Thursday, 4 February 2016

Into the Caverns (Part 1)

Welcome back to my epic dungeon building project, loosely based on B1. This time we are going to be looking at how the PCs get to the caverns, and the main route into the dungeon

HooksI want to have good adventure hooks, because one of the main things I want to bake into this adventure is great narrative.

Narrative in an adventure comes in two distinct forms. The first is the Spine Narrative, which is the kind of narrative you find at the core of a pathfinder adventure path, or acting as the plot of a novel.  It is the kind of narrative that says "here is the one ring. Right, off to mount doom with you."  It can be fucking great! It is hunting down the Cult of the Purple Hand, foiling the skinsaw murders, and uncovering what is going on with the March family, in short some of the coolest stuff that comes out of roleplaying.  But it gets a bum rap in the OSR, but that is a subject for another blog post.

In this post I want to focus on Peripheral Narrative, which is an often implicit form of narrative, that hold great power to form a story out of the actions at the game table.  When done well, it can take an adventure like B2 The Keep on the Borderland, which is almost entirely devoid of a spine narrative, and which has the potential to be one of the dullest adventures ever, and turn it into something really cool. It does this by fleshing out an environment and acting as the fuel for emergent story. Peripheral Narrative elements include  adventure site backstory, good descriptions. encounter design that creates the illusion of a living environment, and adventure hooks.

Hooks provide provide both setting flavour and connectivity(more on this later) between the world beyond and the adventure site. I know my group, and they are not pro-active. Given a hex map, a character, and no real hooks, and I will start exploring and carving out a place of my own in the world. My player not so much. So I need plot hooks that will get them out, and into the wilderness near the caverns, so they can discover them.

On of the big themes I want this campaign to have, is discovery, and being the people to find the only truly large dungeon in the campaign, to be the first people to explore it, the first to know that it still exists, that is something I want them to have the chance to experience.

So the task for this week, is to come up with ten hooks, which will get the PCs into the area around the caverns.

The entrance and main hall of Cavern of Quasqueton, are going to be  relatively light work in terms of adventuring. They are a pathway for getting quickly and easily into the various areas of dungeon;  many of which being accessed directly from the hall, or are located only a short trek through another area away from the main hall.

Jeffrey McArthur explains a chunk about what connectivity is, with regards to Dungeon design, and frankly does it as well or better than I can manage right now. What it means for the dungeon is that that their is lots of freedom as to how they go about exploring and easy access to each of the different flavour patches of the deep halls. The flipside of these factors is that, should the PCs get in over their head in the deep halls, it should be relatively easy for the PCs to retreat from the caverns. I'll leave it up to you the reader to decide if you think that is an advantage or disadvantage.

The encounters below are very much brain storming on what might be fun, and are still pretty early in development.

1. The sundered gate of Quasqueton
The deep Halls of the Cavern of Quasqueton were never meant to be truly a fortress, both Rogahn the fearless and Zelligar the Unknown kept their true fortresses deeper within the rock, so the it was never meant for more that a token defense to be mounted in the deep halls. However, their idea of token defense involved a pair of iron doors ten feet wide and fifteen foot high, hinged to only open outwards and re-enforced with magic. The Gates of Quasqueton would be closed and locked still, had it not been for a magical explosion within that blew the doors of the gate off, as battle raged within.

Any PCs approaching the sundered gates is greeted by a pair of mooking voices, which issue forth from a pair of magic mouths at the entrance.

2. The Sally Port
This room was designed as a sally port, allowing invaders to be attacked in the flank or rear as they make their way into the Caverns. The room is hidden behind a secret door,  and attached by a one way teleporter system to the barracks. Over the years a number of orcs have activated that teleporter, becoming stuck in the sally port's muster area, unable to figure out how to open the secret door. Their skeletons now scratch at the inner door endlessly in their undead fixation upon escape, should the door be opened, then 1D3 skeletons erupt from the room into the corridor, along with a wave of foul air heavy the stench of enclosed decomposition.Anyone within 10' of the entrance must make a save vs. poison, or spend the first round of combat retching.

3. The entrance gallery and feast hall
This long hall stretches deep into the rock, It functions as a pathway to many of the major features of the Deep Halls of the Caverns. The initial stretch(3a.) functioned a display of wealth and martial might, with rich tapestries, paintings and finely crafted weapons adorning the walls. The tapestries have rotted away as the mists from the entrance lake saturated them, and the painting and weapons have long since been looted by the humanoid residents and the rare adventures to have visited the site before,

Some way in the, the hall opens out into a large, long chamber (3b) where Rogahn and Zelligar hosted feasts. It is now largely empty, but there is room here to seat a hundred guest and a high table with ease. The floor has be set with a complex mosaic of an Ouroboros. The serpent is in fact, a Mosaic Golem, which springs up to attack intruders.

Each time adventurers pass through this area before the destruction of the goblin clan living in The guard post, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the PCs encounter a goblin patrol here.

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