A simple dungeon

March 22, 2021

We’ve started playing Perilous and I ran a very simple dungeon (using the Dungeons for Stories principles)since I know half my group has never done dungeoncrawls before, and I wanted something that would hit some basic ideas without being a massive commitment. I wanted to go ahead and use it as an example of ideas in play, not necessarily “perfectly designed” or anything like that.

A last minute dungeon

I jammed this whole dungeon together in an hour, because work has been hell lately and I didn’t have a lot of prep time. I started with an idea, scribbled out the map (with a vague of idea of a couple of the rooms) then typed up the rest before the game. Because Perilous is very mechanically light, all I need to do was make sure I had the ideas ready to go.

If the notes seem spare and incomplete? Well, remember, you only need as much notes for yourself to run the dungeon, not for everyone else, as you would with a published product.

That said, 1 hour of rushed prep got 6 hours of play, so it worked fine.

Layout Choices

So, there’s two needs happening at the same time for this layout. (entries are at the bottom of this post)

First, it was once a functional place – and with that in mind, I thought about a small religious palace – the left side (2 and 7) has a room for vistors and then a shrine. The central rooms (1, 5) were greeting halls, leading to the throne room (8), and much later, the magical meteor room was added (10). The right hand side is all practicality – an apothecary and storage room (3 & 4), a ritual room (6) and the hall of the dead to work with the necromancy (9)

Second is all game needs. I wanted minimal choice, but still choice. So, there are two entrances, the front door (1) and the hole in the roof in the ritual room (6). The available paths are fundamentally a ring with side rooms – but until you explore it, it is unclear how much this will branch off, which was a useful bit of misdirection for the players who were familiar with dungeon crawls – they’re not sure how big this place can get, or how many monsters, so until they loop around, there’s a bit of tension.

Storywise, there’s two things going on. One is the little boy Manyo who fell into the dungeon during the roof collapse. There’s the problem of getting him to safety and his family looking for him (the town points to the dungeon). Second, the monsters are all guardians and the rooms have environmental stuff to foreshadow the truth of what happened. Some of the things aren’t going to be solveable by the party without help from the town (the dungeon points to the town).

Monster Choices

There’s basically 4 encounters set up for this dungeon. The clay Guardians outside the doors, crawling forth from the mud are numerous, but the party has the option to retreat and the monsters are not smart. The Clacking Chimera is a wandering patroller of the “pouncing predator” variety – about as smart as an animal and something they might encounter in any room. The Beetle Guardian and the Dead Guardian Skeletons both are inactive until you enter the room, but the difference is that the Beetle will not pursue you far, while the skeletons will not stop.

There’s not a lot of mechanical differentiation in Perilous, but there is a lot of fictional considerations – if you declare a monster has a ghostly immaterial body, you better have a way the heroes can fight it, while at the same time, acknowledging not EVERYTHING can work against it. So in this way, one trait is as mathmatically weighty as the next, but it is clear some traits are much more versatile or difficult to overcome.

Plans for future dungeons?

Well, now that we got the intro dungeon for the players future dungeons will be a bit bigger (I can’t imagine more than twice the locations, though, maybe 24 rooms, tops), more navigation hazards, more dungeon NPCS and people outside/near the dungeon, and monsters + treasure. At a larger size, stuff like 1 way routes or loopbacks become more viable.

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Landslide Dungeon

Heavy rains and a minor tremor caused a landslide – a hill face came off, revealing a giant set of doors… a dungeon under the hill. The hill face coming off also took out a bridge connecting a larger town with the villages further uphill.

Guardian Clay Statues (damaged, hollow, designed to look like soldiers).
Coming up from the loose ground (terrain/surprise)

  • Fearless
  • Numbers
  • Terrain

The Doors
The large doors are stone, they appear to have significant scarring and scratches, along with the smears of mud and dirt.

Near one of them you see one of the clay arms broken off. Inspecting one of the mud smears, you see the print of some of the armor from the clay statues, like it was standing here with it’s arm outstretched.

The doors are heavy, and take effort to open.

1 First Hall
(4 doors – the main entrance, smaller doors to the right, left, and forward of old, dense hardwood).

A hall of ornate carved stone – the sorts of things you see in palaces – the style is unusual and slightly abstracted, so it’ll take a while to figure out what the people are doing, exactly.

The floor, however, has a lot of faded writing painted on, which seems to have been added later, and in multiple sessions. Although there is a lot of dust on the floor, you can see where someone, or somethings, regularly walk since there’s clear paths going to the left and right doors.

2 – The Guests Room
A large rectangular room with benches, a small footbath, wall hooks with dusty and decrepit reed raincoats and hats, and a small cooking hearth and an table with seats. Super dry firewood is here as well, though it appears to be in poor shape, eaten through by bugs over a long time.

Painted drawing of a map on the floor. Some unknown place. Text you can’t read.
Walls also graffiti’d with images of creatures? More unknown writing

3 – The Apothecary
Old roots hang from the walls, jars filled with mysterious substances line the shelves here. There’s several work benches with mortars, pestle, a small cooking hearth, and things like animal bones and such.
Some old medicines might be found from this

4 – The Storage Room
Old jars of rancid oil, foul alcolholish smells, and a number of rotten cloth materials. It looks like it might have been dug through before, but long ago – many of the jars are open or things are on the floor or poorly replaced on the shelves.

5 – The Rememberance Room

Another grand hall of intricate carvings. The wall in the back has collapsed, blocking whatever doorway it had. Small stone stele, maybe 2 feet tall? Are placed in the room with lots of writing carved into them. From different hands, and times, it appears.

6 The Ritual Room
(circular room, 2 doors)

A circular room with large etched magical circle in it. No magic currently flows from it. The roof has fallen in, and stones and dirt litter the floor.

Manyo (9 year old kid) fell in, hurt his ankle. He’s been holed up and has the deeper door barred with a stick. (“Something big is out there.”)

Challenge – Looking for magical clues – the last spell cast was a complex one – protection but also puppeteering? And necromancy?

7 – The Shrine Room
A large wall carving of a giant beetle is in the wall. Empty bowls for oil wick lamps stand in front of it, along with bowls of long withered flowers and plant offerings.

A strange large lumpy pile of… stone? Sits to the side of the altar. The wicks all alight a ghostly green. Then it stands up.

Beetle Guardian
A huge humanoid beetle… construct stands, and it’s eyes also glow green. Strange words echo, from the room itself, before it attacks.

  • Armored
  • Strong
  • Magic Resistant

8 The Grand Hall
A throne sits at the back of the room, standing on a slightly raised platform. Nearly disintegrating rugs sit on both sides, with small tables, presumably for people sitting on the floor.

A crudely carve doorway in the back sits, with a rotting cloth door obscuring what’s inside.

A large circular part of the room is devoid of dust, with paw prints.

The Clacking Chimera
A four legged beast with the upper face of a mountain lion, the lower jaw of a snake or lizard, shoulders with wings coming off of them, and back legs of some kind of jumping animal. It’s paws have… three separate sets of claws overlayering each other. It seems to move… weirdly, like an animal that was a contortionist, and bone settling clunks can be heard when it steps.

  • Animal Strength (pounce, etc.)
  • Horrific Claws
  • Weird Movement

When it dies, it’s body falls apart and dessicated corpses of ostriches, kangaroo, a mountain lion and a komodo dragon, fall on the ground.

9 The Hall of Dead Guardians
Open faced stone sarcophagus line the walls, with skeletons standing, arms crossed, you can see the old woven hemp armor that once protected them and their stone clubs. The doorway is blocked, by a rough stone cliff face – perhaps it was cut off when this area burst forth.

When they move, they all tap their clubs 3 times in unison. Then proceed to attack.

  • Crowded space
  • Numbers
  • Fearless warriors

10 The Meteor Room
The room has a different look than the rest – it appears to have been carved/dug out at a later time, the stone work is crude. Brutally intricate lines and rune work cover the walls and floors and a pedestal holds what appears to be a twisted lump of metal? (A meteorite). You can see the magical glow of it flickering in and out like a dying ember.

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