Crypt Under Nightwatch Tower
Lvl 1 – 3
A minimalist entry by Bosman Bos, describing the cellars under a ruined tower. One page dungeons suck, but there is a weird sweet spot around the 3-4 page limit occupied by the likes of Lichway. The current entry doesn’t quite live up to those stratospheric heights.
Below a ruined tower lies hidden a crypt. The evil cleric Kalrael heard rumors of a magical gold skull
hidden in it. He and his cult set out to find it. They broke throw the base of the tower into the crypt
below to find it. On the way there they took some prisoners for their evil rituals
I don’t mind a short entry, but it does have to be beefed up. The key to a lot of these descriptions is specificity. Move beyond the generic tropes, imply a world behind the writing.
Below the Ruined Tower of Valkor the Merciless lies hidden a crypt. Kalrael the Scourged, priest of the Burning God heard rumors of an artifact hidden below, the Skull of Yelnor, said to contain the knowledge of the Elder Gods. He and his followers have set out to find it, taking victims for inaugural sacrifice along the way. They have unearthed the crypt from the ruins. *metal riffs*
We move to a d6 rumor table. Again specificity is a good thing. I think there is some foreshadowing, which is good, but little in the way of hints to specific dangers. Also, why would you ever make rumor #5 false? It should be true. All others should be false.
12 entries is under the room limit of 15. A decent job has been done to create one loop, which is acceptable. I would have enjoyed a point where entry into room 12 is relegated by solving something elsewhere. The singular use of a secret door is done by lighting a brazier, that’s something, I don’t mind that. The locked door is a little vestigial in a place like this. The skull only being accessible when a gem is found elsewhere in the dungeon is a good impulse, even if placing it at the bottom of an amphora filled with coins is maybe not the best hiding space.
Random encounter table, with frequency, good. Just monster listings, less good. Consider adding a purpose or a behavior to give people something to work with. d4 green slimes, okay, do they drop from the ceiling? Are they just there? How do I go about this. Acolytes. Even better. What do they do, what do they look like? Even more important, Kalrael finds the Golden Skull. What happens if he does? You could have described the entire dungeon shaking with the unchained power of Yelnor, as a howling voice thunders ‘YOU FOOLS. I AM FREE ONCE AGAIN. ALL SHALL BOW BEFORE THE POWER OF YELNOR.’ and then the cleric emerges floating from the crypt with eyes glowing like a dying sun and hurling generic energy bolts but all of his acolytes have exploded.
Cold and damp. The crypts have been closed off from the world for untold years. The air smells of
earth and decay, with an undertone of rot. The stones of the floor are long and broad basalt blocks,
and the walls generally limestone, weathered by seeping water. The crypt is dark, barring where
intruders bring light.
This tries. Atmosphere is important. Smell is good. The appearance of stone is good. Consider sound? What about decoration? Is it primitive. Cyclopean masonry? Is it older then the tower above it?
Encounters. 12 is not much to work with. You kind of have to squeeze as much mileage out of each room as you can. You probably don’t want to keep to the normal 1/3 rooms empty ratio for larger dungeons, which to its credit this adventure doesn’t do. I sort of like the encounters in a low key way and if the tower had been expended to 20-40 rooms you could have had yourself a pretty decent dungeon. What I notice is that the monsters at least are doing something, which is good. There is a lot of loot lying about which, you would expect the cultists, but especially the bandits to grab, same goes for the traps. I’m missing an organized defense, some sort of alert being sounded, that sort of thing. It might actually have been alright to go with just cultists, maybe one or two monsters still hiding?
There’s a note that says prisoners are fleeing from Green Slimes, but the movement rate is 120′ vs 3′ per B/X. How does this work? Help us picture the scene.
Traps are mostly foreshadowed properly in case of room 5 with the gauges. Keep doing that. Maybe have an open pit trap somewhere with a dead guy in it. Treasure is not quite lazy but can be sexed up. I like some of the descriptions ‘rotting wooden mannequin, ornate suit of silvered armor inlaid with golden vines.’ That’s vivid. Perhaps more importantly, a lot of this stuff is essentially free: No guardians, not hidden, not traps. The Golden Skull of Nainodel acts as a wand of raise skeleton (?) but at least it’s something, that would be kind of alright. Consider mass grave just outside of the place, so the cleric if he finds the Skull starts raising a skeleton every round. Total treasure is about 3500 gp, which is acceptable for an adventure that is likely going to be completed in a single sitting.
Not much in terms of the weird. Maybe throw a shrine in there that does something if you interact with it?
This gets filed under ‘Needs work.’ I don’t hate it, quality of the individual encounters is actually bordering on acceptable, but besides the golden skull there’s not much that is particularly memorable or leaps out. Either expand it so it has a bit more body, or beef up the individual encounters so they become more memorable. Do like…25-35 of these. And make it a bit more specific. What does Broknar the Berserker look like? Remember when we explored Nightwatch tower etc. etc.?