This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Unusual Dungeons” chosen by Nils Jeppe of Enderra has inspired a series of blog posts about some abandoned prisons built to hold dragons by aberrations. So far I’ve written about dragon prisons in general, the specific history of the prison of Shuzal, and the area surrounding Shuzal. Now I’m going to flesh out Shuzal post by post and hopefully have a nice dungeon to show for it in the end. My plan is to put it all into a PDF and throw it up on the Free Game Resources section of this site.
The Ruined Entrance Citadel
Shuzal’s entrance citadel lies in overgrown forest ruins, picked over by the ogres of the Ox Tribe. Having been exposed to the elements for thousands of years, the citadel’s roof has collapsed, walls have crumbled, and trees have grown right through the floor. While the Ox Tribe has some guards posted on this first level of the citadel, most of its members are out raiding or living life in the underground section of the complex.
As you trek through the forest, through the trees you can see curved stone structures rising from the ground. These walls seem to have grown as naturally as the trees growing amongst them. Though crumbling and forgotten there is no mistaking the strange curvature of the walls, identifying this structure as something built by aberrations.
Features of the Area
Illumination. Because there is no ceiling on the ruined citadel, it has the same illumination as the forest directly outside.
Crumbling Walls. The citadel’s 20-foot-high surface level walls are on their last legs. A Small or larger creature adjacent to a wall can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check to know over a 5-foot section of the wall. Creatures on the opposite side of the wall must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage. Creatures who are adjacent to a wall can be knocked through the wall by another creature using the shove attack or a spell which causes forced movement. The creature being moved must be adjacent to the wall before the shove happens or spell is cast, otherwise the wall stops them in their tracks as normal. A creature pushed through a wall takes 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage. Trying to climb one of the walls requires a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check. Creatures who fail this check break the section of wall they are trying to climb, taking 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage in addition to fall damage as normal. The ogres in this complex do not hesitate to knock over the walls to make more room for their bulk.
Open Spaces. The destroyed ceiling and crumbling walls of Shuzal mean that anything happening within the citadel can be heard in all other areas on this level of the complex, except in area A7, which has maintained its roof and door. If battle breaks out or a wall is destroyed, any Ox Tribe members in the complex converge on the source of the noise. Consider breaking enemies into waves based on the rooms they start in. If a fight breaks out, bring in a new wave at the end of the round whenever the PCs outnumber the enemies they are currently fighting. Keep the pressure on in this dungeon brawl.
Rubble. The Ox Tribe ogres have pushed the rubble into large piles which hampers less-than-ogre-sized creatures. Rubble is considered difficult terrain for Medium and smaller creatures.
Trees. The trees growing in this area are 20 feet tall and require a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check to climb. Medium or smaller creatures who climb 10 feet or more into a tree have the benefit of half cover thanks to the branches.
A1 & A2 – Guard-Houses
As you enter the ruined citadel, gaping holes in the wall can be seen on both sides of the hall. A foul stench, laughter, and gross eating noises come from the West side of the hall. Low grumbling and the clatter of small stones on large stones can be heard from the East.
Eight ogres are on guard duty, four in each guard-house. In A1 the ogres sit eating the bodies of four dead human merchants and telling each other bawdy jokes. In A2 the ogres play a game with dice.
Treasure. The hungry ogres in A1 shoved the tattered clothing of the merchants into the corner of the room behind a pile of rubble and can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character searching through the clothing discovers a blood-stained belt pouch containing 302 gp.
A3 – Tunnel Room
The most prominent feature of this room is the large, gaping hole in the floor, which drops 15 feet onto a ruined stone floor.
If the ogres are in this room, add:
Two large ogres turn to face you as you enter the room. One rushes toward you, the other heads for the hole.
This room used to be the aberrations well-guarded stairwell to the lower portions of the citadel. Now the stair well lies in ruin and two ogres stand guard. If trouble breaks out, one of the ogres heads down below to warn the rest of the tribe.
Tunnel. The tunnel here is really a hole in the ground which drops 15 feet. The height is high enough for large creatures (like ogres) to safely lower themselves down, but smaller creatures need to use rope, magic, or some other method to safely touch down on the lower level of the citadel.
A4 – Training Room
This long room has walls painted with faded frescos of dragons falling in battle before aberrations. On the side of the East wall, a large column painted with various targets lies in ruin.
If the ogres and oni are in this room, add:
An oni feverishly lectures two ogres who hang their heads in shame and fear.
This is the place where aberration guards would practice their combat tactics. Any who wished to access the lower levels of the citadel and the portal to Shuzal would have to pass aberration soldiers ready for combat. Now two ogres and an oni are here. The ogres came to blows over a shiny stone one of them found. The oni has taken the stone for herself and is currently lecturing the ogres about fighting each other while on guard duty.
Treasure. The oni carries a topaz worth 500 gp on a pouch in its belt.
A5 – Processing Room
This forgotten room has a smashed, divot-filled column which was once inlaid with some sort of stones. The smashed pile of rubble in the corner of the room was clearly an old piece of furniture.
This forgotten room is where polymorphed dragon prisoners were brought for processing. The column, once full of magically charged gemstones, forced a permanent zone of truth spell in room. The pile of rubble in this room is a smashed stone desk which held the files of the aberrations, since plundered or lost to the ravages of time.
Treasure. A DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals there is still a large spinel worth 250 gp on the underside of the column. A character can reach under and try to pry out the spinel with a DC 15 Strength check.
A6 – Golem Workshop
A smashed bench and some rusty old tools lie on the round in this room. Faded frescos on the wall depict various aberrations assembling guardians of stone, flesh, and metal.
If the clay golem is here, add:
In the middle of the room stands a silent statue made of clay, resembling a human with tentacles for arms.
One of the onis of the Ox Tribe found this old golem workshop and managed to magically reprogram the clay golem here to work for her. The clay golem guards this level of the complex and runs toward any sounds of battle and attacks any non-Ox Tribe creatures it comes across.
A7 – The Key Room
As the adamantine door opens, a heavy purple mist floats out of the door around your ankles. Inside the room, a great adamantine chest sits behind a huge creature made of iron. Its three heads look your way as it raises its sword. Its feet crush the skeletons of ogres as it moves toward you.
This room was setup long ago by the aberrations to guard one of Shuzal’s portal keys. The ogres have left the room untouched after many attempts to get to the chest failed thanks to the iron golem guardian and the mists within the room. This room is entirely enclosed, has a 20-foot high ceiling, and is shrouded in darkness, though opening the door and leaving it open allows for light from the outside to penetrate the room. The iron golem here does not join battle unless it can see intruders (and it considers the Ox Tribe intruders as well). Its main function is to guard the chest.
Jammed Door. The adamantine door (AC 23, HP 100) to this room has been jammed by the ogres. It can be forced open with a DC 20 Strength check.
Mists of Madness. This mist covers the entirety of the floor in area A7. When a living creature shows any sign of above animal intelligence (such as speaking, casting a spell, using tools or a weapon, etc.) while standing within the mists, the mists rise up and try to enter the creature’s lungs. When the mists try to enter a creature’s body, that creature must first succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. If the creature fails that saving throw, it must then succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or gain one form of long-term madness. Creatures who are aware they are standing in mists of madness have advantage on the Constitution saving throw. A DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals the nature of the trap. A strong wind forces the mists to dissipate in 1d10 rounds.
Treasure. The adamantine chest (AC 23, HP 100) is locked. The key to this chest is long forgotten, but a DC 20 Dexterity check made with thieves tools picks the lock or a DC 20 Strength check forces the lock open. If the lock is forced open with a Strength check or if a creature attempts to pick the lock and fails, the poison mister trap (see below) triggers. The chest contains a Shuzal portal key, a rod of planar entrapment, and fifteen pearls carved to look like eyes (worth 100 gp each).
Poison Mister Trap. A nozzle connected to a vial of poison gas is hidden in the chest’s lock. When the trap is triggered the nozzle creates a 15-foot cone of gas originating from the lock. Creatures within the cone must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) poison damage and are poisoned for 1 hour. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not poisoned. A DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check allows a character to deduce the trap’s presence from alterations made to the lock to accommodate the nozzle and vial. A DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disarms the trap, removing the nozzle and gas vial from the lock.
A8 – Offices
A huge pile of rubble indicates that all of the stone furniture in this room was smashed and pushed into a pile.
If the ogres are here, add:
Eight ogres sit around the body of a fallen comrade, solemnly praying.
Once the prisoners of Shuzal were processed, their information was brought here and poured over by various aberration intelligence officers. Now eight ogres hold an impromptu funeral for a friend who died on a recent raid before bringing him below to be buried.
A9 – Forgotten Room
This room is so badly damaged it’s almost impossible to tell what its former purpose was. It does not seem to have much of one now.
This room’s outer wall is easier to break. A DC 10 Strength check is all that is required to knock it over. A DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the wall is weaker than the others.
A10 – Armor Storage
A huge pile of rubble sits in this room next to a tree which seems to have grown taller than the others nearby. Rusted pieces of metal sit here and there on the ground, perhaps once pieces of something greater.
Long ago the aberrations stored armor here. Now the highest tree in this section of the forest grows from the floor. The tree is 40 feet high and climbing to the top allows a person to see over the rest of the complex, since all areas have no ceiling except A7.
A11 – Weapon Storage
Rusted blades, spears, and hammers lie about this room.
If the oni is here, add:
At the center of the room, an oni meditates beneath a tree.
The oni in this room is trying to get in touch with the aberrant magic of the ruin. The aberrations once kept their weapons here.
Treasure. The roots of the tree are covering an old deerskin bag, which can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. Removing the bag from under the roots requires a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the check fails by 5 or more the bomb of horrors in the bag goes off.
…we’ll get to the lower level of this dungeon!
If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!