Thanks to the inspired RPG Blog Carnival theme of “Unusual Dungeons” (chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra) this month I’m going to be building you a dungeon for use in your home game. In my last post I described the general history and layout of Exploration Age’s dragon prisons, one of the world’s many types of aberrant ruins. Today I’m going to get specific and write about a single dragon prison. Hopefully when all is said and done the dungeon will be appropriate for PCs of 12th level.
Deep in the halls of Shuzal a sinister force warped by corrupt aberrant magic has gained control of the prison’s lowest level. While many prisoners have been turned by this evil, Maxathaltros, a silver dragon, cowers in his cell, waiting for a savior or death to come his way.
Shuzal was an important prison for the aberration forces. During the war many important metallic dragons, their allies, and weapons were contained within its walls including a pair of silver dragon twins who were ancestors of the architects of the tiefling race. Maxathaltros and his sister, Kerrinalastraya, were well into adulthood when they were thrown into Shuzal. The aberrations mistakenly believed the twins knew a secret to unmaking the tieflings, who were the metallic dragons’ allies. For thousands of years the twins were tortured at the hands of aberrations for information that did not exist.
As the aberrations on Verda found themselves close to ruin at the hands of the dragons and the tieflings, their methods of interrogating the twins became more extreme. Kerrinalastraya was killed in her cell during an interrogation. The aberrations searched her cell for any information she might have hidden away, found nothing, but left her cell door unlocked as they fled the demiplane on which the prison was built leaving active constructs and traps behind to guard the prison itself. The dragons and tieflings laid waste to the citadel on the Material Plane which hid the entrance to the demiplane, but never found the portal.
More millennia passed as the dragon prisoners sat in their cells, sustained by the magic of the aberrant demiplane. The boredom made some insane. Yet other dragons, like Maxathaltros, held onto hope that they might one day escape and rejoin their kin.
On the Material Plane a clan of ogres, the Ox Tribe, moved into the ruins of the citadel once guarding Shuzal. The tribe has a fearsome reputation for devouring the flesh on any living being, preferring to dine on anyone intelligent. Their residence there has remained virtually uncontested for thousands of years.
500 years ago Akros Sepora, a spireless tiefling from the Amber Spire shunned for her practice of necromancy, found the ruins of Shuzal. Using a bevy of powerful spells she managed to evade detection from the Ox Tribe. Luckily for Akros the ogres had a burial ground which provided her with undead bodyguards. She entered the demiplane after uncovering a portal key in the rubble of the ruin. Her undead defeated the construct guardians and traps on the ground floor of Shuzal and she has ruled there ever since. Taking advantage of the agelessness effect in the demiplane, Akros has had centuries to perfect her dark craft. She rebuilt and reprogrammed some of the constructs, ventured back into the Material Plane for more ogre corpses, and became obsessed with the aberrant magic of the demiplane which causes allows her to live without the need of food, water, or aging. Her goal is to find a way to harness that magic and bring it with her to the Material Plane. Akros is getting bored in her small home of Shuzal. The first place she plans to bring her undead army is back to the Amber Spire. Perhaps a destructive display will teach the city which scorned her to respect the art of necromancy.
Akros does not venture down to the cell block floor of the prison for she fears the dragons and even greater terror which she created. 200 years ago her tampering with the aberrant magic of Shuzal corrupted the corpse of Kerrinalastraya, turning the dragon into a dracolich who now rules the cell block floor. Kerrinalastraya abhors anything living and killed all the sane prisoners. Her victims were raised as zombies who now roam the cell block floor, helping her search for a way to exit the demiplane. She kept the insane prisoners alive for they keep her entertained. Her brother also lives though locked in his cell. Maxathaltros hates what his sister has become, but she still loves him. When she finds a way out of Shuzal, Kerrinalastarya hopes her brother’s gratitude will change his mind about her new form.
Recently Akros ran out of fresh ogre corpses from the burial grounds of the Ox Tribe and has begun picking off living ogres to swell her undead ranks. The Ox Tribe knows that some of their own have gone missing in the night and want to punish the person responsible.
Kerrinalastarya has unlocked a vault within the cell block which kept many of the aberrations magic weapons. The aberrations emptied most of the vault when they fled Shuzal, but the dracolich did find enough weapons that she has begun constructing a massive drill, which she believes can slowly dig her a path through Shuzal’s adamantine ceiling to its surface.
The following hooks can be used to get PCs into Shuzal.
Caravans on the trail between Paqual and Lumberton have been attacked repeatedly by a large group of ogres. The PCs are hired by Falan Neleare, owner of the Neleare Lumber Company, to clear out the ogres. He knows the task is dangerous and will give them 100 gp for the head of every ogre returned to him. If the PCs are members of the Explorers’ Guild of the Society of Seekers this contract may come to them through these organizations.
Datas Lantandra, an venerable tiefling librarian from the Amber Spire, has become obsessed with searching aberrant ruins. The old tiefling has been researching nearby ruins and recently discovered a strange gemstone in the spire’s aberrant collection which he believes to be a portal key to Shuzal. He hires the PCs to delve into the ruins of Shuzal’s entrance citadel, find the portal, and bring back any books, letters, or tomes they might find. Datas agrees to pay the PCs 1,000 gp for every book or letter they find, and can be convinced to pay more for interesting aberrant artifacts.
Dreams of Maxathaltros
Maxathaltros has been trying to reach the Material Plane for thousands of years by creating a powerful version of the dream spell. When the PCs are resting within 1000 miles of the ruins of Shuzal’s citadel they receive a vision of Maxathaltros begging them to come and free him from his prison. He offers to take them to his treasure hoard on the northern most cliffs the Harpy Mountains if they free him. Should they free him, Maxathaltros is true to his word. Much of his hoard has disappeared in the millennia he was trapped, but he did keep a chest of hidden booty. The gems, coins, and art within the chest are worth 50,000 gp. The chest also contains 3 rare magic items of the DM’s choice.
While searching another aberrant ruin, the PCs find the journal of an aboleth general for millennia ago. The journal is written in Deep Speech (which is a written language in Exploration Age) and has mostly been lost to the ravages of time. There is a legible passage which mentions receiving spoils of war from allies across the sea including a magic war pick of extreme power liberated from the corpse of a dwarf. The ruby-headed pick was sent to Shuzal for safekeeping. A PC who succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (History) check knows this weapon could be Servitor, one of the Tools of Order. Any dwarf PCs from Bragonay or PCs who have done research about the Tools of Order know this automatically.
Does Kerrinalastarya have a phylactery? If Akros is so obsessed with living forever why doesn’t she just become a lich? You probably have a lot of questions about this dungeon and its inhabitants, but do not worry. Answers are coming your way.
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