FrankenFourth: Renovating the Hall of Harsh Reflections (Part 1?)

Didn't get a chance to run our Age of Worms FrankenFourth playtest campaign this week, so I figured I'd just talk about some of the ways I'm improving The Hall of Harsh Reflections SO DON'T READ THIS JACOB OR KELLY IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS.

The start of the adventure is mostly unchanged: the characters go to the Free City because they gotta talk to a guy named Eligos about Kyuss worms, they get to the Free City, they beat up a chimera, find Eligos, gotta wait several days for him to get the information they need, and then stay at the Crooked House until some doppelgangers try to frame them.

The only thing I changed at this point—aside from the flavor/lore surrounding doppelgangers, not that it mattered at this point—was the Crooked House: it became Stonehome, a big-ass stone monolith with an inn built around it. Instead of being run by gnomes, you've got (more mythologically accurate) kobolds that use hearths carved into the stone to teleport about the place.

Now, when I ran the adventure the characters ended up getting arrested, drugged, and carted off to a warehouse referred to in the adventure as the Sodden Hold. This is where I started making more changes. Cases in point...

The Doppelgangers
As I mentioned in this post, doppelgangers in FrankenFourth by default aren't a true-breeding race. There are a variety of monsters that would more or less fit the bill as a doppelganger, but most of them are aren't exactly what you'd call "naturally occurring".

The doppelgangers in this adventure were grown by the big-bad wizard Zyrxog in flesh vats (kinda like in The Dying Earth, but more of an alchemy thing than a magical thing), who is skilled enough in transmutation magic that he was able to grant them the ability to change their shape on a whim.

The Mimics
Like doppelgangers, Zyrxog also made the batch of mimics that guard the warehouse. The characters didn't fight them since they got captured, so here's the stat block I didn't get to use:

Level 5 Medium Aberrant

Ability Scores 
STR +3 DEX +1 WIS +1
CON +2 INT -2 CHA +0

Athletics +4, Stealth +5

Initiative +1
Speed 5 feet/20 feet
Fort 13 Ref 11 Will 11
Armor 2 (thick hide)
Wounds 22 Vitality 12 Total 34

Adhesive The mimic can secrete an adhesive on any part of its body. If a creature or object touches it, they are stuck: it takes a Difficulty 13 check for a creature to free itself, or pry an object free. A strong alcohol dissolves the adhesive.

Shapechanger The mimic can assume the general shape of an object anywhere from 8 cubic feet (2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet) to 125 cubic feet (5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet) in size. Regardless of what it looks like, its body is hard and has a rough texture.

Pseudopod +5 to hit; 2d6+3 damage; 15+ the target is restrained by the mimic (Difficulty 13 to escape)

Bite +5 to hit; 2d6+3 damage + 1d6 acid damage

Zyrxog isn't a mind flayer, but a thulid survivor. That is, someone who got a thulid symbiote latched onto their back, but somehow managed to resist being taken over and mutated by it without dying.
In his normal form he looks more or less human, but his tentacles can unfurl from his mouth.

Originally he was a wizard skilled in transmutation magic (technically he still is, just with some extra thulid abilities), which is again not only where the doppelgangers and mimics came from, but how he was able to construct the entire dungeon (which I'll get to in a bit).

The Sodden Hold, The Hall, And The Giant Octopus
The Sodden Hold is basically unchanged: a few rooms at the front are intended to make it look like a legitimate warehouse, though several crates are actually disguised mimics. A hidden passage along the catwalk leads to the back, which contains the prison cells and dilapidated room filled with water, rusty weapons, flimsy planks, and a pair of invisible stalkers because why not.

Beyond the shithole room, there's a smaller, better maintained room with a square shaft that contains water and a barrel. This ultimately leads to the second level of the dungeon: you gotta swim down, follow an underwater shaft into another room, climb up a pillar, and pull a lever to drain the water.

I was going to leave this part of the dungeon alone, but I thought of something more interesting to do, which isn't hard because it's a published adventure and even the best ones can use some tweaking. See, when the water is lowered you're supposed to be able to pull the lever, sit in the barrel, and let the water just carry you back up to the Sodden Hold level.

The problem is that what do you do if you're in the Sodden Hold and wanna get down, but the water is already up?

Whelp, in the official adventure there's a giant octopus that I guess guards the pillar room. I figure, why not make the octopus yet another result of Zyrxog's experiments? So now it's really smart and fucked up looking because he mashed a bunch of people together with a giant octopus: it'll have faces and arms in addition to tentacles. I'm thinking something like an octopus version of Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist.

Getting back to the barrel issue, in addition to guarding the chamber, I changed it so that if you sit in the barrel and yank on the rope three times, the "octopus" grabs the rope and drags the barrel into the pillar chamber. You can seal the barrel beforehand if you want/need to stay dry, and/or you suck at holding your breath.

The octopus/pillar room is described as being lit by everburning torches, which is something I hate because it's lazy and makes players lazy.

It's lazy because everburning torches (or continual light spells) have been everywhere in this adventure path. Instead of thinking up ways creatures in a dark dungeon would handle a lack of light, the writers just used everburning torches. This makes players lazy because, even if the dungeon isn't pre-lit, they can just buy one (or cast continual light) and stop worrying about torches.

So I ditched the everburning torches. The walls of the pillar room are instead lined with luminescent fungus. It isn't enough to brightly light the place, and has the added effect of giving the place an eerie, alien glow.

The walls also aren't hewn stone: everything looks to be made of a single piece of stone, but it's pinched and lumpy because Zyrxog used his magic to mold a lot of it by hand (riding around on his mimics when necessary to reach high places thanks to their adhesive slime). The doors look like wooden doors bound in iron, but everything is made of iron.

Finally, the pillar in the center is stone, but riddled with metal pipes, and there's a metallic, tumorous mass attached to the side that looks somewhat like a heart. When the lever on top is pulled, the "heart" begins to beat as if it were made of flesh, either draining or filling the chamber with water.

Sketch of kinda what I'm talking about.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Cleric is out! Next up, The Paladin and probably The Mimic, after which we'll run another class vote.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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