Sunday, November 18, 2018

Underdark Encounters: The Rotted Expanse

For the past year I ran a D&D 5e game set in the Underdark, or at least my version of it that featured elements from Hot Spring Island sprinkled in. The players all played Underdark races and never once saw the sun (the one they saw when transported to Hot Spring Island doesn't really count) My players and I finished that campaign recently. There were magic eating constructs, evil deep gnomes monks, and medusa shock troops galore.

Along the way, I designed some fun encounter tables for the more dangerous regions the players traversed. Below is the table for one of my favorite regions: The Rotted Expanse.

Area Summary

Mushroom Men, meets Chernobyl, meets Salt in Wounds, meets that scene in Blade Runner: 2049 set in Dust Bowl Vegas. Three titanic beasts fought a battle, died and have been rotting ever since. In this section of the caverns is near impossible to breathe in unassisted as the air is choked with a yellow fog made up of spores and poison gases. The only things that thrive here are demons, rot, and Myconids. The myconids made the three slowly rotting beasts into their home cities and tend to be isolationist in nature. Occasionally, Underdark city states close to the Rotted Expanse send caravans through to trade with the myconids. These caravans are the safest way to travel as they provide breathing masks and strength in numbers. My players took part in one of these caravans.


The Rotted Expanse Event Tables

A) Event (While traveling the following occurs...)
roll 1d10
1. A sinkhole crumbles around the party
2. A thick spore fog lowers visibility to 10ft
3. An ethereal noise echoes throughout, Wis Save become lost and confused.
4. A sickly sweet smell surrounds you, Con Save or suffer exhausting hunger
5. A field of exploding spherical mushrooms
6. Giant pillars of bone jut out of the mottled ground, The smaller finer bones litter the area around it.
7. A strong wind blows through, verbal communication, flight, and gaseous effects are near useless.
8. You pass a massive stone monolith glowing with red energy
9. Mushrooms begin to grow at an alarming rate, it becomes difficult terrain
10. You come across a failed drow colony. Buildings are covered in fungal growth

B) Monster (At the site of the Event you encounter..)
roll 1d10
1. A Mind Flayer researcher and his two pet Chuul
2. A skull obsessed demon bird named Gor.
3. Two ancient constructs carry a puzzle box through the wastelands. They appear to be following a preset path
4. Living whirlwinds filled with spores tear through the landscape.
5. A Myconid Merchant selling breathing masks and bone sculptures
6. Three tall ethereal antlered beings appear, they accept offerings for wisdom.
7. Giant mushroom dryads are participating in a neat little dance, they ask you to join.
8. A squad of myconids, dressed for battle is cresting over the hill.
9. A small garden of gargoyles, carved from bone, is set up in what appears to be an intricate pattern.
10. A looming silhouette is seen in the distance, a flat giant is making its rounds

C) Attitude
roll a 1d6
1. Hungry/Exhausted
2. Aggressive
3. Hunting for (creature)
4. Looking for (object)
5. In conflict with (roll B again)
6. Willing to trade/ distracted if unintelligent

DungeonLiar (Technically a Relaunch)

From the mind of @spindatheliar comes the launch of my blog (now with more OSR sensibilities). I'm jumping on the blog train because:
  • I've miss designing and documenting RPG and D&D content. 
  • My original blog didn't live up to my expectations. 
  • I've recently joined some choice OSR discord servers and love the cool ideas I get to apply to my usual D&D fare
  • I've been told by enough people that maybe I should shout my ideas into the void so here goes
I'm starting off with something simple, a cool hex I made for a 5e hexcrawl contest. Odds are I might repurpose it for a hexcrawl project I've kept on the back burner. It doesn't necessarily need to be tied to D&D but the white apes helping a psychic alien rebuild it's spaceship in the desert is too evocative to not share.

The Crashed Nautiloid

A crashed astral shuttle and the enclave that surrounds it radiates menaces. You can see various white furred apes going about their daily activities and you feel like you’re being watched. Here in the desert is a small rough-hewn village, arrayed around a small oasis and populated by 15 or so four-armed albino apes.  These girallon (VGTM pg 152) are leagues more intelligent than their more savage cousins and have 14 intelligence as well as the ability to speak in sign language from exposure to the creature within the crashed shuttle. They follow the orders of the creature and revere it like a god.  They are under strict instructions to capture alive any intelligent creature that enters the borders of the village and kill any creature who is deemed too much trouble. Their individual huts do not contain any treasure of note beyond some rough-hewn tools and carvings of some many limbed deity that appears attached to a spiral shell. The girallon tribal leader (denoted by his distinctive headdress frilled with long purple cords that fall to the monster’s knees) has been outfitted with flensing claws (VGTM pg 81). Its claw attacks deal 1d12+4 damage. He also has some pieces of nautiloid steel fitted as a sort of half plate (AC 17). 

Near the center of the village is a crashed Nautiloid (VGTM pg. 78) The fairly large vessel is mostly either in pieces or buried in the sand. The pieces that remain above ground resemble a collapsing spiral shell with a nasty gash down the side serving as an entrance. The room immediately past the gash appears to be some form of ship deck with various upturned tables and instruments. There is an open porthole in the ceiling with a rusted metal ladder leading up. Surrounding the ladder are various offerings. These offerings include large bowls of brine-filled water and several bound halflings that look severely underfed and unconscious. Occasionally several long purple tentacles will reach down through the porthole and grab an offering.

In the upper level attached to the ceiling and pinned by various machines and psionic instruments is Velthoris an Ulitharid (VGTM pg 175) who has seen better days and currently boasts a speed of zero as he remains attached to the remains of his nautiloid. Having to rely mostly on his tentacles to manipulate things in his permanent domicile, he can use two tentacle attacks as one action. Using his considerable psionic abilities to wrest control of the girallon in the area, Velthoris has tasked them to slowly restore himself and his ship to its former glory. At the current pace, this is likely impossible and the ship will never truly fly again.  Velthoris continues his crusade regardless and needs brains to do it. He orders the girallon to capture most anyone they can alive as a snack to speed his recovery. Should Velthoris recover completely he will likely take steps to complete his transformation into an elder brain and gods help surrounding areas after that.

Velthoris makes a fairly effective tactician, using his creature sense to pinpoint intelligent intruders within two miles and directing his girallon in ambushes from the dunes. He likely won’t use plane shift as the strain of moving his pinned and ingrained body will likely kill him.  If he is in danger he will emit a psychic cry for help that any girallon in range will heed. In a moment of final desperation, he can use a reaction to activate the ship’s self-destruct engine dealing 10d6 fire and 10d6 force damage in a 600ft radius 1 minute after its activation (No save).
Plot Hooks: 
Mysterious Kidnappings
We’ve heard tell from our scouts that kidnappings are becoming a serious problem near the desert edge.  The culprits appear to be white apes of some kind.

A Crashed Ship
A couple months ago a large structure not unlike an astral ship crash-landed in the desert. None of the scouting parties sent to check it have returned.