Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dungeon Areas in Taenarum

The Road to Hades is a large vaulted passage, carved in murals, that  spirals into the depths of the earth, culminating on the shores of the River Styx.  There are also stairs, chutes, and shafts that connect the sub levels to each other, but I like the conceit of a wide highway to hell that spirals into the earth - the benighted path trod by Herakles and Orpheus when they visited death's kingdom in the days of myth.

I'm planning 4 dungeons per dungeon level.  At this point all I have is a brief concept for most of them.  There are monster tables for levels 1-5, and maps for levels 1-3. I've just started running the stockers.

Once we get past level 3, the sub levels are really just place holders - I've carved out a bit of mental real estate and constructed a container for future ideas.  If an idea jumps to mind as you're browsing the list, feel free to post your inspiration in the comments.  Since this is for the family (first and foremost) I'm holding myself to a few over-arching constraints; I'm going to leverage standard bestiaries for most of the monsters, along with mostly standard magic items and classes.  Taenarum will encourage an archetypal D&D experience - something you could probably run with Moldvay BX or Labyrinth Lord (there's a good chance I'll use ACKS) .  Taenarum is definitely a "funhouse dungeon" or "monster zoo", and that's fine - Hades built it to be that way.  As god of wealth, he ensures there's always reasons for adventurers to return again and again.  Hades gets to bet house money because in the end, the house always wins.  Muhaha.

Here are the area concepts so far:

1-1 Entrance Halls
The entrance halls are a transition area between the surface and the underworld, and many of the lairs and monsters include humans - bandits, traders, acolytes, other adventuring parties, that kind of stuff.

1-2 Skeletal Legions
The Lord of the Bones is the first archon and he commands an army of skeletons.  This area also features flesh-eating scarabs that strip victims to the bone, preparing their remains to join the Legion.

1-3 Vermin Caves
It's not wise to fool with Mother Nature!  Demeter's power runs amok here, creating "the food of the gods", a milky substance that causes vermin to grow to giant size - giant beetles, giant rats, giant bees, the whole gamut of giant vermin monsters come from here.  Yes, that means there's even a giant killer chicken.

1-4 The Animal Farm
Atalante the sorceress turns captured men into pig men (orcs).  Sometimes she turns men into pigs, and she feeds the pigs to her pig men.  Her pig men scour the first level trying to capture adventurers to drag back to Atalante and get the treatment.

2-1 Zombie Vaults
Noxious fumes from the Asphodel Fields create a treacherous no-man's land that causes the dead to rise as zombies.  Portcullises and sliding walls ensure folks trapped in no-man's land have to move forward, not backwards.  (No matter how hard I try, I can't completely escape the inclination to include some horror-related elements.  Players are just going to have to deal.)

2-2 Berserker Base
Cultists of Ares (male berserkers) have a shrine in the dungeon, as do their enemies, the Amazons (female berserkers).  Opposed factions are fun.

2-3 Mountain Side Caves
Inspired by drum circles, Burning Man, industrial music mosh pits, and Rabbit in the Moon at Red Rocks Amphitheater, no Greek themed dungeon would be complete without  Dionysian Maenads, dancing Oreads, and drum-crazed Satyrs celebrating the Great God Pan.  Who wants a mushroom?

2-4 Naiad Pools
Drowning faeries seriously creep me out.  Reference:  drowning fairies.

3-1 The Harpy Halls
Harpies = iconic Greek monster.  They fly and steal stuff.

3-2 Cultes Des Ghouls
Winding warrens of the Ghoul King.

3-3 Temple of Hecate
A passage to the dark world and the source of all the goblins and spooks that roam the upper levels.

3-4 The Faerie Shrine
I don't see any reason why to exclude sprites, pixies, unicorns, and sylvan creatures from a Greek-themed dungeon - they fit the Artemis vs Pan theme of orderly sylvan nature vs chaotic untamed nature.

4-1 Centaurs of Doom
Centaurs are the biker gang barbaric trouble makers of Greek myth - they have bad attitudes.  Don't invite them to the wedding.  Just ask the Lapiths.

4-2 Darkhome
The Prince of Darkness, lord of the shadows, is the archon that rules this dungeon, where light sources frequently fail.

4-3 The Petrified Procession
Medusas = iconic Greek monster.

4-4 The Pandemonium Shadow Show
Clowns, circuses, giant-headed Carnivale puppets, they're all nightmare fuel to me.  No funhouse dungeon should be without a creepy fun house.  (I do want some things in here that emphasize theater, tragedy, masks, and performance).

5-1 Water Caves
The historical Cape Taino has seaside caves and hosted a temple to Poseidon.  Tritons are another iconic Greek monster, although my tritons will end up more like slimy Deep Ones or the Kuo Toa.

5-2 Hags of the Fates
Graeae, the blind hags who shared an eyeball, are iconic Greek monsters and needed a place.

5-3 Enclave of the Returned
This is a free zone where escaped souls from Hades have built an underground refuge (the dungeon's version of Rick's Café is here).

5-4 Brother Barrow's Tombkeepers Inc.
Brother Barrow, the fifth archon, treats the entombment of dead heroes like a church business.  Hail Hades.

6-1 Ragehollow
The mythical labyrinth hosting Taenarum's angry minotaurs.

6-2 The Monster Mash
The spawning grounds of the hydras of Taenarum.

6-3 Halls of Greater Dread
The sixth archon is a powerful wraith (a rag-shrouded figure like the Witch King or a Nazgul).

6-4 Workshops of the Forge God
Robots!

7-1 Lesser Temple of Hades
TBD

7-2 The Great Library
The dungeon will have access to a cosmic library - or perhaps a portal to something like the great library of Celaneo or HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands.  The 7th archon is a mummified philosopher.  The custodians of knowledge - the Keepers - are all mummies, too.

7-3 The Jersey Devils
Placeholder for a fortress of devils  and the Furies.  Their job is to capture lost souls that escape Hades by swimming the Lethe river.  They don't mind sending new souls down to Hades when they get the chance (ie, whenever they meet adventurers they try to kill them).

7-4 The Giants
The Gigantomachy features in Greek myth, so I know I want giants to have a role in the depths.  Hades doesn't mind reaching across the aisle to recruit players from the other team.

8-1 Nightmare Town
The eighth archon is a powerful spectre with  a pumpkin head and a chilling cackle.  The area features a passage to Morpheus's realm of dreams and nightmares.

8-2 Aah!  Real Demons
The demons cause destruction and chew bubblegum, and they're all out of gum.  On  a more serious note, the overarching goal of the Demon Prince is to release the great monsters of Tartarus by destroying the prison.

8-3 Redoubt of the Immortal
One of the great architects of the prison of Tartarus, from a bygone age, was gifted with immortality and has built an impregnable lair for himself here.  The demons would love to get a hold of him.  I'm picturing an ancient progenitor of Daedalus - someone with knowledge that's too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.

8-4 Elemental Prisons
Clues to the locations of the four elemental artifacts that must be brought together to open Tartarus.  Lots of elementals and elemental creatures are bound to the area as guardians.  (The artifacts themselves are elsewhere in the multiverse as high level quest items).

9-1 Remember the Titans
The primordial titans are the great threats to world peace; I want some of the lesser Titans to have a role in the dungeon as troublemakers.

9-2 The Blood Boss's Throne of Blood
The ninth archon is a powerful vampire lord.

9-3 Lair of an Ancient Dragon
Must have a gigantic dragon in a classic dungeon.  Must.

9-4 Greater Temple of Hades
TBD.

10-1 Defile of the Demon Prince
An interplanar beachhead between the Abyss and the Prime Plane hosts frequent skirmishes between demons and the followers of Hades.

10-2 Lair of the Great Theurge
The 10th archon is a powerful lich.

10-3 Planar Embassies
Just outside the gates of Hades, many of the great powers of the universe have a portal or gateway to the underworld.  This is the player's chance to jaunt to the City of Brass, for instance, or visit Asgard.

10-4 The Shores of Styx
Charon, Cerberus, the River Styx - you know it.  The good stuff.