It’s time for part six of the prison for dragons series! If you’ve been following these posts than you know that the dungeon I’m building in each entry is inspired by this month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme, “Unusual Dungeons,” which was chosen by Nils Jeppe of Enderra.
The dungeon I’m creating is a prison made to hold dragons built by aberrations. Here’s all the blog posts I’ve written about the subject so far.
- Part I – A general overview of dragon prisons
- Part II – The historical background and character hooks of a specific dragon prison, Shuzal
- Part III – A description of the area surrounding Shuzal and a table of random encounters
- Part IV – The surface level of Shuzal’s ruined entrance citadel
- Part V – The lower level of Shuzal’s ruined entrance citadel
So now it’s time to tackle Part VI – The upper level of Shuzal.
The Upper Level of Shuzal
In the demiplane where Shuzal is found everything was engineered toward keeping dragons in their cells. The aberrations didn’t count on losing the war and they certainly didn’t count on a tiefling necromancer turning one of the prisoners into a dracolich. Now that necromancer, Akros Sepora, rules the surface level of Shuzal and is building an army of undead ogres to destroy her old home, the Amber Spire.
One of Sepora’s soldiers, a vampire ogre named Sveja the Crow, was created only a month before. Sepora created the intelligent undead as an experiment to see if she could control captains who could command her undead armies in battle. Sveja despises Sepora, but is bound to do her bidding, which includes making forays back into the entrance citadel’s catacombs to murder her Ox Tribe friends and family to add undead to Sepora’s army. Sveja is looking for a way to break her thrall and the PCs could be just the solution she needs.
Features of the Area
Illumination. The sky of the demiplane shines a red light through thick, impenetrable clouds and braziers burn bright in the guardhouse. The entirety of Shuzal’s upper level is bathed in bright light.
Ageless. While on the demiplane creatures do not age and require no food or water to survive.
Braziers. The braziers in Shuzal are powered by the aberrant magic of the prison and never go out. A creature who moves into or starts its turn in the same space as the brazier takes 5 (1d10) fire damage.
Finite Demiplane. The edges of the map are impenetrable walls of reality. This demiplane is finite and creatures can travel no further than the walls. The cloud layer of the plane sits at 100 feet above the ground and this too cannot be pierced in any way. A creature burrowing into the ground finds it cannot dig further than 100 feet for that is the bottom of the plane.
Limited Flight. Creatures who can fly who are not aberrations or constructs cannot fly higher than 20 feet above the ground. The strange gravity of the aberrant magic holds them close to the ground.
Psychic Moat. The moat around Shuzal is a torrent of crackling psychic liquid. If a creature falls into the moat, its senses are completely assaulted and overwhelmed. That creature must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw. Creatures who fail take 55 (10d10) psychic damage and contract a random form of short term madness. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not stricken with madness.
Towers. The towers of Shuzal are solid adamantine pillars with arcane cannons on top. The helmed horrors in Shuzal know how to operate the cannons.
Walls. The walls of Shuzal rise 50 feet into the sky and dive 100 feet below the ground to the bottom of the demiplane. The walls, gates, and doors of every structure here are adamantine (AC 23, HP 300, damage threshold 50). The walls are perfectly smooth and trying to scale them without a rope requires a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check.
Armor Class: 20
Hit Points: 100
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic
Special alchemical canisters are loaded into the muzzle of these magically reinforced cannons. The gems along the barrel of the cannon can be charged with magical energy which is used to propel and explode the canister.
An arcane cannon is supported in a metal frame fixed to the top of the towers. Before it can be fired the cannon must be loaded and aimed. It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. The weapon must be fired by a spellcaster or helmed horror, who feeds an amount of magical energy akin to casting a cantrip into the cannon.
Force Canister. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 800/3,200 ft., one target. Hit: 55 (10d10) force damage.
Frost Canister. The frost canister can be shot 800 feet. It explodes in a 30-foot-radius sphere on impact. Creatures within the area must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) cold damage and have their speed reduced by 10 feet for one minute. Creatures who succeed take half damage and do not have their speed reduced. A creature whose speed is reduced in this way may repeat the saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the reduced speed effect on a success.
Lightning Canister. The lighting canister can be shot 800 feet. It explodes in a 20-foot-radius sphere. Creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 33 (6d10) lightning damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage.
C1 – The Portal
A sky and wall made of red clouds crackling with energy encloses the area you have just entered as you climb through the well. Across a river of bubbling blue energy looms an enormous black structure, the prison of Shuzal. High walls enclosing something long forgotten, but still active.
Normally an alarm would go off in area C9 when the portal is activated, but since Sveja the Crow is watching the monolith which controls the prison. She immediately quiets the alarm and watches the adventurers, using the monolith’s magic. She wants to gauge their strength and hopes they will free her from Sepora’s thrall.
Random Encounters. As the PCs spend time trying to figure out how to enter Shuzal, they may run into some of the denizens of the upper level of the demiplane. Sepora isn’t expecting an invasion, but she knows her attacks on the Ox Tribe have begun to draw attention so she keeps patrols wandering the area.
For every ten minutes the PCs spend outside the walls of Shuzal roll on the table below to see if a random encounter occurs.
|1 – 6
||Psychic moat tendril
||1d6 + 5 ogre skeletons
||1d6 + 5 ogre zombies
||1d4 + 1 helmed horrors
Psychic Moat Tendril. Sepora has been tinkering with the aberrant magic of the demiplane and now the psychic moat sometimes experiences energy surges as a result. If you roll this result, the next time a PC comes within 30 feet of the moat, a tendril of psychic energy reaches out and attacks the PC with a +8 bonus to the attack roll. If the attack hits the PC takes 5 (1d10) psychic damage, is grappled (escape DC 15), and is pulled 10 feet toward the moat. The tendril remains attached to the PC and continues to pull it 10 feet at the end of each round. The tendril retreats back into the moat if the PC escapes or if it is dealt 50 damage. The tendril has AC 15 and is immune to poison and psychic damage.
Raise the Alarm. If the PCs encounter enemies, combat longer than 5 rounds attracts the eye of the four helmed horrors working the walls, who alert the rest of the complex by firing off the arcane cannons at the PCs.
C2 – The Gates of Shuzal
A massive adamantine drawbridge creates the front gate of Shuzal. Currently the door is drawn up and perfectly flush against Shuzal’s wall.
Four helmed horrors float along the tops of Shuzal’s walls, ready to raise an alarm by firing the arcane cannon if they notice any enemies with their passive Perception 14.
The monolith in area C9 controls the drawbridge. If the PCs cannot figure out a way to cross the moat or scale Shuzal’s walls, Sveja the Crow uses the monolith to lower the drawbridge, hoping they’ll storm the prison.
C3 – Shuzal’s Grounds
Inside the black walls of Shuzal, the first thing to draw your eye is a deep pit in the middle of the grounds shielded by a field of blue energy. Behind this pit lurk three dome-shaped buildings connected by adamantine-enclosed hallways. The middle building is the largest standing 40 feet high, while the two smaller buildings are only 20 feet in height and much smaller around.
Eight ogre skeletons and eight ogre zombies patrol the grounds within Shuzal’s walls. If they are aware of the PCs or if the four helmed horrors on the wall raise the alarm, the undead converge on the PCs and attack. If things seem to be going the PCs’ way, more reinforcements from area C5 come to take on the PCs.
If a battle breaks out, there is a 10% chance at the end of every round of combat that a helmed horror patrolling the grounds outside of Shuzal flies over the wall to join the fray. Sveja the Crow makes sure the drawbridge is raised once the PCs are inside to make sure skeletons and zombies in the outside of Shuzal do not have a way back in.
Facing the enemy directly is a deadly encounter for the PCs. Make sure they are aware of the risks before they rush headlong into the battle.
C4 – The Pit
The pit here drops 100 feet to area D1.
Energy Field. The energy field here is controlled by the monolith in area C9. Any non-dragon creature can pass through the field without a problem, but creatures of the dragon type are stopped in their tracks. For the purposes of this energy field, dragonborn count as humanoids and are unaffected by the field.
C5 – Welcome Chamber
This adamantine chamber is flickers with the light of braziers and is filled with undead.
The ceiling in this chamber rises 30 feet. Sepora cleared out all the furniture and decoration in this room and uses it to store reserve troops. Eight ogre skeletons and eight ogre zombies stay here. If a battle breaks out in the grounds and the PCs appear to have victory close at hand, four ogre skeletons and four ogre zombies exit this area to join the fray in area C3. Sepora always has some undead stay back to guard her.
C6 – Abandoned Construct Lab
A large pit toward the back of the room is the only feature of note here aside from the braziers.
Three ogre wraiths (same statistics as a normal wraith, but size is Large) float about this room. They are an angry experiment gone wrong, but Sepora has managed to use her magic to keep them confined to this room. They abhor all life, even Sepora, and will attack anything that lives.
This room was once a laboratory for building and repairing constructs, but Sepora used all its resources and needed the place to store undead soldiers (and then later a place to bind the wraiths). All of the furniture and tools from this room and area C5 have been broken up and placed into the pit.
Pit. The pit is 30 feet deep, but 20 feet of the pit is filled with broken pieces of furniture and tools. A creature who falls into the pit takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage and 3 (1d6) piercing damage after landing prone.
Treasure. Searching the pit with a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check finds a diamond worth 5,000 gp. Sepora bound the wraiths to this diamond and they must remain within 30 feet of it at all times.
C7 – Meeting Room
The small room has a stone table set with plush chairs and a bubbling fountain shaped like a many-tentacled beast nearby.
This quiet room was a place for aberration guards to hold meetings or socialize while not on duty.
The Fountain. A creature who drinks from the fountain regains 19 (6d4 + 6) hit points. The creature can only regain hit points from the fountain in this way once per day.
C8 – Sepora’s Chambers
A purple bed at the back of the room, a pool of red water, a bookshelf, a table, two chairs, and a chest are all which can be seen in this room… oh, and a hulking construct made of stone and steel which runs at you.
Akros Sepora is in this chamber, but odds are by now she knows the PCs are headed her way. She quickly casts improved invisibility on herself and climbs the walls of the chamber using her rod of arachna. She then sends her shield guardian to attack the PCs as they enter the room.
If Sepora’s shield guardian dies and she drops to less than half her hit points she tries to negotiate with the PCs. She first offers them the location of the diamond in area C6, hoping the wraiths will tear them apart. If the PCs don’t go for this she tells them that Maxathaltros, a silver dragon held below, has a large treasure hoard which he will use to reward any person who frees him. She offers to help the PCs get to the lower level of Shuzal and hopes the dragons finish them off.
Bookshelf. Sepora’s bookshelf holds her spellbook which contains all the spells she has prepared as well as another 20 spells of your choice. Remember Akros specializes in necromancy.
Pool. The pool of red liquid here is contact poison which sprays in a 20-foot cone originating from the pool at the end of each round in a direction of Sepora’s choosing.
Creatures in the cone must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 11 (2d10) poison damage and are poisoned. Creatures who fail take half damage and are not poisoned.
Treasure. The adamantine chest (AC 23, HP 100) in this room is locked and requires a successful DC 20 Dexterity check made with thieves tools to pick the lock or a DC 22 Strength check to force the chest open. If an attempt to pick the lock fails or the chest is forced open, the poison mister trap activates (see below).
Inside the chest are two diamonds worth 1,000 gp each, some robes made for Sepora, a journal which details all of Sepora’s exploits against the Ox Tribe and hatred of the Amber Spire, and a wrist spider.
Sepora carries, a key to the chest, a rod of arachna, and the amulet used to control the shield guardian.
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.
C9 – Monolith Room
As you enter this room a magic hum can be felt deep within your chest. A large ogre with glowing red eyes and sharp fangs bows as you enter the room, standing before a massive glowing pillar.
The Shuzal monolith in this room allows for monitoring and controlling various aspects of Shuzal. Sveja the Crow watches over the monolith by order of Sepora. Sveja was told by Sepora to guard the monolith and let no one touch it, so if the PCs attempt to use the device while Sepora is alive, Sveja must attack them.
Monolith. The Shuzal monolith is a magic item which can be attuned to up to three creatures at once. It is attuned to Sveja and Sepora at the start of the adventure. A creature must spend 1 hour with at least one hand or body part touching the monolith to become attuned to it.
While standing adjacent to the Shuzal monolith an attuned creature immediately knows if the portal into Shuzal’s demiplane has been activated.
Creatures attuned to the monolith can use the following actions when they are touching the pillar.
- Cast scrying anywhere within the prison or demiplane
- Raise or lower the drawbridge in C2
- Turn the energy field over the pit on and off in C4 (this requires at least two creatures attuned to the Shuzal monolith to use their actions in the same round)
- Activate the enormous psychic net in area D1
Sveja the Crow. Sveja the Crow does not wish to fight the PCs. She wants them to kill Sepora and free her from the necromancer’s thrall. She believes the PCs can take out the necromancer and if they haven’t by the time they approach Sveja, the vampire is very blunt in her request. Kill Sepora and Sveja will tell the PCs all she knows about the complex. She tells them she must attack them if they touch the monolith and explains why if given the time.
If the PCs have already killed Sepora, Sveja has watched the event through the monolith and expresses her gratitude.
When Sepora is dead, Sveja tells the PCs that Kerrinalastraya is planning on breaking out of her prison and has the means to do so. If she gets out it could spell disaster for any who feel her wrath. Sveja is worried that her Ox Tribe family will be the first to go.
If this doesn’t appeal to the PCs, Sveja tries to tempt them into the lower levels by telling them they aberrations kept weapons of great power in their vaults and now Kerrinalastraya is using them to escape the prison. If they stop Kerrinalastraya perhaps some of those weapons could be theirs!
Sveja will help the PCs in any way she can… from the upper level of the demiplane. She fears Kerrinalastraya’s power as does not want to fall into the thrall of another soon after escaping the grasp of Sepora.
…let’s head into the cell block!
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!