Friday, March 29, 2024

Skulking Below - Dungeon Magazine 81

Five adventures from one issue of Dungeon. Five. This is the fifth module in the issue that seemed worth talking about in regard to fitting it to a Ptolus campaign.

Central to the story are a group of evil Skulks that have stepped up their robbery and murder efforts. This has the City Watch thinking the thieves guild has gotten bold, and the Watch plans to crack down.

The PCs can become enmeshed in the situation through a number of approaches. The Watch can hire them because their own men are stretched thin and there's some urgency to get things resolved. Or they might owe a Watch Captain a favor. Maybe someone they know was a victim and they decide to investigate.

The thieves guild has enacted a plan to put an end to these skulks plans by luring the Watch right to them. They have a doppleganger find and ally with the Skulks to fool them into thinking they're working for the guild and push them to greater, riskier activity. 

It might be interesting to have the Killraven Crime League be the ones trying to set the Skulks up to take a fall in order to get rid of minor competition and take some heat off of their people in the district.

As written, part of the action takes place in the sewers below the Docks District, but in Ptolus there's nothing below the docks except deep water. The district itself is a construct partially held up by magic. This means we need to move that activity to another location.

If you have the Skulk bandits operating in Oldtown it would ruffle enough feathers to get the Watch working hard to find the perpetrators. It also opens up the possibility that the characters might go to Skulk Alley seeking insight. This could prove interesting because it's not certain that these Skulks would rat out the others. In fact, if they know about the plans to deliberately have them hunted down by the law, they might do some misdirection.

The Skulk bandits are operating out of a hidden lair reached through the sewers. This old lair was once used by criminals who worshipped a deity of shadows and thievery. Based on the bloodstained altar and other factors the best choice is Maleskari.

Years ago some members of the City Watch raided this location and sealed some of the occupants inside a section the Skulks haven't broken into yet. Those occupants died and turned into ghouls and ghasts. Why they were stuck inside is a mystery since there's another access point down a set of spiral stairs descending several hundred feet into a set of catacombs and passages the author left undetailed so DMs could fill in what lies below. You can either plan ahead for why they couldn't escape or omit the stairs altogether.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Khazefryn - Dungeon Magazine 81

This is the fourth adventure in issue 81 of Dungeon Magazine that I've chosen to write about. 

There really isn't much work needed to fit this into your Ptolus campaign. You kind of get the impression that the author originally wrote more for the scenario and the editors had him cut it down, but that extra wouldn't likely have provided hooks useable for connecting it to the city.

Khazefryn as written can easily become a slaughter-fest, especially for hack and slash happy murder hobos. 

Getting the characters involved in the adventure is very easy. Outlined in the scenario are a few options. 

1) Player characters are travelling through caverns and discover this place during their journey. They can pay up in order to pass through (it's very expensive to avoid a fight), or they can back off and seek a path around the place. Make this a costly and dangerous shortcut, or just something they stumble onto. They'll learn that it exists and can always come back to it later if they choose to avoid the place.

2) If the party is searching for something specific they might encounter some underdark denizens that can clue them into the idea that it was taken to Khazefryn. Further questioning can reveal that it is inhabited by a number of different type of creatures, but try not to reveal the presence of the dragons.

3) A bounty might be placed on the head of a resident and the party might decide to fetch the wanted individual. The adventure suggests a certain Drow thief along with an interesting deal to agree with in order to take him away.

4) Another group of underground dwellers wants to find out details of the goings on in Khazefryn and sends the PCs. In this instance they can be following up on the rumor that a dragon runs the place.

Khazefryn consists of 6 "islands" in a lake. The islands were enormous mineral columns that had their tops broken off by the previous inhabitants so they could build a monastery. After they left or were driven away some Drow turned the location into an outpost. Since that time other creatures have come along to make some of the islands their abodes. 

A pair of poorly named dragons later arrived and took control, killing off those of the Drow that refused to accept their rule and subjugating everyone within the cavern. Stalagmite and Stalactite? Come on, we can do better than that for dragon names.

Should you choose to do so, the adventure presents the opportunity to further develop the intrigue between the various factions within the cavern complex. It is hinted at, but not pursued. There are also doppleganges that have begun infiltrating the tribes. The residents, under the rule of the dragons, pull together to fight off invaders, but otherwise bicker and skirmish among themselves.

Among the island residents are tribes of Kuo Toa, Lizardmen, Troglodytes, a bat-like humanoid race that can't fly, called Bainligor, and Drow. In the lake are some eels big enough to have a swallow attack, and some aquatic gargoyles. In the caves to the side the dragons have their lair.

Take care to read this module a couple of times and make appropriate preparation to run it. There are also some cursed magic items present you'll want to account for, including one that can disintegrate a wearer, and another that insta-kills characters that try to read the rune written on it (with no saving throw, you know I'll change that aspect if I run this).

It's possible for the characters to be captured (drow poison can knock them out). In that event you have a plethora of options for what to do with them. The writer suggests that one PC gets selected to become a blood sacrifice to Gorgoth-Lol (Lolth) and the others sold to a number of monster types as slaves or food. The party would have all of their possessions taken and added to the hoards of the dragons. 

Rescuing a party beset by this situation can be either an off-screen event or you could have the players run back-up characters to do their own rescue. There's also the aspect of wanting their stuff back to motivate them to return for round two. 

Friday, March 1, 2024

The Door to Darkness - Dungeon Magazine 81

If you're looking for a short adventure for introducing a party that has just arrived in Ptolus, take a look at this one. 

A wizard has become mad with jealousy toward some dwarves that he feels upstaged his accomplishments as a hero for his town. Two of the dwarves open an inn and he decides to use his illusion magic to haunt it. What nobody knew is that the inn sits over a source of evil shadow magic. As written, the worst aspects of the scenario are caused by a dark evil in the ruins of a fallen elven city below the inn. 

What can we work with here . . . Crazy illusionist, and an inn above a source of evil shadow magic.

Let's work backwards a bit.

Ren Sadar of House Sadar will get wind of the events that happen at the inn when the scenario is finished. He will be very interested in this matter since he is heavily focused on shadow magic. A few days afterward he will probably come to the in and investigate. He could even hire the party to delve down into the dungeon to find the exact location of the source.

As a source for the evil shadow magic manifestations it makes sense that one of Ghul's labs has been tapped into and when the illusionist used his magic with bad intent things began to get nasty. Alternately, the source could be a section of the lair of Kagrisos the Ghost Lich that was previously undiscovered. Old parts of his former lair include the area in and surrounding the Undercity Market.

The player characters could have gotten involved simply by needing a place to stay when they first get to Ptolus.

Wackjob the wizard became mad at the dwarves for succeeding where he failed in the dungeon.

So now we just need to place the inn and then design the section of the labyrinth directly beneath it, oh, and the section of affected sewer between the two for when the PCs follow this scenario with the job from Ren Sadar. Let's put the inn on the corner of Tavern Row and Center Street directly across from Row Bathhouse. 

The module is simple and short, but with a little thought it lends itself to being a starting point for other adventures.