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12/26/2014 11:13 pm  #1

Around the Ruins

So, I'm working on putting together some adventure areas to surround the megadungeon my players are using, but I thought it would be fun to make them useful to any game that has a megadungeon. I'm trying to make them, most importantly, changeable by the party's actions. Also not impossible for a low-level party and not a cake walk at higher levels. Basically, I want them to reward figuring out the right choice and drain resources away when the players get it wrong. Here are the first two. More to follow soon, I hope.

Around the Ruins 
Around the entrance to the underground realm spread the ruins, an area of change and ancient acts. The spire or tower or mountain that marks the entrance to the world below is the one landmark that does not shift. But as adventurers make their way to or from this still point at the center of the chaotic world, they pass through areas where ancient wars are still waged, unhallowed bargains are still waiting to be fulfilled, and new storms erupt from old clouds.
These ruins are meant to surround any megadungeon or other place of adventure to which a PC party might return often. The dungeon should ideally be less than a day’s relatively safe march from a town. The areas presented in Around the Ruins shift geographically as the strange energies of the megadungeon warp the space around its entrance—or around the local manifestation of its entrance.
Importantly, the PCs’ actions in each area change it and will lead to different experiences should they manage to return.
On each passage to or from the dungeon, roll a d6. On a 1 roll a [d12] to see which area the PCs pass through. After that encounter, roll another d6. On another 1, they soon come to another of these areas—possibly even the one they recently left.
1. Monkeys of the Rising Sun
The faint trail leads into a clearing hemmed in on all sides by thick evergreens. A massive statue is here, overgrown and half-buried in needles and branches. It was a bust of Apollo, its head the size of a wagon. A small altar is almost buried in the fallen branches and undergrowth in front of it.
Dozens of snow monkeys perch in the trees and on the statue. When PCs enter the clearing, the monkeys halt all activity except for watching them. Black eyes glitter from under white brows from every angle. The monkeys are silent and react only to violence or to offerings left on the altar.
If any monkey is attacked or harmed, the entire tribe disappears, leaping up the trees or deeper into the forest, but in a flash not single living monkey will be visible. If this happens, then the next random encounter with possibly hostile creatures will involve the maximum number and/or maximum hit points, and all reaction rolls will be made at -4.
Return Visits
If the PCs do not attack or attempt to harm or capture the snow monkeys but also do not leave an offering, the encounter will be the same the next time this result is rolled except a single piece of fruit, bursting with summer and warmth, will wait on the altar.
If on any visit the PCs leave an offering on the altar, whether of food or treasure of any value or even simply an interesting object, then on the next visit, the monkeys will have placed a minor magic item or similar treasure on the altar (1d6):
1. Map to another location in the ruins, with some indication of the dangers involved there
2. 1d3 soft, golden-hued pinecones that act as potions of healing if eaten
3. Roll 1d6 (from http://recedingrules.blogspot.ca/2014/12/6-consumable-magic-treasures.html):

[1]Flowing Battle Ribbon - Grows 1 inch for each round of combat you are in but not hit, when you are finally hit it blocks that many points of damage and falls to tatters.
[2]Wax Wings of Flight - Small wings made completely of wax attached to a white silk harness.  There is a wick.  Lighting the wick will allow the wearer to fly beautifully, but cause the wings to melt irreparably in the time it takes for one combat or 1/2 mile of travel.
[3]Smouldering Robe - Continuously smouldering as if about to catch fire, this robe protects its wearer from any fire or heat for one combat or one turn before being consumed. 
[4]Bottle of Fog - Stoppered glass bottle filled with swirling grey mists.  Pulling the stopper will cause fog to slowly stream out for a day, filling a huge space.  Breaking the bottle will cause a 10' cube to fill instantly.
[5]Candle of Past Shadows - When lit, no normal shadows are made, instead a shadow play is cast of the last living things in this area.  Letting the candle burn down will cause older and older scenes to be shown.  Has 1d10 uses.
[6]Porcelain Gong - "Let this gong be sound when enemies surround" Striking will break the gong and cause the striker and all allies to fight one battle with great focus, committing no fumbles and much more likely to make critical hits (critical range is increased to 17-20).

4. Roll 1d6 (from http://recedingrules.blogspot.ca/2014/12/6-more-magical-treasures.html):

[1]Belt of Swallowing - The wearer of this thick belt can eat anything - poison, acid, broken glass- and be unharmed.  They can also suck up creatures of less than 1HD on a successful hit.  This hurts, though, and they take 1hp dmg each time. 
[2]Silk of Reciprocating - If a person whispers a name into this length of silk and then binds themselves with it, that person named will be bound similarly- gagged, blindfolded, hands or feet tied magically together.
[3]Silver Razor - Shaving a person with this silver razor will cause them to love you until their hair grows back.
[4]Whale Breakers - Two pieces of whale tooth scrimshawed with scenes of Inuit bear hunts.  If they are held firmly in both hands for at least an hour (no shield, no rope use, no opening doors) they begin feeling colder and heavier and will allow the holder to strike foes with the force of two flails, breaking bones on critical hits.
[5] White Fronds - Anything wrapped in these fuzzy grey, foot-wide fronds emits no smell.
[6]Telecanter's Bookmark - A strip of very worn human skin with a tattoo on it:  Find this name's enduring fame. If a proper name is spoken and the strip of skin is placed in a book, it will move through the book stopping at the first place that name is mentioned.  If the book is opened, and closed it will continue.  If that book is placed on a shelf of books, it will move from book to book finding references in a whole library.

5. A bone monkey totem with fur of living white pine needles. Any reaction roll made with any simian will be at +2, and even hostile simians will never attack the bearer. If the bearer directly attacks a simian, the totem will dissolve in a foul acidic slime. All future reaction rolls with simian encounters will be at -2, and all hostile simians will attack the former bearer rather than other opponents if possible. A remove curse spell or an act of penitence and expiation to the simian spirits can end these effects.
6. A small clockwork bird of intricate and delicate construction. If fed silver, it will produce twice the value in gold. If fed the blood of enchanted or deeply magical creatures, it will lay eggs that contain potions. It can do this three times before losing its own enchantment and dying, leaving a valuable and lovely corpse.
If the PCs try to take advantage of these gifts, the value of the offerings they have to leave must increase. Alternatively, the winter guardian will be waiting for them and demand a service in exchange for past gifts.
If the PCs attacked the monkeys on their first visit, they will be given another chance the next time they find the clearing. If they attack them again, however, the Winter Guardian will burst forth from the archaic bust of Apollo and demand service and sacrifice. If the PCs resist at all, it and the monkeys will attack.
Winter Guardian
The Winter Guardian is a 30'-long white-furred serpent with the torso of a great albino ape. It attacks with its great fists and by looping the coils of its body around its foes.
No. Encountered:       1
Alignment:                 Neutral
Size:                           Large
Movement:                 40
Dexterity:                   15
Armour Class:           3
Hit Dice:                    9 (60 HP)
No. of Attacks:           3 (fist / fist / constrict)
Damage:                    1d8+2 / 1d8+2 / Special
Saving Throw:           12
Morale:                      11
Experience Points:     2,100
Treasure Class:          –
*          7-in-20 spell resistance versus CA 12 casters. For every CA level less than 12, the chance-in-twenty increases by one (+1) (see VOL. III, SAVING THROW, spell resistance).
*          Harmed only by silver or magic weapons.
*          Constriction: A successful constriction attack does no damage the first round but does an automatic 2d6 on succeeding rounds (though the Winter Guardian can choose to do less damage). Opponents struck by this attack make an avoidance save in order to have their arms free of the constricting coils.
*          Frost heave: Thrice per day can cause a wave of frozen upheaval to travel through the ground. All creatures within a 30' radius must make an avoidance save at -2 or fall as if the victim of a successful overbear attack (see VOL. III, COMBAT, combat actions). Note that the Winter Guardian’s snow monkey charges are immune to this attack.
Snow Monkeys
No. Encountered:       10d10 + 15
Alignment:                 Neutral
Size:                           Small
Movement:                 50
Dexterity:                   15
Armour Class:           6
Hit Dice:                    1/2
No. of Attacks:           1
Damage:                    1d2
Saving Throw:           16
Morale:                      6 (11 with Winter Guardian)
Experience Points:     7
Treasure Class:          –
*          Normally will not attack. In the service of the  Winter Guardian, though, the snow monkeys will fight to the death unless dismissed.
*          Up to 6 snow monkeys can combine to overbear a single Medium opponent. If three or more combine their effort, each receives +1 to hit. For each successful hit beyond the first, the monkeys’ opponent receives a -1 penalty on his/her avoidance saving throw. Opponents overborne by three or more monkeys must succeed in an extraordinary feat of strength to escape.
*          Will swarm to attack overborne opponents at +4, prying off helmets and striking with rocks at vulnerable areas (scoring critical hits on 17-20).
Services demanded by the Winter Guardian might include bringing a specific item out of the nearby dungeon, restoring an artifact sacred to Apollo, rescuing a simian or group of simians from some kind of bondage (cf. the adventure module “Taken from Dunwich” from North Wind Adventures), or stealing an item of power from one of the Winter Guardian’s enemies, which include the servants of Xathoqqua and of Yig, the snake-men, and otherworldly creatures (cf. VOL. I, FIGHTER SUBCLASSES, ranger).

2. Where Rel Once Ruled
The trail emerges from a choked and sunken culvert into a ruined section of the ancient City of Thieves. Parts of the city seem to have disappeared suddenly at some point in the distant past, perhaps leading to its abandonment. Most noticeable are the stairs that rise to nowhere. Some emerge like spines from the ruins of stone buildings; others switchback up the sides of vanished hills or spiral through the hearts of missing towers, exposed like worms to the ruddy sunlight.
As the PCs move through the area, they notice humanlike shapes staggering down from the tops of some of these stairs, straggling down the ruined streets, converging on the PCs. As they come closer, it is clear the figures are dressed in the remains of silks and soft leathers. The faded inks of rakish tattoos peek through rents in the once-fine clothing. Wild-eyed and haunted, though 2d4 of the figures converge on the PCs, staggering, silent, arms out-stretched. They are human, but there is no sanity in their eyes, only desperate need.
These are the last of the Saints of Rel, a band of thieves that had helped make their home city one of the richest of Hyperborea before a lurch in time caused by the experiments of an Atlantean legerdemainist on a stolen device undid the making of many parts of the city and scattered its neighborhoods across Hyperborea and beyond. These remnants were soon abandoned. Some, though, could not leave the riches and wonder that had been, and they stayed on and on . . .
The Saints have forgotten much, but the drive to steal is strong in them, and Rel, their patron, is reaching for them through the patterns of the world. Each Saint that is able to steal something will pick the lock that keeps it from its god. There is, of course, no way for the PCs to know this as the dead-eyed creatures reach for them with hands curved like claws.
If the PCs do nothing, the saints will stagger up to them and begin to fumble at their pouches and clothing. If left alone for two rounds, each will steal some small item (a purse, some gems, magic items from pouches, daggers, holy symbols, etc.). After doing so, it will seem to dodge into shadows that were not there a moment before and disappear.
If struck or denied, the Saints of Rel attack. If slain, a Saint’s body explodes as a flock of starlings. At night, the starlings roost on one of the ancient stairways, growing closer and closer. The next morning the Saint again haunts the once-glorious streets.
Saints of Rel
No. Encountered:       2d4-2d100
Alignment:                 Neutral
Size:                           Medium
Movement:                 40
Dexterity:                   12 + 1d4
Armour Class:           6
Hit Dice:                    2
No. of Attacks:           2 (claw / claw)
Damage:                    1d3 / 1d3
Saving Throw:           16
Morale:                      8
Experience Points:     44
Treasure Class:          – (bits of glass, marble, and feathers)
*          Immune to poison, paralysis.
*          Hit drains 1d3 points of Wisdom. If an opponent’s WIS drops below 3 or the opponent is slain by a Saint, it wanders away and joins the Saints of Rel in their quest. These converts can be restored to their normal life by the same method that allows the Saints to join their patron.
*          Explode into a flock of starlings when killed. Anyone in melee must make an avoidance save or be blinded for one round.

Return Visits
If PCs fight the Saints, then each time they encounter this area again, the kind of dice used to determine the number appearing increase (2d4, 2d6, 2d8, 2d10, 2d12, 2d20, 2d100) until they begin releasing the Saints from their curse.
If the PCs do allow any of the Saints to steal from them and find release, 2d4 will still approach them on their next visit. Once they have released a total of 10 Saints of Rel, the god Rel will have established enough of a presence here to bring the rest to his realm. At this point, he will also reward the PCs who have allowed this.
The next time the PCs encounter this area, a beautiful and cunningly wrought coffer will be waiting for them. The coffer is worth 2,000 gp on its own. It is locked and must be picked if it is to keep its sale value. The lock is trapped. A failed Manipulate Traps roll will prick the finger of the thief with a needle made of hair and bones. One finger on the thief’s dominant hand will instantly turn into a shrew. The thief receives a penalty of +1 on all future Open Locks and Manipulate Trap rolls (i.e., a thief of 3rd or 4th level would have a 3:12 rather than 4:12 chance) but will gain a familiar. The thief can see through the shrew’s eyes as a magician (cf. VOL. I, CLASSES, magician). Further, the thief gains a permanent -1 bonus on Climb, Hide, and Move Silently rolls (i.e., a thief of 3rd or 4th level would have 9:12, 7:12, and 7:12 chances, respectively). If the familiar is ever killed, the thief loses another finger.
Inside the coffer is one Unpilferable Pouch for each present member of the party who helped free the Saints of Rel. Nothing placed in these pouches can be pickpocketed or stolen in any way, and the pouch and its contents will always make their saving throws (q.v. VOL. III, SAVING THROW (SV), item saving throws).
Edit!: Posted for feedback! Tell me what sounds stupid!

Last edited by Handy Haversack (12/26/2014 11:19 pm)


12/27/2014 10:36 pm  #2

Re: Around the Ruins

I'll give my 2 coppers

Some neat ideas. I like the general idea of a shifting reality. Some of those magic items are neat.

Not sure how well it fits outside of a megadungeon. Any time I have been involved with a megadungeon as a player or running, when a party finally makes it out of the megadungeon they really seem to just want a dose of non combat reality, such as a town or tavern to chill, recuperate and get supplies, spend loot, carouse etc.


I filled my palace with deadly traps so trap admirers will come and visit me

AFS magazine - pulp literature meets old school gaming http://hallsoftizunthane.blogspot.com/

6/26/2020 5:51 pm  #3

Re: Around the Ruins

I was doing some forum search on something unrelated and stumbled on this gem by Handy posted six years ago. It's got some great, creative stuff in it. Handy, did you ever make use of this in your campaign?

HYPERBOREA- A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Science-Fantasy

6/26/2020 8:17 pm  #4

Re: Around the Ruins

Ghul wrote:

I was doing some forum search on something unrelated and stumbled on this gem by Handy posted six years ago. It's got some great, creative stuff in it. Handy, did you ever make use of this in your campaign?

Ha! Yeah, Ghul, I used this precisely as long as my players kept heading over there. It led to a couple of fun weird circumstances and also revealed some monkey phobias that I had not suspected. Then eventually they tried to stage a coup in their base town in Brigands Bay, managed to cast inflict madness on the Kybernetes, and got "megalomania" as the result. They had to escape through an extradimensional garden (Ynn!)!

     Thread Starter

6/27/2020 6:00 pm  #5

Re: Around the Ruins

Did anyone explode into a flock of starlings? Now that, I have got to see! ;)

HYPERBOREA- A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Science-Fantasy

6/27/2020 9:32 pm  #6

Re: Around the Ruins

This is sad -- I can't remember if that DID happen to one of Ross's characters or if I just assumed it would.

     Thread Starter

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