Death Crypt of the Ultralich – Crypt (Level 3)

This is the final level of the no-prep dungeon for the mini-campaign I just finished running. The keyed notes below are what I had in front of me when I ran it.

Level 1: The Buried New Chapel
Level 2: The Original Abbey
Level 2 North: The North Library
Level 2 South: The Artificer’s Workshop

Dungeon Level 3 - Crypt

  1. Wall of Shrieking Bones. Attacks if close. Draws wandering monsters unless turned.
  2. 1d6 ghouls, 5k cp, 1k gp
  3. Same as 1
  4. 4 fonts (empty). If filled with water from the well, becomes holy water.
  5. 2d4 zombies w/maces. Each wears a gold necklace (100 gp)
  6. Several ossuaries. 4 turns searching will turn up skull with gold teeth (100 gp)
  7. True Tomb. Mummy: 19 HP, AC3 1d12+ disease. 2000 in jewelry. 2 Skeletons. 4 jars of gold (500). +1 sword inside the mummy.
  8. False Tomb. Corpse in Sarcophagus. Iron (gilded) jewelry, gorgerine, bracelets. 4 jars of oil. Coffer of 5000 copper (gilded) and 50 glass gems (50 cp total)
  9. 4 Zombies touching a glowing pink orb. Orb may be used to cast ESP. Orb links to Least Lich in 27. Worth 10k gp if removed.
  10. Body in hooded robes, pale face. 1d6 if punctured. b) zombie has ring worth 100 gp
  11. Shelves of bones
  12. 15 assorted skeleton parts. AC3 1 HP
  13. Shelves of bones; 4 silver torchiers (100 gp)
  14. Basin of water w/strange fish. Jump out to be a 3HD AC 6 skeleton fish monster 1d6 dmg; 20 pp in basin
  15. Shelves of bone
  16. 4 pillars that look like people writhing in agony, adorned with gems. HD3, AC4 1d6. 40 gems total, 30 gp each.
  17. 2d4 ghouls, will investigate if party is loud in 16. There is an ornate boat in this room. Stave-ceilinged: 10k gp [if it can be removed]. 4 canopic jars. Map to the tomb. +1 Short Spear.
  18. “You tread where no man dares. A powerful seal has been broken. Do not raise up what cannot be put down. He knows what you have done.” [hole under capstone on 2nd level leads here]
  19. Empty Room
  20. 10 inanimate skeletons. Skeleton Knight HD4 AC3 2-handed sword (1d10)
  21. Slanting floor with grates in wall, metal pressure plate on floor. Spear trap 1d6 Save vs. breath.
  22. 1 Thoul; 8 skeletons (may investigate 16)
  23. Basin. Body wearing plate armor, holding ax (both +1). Skeleton is bleached white. Basin is full of acid. 1d6 splash. Fall in, 3d6 damage + 1d6 per round until it is rinsed off.
  24. Two pedestals with silver gilded gazing balls (250 gp each). 1d4 electric damage, 1 charge each.
  25. 500 -1 spears, 1 +3 spear*
  26. 1280 skeletons wearing chain, standing in rank & file at attention. Inanimate unless attacked.**
  27. Throne room of the Least-Lich. E5 – 20 HP, AC 2 (Elfin Plate +1), 1d8+1 (+1 sword of control undead). Knows: Read Magic, Charm Person, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force, Haste. Spellbook. All 1st level scrolls. Necromantic Standard. Goold Skull (500 gp), Endymion’s Plan-Book, Griffon Throne (2000 gp), 3 tapestries (350 gp each)
  28. Piles of bones. After 1 turn, whirlwind of bones, attacks as 6HD, 1d6. Protection from evil or turning both have effect.***
  29. 500 -1 swords, 1 +1 sword*
  30. 300 -1 short bows, 1 +1 bow*

 

* The -1 weapons aren’t cursed, just poor quality.

** The skeletons are the unnamed Least Lich’s “seed army”. He’s a lieutenant of Endymion the Ultralich, and if left alone after the seal has broken, he’ll eventually lead this army down into the valley and use his magic sword to amplify the curse and raise additional undead. Things dying on this dungeon level and returning as undead is part of the curse that the chapel/abbey was built to contain and not directly tied to the Least Lich himself.

***I handled this a bit differently in play. I came up with almost all dressings and secrets on the fly, so I had the handle to the secret door be a large key-crank hidden by one of the piles of bone. Also, after the initial whirlwind, touching the bones would activate the whirlwind again, and I had players roll dex to not touch bones.

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Wrapping up the Deathcrypt Game

My players finally wrapped on the B/X Deathcrypt game I was running. We ended up with only 3 players on Friday, but since we needed to bring the game to a close for various reasons, I let them brute force the ending a bit with some extra hirelings.

The Deathcrypt was always meant to be run as a mini-campaign, just something to be run for a few weeks to a few months until our regular DM moves out of town at the end of the summer and the group most likely breaks up for good. Still, it ended up much higher casualty rate than any other games I’ve run.

I think one of the major reasons why PC death was so high in this game was the drop-in nature, as many of our players have had things going on during the summer and weren’t able to make every session. A few really bad plays combined with a few players taking their character sheets with them ended up sucking a lot of XP and treasure out of the adventure. While I wasn’t running a Monty Hall dungeon by any stretch, the players should’ve gotten plenty of XP and been well equipped. Except the following stuff happened:

  • One character managed to be the sole survivor of a particularly brutal session and walked away with an entire wing of the dungeon’s XP all for himself. And then he died in the next session because he didn’t wait for his 7K XP to get banked and converted to levels.
  • The player who took the +1/+3 vs undead sword only showed up for 2 of the 5 or 6 sessions this game ran for.
  • The player who had the magic user who could read magic and had a ton of scrolls and a +1 ring of protection DID make it back for the final session, but he’d taken his character with him and subsequently lost the binder in the intervening weeks.
  • The players with fighters who’d gotten the top-notch gear (a set of +1 plate and a +3 spear) last session were absent from this.
  • A few fragile, high value objects were smashed instead looted.

We ended up with more lost characters and equipment than just about any game we’ve run. Partly, I think, because we did not strictly enforce the “leave your character sheet at X’s house” policy that we normally employed. Also, the lady who generally quarter-masters for the group has been busy over the summer and only made 2 or 3 sessions of this game, so party loot was much more prone to getting lost.

There were three ways party could reach the final dungeon boss. A counter-clockwise spiral that took them past some pretty gnarly stuff and straight to the throne room, a secret shortcut through the well that would bypass some of the gnarliest stuff, and a clockwise spiral that put them at the back-door of the boss’s chamber.

They’d actually reached the back door in the previous session but decided to call it for the night there and go back to town instead of finishing the dungeon. Armed to the teeth and with almost all of the players there, it probably would’ve been a cakewalk.

Instead, two characters enter the chamber with the necromancer, while the other characters hung back on the far side of a room with a swirling bone trap for a couple rounds before following. The player had his characters in the room try to stall for time, feigning obeisance and bowing—it proved something of a mistake to genuflect while asking how they might serve an undead necromancer; one of them got a sword through the back and the other ran after a round or two of ineffective combat.

The characters who’d hung back initially ran back the way they’d came while the fighter ran the other way, hoping that at least some of the party would get away. The fighter did get to see some interesting stuff on his way out:

  • Ran through the room with some skeleton guards and a Thoul
  • Ran through a room with gem encrusted living statues that got a swipe at him
  • Hit a dead end with ghouls hanging out on a very nice funerary barge
  • Smashed a glowing orb of ESP that a bunch of zombies were connected to

Between having plenty of armor, undead being fairly slow, and finding the well-path, he actually managed to make it to the well and climb out to meet his friends who’d gone back the other way. Fortunately, he did not choose the path that would’ve had him running down the corridors of shrieking and grasping bones.

The party came back to the dungeon armed to the teeth with holy water, and though the necromancer had martialed some of his nearby forces to make a stand, only the Thoul was able to do any real damage to the party. The tanks tanked successfully (AC 2 and 1 are VERY hard for 1HD monsters to hit—something to think about), the necromancer got blinded with a light spell, and got a ton of holy water dumped on him.

Holy water may be kind of OP if you used it the way I allowed. I figure that throwing the vial of holy water across the room at a monster and hoping it hits is dumb, so I kind of assumed that what you do is unstop the vial and shake it on the monsters like they do in the exorcist movies. Yeah, you have to be in melee range with the undead, but it’s not hard to get something wet when you’re trying to shake water on it from 5 feet away. So, my least-lich went down like the wicked witch of the west with a bucket of water thrown on her.

Anyway, the players averted the regional crisis. The least-lich was part of one of many cells left by Endymion the Ultralich to make preparations for his eventual return. With a small undead army at his disposal, this minor lieutenant could’ve flooded the valley with undead and started a blight upon the land. Think of it like an ambitious air-drop operation—each cell has various objectives it needs to achieve, possibly covering for other, less successful cells, for the operation to succeed. This information is lined out in one of the items in the least-lich’s possession; had this been planned as an ongoing campaign, rather than a summer time killer, that would’ve been the springboard into a region adventure with wildernesses, lost towers, the hunts for ruins and powerful macguffins, etc.

Fun was had. Highest level character at the end was a level 3 Thief. If we’d tallied XP for the final session, the thief would’ve been level 4, at least one fighter would’ve been 2. [Other fighters who weren’t there last night but had been the previous session could’ve hit level 2 easily if they had been there].

Later this week, I’ll post the final level of the dungeon as it was run.

Keep on the Borderlands (Sort Of)

At Free RPG Day, I got to game with a buddy who runs the local RPG con–B/X is his jam, and I love him for it.

He runs his somewhat uniquely, and there are aspects I disagree with (using a d8 base for semi-non-variable damage rather than d6), but there are others which I’ve stolen to make my own game run smoother (rotating initiative by side).

But the most important way he runs his game is that it’s fair–he’s not going to kick you when you’re down, but when you’ve goofed you’re done. PC death can and will happen in his games.

He’d run off some fairly wacky pre-gens from a site that gave stats and equipment that were all over the place. I ran a thief with 17 STR, 18 Dex, 8 Int, 18 WIS 14 CON, and CHA 4. Crusty Jim! I’ve learned from my own players and realized that Thieves have the potential to be the most stupid overpowered class, especially at lower levels. I cut my way through several orcs, bugbears, and giant spiders with my trusty Zweihander. With an AC of 4 and the potential to do over 20 damage in a single hit, I was a force to be reckoned with!

It’s also nice to play Borderlands without the moral quandaries that modernist gaming culture has tried to impose on it. We were told up-front: there are no orc babies; greenskins are creatures of evil that are born from, created by, and composed of evil and chaos taken shape. The goal was to kill them, rescue humans, recover treasure, and work to make the Borderlands just a little bit safer.

It wasn’t run straight from the module, but rather thematic, adjusted for a one-off. The keep was there, but we were given the choice to look for caves, small ruins, or large ruins (all home-made content). So I’ve still never played Borderland proper, but it was still a lot of fun cleaving through gobbos.

Death Crypt of the Ultralich – The Artificer’s Workshop

The artificer’s workshop is below the south end of the abbey. It can be reached either by the stairs in the annex behind the hidden door or via the well.

Dungeon Level 3 - Workshop

  1. Artificer’s Bedroom. Skeleton*. Desk w/notes–Read Language will reveal his attempts to build “Daughters”. +1 Plate.
  2. Inner workshop. All manner of tools & blueprints, cogs, springs. A desk, tables, half-assembled bronze constructs. 4x “Daughters” 4HD*, AC3, 40′ 1d6*/1d6. (*stun for one round). Scrap worth 6k gold.
  3. 2x Iron Living Statues. 500 steel ingots.
  4. Workshop supplies. 100 hammers. 25 screwdrivers. 50 wrenches. 25 unknown tools.
  5. 3 patrolling bronze walkers. HD2, AC4 30′ 1d6 (will flee if attacked and summon LS then Daughters.
  6. Anvils, barrels of springs (5x 100 gp each) and gears (5x 100 gp each).

*:active if seal in L2-26 is broken.

Death Crypt of the Ultra Lich – Old Buried Abbey (Level 2)

This second level is the lower, original abbey that was buried under a layer of dirt and ash. The hole in the chapel of the newer, upper church leads to room 10. The stairs north of 1 lead to the Library. Well in 22 is the back door to the Artificer’s workshop. Capstone in 26 leads to the Crypts (Level 3). Stairs in 27 are the main entrance to the Artificer’s workshop.

Space between 16, 19, 22, and all between 17 and 20 used to be an herb garden for soap-making; it can theoretically be cleared enough to create a “short cut”, but it would hardly be worth the effort. Exterior doors open to solid walls of dirt, stone, and ash. These can be excavated, but will take much longer than the upper tunnels.

Dungeon Level 2 - Main

  1. High arched wall w/stairs going down; spider webs
  2. 1d4 crab spiders
  3. 1d4 crab spiders; rack w/tattered clothes
  4. 1 Mage Spider (2HD)–Light, Read Magic; Scroll of Magic Missile x3; 5pp
  5. Several tables w/books. Most crumble at the touch. 1 is open to an illuminated page showing battle of wizards. Falls apart when touched.
  6. Webbed antechamber
  7. Narthex. 2 empty fonts. Door cannot open. Lever to secret door by west font
  8. 1d4 faded wraiths (2HD, drain only on a 6); 8 vials of holy water. 3k gp, 8 holy symbols
  9. Caved in room. Can be tunneled/excavated
  10. Four Saint Statues making holy gestures (1k gp each)
  11. 1d4 crab spiders; 22 cp, +1 mace
  12. Rows of wooden benches; Altar w/book (scroll of Bless, 5x charges)
  13. Missing door, 2 skeletons*
  14. (Monks’ cells) 2 skeletons*, 85 sp in d
  15. Long tables w/benches
  16. Kitchen. Oven. 4 bottles of wine (bad); rotted, useless ingredients; 24 blackened silver plates (1gp each)
  17. Prayer room w/empty pool
  18. Cabinet reliquary, trapped door (poison needle on cabinet door); Gold Chalice (500 gp), +1 mace, +1 shield
  19. 1 wight*; 700 gp, tapestries/fur blankets, +1 robe
  20. Soap making chemicals, dried plants, 20 bars of fragrant soap (10 gp each)
  21. A piece of tooled metal
  22. A well in the middle of this room goes 50-ft deep; there are buckets (4), rotting rope and 60 ft of chain; 1d8 fire beetles in the well
  23. 3d4 skeletons*; south door has holy symbols and writing. Read magic, languages or local cleric “Beware the life curse”; below is carved “Blessed be the Resurrection”
  24. A bronze, bi-pedal construct [1.5′] wanders these halls clockwise. 4 mauls
  25. Shelves. 2x sets of thieves tools
  26. 9 ghouls – 3 in each alcove. Attack when party enters the room. Jars w/3k cp, 5k sp, 900 gp, jeweled bracelet (1.2k gp), and rosary. Stone circle [capstone] in center of room. Sigil reads “Beware the life curse”
  27. Two metal faces in corners of the room. Stepping into the room triggers them. 1d6 arrow. 1 per round. Attacks as 1HD monser, 30 arrows. Disassembled, worth 1k gp each
  28. Barrels of nails (3), scrap metal (all rusted together)
  29. Barrels of scrap copper 4x (200 gp each)

*Become active undead if capstone seal in room 26 is broken.

The Ghouls’ Chapel

Last session, we had our largest party yet. One of the new players rolled a Cleric and I convinced another to play a MU to take advantage of the surfeit of scrolls the party had stockpiled.

A player who’d been a Fighter the previous session misplaced his character sheet for a bit (it was found later that evening) so ran a Cleric. The guy whose thief died last session rolled another thief, and we still had a thief who lived and was level 2.

Unfortunately, someone who’d played a fighter last session wasn’t there and had taken his character sheet and the party’s +1/+3 vs undead sword with him.

With some Clerics finally in the party, they had a bit of the benefit of the NPC party being led by a fellow member of the order. They got to know the layout of the lower abbey, some more of its history, and what the order was looking for. I figure I’ll give them more hints as they level up. If they survive…

On the way in, they noticed one of the 4 saint statues at a principal junction had been removed, but more on that later. They found the old abbot’s cell, looting it of some, but not all of its treasure (they missed out on the +1 robes). They also checked various doors that opened onto solid walls of dirt and rocks and figured out that a small central garden had probably been buried with the rest of the temple.

In the well-house, one of the thieves found the “back entrance” to the artificer’s workshop, but determined they’d be unable to easily carry any of the heavy loot through the side tunnel and back up the well. He went back up before any of the metal walkers (think children of Karras)  made their patrols through the room.

The party found a workshop for making soaps using the herbs and flowers from the now-buried garden before checking out the southeast corner of the abbey, which is just above the entrance to the crypts.

Here, there was a room full of smashed up and battered skeletons, all outside a door with the cryptic phrase “Beware the life-curse” and an indistinguishable reference to “the Blessed Resurrection”.

One of the clerics opened the door and stepped into the room, which had a large capstone on the floor with sigils. Nine ghouls sprung out of various alcoves and were all over the cleric. And somehow, out of nearly 30 attacks, all of the ghouls missed! To be fair, the cleric was in plate and had something like AC 1 or 2, but still!

There was a brief argument about the treasure value of scrolls vs. their situational efficacy, which ended in the MU fireballing the room. But with 13 damage rolled, and half of the ghouls making their saves and clinging on with 1 HP, they weren’t out of the woods by a longshot. Oh, and the Cleric was barbecued and the loot from the soap room ruined. The party managed to kill most of the rest of the ghouls, but one lone ghoul kept dodging and taking down party members one-by-one. The MU was prepared to run when the thief finally got him. I would’ve laughed if a single 1HP ghoul had TPKed them after his buddies had all been killed.

The party waited for their paralyzed companions to come round while they gathered the coin treasure that had been scattered throughout the room (the fireball had shattered the jars that coins were in). They left the charred meat of their cleric friend on the capstone to see if that would bring him back to life. I mean, it will, but they’re not doing it right, and when it works, it won’t be what they were hoping for. Other than the faded wraiths guarding the stash of holy equipment, level 2 has been mostly empty. Because as soon as they open that capstone, the abbey will become haunted as fuck when the sealed powers of the least-lich necromancer who’s been buried there will seep out and taint everything.

On the way out of the dungeon, they ran across the NPC party trying to move out the other two statues (this time without the help of the elf’s magic; she’s a scroller and only had one Floating Disc). Unfortunately, the party had their hands full with other loot and were pretty banged up, so they declined to help the NPC party with the last statue. So, they’re slowly losing a chance to get any XP for those, or the saint statues in the library.

Still, the party got a decent haul for the session, with just over 900 XP per person. That was enough to bump the longest-lived thief up to level 3.

The only thing the party has left, really, of the lower abbey is the sealed annex to the artificer’s workshop and the more-or-less empty monks’ cells. If and when they unseal the capstone, there may be more stuff in this level of the dungeon again, but things are pretty cleared.

If I remember, tomorrow I’ll post my map of the lower abbey with my notes for it.

Death Crypt of the Ultralich – The North Library

Since my players have only explored the north part of the second level of the dungeon, I’ll avoid posting it here for now. But I will eventually, I promise.

This is a faction sub-dungeon off the north of second level. It’s the monastery’s library and at one time, it boasted a rather impressive collection. Some of it is still intact. The large collection of knowledge attracted a clan of Mage Spiders who have peacefully inhabited the ruin for nearly 200 years. Content to study the old scrolls and tomes, none have bothered the nearby village in all their time occupying the site.

If cleared out, other inhabitants from the wild or brigands might take up occupation here in this easily defended complex.

Note that the southern defenses are included on a different map. Because of the open layout of the interior, spiderlings will be quick to spread the word about intruders so that the other spiders can mount a coordinated defense. The exits lead to the north side of the hill; it’s an easy climb back up to the historical marker the level 1 entrance and only adds maybe 5-10 minutes or so to the walk back to town.

Dungeon Level 2 - Library

  1. An owlbear has made its lair here. 3k SP. 3 jewelry 800 GP each. Sword +1/+3 Undead. [1a: webs in this hall discourage the owlbear from bothering the spiders]
  2. Spider Archmage – 6HD, AC5 – Read Magic, Charm Person, Magic Missile, Phantasmal Force / Scrolls: Ventriloquism, Charm Person, Protection from Evil, Levitate, ESP / Ring of Protection +1. 2 Spiderlings 2HD AC7.
  3. 1000 gp in a chest. 100 jars of ink % still good. 20 blank codexes. 100 feather quills. 4 crates of good paper.
  4. Reading Room. 1 Spider Mage 3HD – Magic Missile, Read Magic, Light / Scrolls: Mirror image, Locate Object
  5. Lower Stacks. 1d4 Crab Spiders, 2d4 Spiderlings. Scrolls: Continuous Light, Locate Object, Mirror Image, Fireball, Know Alignment, Bless, Snake Charm, Growth of Animals
  6. Reading Room. 1 Spider Mage 3HD – Detect magic, Protection from Good, Silence 15′. 2 Spiderlings 2HD AC7. 1 Prayer book w/cleric scroll Protection From Magic, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Remove Fear, Protection from Evil.
  7. Scriptorium. 1d4 Spiderlings. Golden quill (100gp)
  8. 1d4 Spiderlings. 3x illuminated manuscripts (150 gp each)
  9. Upper Stacks. Spider Mage 3HD – Floating Disk, Read Languages, Phantasmal Force. 2d4 Spiderlings. 10 books 20gp each + scrolls: Shield, Ventriloquism, Detect Magic, Phantasmal Force/ [cleric scrolls] Light, Protection From Evil, Detect Magic, Snake Charm.
  10. Webs cover this statue of a saint. 1 Black Widow
  11. Webs cover this statue of a saint. 1 Tarantella