As you may or may not know, Dyson Logos provides a bunch of dungeon and other maps for free (as in, free for commercial use, not just for your own use at the gaming table).
One map that caught my eye is “The Sundered Tomb”.
So, pretty straightforward. You’ve got some rooms-in-all-directions going on in the main chamber, plenty of doors to check, some kind of cave in or earthquake-caused fissure, and good spots from which to add on more dungeon.
Let’s play with this.
1. OK, location: Somewhere in the King’s Forest, in Cormyr. There are plenty of deep ravines in the King’s Forest, and any one of them could house a moss and vine covered entryway in its side easily enough.
2. Let’s assume the top of the map is North. Each square is 10′ on a side. Seems big, but I learned a long time ago that players have more fun when they have room to maneuver their characters.
3. The fissure running through the dungeon from the top left to the bottom right of the dungeon could have been caused by any number of things: earthquake, earthquake by spell, divine wrath, spell battle gone wrong, backlash from a defensive magic on one of the entryway doors–perhaps caused by whomever forced their way in the first time around.
4. Let’s assume the last of that list is the case. Let’s also assume that the backlash “woke things up” inside the tomb, and that maybe one of the adventurers or hired plunderers was slain when the left hand door (as viewed from outside the tomb) went off.
5. Perhaps the backlash was meant to be something more: A magic designed to obliterate the tomb in its entirety if the main doors were ever breached. But time, and the efforts of the plunderers–bah, let’s call them hired adventurers–mitigated the effect. And too bad for them, because that which woke up in the tomb made killing the hired adventurers its business, and business was good that day.
6. The hired adventurers were no novices, and they came with extra help in the form of extra swords carried by mercenaries that were employed by the same person/group that hired the adventurers. This may seem unusual at first glance, but if all they had to do was guide the mercenaries to the location of the tomb entrance, and then work their magic (literally, I suppose) on the entryway doors before stepping aside to let the mercs through, it makes sense (and provides more corpses, which is always good).
7. Hrm…if all that was needed was magic to breach the doors and constrain/prevent the tomb-destroying self-destruction magic built into them, then let’s reduce the hired adventurers to one hiremage. Better yet, a free mage and her apprentices. That allows for the mercenaries to have been hired by the free mage. (Note: I use terms like “hiremage” and “free mage” to distinguish between arcane spellcasters who make their coins on fees paid for services rendered by means of their spell casting talents, and spellcasters who wouldn’t dream of working for anyone–even in the cold months and low on coin–but instead delegate tasks to apprentices and/or hire others to do things for them.)
8. Let’s assume the debacle at the door slew at least two apprentices, and that the free mage brought along all her apprentices (the better to keep an eye on them). How many left? Two. As for the mercenaries, they weren’t touched by the magical blast/recoil. And let’s assume the mercs were once adventurers but have now turned to mercenary work with an eye on growing their numbers (and a hope that this expedition to the King’s Forest provides the sort of coin necessary to feed, clothe and arm a mercenary band, plus pay Crown fees for the year). They are led by one battle commander/leader, and her two lieutenants. These are the only three of the original adventuring band to have survived a past disaster that slew the rest of their number. So that’s three leaders, and each commands a banner of four mercenaries. That’s fifteen mercenaries total. Note: in the Realms a “banner” is a sub-unit of a larger military organization.
9. The debacle at the door happened anywhere from 2 to 10 years prior to the PCs showing up. Between then and now there has been plenty of rainfall, snow, ice, and earth and rock slowly pried lose by the slow, persistent grip of the seasons. Now the fissure running through the dungeon is half-filled by water that flows from a stream long ago diverted by the builders of the tomb, that has since found its way back over the side of the ravine where the earth and rock collapsed inward a few years after the door went off. Thanks to that water flow, the right-most side of the cave space at the bottom of the map is filled with water. That’s where most of the destroying magic of the door went off, thus hollowing out the rock and leaving a trailing line towards the corner of the map where the magic ended. Water seeps through lesser cracks in the rock that extend into the lightless depths of the Upperdark.
10. The southernmost room off of the main chamber ought to be where another map connects. I figure “The Tomb of Eight” (also by Dyson Logos) will work. This will be where the actual tomb is located. It also looks like the southern wall of the main chamber has some kind of face sculpted in high relief. Not sure if I like that yet. The rectangular chamber and the L-shaped chamber along the top of the map look like they could house connections to other maps, depending on how big I want this dungeon to be–which might be necessary. After all, I have 3 wizards, 3 ex-adventurers and 12 mercenaries to kill. It would be no fun to pile all the bodies in one room.
11. EDIT: I need to place this dungeon near one of the main settlements in the King’s Forest (Waymoot, Dhedluk, Knightswood, Mouth O’ Gargoyles). Shoot…let’s say Waymoot. That settlement is the biggest and most well provisioned, it’s near Aloushe (a region ruled by Dryads), and has a recurring troll problem which may be of use to me.
12. EDIT: Let’s put the low end of this dungeon’s level range at 2 to start. I’m one of those DMs who likes to have players level up in the first session, and saying right off the bat that, “You’re now level 2, and you already know each other, and you’ve had some very minor adventuring success already in the King’s Forest so the people around Waymoot where you are based have taken note of your presence, and please add a few more coins to your character sheets,” is the easiest way to do that.
That’s all for now. Hit this again tomorrow.