Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nodes of Taenarum

Here's the next design piece on the adventure oriented megadungeon I've been working on.  I'm going to use the term 'adventure' rather than family-oriented to indicate it's not necessarily only for kids, it just won't feature horror and gruesomeness like my default mode.  The genre is fantasy and high magic, i.e. "adventure".

What I needed were good monster tables that could be plugged into the random dungeon stocker.  I wanted to have tables that were populated differently based on the dungeon level and sub theme.  Therefore, I needed to quickly think up some of the major themes, as well as plots and factions.

This early in the process, nothing is set in stone, but I wanted a starting point for some of the major players in the dungeon.  The overarching theme is competition between the gods:  the gods want their champions to rise in power and experience by conquering monsters and getting treasure; Hades wants to one-up the other gods by killing all their champions in his vast dungeons and adding their spirits to his army.  To that end, he employs "archons", intelligent undead that act as bosses on each level.  They command level-appropriate undead throughout the dungeon and actively hunt and thwart adventurers - characters like the Lord of Bones or the Ghoul King.  Plus, they're replaceable - the mantle of Lord of Bones can be passed on to the next promising candidate if an upstart group knocks off the last Lord of Bones.  (In other words, there are plausible reasons to quickly restock certain areas, as the archons back fill whenever there's a "promotion opportunity").

Other factions in the dungeon include various lost souls that have escaped the Asphodel Meadows.  They're not living, so they can't return to the surface world, but by forming enclaves in the underworld, they've escaped the drudgery of Hades.  Servants of Hades (the devils and the furies) search the dungeon for these escapees.

Hecate is not an Olympian and desires to see the 12 Olympians overthrown.  She rules a parallel world of magic, the dark realm, and her goblins and demons slip into the dungeon from the dark realm.  Although she's an erstwhile ally of Hades, her secret desire is to throw open the elemental gates of Tartarus, releasing the primordial monsters.  Not even Hades is that reckless.

There is an elemental sub theme to Taenarum, since the prison of Tartarus can only be opened by bringing together four elemental artifacts from the dawn of the universe.  There are groups seeking the artifacts and others striving to keep them hidden and guarded.  The Great God Pan would like to see the world returned to primordial chaos and uncontrolled nature, and his minions are among the seekers after elemental mastery.

Hephaestus has no love for the haughty Olympians and has lent Hades the use of many automatons and mechanical monsters.  Yay, robots!

Beyond those factions, I picked lots of Greek-themed monsters from the various bestiaries and created a list of sub themes for each major dungeon level.  At this point, I'm trying to get the first three dungeon levels mapped and stocked before letting players loose on the place.  All the stockers and monster lists are built, and I have 9 of the 12 maps done.  The bare-bones approach lets you cover vast ground really quickly.

Here's the list.  Names will change over time, and I'll circle back in a day or two to add a descriptive sentence to each node to give folks a flavor on each area.

Dungeon Areas in Taenarum:

  • Entrance Halls
  • Skeletal Legions
  • Vermin Caves
  • The Animal Farm
  • Zombie Vaults
  • Berserker Base
  • Mountain Side Caves
  • Naiad Pools
  • The Harpy Halls
  • Cultes Des Ghouls
  • Temple of Hecate
  • The Faerie Shrine
  • Centaurs of Doom
  • Darkhome
  • The Petrified Procession
  • The Pandemonium Shadow Show
  • Water Caves
  • Hags of the Fates
  • Enclave of the Returned
  • Brother Barrow's Tombkeepers Inc.
  • Ragehollow
  • The Monster Mash
  • Halls of Greater Dread
  • Workshops of the Forge God
  • Lesser Temple of Hades
  • The Great Library
  • The Jersey Devils
  • The Giants
  • Nightmare Town
  • Aah!  Real Demons
  • Redoubt of the Immortal
  • Elemental Prisons
  • Remember the Titans
  • The Blood Boss's Throne of Blood
  • Lair of an Ancient Dragon
  • Greater Temple of Hades
  • Defile of the Demon Prince
  • Lair of the Great Theurge
  • Planar Embassies
  • The Shores of Styx