Prison for Dragons!
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Unusual Dungeons (and other such locations)” chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra. Is that an awesome theme or what?
In my homebrew setting of Exploration Age ruined settlements and structures from an age when aberrations ruled Canus dot the world map. These aberrant ruins come in many forms. My favorite is a prison designed specifically for holding dragons!
History of Dragon Prisons
The aberrations warred for thousands of years with the dragons for control of Canus. During that time the aberrations used powerful magic to create special prisons designed to hold dragons. These prisons needed to be powerful indeed to contain such mighty creatures.
The aberrations eventually lost the war with the dragons, abandoning their surface structures and retreating into The Underdark. Many of their prisons remain standing thousands of years later with magic and horrors untold.
No dragon prisons actually exist on the Material Plane. Each prison is held in its own special demiplane created by the aberrations. The hidden entrances to these worlds are found within labyrinthine ruins of aberrant citadels. Like most aberrant structures these ruins go deep into the ground rather than rise into the sky to afford better protection from flying dragon enemies.
The aberrations left these strongholds behind causing them to be overrun with all manner of creatures seeking a free home. Orcs, goblins, gnolls, lizardfolk, kobolds, and more make the place home usually without ever knowing its previous purpose. Even if the portals are found in these ruins, opening one requires obtaining its key, a small gem with a strange aberrant symbol engraved.
Aside from the denizens who call the ruin home, there may be some active traps from the time of the aberrations. These traps are typically magical, mind-altering obstacles which the resident monsters have learned to avoid.
Once through the portal and into the pocket dimension, adventurers find themselves in a small plane of fixed size. The portal lands them on strip of barren earth sandwiched between the edge of the plane and a moat of liquid psychic energy. This strip of land and moat run along the plane’s borders creating an island at the center of the plane. Upon this island sits the prison itself, and imposing structure of black hewn stone, shaped and carved by the strange magic of aberrations.
Inside the demiplane living creatures require no food or water to survive and do not age. A powerful ritual to create this effect was enacted by the aberrations for two reasons. First performing the rituals, expensive and time-consuming as they are, was less expense and life-threatening than trying to feed, house, and clean up after growing dragons. Also as dragons age they grow in power so it was to the aberrations’ benefit to halt the aging process of these beings.
The few aberration guards who patrolled the prison fled years ago when their kind were driven underground. Of course these demiplanes never housed many aberrations to begin with. Even behind bars dragon prisoners are dangerous so the aberrations built construct guardians. These guardians are still operational, patrolling the demiplane’s border and moat as well as the inside of the prison. All of these constructs are linked together by magic so when one senses trouble, all other constructs are alerted to prepare for battle.
If the moat, walls, and guardians outside of the prison can be overcome, adventurers find themselves on the ground floor of the prison itself. No dragons dwell on the ground floor. Rather, more construct guardians roam an open air fort complete with towers, a guardhouse, and an enormous hole in the center of the ground.
The adamantine guardhouse is where the aberrations who ran the complex lived. These now abandoned buildings have a training room, private quarters, and a war room for meetings and communication with the world outside the demiplane. The war room often features a crystal ball which allows observation of all areas of the cell block floor and direct communication with the entrance citadel and other aberrant ruins. The strange and varied body shapes and habits of aberrations are accounted for in these structures. There is often a hidden, locked, trapped chest within these guard houses which contains scrolls of levitate.
The constructs are trained to use the powerful psychic cannons mounted on towers around the complex. These cannons stun invading creatures while the rest of the guardians clobber them to death. The constructs immediately attack any creature they do not recognize.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the prison’s ground floor is the large hole in its center. The top of the opening is covered with a magic, translucent barrier which allows only non-dragon creatures to pass through. The next level of the prison, the cell block floor, is 100 feet below and the only way to reach it is through the opening. Aberrations and constructs who could not fly used the scrolls of levitate when they needed to head down to the cell block floor. The controls for turning this barrier on and off are within the guardhouse.
Cell Block Floor
The central area of the cell block is directly underneath the opening on the ground floor. Several long halls branch off from the central area in several directions for 500 feet in different directions like spokes in a wheel. Should the dragon escape its cell, it still has a far way to travel down a cramped hall before it can use its breath weapon. These halls have adamantine gates every 100 feet which were meant to be slammed down and locked in case of a dragon escape. The central room also features a psychic net which can be activated from the guardhouse in the ground level to subdue any escaping dragons.
The prison’s most powerful construct guardians roam the halls of the cell block level, ready to destroy any intruders who might free the dragons. Traps which affect the mind and cripple intruders with necrotic, psychic, and radiant damage are found on the bars of every cell and along every hall.
The bars of each cell neutralize any spell or attack which deals acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder damage as well as any breath weapon which passes through them. Standing in front of the bars allows a person to see everywhere within the cell. Aberrations would stand at the bars and torture dragon prisoners using their psychic abilities. The dragons had no place to hide. Sometimes the dragons would die during these interrogations and their massive bodies would often be left in the cell until the prison ran out of space and the cell was needed for a new captive.
While the prisons were made to hold dragons, others might be contained within the cells. On Verda, tieflings might be held within some of the cells if they were captured alongside their dragon allies and the same might be the case for shardminds on Findalay or Parian. Even traitorous aberrations or morchia could be contained within the cells. The cells have also been used to hold objects of great value since the prisons are so well guarded.
Now that thousands of years have passed, each cell block floor could be different from prison to prison. The magic in a cell’s bars might have weakened or malfunctioned allowing a dragon to escape. The freed dragon still cannot leave the prison because of the magical barrier above, but might have liberated its dragon allies, or kept them locked up to torture for entertainment, or have reprogrammed the constructs to follow all of its orders. The life-sustaining magic of the demiplane could become corrupt and raise the fallen corpse of a dragon turning it into a dracolich. What have dragons done to their cells in the thousands of years of solitude? Were they driven mad? Did they have some way to cast spells or practice magic? How might they react to people? These decisions are all up to the DM.
Keep It Rollin’
I actually like this dragon prison thing so much, I’m going to build one for you level by level. Maybe at the end of it all I’ll give you guys the whole dungeon in a PDF. Next time!
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The Grand User
May 13, 2015 @ 3:27 pm
Sounds like the perfect setup for a “Rescue the dragon(s)” adventure/campaign.
I had another idea that this would combine well with, where taking inspiration from the region effects around a dragon’s lair to the next level. Dragons have a lot more effect on stabilizing and energizing the natural world, and the immediate region around their lair is just the most obvious effects. But dragons are disappearing/being slain which is causing devastating problems in the world, and the PCs need to find out and stop whoever is doing it. The aberrations behind those prisons would be perfect for being the ones behind the whole thing.
May 13, 2015 @ 3:59 pm
Whoa! That is an awesome idea. I really love it.
May 13, 2015 @ 9:58 pm
Campaign Idea – Ancient Red Wyrm (obvious choice I know but they’re Iconic blah, blah, blah) was killed and its massive body left behind in one of the prisons – Life sustaining magic goes wrong turns it into a Dracolich – Takes over that prison’s constructs but the same malfunction in the life sustaining magic also means the barrier cannot be turned off – Although it cannot leave its prison it starts to send out the constructs to find all of the other keys/prisons and free its brethren gathering an army to turn against the Aberrants as the last 1000 years have consumed the Dracolich with thoughts of vengeance – The aberrants have caught on and are trying to relocate the keys in order to permanently close the gates of the demi-planes, but first want to bring the constructs to the Prime Material Plane to aid them in taking back the surface – The coming war will spell disaster for all other life on Canus and so our intrepid party must sally forth in order to collect the keys, stopping both the Dracolich and the Aberrants from their nefarious plans. Crazy magical loot, treasure, and whatnot abound for all involved.
(And if you think that was an elaborate set-up to use the phrase “nefarious plans” well . . . you aren’t wrong)
May 14, 2015 @ 10:00 am
This is a great idea. A brilliant idea. I am working on that campaign right. friggin. now.
RPGBA Carnival – Unusual Dungeons – Wrap-Up | Enderra - Worldbuilding and Games
June 4, 2015 @ 6:12 pm
[…] James Introcaso was the most prolific contributor this month, supplying us with a series about a prison for dragons: […]