Dungeon Fantasy: Lairs of the Great Chaos Swamp

This is the next in a series of DFRPG articles on this blog; A Dungeon for Every Archetype.

The GM section of DFRPG (Exploits, page 80-81) gives us several Archetypes of Dungeons; Prison, Cellar, Cave, Labyrinth, Tomb, Mine, Warren and Sewer.

I’m going to make a fully-detailed dungeon for each of the Archetypes.Today, we’ll be covering a Warren Dungeon; Lairs of the Great Chaos Swamp.

BACKSTORY

“Your cruelty… and your greed… and your insufferable arrogance…

You blight the soil… and poison the rivers. You raze the vegetation… till you cannot… even feed… your own kind…

A… and then you boast… of man’s triumph… over nature.

Fools. If nature were to shrug… or raise an eyebrow…

Then you should all be gone…”

  • Swamp Thing, Saga of the Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows #52

The Great Chaos Swamp is one of the worst and most dangerous regions in the kingdom. It is a haven for wild monsters and conditions are ever nasty. Unfortunately, the party is given a quest that forces them to journey into the awful place, as a wave of monster attacks plague villages and the quest giver wants the adventurers to track the dire animals back to their lairs and fight them to extinction right in their nests and spawning grounds to prevent any more destruction of villages.

RUMOURS AND DETAILS

Archetype: Warren

Character Point Rewards: 1 for defeating all the fixed monster encounters in the Insect Cave area. 1 for killing all the spiders in the Spiders Nest area. Finding the artefact and/or defeating all the plant monsters in the Underground Overgrowth area is worth 1 bonus Character Point. Destroying all the non-random monsters in the Echo Chamber area is worth 1 bonus Character Point. Killing The Warren Wyrm boss monster earns the party 2 bonus Character Points.

Obvious dangers from the outside: “Rain and strong winds are common in the swamp. Watch out for disease, too.”

Obvious monsters: “Disgusting things crawl in that swamp – insects, mutant animals, man-eating plants, icky goo!”

Fabled loot: “As horrid as the swamp is, the strange mutations running rampant create cool specimens for research and medicine. You can harvest bits of animals and plants down there. Maybe the minerals in the ground, too?”

False rumours: “Cruel demons have corrupted the wildlife, they are weak to salt and silver!”

“Murderous dragon-men have set up an outpost in the warrens, serving intelligent crocodiles and baby dragons.”

“Druids cursed that whole region centuries ago, anyone slaughtering lots of animals in the warrens will find themselves afflicted with insanity.”

True research: “Be careful of flooding. You may need to hold your breath a lot, or risk drowning. And don’t drink the water, for heaven’s sake!”

“A nest of giant ants within the warrens is rich in gold!”

“The mutant plants in that region are very dangerous, and sometimes worth a lot to medicine men and esoteric sages.”

“Any coins you find in the warren are real, but cursed.”

“A fast giant eel-serpent-worm lurks in the depths of the warren, guarding a fabulous treasure.”

False research: “A curse blighting the warrens animates dead people as flesh-eating zombies.”

“A magical spring of water that heals missing limbs lies in the depths of the warrens.”

“Everyone knows the ancient enchanted staff of a great hero was once lost underneath those hills.”

GETTING THERE

Travel time: 3 days. Roll Tracking to find the dungeon.

Survival type: Swampland.

Wandering monsters: 9 or less chance.

Weather challenges: At the start of the journey, roll either Weather Sense or Navigation (the Predict Weather spell also helps) to avoid bad weather. Bad weather means an extra -1 to Survival and Tracking for the trip. Gear or magic that helps coping with rain or strong winds eliminates the penalty.

Terrain challenges: Tracking and Survival rolls are at -4 for the trip. The threat of disease is always present; the GM may substitute a roll to resist disease (HT-6, effects are -1 HP per day for 2d days) instead of a random encounter.

IN THE DUNGEON

Key dungeon features: The water in and around the dungeon is thick with bacteria, drinking without purifying first means you must roll HT-4 (Resistance to Disease helps) or suffer nausea for 1dx15 minutes. Lighting is bad in the dungeon; -5 Darkness penalty at best, pitch black at worst. Mana and Sanctity is Normal. Nature’s Strength is +0 mostly inside the dungeon and outside in the surrounding region. No doors in the dungeon. No locked treasure chests or metal work either.

Wandering monsters: 9 or less chance, see tables below.

Wandering Monster Table 1 (Half-Flooded Cave, Insect Cave, Spiders Nest, Echo Chamber, Rats Nest)

Roll 1d.

1: N Giant Beetles (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108) OR N Giant Centipedes (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108)

2: Nx3 Leaping Leeches (DF Monsters page 40)

3: N+2 Giant Maned Rats (DF 10: Taverns page 31)

4: N Cave Witches (Setting: Cold Shard Mountains page 39)

5: 1 Aquatic Giant Viper (DF Monsters page 31) OR Nx2 Giant Ants (Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic page 10)

6: N/2 Giant Spiders (DF Monsters page 31-32) OR N/2 Acid Spiders (DF Monsters page 16)

Wandering Monster Table 2 (Flooded Tunnels)

Roll 1d.

1-2: 1 Aquatic Giant Viper (DF Monsters page 31)

3: Nx2 Leaping Leeches (DF Monsters page 40)

4: 1 Electric Jelly (DF Monsters page 24)

5: 1 Water Elemental (DF Monsters page 26)

6: 1 Air Elemental (DF Monsters page 24-25)

Monster Notes: N denotes a number equal to however many 250-point adventurers are effectively in the party, with every +100 points total increasing N by 1 (so a party of two 125-point delvers, one 250-point adventurer and one 350-point delver is N=1+1+2=4).

DUNGEON AREAS

Scale: one hex = 1 yard

Half-Flooded Entrance

The opening in the hill leading into the dungeon is located at a shallow end of a swampy lake. The bog water in this area goes up to a man’s knees, penalising adventurers with +1 movement cost per hex, -2 to attack rolls and -1 to active defences. As the entrance is right on the cusp of outside, the Darkness penalty before the tunnel deeper into the warren is the same as the outside (no penalty in the midday, dark at night).

N+2 Giant Frogs (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108) patiently sit on lily pads at the entrance to the warren, eating whatever insects and animals the swamp environment provides to them. In this case, the adventurers will do. The frogs are right in front of the way in, so getting past them without combat will probably require luring them away or scaring them off.

The tunnel at the back of the opening is just as half-flooded and one yard wide. It eventually leads to the half-flooded cave.

Half-Flooded Cave

This area is a dark circular underground cave filled with water up to a person’s knees. There are two ways deeper into the warren from here; a sloping up (and thus dryer) one-yard-wide tunnel south-west to the insect cave and a downward slope into deeper waters where the party can dive into the one-yard-wide flooded tunnels.

A person who once died long ago in this cave has come back as a Swamp Wisp (“Undead, Undead Everywhere” from Pyramid 3/106) that will try to kill the party.

Insect Cave

This area is a twisting, dark and dirty place filled with bugs both small and giant. The party can get to the spiders nest by moving to the south-east, but that way leads through patches of gross and potentially dangerous insects – N+2 Giant Beetles (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108) in the lower tunnel and N Cave Witches (Setting: Cold Shard Mountains page 39) in the higher tunnel.

The north and west parts of the cave have 4 spots of valuable minerals and ores in the walls, roll Prospecting to extract each spot. The first spot is worth $7000, weighs 10 lbs, and takes 15 minutes to mine. The second spot is worth $3000, weighs 4 lbs, and takes 5 minutes to mine. The third spot is worth $12000, weighs 39 lbs, and takes 45 minutes to mine. The 4th spot is worth $800, weighs 2 lbs, and takes 2 minutes to mine.

Unfortunately, the patches of valuable minerals and ores are closeby to nests of giant and dire bugs. Scattered around the area are Nx4 Giant Ants (half of them Soldiers) serving a Queen (Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic page 10), Nx2 Leaping Leeches (DF Monsters page 40), N Giant Centipedes (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108) and N Giant Beetles (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108). The Giant Ants have collected a few gold nuggets (1d+3 nuggets, each nugget is worth as much as a gold coin and weighs as much) – they can be found near the Queen’s resting place.

Defeating all the insect monsters detailed above is worth 1 bonus Character Point.

Spiders Nest

This dark area is the lair of many nasty arachnids and almost completely covered in sticky tingling webs. Handle detection of the webs as for traps (Dealing with Traps, Exploits, p. 23) – and even if detected, crossing each hex of webs requires a DX roll at -2. Failure to detect or avoid this danger means being grappled by webs with ST equal to that of the spider which spun them. Anybody who falls down in web hexes is automatically grappled at twice the spider’s ST. Being webbed works like being grappled by an opponent: -4 to DX, -2 to blocks and parries, -1 to dodges, and no movement (including changing facing or retreating). Attempts to break free suffer a cumulative -1 to ST per failure – and if this reduces ST below 3, the victim is helpless! Getting tangled in and breaking free from webs won’t clear them, but even one point of fire damage will cleanse a hex, freeing anybody entangled there (who suffers the same fire damage).

Naturally, there are N Giant Spiders (DF Monsters pages 31-32) and N Acid Spiders (DF Monsters page 16) lurking in the area and laying eggs in the corners; they occasionally head out to other parts of the warrens to hunt for prey.

In the middle of the area, buried under a thick layer of dirt and quite webbed up, is a Dungeon Torpedo (Treasures 2: Epic Treasures page 8), an underground tunnelling machine. It’s easy to mistake it for a misshapen boulder at first glance, with all that debris and webbing.

Going east is an eastern tunnel to the echoing chamber.

Killing all the spider monsters here is worth 1 bonus Character Point, especially if the party also destroys the spider eggs as well.

Flooded Tunnels

This area is completely underwater, the party will have to swim (see DF Exploits page 21) through the dark. The one-yard-wide tunnels can go north 21 yards to the underground overgrowth and east 16 yards to the echo chamber. There are no air pockets within the tunnels, so delvers must either swim fast before they run out of air (unlikely) or use magic to provide breathing.

The Underground Overgrowth

This area is a stark change from the rest of the warrens – there is natural light streaming in from open holes (none of them big enough to use as an entrance or exit) in the ceiling, at the top of the hill the warrens are under. Not to mention, the area’s got lots of moist greenery (not trees exactly, but kudzu, bushes and flowers), thanks to the sunlight and water coming in. A few small pools of mossy water have filled by dripping moisture and rain. Nature’s Strength is +2 here.

The first danger is patches (2 square yards of area) of stinging plants (Per-based Herb Lore or Naturalist to notice them, HT-2 roll (Resistant to Poison helps) to avoid sneezing for 12 hours, a critical failure or failure by 5+ also inflicts 1d injury from allergic reaction), there’s 3 patches of such plants distributed throughout the area.

The west section of the area contains valuable plants among the overgrowth. Adventurers must roll Per-based Naturalist to recognise the plant products as worth $4200 (the haul weighs 6 lbs in total) and roll DX-based Herb Lore or Pharmacy to gather them carefully enough.

At the back of the area, surrounded by lush thorned flowers of many colours, is a Druidic artefact, The Cornucopia (Treasures 2: Epic Treasures page 10). It is directly in the middle of a patch of stinging plants.

Blending in with the moss and thick bushes, N/2 Shamblethorns (“More Mythic and Magical Monsters” from Pyramid 3/108) lurks near the west end of the area.

Dotted around the area, there’s 3 hexes of SM+0 patches of Fungus (DF Monsters pages 28-29) that are Smokers and unleash Toxic Spores.

Near the valuable plants is one Crushroom (DF Monsters page 19) that will attack the party for food.

Finding the artefact and/or defeating all the plant monsters in this area is worth 1 bonus Character Point.

Echo Chamber

This dark and cavernous area is a natural sound amplifier, any penalties to a Hearing roll is reduced by 2 (which means rolls for random encounters triggered by the party making noise are also at +2). Long ago, the wyrm nesting deeper within the warrens burrowed out this area, roughly expanding it over time, and then left it to the grime and goo.

Most of the center of the area’s floor is covered in 20 square yards (20 HP, SM +3) of Brown Rough Mold (DF Monsters pages 42-43). The ceiling of the area has 6 Aggressively Flesh-Eating Slimes (DF Monsters pages 48-49) clinging to it, waiting to drip down onto the delvers when they try to move around the floor Mold. By the north-east tunnel out of the area, there is a Green Pudding (DF Monsters pages 46-47) standing guard, usually trying to eat the rats coming from there.

The tunnels from the underwater passage and spiders’ nest come into this area. The north-east tunnel out of the area leads to the rats’ nest.

Destroying all the non-random monsters in this area gains the party 1 bonus Character Point each.

Rats Nest

This dark area is a trash heap full of random debris, loose rocks, cave plants and animal waste. It is the home of rats both small and giant. Aside from the normal rats, who won’t attack the adventurers, there are Nx3 Giant Maned Rats (DF 10: Taverns page 31) lurking all around this area who will try to drive them off.

Along the middle of the area is a three yard wide stretch of low ceiling (with only one yard of standing room aside) that humanoids have to crawl under (see Squeezing, DF Exploits page 21) to reach the other tunnel out of here. Delvers going around the low ceiling will have to fight more rats in the one-yard-wide passage, possibly getting attacked from the front and behind simultaneously.

Wyrm Nest

This final area of the warrens is the lair of a nasty boss monster, The Warren Wyrm (same stats but with Dark Vision as The Academy Wyrm, see DF 10: Taverns page 17). The nest of the monster is a large dark complex of walls with holes in them, which the monster will use as escape routes for its hit-and-run attacks. The walls of the area have crawl spaces that the wyrm can hide in. There are valuable minerals within the walls and floor of the wyrm’s nest, roll Prospecting to dig them out. The minerals in total are worth $25000, weigh 40 lbs, and take 60 minutes to extract.

Killing The Warren Wyrm earns the party 2 bonus Character Points.

At the back of the area, the monster has piled its collection of shiny things and found objects. Amongst the broken items, animal bones and mineral rocks, there is a magical artefact, The Ultimate Weapon (Treasures 4: Mixed Blessings page 10), and a loose pile of coins (3000 silver coins and 280 gold coins). The coin hoard is magically cursed, anyone taking all or most of them suffers a random magical affliction, roll 1d for each robber; 1: suffer Unluckiness once per day while carrying, 2: constant Lifebane while carrying, 3: attempts to magically locate/track while carrying gets +3 bonus, 4: suffer -1 to all DX and DX-based skill rolls while carrying, 5: roll a random encounter for demons (12 or less on 3d chance) to suddenly attack once per day while carrying, 6: suffer -1 to all HT and HT-based skill rolls while carrying.

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