Got a prompt from Zoeology from the OSR Discord this year. It is as follows:
"Some kind of temple/shrine dungeon based around ""water = knowledge and/or memory"". Preferably not the evil cult kind of temple"
I'm not sure what level they want it or what kind of setting its for, so I'm not really going to focus on the level and I'm going to make it broadly compatible with D&D-type games.
I've made a bunch of rooms but deliberately left some stuff empty- namely the second floor & the room the Cocytus room connects to. The former cause I want it to be open enough for a bit of homebrewing to fit what they want.
The latter is empty because I ran out of steam on the night of the 21st.
INTRODUCTION FOR THE GM
This dungeon is situated underneath a waterfall. It's incredibly ancient, belonging to whatever your precursor race or ancient culture or campaigns' equivalent. Local legends cite it as the place you go when there is something you want to forget.
In a way, the legends are sort of correct. The temple of Lethe is really a place where people came to remember, as well as forget. It was a place of knowledge and power. In addition to the clergy, an order of hydromancers often came here on pilgrimage.
A few things to explain, before I continue:
- I have virtually no sense of scale. Adjust the size of the rooms to your leisure.
- Likewise with costs & values. I have enough difficulty pricing stuff in my own games where I wrote the item list.
- I often use LotFP style skills in my game. Since reading what the "Architecture" skill is for, I try to put hints for it to be used at least once in each dungeon.
- 30ft is how fast a Human moves in one round. Any creature that's sprinting moves double.
- I always roll HP for monsters, and I generally roll terribly. That's why monsters in this dungeon have not insignificant HD. Adjusting the stats for a monster should be pretty easy if they're a bit much.
- I like to use Giant Spiders as monsters because I find the concept terrifying. I've not got any pictures of spiders posted here and you can very easily substitute the spiders for giant geckos or something if you are or you have an arachnophobe in your group.
- I've not got a lot of experience writing dungeons lmao
|The dungeon map|
THERE ARE TWO WAYS IN
Atop the waterfall the library is built in, the castle-like second floor can be seen. It's not hard to find and PCs can come across this area without hearing any rumours about it prior.
The intended route is the one that's implied in the rumour- going down the ravine and behind the waterfall goes to the intended entrance (PCs that go this route start at "The Entrance & Library", and work upwards).
Alternatively, PCs with some climbing equipment and something to ride across the river can follow the stream above, and scale the side of the tower wall, before taking the steps down.
THE ENTRANCE & LIBRARY
The entrance is easy to find. It's a cave entrance that's been hollowed out. PCs travel through an entrance point with multiple pillars holding it up, before reaching the true entrance inside the side of the ravine.
Two somewhat large stone doors (each about 8ft tall, wide enough for a horse and cart if both are opened, and with a glass window above) situated immediately behind the water fall. You can even get there without getting wet, cause there's a dirt path that loops through a hole in the rock. Large enough for a horse and cart to get there.
Actually getting the doors open is quite difficult, however. Something behind them is stuck and not budging.
- The doors can be forced open with a successful open doors roll/ strength check/ whatever else you are doing.
- A suitably powerful burst of magical force can knock the doors open.
- Someone smashing the window above can climb in to see that a small fallen bookcase is blocking the entrance. It can be moved quite easily by characters with at least average strength.
Lifting the bookshelf up reveals a crushed skeleton beneath it. This person was attempting to escape from one of the spiders, and died when the spider knocked the bookshelf onto him. He's got a pouch with some silver in it, a rope with a grappling hook, some mouldy rations, a smashed lantern and a couple pitons. Tucked inside one of the pockets of what's left of his coat is a map of the local area, with the dungeon entrance circled.
Immediately to the PCs' right is a desk that's currently abandoned. This is where the receptionist for this area worked from. The desk has a few things of note in it:
- Lots and lots of papers. A PC that sifts through these for at least 20ish minutes uncovers a notice by the head of security that activity surrounding the Ammonite room is to be more closely monitored.
- On the floor underneath the desk is a Wand of Fire Extinguishing.
When the PCs pass through, you may have them make perception checks (if that's a thing) or if they turn up something in a search, they find a second skeleton of a human adventurer not far from the collapsed bookshelf.
The first room is large, and at first extremely dark. It is circular and far larger than the entrance into the cliff face could expectedly be- it's a 100ft radius circle, but with bookshelves and reading nooks all around. PCs that search around see some wall sconces, but not nearly enough to illuminate something of this size.
DM NOTE: If you aren't switching out the spiders for something else, then PCs could well catch sight of webbing if they look around or up at the ceiling. Light being brought into the dungeon (see how in a second) also illuminates it, revealing webs around the place.
Three Giant Water Spiders have made their homes in this area, each tunnelling in through a different way. Obviously, they might not all be in at once. Roll for wandering monsters as soon as someone enters the dungeon. Any result indicating a wandering monster in this room means that 1d3 of the Spiders have caught a glimpse of the PCs in the entrance.
Giant Water Spider:
- Armour: as Chain
- Movement: 30ft, Cl30ft, Sw30ft
- HD: 3+3
- Bite: 1d6 + Poison
- Size: L- 8ft diameter. These things are horrifying, but there is an edge the PCs have over them- the bookshelves are closer than 8ft together. To keep pursuit, a given spider will have to follow their quarry over the top of the bookshelves, or spend a turn reorienting itself to walk along the side of them.
- Slim Pickings: While the spiders generally coexist, pickings are scarce and they will fight over any unconscious PCs. Players can take full advantage of this.
- Escape: While the Spiders are nightmarish in the dungeon, they are hungry and impatient. They will struggle to fit through the entrance door to give pursuit (and likely won't bother if the PCs get out faster and flee). Similarly, they're too desperate to hang around the entrance and wait for PCs to possibly come back.
- SPLAT: I'd rule that successfully collapsing a bookshelf onto a Giant Spider inflicts at least 2d8 damage to it (no save) and halves its movement speed until the end of its next turn. Can possibly do more damage if you collapse several shelves on it, do it with some serious force or the GM is impressed.
- Play Dead (Optional): If you're feeling particularly evil, the first spider to be reduced to 5 or fewer hit points plays dead. It will immediately attack the first creature to go into its melee range once they don't believe it is a threat anymore.
My intention as a GM is that these spiders are tough but not invincible even for low level parties. They're also very possible to escape in a chase.
Each of the spiders has a lair, which is dug into either a wall or the floor somewhere in this huge room. This is the first hint that there's a lot more water to be found in this dungeon, as each has pools of water located at the bottom.
Altogether, the spiders have Type C treasure, divvied up between incidental treasure in each of their lairs.
POINTS OF INTEREST - THE LIBRARY
In the centre of the leftmost wall of the room is a wheel, not unlike those you'd see on a pirate ship. Turning the wheel requires a bit of Strength (a strength test or your games' equivalent, people can aid to boost it. Succeeding opens a valve in the centre of the ceiling, and both water and either sunlight or moonlight will pour through. This has a few effects:
- If it's daytime, the light pouring through will illuminate almost all of the inside of the library a lot better. The spiders will retreat to their lairs and the dark parts around the outside. If the PCs haven't seen the spiders yet, they may catch a glimpse of one or more scurrying across the tops of the bookshelves.
- If it's night-time, some light will come through, but not much. Only the immediate area surrounding the fountain will get any illumination.
- Either way, water is pouring onto the kappa statue in the centre (see below for the significance of this).
- Water passing through also sets most of the ancient mechanisms back to life.
- While the main library relies on sunlight, some of the other rooms (particularly ones that would be inhabited during closing hours) are lit up from a minor enchantment when the water is flowing. Parts of the piping visible in some of the rooms are enchanted to glow when in contact with water.
In the centre of the main room is a fountain. On top of this fountain is a weird statue of a humanoid creature. It has a bowl-like head, a beak and a shell like a tortoise on its back. It's stood upright. The ancient text reads "the Librarian" beneath it.
- PCs who pass an Architecture or Stonecunning check or whatever notice that the statue not only looks out of place with the rest of the art, it's made out of a different type of stone.
- A bit of detect magic will determine strong alteration/transmutation magic coming from the statue, and Identify will determine it as a petrified Kappa. Water poured into the kappa's bowl, either from something the PCs do directly or from opening the water valve (above) will reverse the petrification. The Kappa is very stupid (INT 6), but very strong (STR 18). He doesn't have a name, and was nicknamed the Librarian by the prior inhabitants for his enthusiasm.
- While poorly lit at the moment, it's situated in the middle of a reading room that strongly resembles a nice garden, with some grass, some chairs and a small, nice wooden bridge over the top of a small, currently dry stream.
- When the water is activated, this stream will rapidly fill in the first few minutes of the activation.
- Armour: As Chain
- Movement: 30ft, Sw 40ft
- HD: 2
- Claws: 1d6/1d6
- Size: M. The Librarian is a bit taller than a dwarf, but shorter than an elf.
- Tough Shell: Attacks from behind count as targeting Plate +1 instead of its normal AC.
- Regeneration: The Librarian regains 1hp per round.
- Head-Bowl: The Librarians' bowl in its head must contain water. If the bowl is emptied, he is immediately petrified again.
PCs awakening the Librarian roll for reaction rolls when they meet him, but more favourably (with advantage, or a small bonus, or something). He can tell something weird is going on, but he's got little reason to be hostile to who he perceives as pilgrims and scholars.
If the PCs befriend the librarian, there's a lot he can tell them about other things in the library. Obviously he doesn't know about the spiders or why the place is in a state of disrepair, but he knows about traps and may (1 in 6 chance for a given thing, if unsure) have overheard some interesting things about some of the loot in here. The librarian cannot offer any insight into the "Stone Sage", though he has heard that something illicit was rumoured to be going on in the Ammonite room, though nothing was actually found.
The other point of interest in the library is another collapsed bookshelf, just in front of the Nautilus room. Nothing underneath it, but very close by is a skeleton that has multiple yellow flowers growing on it. This is the first hint of a Yellow Musk Creeper being located in this dungeon. It's been sending out "scouts" but most have been killed by the spiders.
THE NAUTILUS ROOM
The Nautilus room is in the north west side of the main library section, and the door is initially sealed, with the hinges on the door being in a strange, stone and metal mechanism. A big lock in the middle of the door sits just beneath a carving of an ammonite and old glyphs adorn the top of the carving. The glyphs simply say Nautilus. They can be in either the common tongue or some ancient text that makes sense for your campaign setting.
- Studying the Glyphs reveals with a passed Languages/ Traps/ something else check that one character on the door doesn't fit in with the rest of the word. It also looks considerably newer. Detect Magic also reveals that this out-of-place character is the only one that is magic.
Attempting to pick the lock triggers the Glyph of Warding that is the out-of-place character hidden among the others. It deals 2d8 damage or half on a passed saving throw. The trap is triggered prematurely if the door is opened by activating the valve and bringing water onto the statue. This means it's unlikely to hurt anyone if activated this way.
If water is powering the dungeon, the Nautilus Room is well lit by illuminated piping. It is clearly a place of worship, with one door at the far end, an altar with several interesting symbols placed at it, a fountain on the west side and tapestries on each wall.
Also inside the room are two zombies, wrapped in a weird ivy with yellow flowers. Both look at the PCs before skulking at them, with improvised bludgeons or hands outstretched. There is a third, partially obscured because it has grown into the northeast wall of the room just behind the door. It's quite visible- nobody is going to miss the corpse in the side as long as there's light of some sort- but anyone who attempts to open the door without killing it first will be attacked by this zombie. It gets advantage on its to-hit roll and bites the target on a hit.
Yellow Musk Zombies:
- Armour: Unarmoured
- Movement: 20ft
- HD: 2
- Unarmed Strike/ Improvised Weapon: 1d6
- Size: M
- Grab and Bite: On a natural 20, the Musk Zombie bites a target viciously. Fortunately for the player, this doesn't actually do anything special beyond bonus damage. They'll learn this if they meet the Musk Creeper in the Ammonite room or simply wait.
- Fire Susceptibility: Yellow Musk Zombies take double damage from fire.
The altar has multiple interesting items for the PCs' taking- four holy symbols of your campaigns' knowledge deity or deities, two silver symbols worth 10sp each and a very high quality holy book with a thick leather cover wired with gold, worth 75sp.
Of the various tapestries on the wall, two are damaged by the zombie growing into the wall, but they are all beautiful works and the two that aren't damaged could easily sell for 200sp each if one could roll them up and get them out of the dungeon. That could be quite an ordeal for a party that hasn't kill off the water spiders yet though.
DM NOTE: Setting fire to a musk zombie could spread to a damaged tapestry, and if the players are not careful this could also spread to a pristine one…
The fountain is the final interesting thing to be found in this room. It's exquisitely made and while very immovable, it is filled with seemingly clean water. The fountain has two magical properties:
- 3/day, it purifies water in it, guaranteeing that it is safe to drink.
- Any number of times, one can choose to gain knowledge from the bowl. The bowl can answer easy and trivial questions for free, but for particularly difficult ones characters seem to just understand it requires compensation in coin or in memories. A character can sell their personal memories, memorised spells or other things in exchange for knowledge from the bowl. With enough compensation, they may even be able to learn spells or even the command words to magic items they've not been able to activate thus far!
The door in the Nautilus room takes the character to what appears to be some bedchambers. Despite being quite a big room with multiple bunks, only about half look lived in, the others being unmade and their footlockers empty. A second altar exists in the south-west corner of this room too. This one is similarly decorated with minor treasures.
THE AMMONITE ROOM
The Ammonite room is located in the south-east side of the library. Like the door to the Nautilus room, it's sealed in the same way until the lock is picked or the valve released. The Librarian can tell the PCs that this is the magic wing of the library, with its tomes being on occult research. It's where most of the wizards who travelled here worked.
When the ammonite room is opened, the PCs will have a few rounds to search the room before they begin to hear a hissing sound. This is the secret door into the adjacent room opening- which they can see if they search the room.
Interesting loot that can be found in the Ammonite Room:
- Two Potions of Healing can be found on a workbench in the leftmost side of the room.
- Quite a few of the tomes are very old and soaked, but a few interesting tomes Ghouls and their Habits, The Nature of the Fossegrim, Sightings of the Lady of the Lake & Advanced Alchemy Volume II can be recovered. Each can be kept and studied by the more studious members of the party or sold off for an alright sum.
After the door completes opening, two Yellow Musk Zombies with swords on their belts and clad in makeshift armour enter the room, with their hands up. If attacked, they will fight back (as the stats above, but dealing 1d8 damage on a strike and having armour as chain). While raspy, the voice of the rightmost zombie will ask the party to speak with its master. If they refuse, then the zombies will become quite insistent, though will not become hostile until the party attack them.
Their "master" is situated in the other room. It is a Yellow Musk Creeper, a giant telepathic mass of bright green ivy with yellow flowers. It can use its power to devour the brains of its victims and turn them into undead servants but it is facing a difficult problem- the spiders. Its undead are too stupid and simply too weak to fight them off, and they are interfering with its ability to send scouts to the surface. In addition to its two guards that have contacted the PCs, there are three more hidden inside the creeper itself which will wake as soon as the creeper is attacked.
Yellow Musk Creeper:
- Armour: As Leather (bulb), or hits automatically (tendrils)
- Movement: Immobile, but it can reposition its tendrils to cover or uncover the chest it is guarding.
- HD: 3
- Creepy Tendrils: 1d6/1d6/1d6. These melee attacks can reach anywhere in the room. It makes three tendril attacks a round but has 1d10+2 in total.
- Puffs of Pollen: Instead of attacking, the Creeper can puff pollen in the face of a creature within 10ft of it. They must save or be entranced and walk into the plant.
- Drain Intelligence: A victim who is in the plant loses 1d3 points of Intelligence each round. If their INT is reduced to 2 or less, they are resurrected as a Yellow Musk Zombie under the Creepers' control. The zombies retain any armour, weaponry and HP the character had, but fight as 2HD monsters. Lost intelligence that doesn't turn them into a zombie slowly returns over some time of rest.
- Telepathy: The Creeper can telepathically communicate with anyone who is within 60ft of it, and can telepathically control its zombies anywhere on the same plane.
- Susceptible Point- Bulb: The Creeper's tendrils can be cut, frozen or burnt, but the only point of it that takes damage is a bulbous root in the centre and growing out of the floor. They take double damage from fire.
- Size: M
Characters who have taken INT damage from the creeper and haven't regained it all yet feel very dizzy, and have extremely short term memories. They must make INT checks to remember even basic things they did just a moment ago. PCs with low-to-mid intelligence will play like Dory in Finding Nemo until they get some proper rest in.
It doesn't expect the PCs to care about that. It does expect them to care about the treasure chest of magical loot it has had its minions gather from the parts of the dungeon which it has explored. It also offers the assistance of its two zombies to help complete the task. This is really to ensure it doesn't get double-crossed.
This specimen is one-of-a-kind, and was accidentally created when two wizards were experimenting with infusing golem-type magic into ivy to create a magical assassin. This is the illicit activity that was going on inside the Ammonite room. It was hidden in the secret room.
The creeper will also say multiple lies to the PCs if it feels that it would be beneficial to, including:
- It cannot be harmed by nonmagical fire
- It can only be killed by magical fire and/or silver weapons
- It has only killed people that have attacked it.
- It can control minds of people who get too close.
- It can use its psionic powers to do other things.
The chest could contain any of the following:
- Enchanted Weaponry or Armour
- Magical books
- This is an excellent place to put a spell scroll with one or more spells, as well. If you're running GLOG, I'd suggest spells from the Book Wizard on crateredland may be a good fit. Divination is another good school for spells here.
- Nothing. The Creeper intends to betray the PCs after they've been weakened fighting off three huge spiders, and turn them into its own zombies.
THE COCYTUS ROOM:
The Cocytus room is dead north of where the entrance is. Opposite side. It's technically locked, but as one of its doors has fallen off its hinges, there's no real need to go and activate the valve to get into here. If the valve is activated, this room is the most well-lit of them all, with a pool underneath the glass-steel floor glowing softly.
It's probably a good idea to though, cause some people have been living in here. A tripwire connected to an axe mounted in the ceiling is in the corridor heading down, and it's a lot less obvious in the dark. (1d8+1 damage if triggered, half damage on a save).
Once the group enters, they are greeted by two lion statues opposite each other and a few bookcases ahead. PCs who examine this room will also note that the wall in the northwest side of the room has partially collapsed. This is one of the giant spider lairs, and if there is at least one spider still alive, it's pretty likely that one will be encountered in this room.
Behind the furthest bookshelf is another pair of double doors, both unlocked, and both more intact than the previous set. This leads into a corridor that has another trap- a pit 30ft down. There's a skeleton there, with some other adventuring gear.
THIS IS THE POINT WHERE I RAN OUT OF STEAM
There were a few more ideas I had, but hadn't figured out how to properly implement. Feel free to add these:
- The reason the bedrooms were sparse was because the head priest was aiming to cut costs & embezzle money, by replacing librarians and other staff with a stone sphinx. Was hesitant to include it because the PCs are already activating one statue when they're releasing the Kappa from petrification.
- Archer Gargoyles (AC as chain, Movement half human, HD 1, 1 stone shortbow 1d6, Resistant to mundane slashing/piercing weapons, Size S)
- The traps in the Cocytus room were set by a paranoid wizard who believes the entire library belongs to him, despite the fact that he's simply not skilled enough to get rid of the dungeons' other inhabitants.
- Hidden records in the arch-priests' room, detailing all the memories that have been sold. This would allow PCs who use the fountain in the Nautilus room to know what memories they could trade for.
- Potions of Memory- Drinking one can recover a memory you have recently lost, and either undo INT damage or recover a spent spell.