellish blades; immune to spells of level 3 and lower); the octopus can summon 1d4 giant eels (HD 8; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (3d6); MV 6 because the water is not deep enough); visibility is reduced to 10 ft.; the water is only knee deep in large parts of the cave (move at half speed when on foot); the siren Viseraina is chained to the wall at the back of the cave; when rescued, the merman Betran will help the party to bypass the Styx whale; treasure: 10 000 platinum, 20 000 gold, the jale crown of dreams (grants the wearer the ability to enter the dreams of one target per night; the wearer must own a lock of the target’s hair; the dreamer can be talked to and the dream can be influenced; if desired the dreamer must save vs. death or suffer terrible nightmares; mechanical effects can include penalties to the morale of the victim’s followers)
  3. getting into the prison is not a problem—getting out is the problem: the nameless Styx whale is a shadow sorcerer and guards the main exit (HD 24; AC 3; MV 3; his transdimensional entanglement makes sure than any form of teleportation, jumping or beaming will dump users in an air bubble at the bottom of the prison’s harbor in utter darkness 200 ft. below the surface; his ethereal web will detect any passage by mundane means; his hellstorm at will can fill the air above the water with high winds (save vs. dragon breath every round or crash into the water) and lightning (save vs. spells or be hit for 6d6 every round) and the water itself turns into a maelstrom pulling characters into its depth (save vs. death every round while resisting or drown; if not resisting, end up in the air bubble at the bottom); individuals can be targeted by shadow tentacles (save vs. death every round or start suffocating and die the next round); the whale will accept surrender; prisoners will eventually be picked up by aquatic devils, stripped and imprisoned individually; repeated offenders will be maimed: loose a hand); when fighting under water, only stabbing weapons like daggers, short swords or spears may be used; the whale’s powers are legendary and asking around will uncover many failed escape attempts; only very few know that blowing a magic horn will pacify the whale and allow passage (eg. the horn of frog birth by Onbog, the horn of fog by Betran, the horn of the mountain cedar by Kurmatesha, the horn of pressure by Belchion)

If the party is unable to secure a magic horn in order to escape, consider the appearance of a panzer ship (see Bone Crusher) and have the captain buy slaves and recruits for an attack on the Spider City or against an invasion of swan ships from the Eternal Swamp.

Encounters while exploring the prison maze

  1. twelve screeching bird demons (HD 5; AC 5; Atk 1 two handed sword (2d6), 2 claws (1d6 each) and 1 beak (1d6); MV 15 fly; can only be hit by magic weapons) carry an iron cage with bloated, blue woman in distress led by the pompous vulture guardian Iarrackus (HD 11; AC 5; Atk:2 claws (1d6 each) and 1 beak (1d6); MV 15 fly; blight storm at will surrounds it with a 60 ft. aura of shadow death causing 1d6 per round to all mortals; can only be hit by magic weapons); if the bird demons fight they will drop the woman into the canal below where she will drown in four rounds; if freed she can tell the party that the Styx whale will let them pass if calmed by a song
  2. a red glow has been filling the canal; before you is a round hall, hundreds of feet across, the ceiling invisible above, the canal flows in a circle around an elevated center where iron is molten, poured and cast by hundreds of creatures; the noise makes it hard to hear yourself speak; the horned lord of hell Enisatum appears in the middle of the workspace and receives a new flaming sword; this distraction enables you to slip by unnoticed, if you so choose (HD 15; AC 0; Atk 1 flaming whip (no damage but on a hit it grants +4 on the hit with the sword in the same round and on a 20 it disarms the opponent), 1 flaming sword (3d6); MV 3; flaming aura deals an extra 1d6 to everybody nearby; can only be hit by magic weapons; immune to fire; teleport at will)
  3. behind iron bars in a dark hole knee deep with water you find Parallax, a flame stalker (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 flame touch (1d6); MV 6; anybody attacking with a melee weapon will suffer automatic 1d6 fire damage); “Release me and lead me to a forge fire and I can take you to Avernus, the gates of hell!” What he doesn’t know is that the Fortress Dam of Ix has disabled all planar travel away from this plane; his plan will fail; attempting it will provide a clue: “Great energies are bending space and preventing our escape!” Should the adventurers take this route—after having disabled the fortress dam—they will note that Parallax deserts them in Tiamat’s Cave filled with noxious gas; Tiamat itself is a dragon god, a power, the mother of all monsters, a mass of sleeping serpentine bodies 200 ft. high, currently asleep; anybody who disturbs her sleep will be burnt to dust—no save; escaping from Avernus back to the characters’ plane of origin involves meeting the bone devil Carcatrax (HD 7; AC 3; Atk 1 scythe (1d6); on a natural 20 the target needs to save vs. death or loose the shield arm to the hellish blade; can only be hit by magic weapons) and helping him evade a group of flying twelve bird demons (HD 5; AC 5; Atk 1 two handed sword (2d6), 2 claws (1d6 each) and 1 beak (1d6); MV 15 fly; can only be hit by magic weapons); once this is done, he will lead the characters to the dust witch Chiramatra who will plane shift them in exchange for something of value to the party (a magic weapon, a magic horn, treasure equivalent to 10 000 gold); she can also be forced to do this if defeated (HD 11; AC 9; MV 3; can turn into a dust devil at will when outside; this causes automatic 1d6 sand damage to anybody within 10 ft. and she can no longer be hit by weapons; the sand devil form cannot be maintained inside a building; Atk 1 lightning bolt (6d6); MV 15 as a dust devil)

Encounters while exploring the skull road

  1. a huge platform on stone wheels is being pulled by two hundred slaves, slave driver devils with whips are standing by and lashing the slaves mercilessly; as they stumble and fall, they are slowly crushed by the wheels and become one with the road; the whip masters will use their whips to pluck replacements from bystanders (save vs. paralysis to move away from the road; once targeted by a devil, save vs. death or be hit and join the slaves as your soul is driven from your body); when a fight breaks out, up to eight slavers will join the fight (HD 4; AC 4; Atk 1 pitch fork (1d6); MV 6 fly); on the platform is a anthracite ziggurat with a tent at the top; if the slavers are vanquished, a martyr prince of pain will appear and attack unless appeased by death and torture of half the party (HD 15; AC 7; Atk 1 harpoon pistol (save vs. death or suffer 3d6 damage and be pulled to the prince) and 5 impaling fingernails (1d6 each); MV 6; may drop the harpoon pistol and use a total of 10 impaling fingernails; can only be hit by magic weapons; immune to fire); treasure: 1 000 platinum; 20 000 gold; 20 silken carpets worth 500 gold each; jewelry worth 20 000 gold
  2. an iron bridge arches over the bone road; it is ornamented with spikes, demonic faces, gargoyles and black murder holes; right above the road passing underneath it hangs a golden lion helmet; this is in fact the roaring helmet of Lior the Lion, golden paladin of the most holy order of Marduk (when roaring like a lion, opponents must save vs. paralysis to avoid suffering a -4 penalty on all their attack rolls for the next hour due to their fear); it is protected by the infernal magic; removing it will raise an alarm and summon 1d6 infernal minotaurs (HD 8; AC 3; Atk 1 horns (1d6) and 1 two handed hammer (2d6); MV 3) followed by the horned troll lord of Dispater a round later, patron of this bridge (HD 15; AC 3; Atk 1 horns (3d6) and 2 two steel tipped claws (2d6 each); MV 6; regenerates 5/round); if asked about the rest of the lion armor, the troll lord will admit that he took it from a competitor who had lost the rest (it is currently in possession of nixies; see Shroom Lord; with appropriate spells it might be possible to locate a member of said failed expedition)

Whenever player characters cannot make up their mind or whenever they are in danger, have imps and devils come up and offer to help – for a price. They will enter a pact with player characters. Once the details have been hashed out, a pact requires a simple act to seal it. When a pact is broken by a player character, the character will suffer a curse.

d6Pact Price Seal Curse
1I will lead you to somebody who can help.In return, you will fight for me when I summon you.To seal this pact, you will wear this amulet with the copulating monkeys. Atempting to take it off will strangulate you.If you don’t give your utmost to win the fight, these monkeys will animate and grow and do their utmost to wreck your neighbours, your family and your friends.
2I will lead you to somebody who will help.In return, you will wear this hell sigil in your face for a year and a day, invisible to all except for those that can detect evil.To seal this pact, I brand you with this painful hell iron.If you fail to do this for me, you will have sown the seed of evil in the hearts those near you, triggering an alignment change, if appropriate.
3I will summon somebody who can help you.In return, you will forswear fighting all demons and devils for a year and a day.We will drink each other’s blood in order to seal this pact.Should you break this pact, your muscles will wither and shrink. You will loose 4 Strength.
4I will summon somebody who will help you.In return, you will donate one tenth of any treasure found (not just your share of the treasure!) to evil deeds for a year and a day.To seal this pact, you shall wear this ring of mine.If the pact is not kept, this ring will poison you and you shall die. You can never take it off, obviously.
5I will help you.In return, you will suffer for seven long weeks in hell when you die. You cannot be resurrected in that time.To seal this pact, I will take a lock of your hair and keep it safe.Even if you are rescued before you served your time, I shall keep your mind locked up. Your body will be but an ordinary, 0-level mortal until your time is up.
6I will solve this issue for you.In return, your soul belongs to me and you can never be resurrected.To seal this pact, I shall cut off your hand and replace it with this bejeweled gauntlet.Anybody attempting to rescue you will have to face treachery and greed every step of the way.

The above table only makes sense if there is temptation. The party must /want/ the help being offered. Some ideas:

  • how to bypass the Styx whale guarding the harbor exit (Betran)
  • how to gain access to a panzer ship (Belchion)

Also note that the devils will have tried to prevent the simple removal of curses and the simple circumvention of poisoning. They can be outwitted, but it shouldn’t be easy. Make players work for a release from the curse!

Bone Crusher

“The river Styx is dark and slow, here. At the shore you see dozens of torches illuminating a serene harbor between heavy stone columns and broad stairs leading up to a bronze portal made for giants. As you come closer you recognize an ominous cephalopod relief.”

Theme: bronze and brass illuminated by fire, meat and bones as raw material, brains, star gate

  • the harbor is quiet and unattended, the gates are closed
  • the gate leads to a great hall full of zombies (see first encounter); the far end of this hall is the surface of a marooned earth ship—a mobile city of brass made for travel through time and space, to fly through air and glide through earth
  • a huge ballroom illuminated by magic candles and stairs going up to the galleries
  • an observatory with green glass walls—the view blocked by the deep earth
  • a big avenue inside the ship and multiple brass towers humming with power
  • there are endless corridors with hundreds of prison cells for slaves

Some random prisoners to get you started:

  • Viert, a devil worshipper from Dis, arrived here from a slave ship
  • Jedda, an unrepentent toad demon worshipper
  • Gerd, a painter who cannot remember how he got here
  • Berta, an aristocratic judge, corrupt and fearful
  • Goll, an evil hunter of dark forests who wants to redeem himself
  • Liona, an athletic and cheerful gambler
  • Ford, a traveller that fell into a toilet and got dropped into the river Styx, where he was picked up by slavers

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8203/8221268600_0dfdaa168e_c.jpg
Motherbrain by Ndege Diamond, on Flickr

Tonnhotz is the head of the mind eaters and operator of the bone crusher. He knows that the tributary of meat and bones is alimented by all the dead creatures being burried beneath mud avalanches, crushed by earthquakes or falling into the deep shafts of earth. He is here to harness the residual energy. Similarly, he can use prisoners to make zombies and to power his spells. He will not relinquish them unless he fears for his life.

Beldilabdineb is head of the free tribe in the ship bowels; his deceased father was a navigator on this ship and passed on some rudimentary knowledge to his progeny. Here is a suggested list of tasks to accomplish in order to put this ship back into working conditions. Tailor this list to your needs.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8487/8220188613_4386e4e706.jpg
Ether Whale by Alex Schroeder, on Flickr

Encounters

  1. the brass harbor gate leads into a huge cavern with a stair zig-zagging up five floors at the far end; 300 zombies (HD 2; AC 9; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 6) stand between you and the airlock leading into the earth ship at the top of the stairs; the zombies will attack any intruders they can see and reach
  2. inside the earth ship, there is a huge hangar with a planar gate leading into a segment of the astral sea trapped down here in this hell hole; it looks like a brass porthole 30 ft. across with a huge toothy ether whale silently trying to push through a wall of flesh into the room; moving though the gate is easy, fighting the ether whale on the other side is not (HD 20; AC 4; Atk 1 bite (4d6); MV 21 fly; grab on a natural 20 and deal automatic damage every round)
  3. the brain room contains the mother brain the size of a small house in a liquid behind a blue glass wall; it assaults weaker minds and tries to control them (save vs. spells or be dominated if 8 HD or less or be slowed otherwise); possibly encounter the tentacle sorcerer Tonnhotz here if he is forewarned (HD 13; AC 9; Atk 1 /main gauche/ (1d6); MV 12; in melee, a hit lets Tonnhotz wrap his tentacles around the opponents’ head and crush it in two rounds; victims may fight normally for two rounds but cannot retreat; invasive telepathy allows Tonnhotz to locate enemies and to communicate with them; it also allows him to read their thoughts against their will unless they save vs. spells; tentacle blast at will requires anybody within 60 ft. to save vs. petrification or be stunned for a round); stunned opponents are attacked by two black tentacle cats guarding him at all times (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 4 claws (1d6 each), 2 tentacles (1d6 each) and 1 bite (1d6); MV 15; surprise on 5/6); damaging the mother brain is possible but will result in breaking the glass wall—without magic aid characters need to save vs. death every round or drown in the warm sludge (HD 15; AC 9; MV 0; at will psychic lash deals an automatic 3d6 headache every round to targets within 100 ft.; telepathic conversation is difficult but possible: -2 to reaction rolls); killing the mother brain will allow the ether whale to break through the planar gate; dominating the mother brain is necessary to take over the ship, see below
  4. the bone crusher itself is a huge hall with a multiplexing arrival gate at the far end; it is not possible to leave via this gate; a constant mass of meat and bones and mud pours through it and drives the turbines and cog wheels of the blood engines; there are several melancholy zombies watching over the mess (they don’t fight); disrupting this meat influx somehow (any reasonably involved and plausible plan players make should work) will result in a dimming of all the lights and complete power loss in four hours (stale air, darkness)
  5. the deep bowels of the ship are flooded with a foot of blood and poisoned water seeping in through cracks everywhere (save vs. poison once per day or have a sentient telepathic silver hagfish grow in your bowels within a week, die of gut rot within another four weeks); a part of the former fish head slave crew has formed a free tribe with 21 members living down here (HD 3; AC 7; Atk 1 spear (1d6); MV 9; amphibious) under the leadership of Beldilabdineb (HD 5; AC 7; Atk 1 spear (1d6); MV 9; amphibious; water kiss of healing 5✕/day, mass invisibility 3✕/day, favor of Shabriri 1✕/day, a water demon that can strike like a big wave for 7d6 or invisibly carry 7 people along water ways); Beldilabdineb can tell the party how to gain control of the ship, see below; Beldilabdineb also knows about the titans of the earth and how to appease them (the ritual required for the earth blood pool near the Spider City)
  6. the private quarters of the captain is where Tonnhotz rests; the walls are covered in art nouveau brass reliefs and the floor has various elaborate trap doors leading to dark, water filled tanks. One of these is of just the right size and temperature to act as the captain’s regeneration tank. When the lid is closed anybody that drinks blood will instantly be transported to the pocket dimension of angry tentacles
  7. the pocket dimension of angry tentacles is a dark, water-filled world inhabited by a deep kraken, a monstrous creature grown to unnatural size in this pocket dimension (HD 12; AC 8; Atk 8 tentacles (1d6); MV 6 swim; when hit by two tentacles, save vs. paralysis or be grappled and suffer an automatic 2d6/round until released). There are also 24 smaller carnivorous fish (HD 2; AC 8; Atk 1 bite (1d6); MV 9) and large kelp forests, rock caves, strange spires rising up to the upper reaches of the pocket dimension (when fighting under water, only stabbing weapons like daggers, short swords, spears, tridents and the like may be used). On the highest needle there is a small flat area, maybe twenty feet across, where Tonnhotz likes to meditate. This is where he placed the helm to his marooned ship. The small area here is covered by a permanent anti-magic effect. There is but little warning: The area is also covered by a permanent silence effect thirty feet across. In other words, approaching characters talking to each other as they approach will notice the silence before their water-breathing spells are being cancelled.
Task Cost Time
Defeat Tonnhotz—one ship, one captain, right?
Purge or control the zombies and drive out the negative energies. Unless the ship is hallowed with holy water (which is very expensive down here), the accumulated negative energies will make sure that anybody dying inside the ship will rise as a zombie under the control of the mother brain.50 000 gold1 week
Retrieve the helm which Tonnhotz has stored in the pocket dimension of rage tentacles reachable via his personal regenerator tank (see above).
Dominate the mother brain—controlling the water and nutrient supply of the mother brain allows a captain to retrain it, buying the ingredients from traveling merchants and hellish bazaars. This requires regular access to the harbor market in the Prison of Dis100 000 gold4 weeks
Rebuild the ship using experiments and expensive rare materials with the help of Beldilabdineb’s tribe. This requires regular access to the harbor market in the Prison of Dis500 000 gold4 weeks
Alternatively rebuild the ship with engineers and supply material from the Fortress Dam of Ix; this would require a violent assault, the kidnapping of experts and robbing the required material; it would also attract two panzer ships on a punitive mission.4 weeks

Panzer ships are the armored steam boats used by the captains in the service of Tonnhotz. There are several of them; two are described below. If both of them have made an appearance, feel free to add your own. Note that if you want them to sail to the Prison of Dis in order to trade, the captain will need some sort of magic horn in order to bypass the Styx whale.

It is possible to take hold of a ship. This requires a crew of ten to operate the machines, somebody with a nautic background to navigate the river and somebody with an engineering background to control the ship.

  1. the brass panzer ship Warburg arrives from the Prison of Dis carrying a treasure of 40’000 gp and 153 slaves in recompense for sorcerous services rendered; it is operated by a crew of forty headless zombies (HD 1; AC 8; Atk 2 claws (1d6 each); MV 3) and defended by forty hungry ghoul archers (HD 2; AC 8; Atk 1 bow (1d6); MV 12); the captain is the merchant sorcerer Belchion (HD 9; AC 4; Atk 1 rapier (1d6); MV 12; storm blast stops any advance by creatures of ogre size or smaller; slams flying creatures against the floor or ship for 2d6; bolts of lightning against up to three opponents at the same time for 6d6 each, save vs. spells for half) who is in turn protected by two brass golems (HD 11; AC 3; Atk 2 fists (2d6); MV 3; immune to magic; healed by fire magic; can only be hit by magic weapons); treasure: the horn of pressure (when blown, every creature within 150 ft. with a heart to feel, ears to hear and eyes to see except for the person blowing the horn must save vs. death or be temporarily blinded by their bulging eyes; when blown again, any creature that failed the previous save must save again or faint; when blown a third time, any creature that failed the previous save must save one last time or die from cardiac arrest—the undead and golems are immune, obviously); bracers of armor +4 with the snake sigils of Set; ring of the forked tongue (wearer will grow a forked tongue and is able to see invisible, living creatures)
  2. the black iron panzer ship Zykanthor brings the devil captain Helicantus (HD 12; AC 0; Atk 1 electric eel sword (2d6, two handed with a pommel showing an eel head, victims must save vs. paralysis or be stunned one round; the sword also forces the wielder to attack the stunned opponent the next round—possibly triggering another save); MV 3; teleport at will, immune to spells of level 3 and lower) with a host of 120 armored mord men (HD 3; AC 2; Atk 1 sword (1d6) or 1 short bow (1d6); MV 3) and five siege trolls (HD 7; AC 4; Atk 2 iron gauntlets (2d6 each); MV 6) to fight; without intervention the siege will proceed as follows: gate breached on the second day by side tunnels, flaming rivers of oil being poured through the breach by the defenders killing a siege troll, maiming three others, and killing about 40 men, the third day Helicantus keeps to his ships and looks for a way to sabotage the defenses (and will pay 10 000 gold to anybody who manages to do this), without help by the players his attempt will fail on the fourth day and he will cut his losses and leave; treasure: 4 scrolls of blasting (used for structural damage and breach the gate); 20 scrolls of flaming death (explosions dealing 6d6 fire damage to anybody within 20 ft.); 20 scrolls of fiery arrows (enchants 50 arrows to deal an extra 1d6 of fire damage); pay for the mord men: 12 000 gold in a coffer protected by a poison needle

If you need a third party, feel free to have orcs on air sharks arrive on the scene throwing flasks containing green slime (see Shark Den for more info about the orcs)

Shark Den