Saturday, February 17, 2024

Ternketh - Basement & End Notes


1. Stairwell. These black stone stairs will lead down into a small room with two doors, one of which will be hopelessly wedged open by plant and molded material generated by the yellow musk creeper in room 2. In all, there are 20 zombies, these having 4 HD because they are so near to the empowered creeper. Though they will occupy the stairs, they will not climb above the doorway, as they exist to protect the creeper itself – the party will have to fight for every inch of ground it wishes to gain, however.

2. Torture Chamber. This room is completely occupied by the yellow musk creeper’s generated growth, but the creature itself is approximately in the center of the room. It is able to ‘see’ through the open doorway at any intruders coming down the stairs.

This creeper has 10 hit dice and can use its prime attack as often as it needs to. Once it can see its opponent appearing at the bottom of the stairs, the creeper can fire a grenade bomb through the doorway that will explode into a small cloud of spores, affecting everyone within a 10-foot area. These spores will burn the skin, both outside the body and from inhalation (causing 1d6 damage) and will reduce a character’s intelligence by 1d4 if save is not made against poison. This is an area affect spell and the creeper does not need to ‘roll to hit’ to fire its bomb.

Characters that have their intelligence reduced to less than three will move towards the creeper and embrace it’s tentacles. Others that come within reach of the creepers tentacles can be attacked from any direction (up to six combatants at a time may attack the creeper, once they have positioned themselves in the torture chamber) for 1d6 damage if a tentacle hits.

The creeper is vulnerable to fire but is damp enough that it will require more than a torch or a brief application of magical fire to set it alight. If it does burn, however, it will release a black, toxic smoke that will act as an acid on the skin, causing 4-40 damage to everyone that is affected (the smoke will bloom outwards at 20 feet per round), half damage if the character saves vs. breath weapon. The toxic smoke will then hang in the room and passages for 2-8 hours, causing an additionall 1d6 damage per round to anyone or anything in its reach.

As the door from the chamber to the stairs outside cannot be closed, the creeper will continue to harass any movement it sees until it is finally killed. This will make it difficult to haul out treasure from 5 if the party attempts to ignore the creature.

3. Basement Passage. This wide passage offers a respite from the other dangers in this part of the Keep. It is surrounded by reinforced doors. The door that leads to 4 is about six inches narrower than the other doors, which should be mentioned. The party should also be told that the hinges of the door to 6 are partially broken and that the door opens outwards and not into the crypt.

The strongest odor will be from the yellow musk creeper and the doors will deny the characters hearing any noise (largely because the creatures in 4 and 6 make too quiet a sound to be heard through a thick door). The characters moving through this passage will be heard, however, if they speak in ordinary voices or do not indicate that they are talking quietly, alerting the giant slug to their presence. If this is the case, no surprise should be rolled for the monster once the crypt door is opened.

4. Treasure Passage. Upon opening the door, the characters will discover that this space completely suffused with green slime. Due to the narrowness of the passage, and the slime coating the floors, walls and ceiling (and able to drip), it will be impossible to move through the passage without being attacked. The slime was never the intent of the makers of these passages, but it has arisen since the first bodies were killed here (its formation would remain a mystery to the party). It extends only as far as the door to 5 and can be destroyed in the usual manner.

There are two pit traps in the hall, which cannot be detected except by means of a thief’s searching for traps. Each is only a ten foot deep pit but the spikes are fitted with additional blades designed to be truly deadly, so that falling into the pit will cause a victim to suffer 4d10 damage. Characters who step onto the pits unaware are entitled to a dexterity check before falling in, but as the floor next to the pit is also designed to tilt, this dexterity check is with a -4 penalty. There are two such traps; they must be identified separately.

The door to the treasure room (see 5, below) is wizard locked, so that it can only be opened with dispel magic, knock or a magician of at least 15th level. As a result, the harpies have never successfully opened this door.

5. Treasure Room. This very large room has plenty of treasure in it. The amount should be equal to what’s necessary for one character newly become 6th level to reach half-way to 7th, times five or six characters. As such, the room should contain about 90,000 g.p. worth in value. About 20,000 of this should be in jewelry worth an average of 1,000 g.p. each; another 10,000 should be present in gems (30-300 in number). I should estimate that about 25,000 g.p. be amassed in non-perishable items, such as highly valuable wine, pieces of art, enamelware, art pottery, gold cups and crystal vases, jade statuettes, ivory idols, medallions, musical instruments, rare books or whatever else of that nature seems appropriate. This would leave some 35,000 g.p. in coins, mostly in gold but with a considerable mass of silver and coppers. It is imagined that the DM is best able to decide what these things are.

I am stingy with magic, so I would likely have three pieces of magical armor and two magical weapons, a +2 suit of leather and a +2 shield, with a suit of +1 chain mail, a +2 spear and a +2 short sword. Another DM might offer more. As there are pieces of magic in the crypt, I would be satisfied with these objects in the treasure room. The only reason for them being here could be that they were more valuable to the original inhabitants of Ternketh as heirlooms and proof of lineage than they were as weapons of war (in which case there is a possibility of their being destroyed). To the players, of course, these are just tools.

6. Crypt. This circular space of eight rooms and a central foyer is most notable for the giant slug. This creature has been strangely altered and transformed by a diet of the occasional yellow musk zombie, harpy filth and licking up whatever green slime is able to emerge out from the treasure passage (see 4, above). These incursions have caused it to break open the door leading into 3, which closes again when the slug retreats to its lair. The slug is huge, double normal density (but not size), so that it has over 100 hit points. It’s mouth has mutated into a larger, more terrifying orifice so that it now does 2-24 damage on a strike. It is able to spit acid up to three times a day, for 4-32 damage (half damage if save against breath weapon is made).

The slug will choose to combat intruders in the narrow passageway between the foyer and the door into 3, where it is able to completely fill the passage but it is difficult to bring any more than two attacks per round against it (one melee and one using missiles or magic). The party may, if they wish, choose to seal the slug into the crypt and leave it there, but by doing this they will miss out on the additional treasure that is contained in the surrounding tombs.

Five of the tombs contain nothing of note except the skeleton of the buried. This includes the impressive circular tomb, which has a roof shaped like a dome, where a nine-foot statue of a naked wrestler stands over the coffin. Only the tombs marked by a number contain anything of value. The one tomb with a entranceway along the first passageway into the crypt’s foyer is the only one that does not contain a skeleton.

Though the harpies did once enter the foyer, they did not disturb any of the bodies; any evidence of their filth was long ago gobbled up by the slug.

I’ve not made up any stories for any of the unimportant dead (as far as treasure is concerned) if the players choose to use a spell to speak with them. If it happens to me, I will simply wing it.

7. Carved Tomb. The walls of this tomb are etched in shallow geometric symbols which seem to bring a strong sense of peace. Upon entering, the room will become alight with a soft blue light, emanating from the jewel that has been emplaced in the staff that lays on top of the sarcophagus in the room.

This is the Staff of Aryabhat, an artifact that acts like the staff of the withering with unlimited charges. It can only be employed by a spellcaster. It will function in combat as a +2 quarterstaff with no negative effects. Before it can be used to wither an opponent (in which it would normally use two or three charges), however, the wielder must be fully investigate the item with identify and must attain the 9th level. Thereafter, the staff can be used to age or wither limbs – but every time a power is used that would use up a charge, the staff will instead permanently reduce the user’s maximum hit points by the same amount. Thus, to wither an opponent’s limb would cause the caster to lose those three hit points, forever. While the caster can gain new hit points from going up a level, those that are lost to the staff cannot be regained by any means whatsoever.

There is no evidence as to who the occupant of the tomb is or how they died.

8. Ornate Tomb. Along with the marble sarcophagus in the room, there are three trunks and several weapons hanging from hooks on the wall. These are a +1 hand axe, a +1 mace, a +1 dagger and a +1 crossbow. No bolts can be found in the tomb. There are a dozen stone busts of various sizes (five in the trunks, seven standing on the floor), each carved in granite, all of the same person, that would be worth an average of about 150 g.p. per bust (though each weighs between 40 and 140 lbs). A name deeply etched into the wall above the tomb reads Baurchuk Idiqut of the Uyghur.

9. Couples Tomb. This is a stone tomb with a hammered bronze leaf, representing perhaps 40 lbs. of the metal. If the lid is removed (it weighs four hundred pounds), it will be evident that the corpses inside were buried alive. What’s more, after being buried, they killed each other – apparently over a huge ruby gem that was buried with them, worth approximately 15,000 g.p. The skeletons of the pair will be seen gripping each other, the gem laying in the coffin between their rib cages. One skeleton is a woman and the other a man.

From this it might be assumed that the gem is cursed. It is not. The tale of the two is that they resented the other’s feeling of ownership over the gem so much that it filled them with jealousy, causing them to murder others who were perceived as part of a conspiracy to steal the gem. Ultimately, this couple coldly slaughtered some forty people before they were caught and buried together.

Final Notes on the Adventure

The level of treasure that I’ve added to the Keep is meant on some level to compensate for my present party having fought several battles without any real treasure. Another DM may see the number of weapons offered as too many and favour some other magic form or perhaps that there is not enough magic overall. I stress that the amounts found of everything should be a suggestion and that DMs should feel free to adapt the amount of coin to their own campaigns.

I also realize that in a number of systems a strong wizard could easily walk through much of the dungeon. I hasten to remind the reader that this was designed for an AD&D campaign, where an 8th level mage was much less powerful than later edition counterparts.

No doubt some will note that it is possible to enter the Keep and make off with the treasure without directly encountering the harpies in the barracks or the assembly hall and temple. It should also occur to some that these creatures do not themselves sit on a big pile of treasure. This is intentional.

Most thinking parties will realize that the Keep isn’t secured unless all the rooms are explored and cleaned out. If they don't do this, the DM should feel free to have the harpies create an encounter of their own, using stealth to attack the party unawares. I can think of two ways that the harpies might try:

As there is a great deal of treasure to haul out, weighing a lot, an attack made when players are burdened with heavy objects such as stone busts, barrels, bronze or whatever would be very effective – particularly if the party was staggered along a route from the basement treasure room to the front gate. If this were the case, the harpies might be able to kill two or three party members without the others being present.

Secondly, it should be reasoned that some harpies from the Keep are out hunting the surface of the world for edible victims. The undiscovered harpies in the keep may wait for these (presume another six total), then attack the party’s airship (if they use one) while it is moving away from the keep. This would be particularly effective, as the attack could be made while members of the party are sleeping – and doing so in the belief that they’ve gotten away with their plunder, safe and sound!

One way or another, it can be assumed that the party will have to earn treasure discovered in the keep from the harpies as well as any other monster within. By not painstakingly cleaning out the Keep, the party are simply giving the initiative to the harpies to choose when it is best to attack for them, rather than rooting them out and trapping them inside the assembly room and keep.

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