Dungeons & Delvers: Stoneskull Tower Playtest

Melissa and I have been invited to talk about Dungeons & Delvers over on the Game School TSR Podcast Network, part of which includes running a small adventure for the host(s). I was told there would be about 20 minutes for that, so I had to come up with an adventure that would only take about 20 minutes, and what I came up with was a tower built within the hollowed out skull of a giant.

I gave it a playtest last week, because I figure I can always flesh it out into an adventure and publish it later: Adam played Flynn, a dryad-ish humanoid (really a human with the Changling talent) sorcerer with the frost giant bloodline, and Melissa played both Amita, a tarchon star pact warlock, and Moritz, a mine kobold barbarian.

I started out asking them what sort of job they'd undertake, and they for some reason settled on killing wolves. Made me think of Brotherhood of the Wolf, and in another campaign I might have ran with it, but I wanted to playtest my tower thing so I didn't. I told them that while looking for wolves they got hopelessly lost, and after at least a week of wandering about the forest they came across a lone tower squatting on a low hill.

The tower looked quite odd: the lower half seemed to be made from a single smooth, oblong stone. Almost like an egg. Traditional stonework crested the top, and there were a pair of circular openings near the bottom that had been obviously sealed up with smaller stones. Heaped to one side was a large mound of earth, almost completely overgrown with vegetation. Perhaps to keep the tower from toppling over.

The front door was intermittently by battered gusts of wind, flinging it open and slamming it shut. This plus the dark interior caused them to suspect that no one was home. The door seemed to be the only way in, and on closer inspection they noticed scratches, blood spatter, and a silver suncross nailed to it. In case someone or something is preparing to ambush them as soon as they walk through, Moritz phases through a nearby section of wall to examine the interior as inconspicuously as possible.

From what she can see it looks ransacked, possibly in part due to the stormy weather. Books and chairs are strewn about. Sheets of paper billow about in the wind. Some food has been left on the table, covered in mold. It wasn't until Amita and Flynn arrive with a torch that they see all the blood. Spatters and streaks are everywhere, and it looks like a body has been dragged across the room and through a door on the opposite side.

A staircase leads to the next floor, and beneath it is another door. Moritz again peeks through the wall and finds a closet filled with cloaks. Reasoning that the tower is out of the way, which is something a wizard would live in, so maybe even one of the cloaks is magical, but when she reaches for one a severely charred corpse apparently hiding amidst them lunges towards her.

Moritz manages to backpedal away and impale it with her pick, but this fails to kill it (unsurprising giving that it was still animate in its current state), and it wildly scratches at her until Flynn obliterates its skull with an icy blast. Suspecting there are more, or possibly worse, they carefully approach the other door and notice another silver suncross nailed to it.

Unsure what to make of them, doubting that they are especially valuable given their simple design, and figuring that there's some point to them they ultimately decide to leave them be. if they change their mind, they can always remove them on their way out.

The door opens into a kitchen, or the remains of one, in similar disarray as the first room. The blood streak leads right up to the fireplace, and given that it's windy, rainy, and quite cold Moritz decides to light a fire. Another charred corpse tumbles out of the chimney, but she was kind of expecting as much: she hops back, and with a well-aimed strike destroys its head before it can recover.

They proceed to fill the fireplace with some destroyed furniture, light a fire, and investigate the bottom floor. There isn't anything of obvious value, and apparently none of them are much for reading because they ignore all the books. Part of them wonders if there's something worth selling elsewhere, and part of them worries that if they try to sleep something else will attack them, so they decide to check out the upstairs.

For profit and safety!

Nothing ambushes them on the stairs, which was ironically a bit surprising. The second floor has a small room with three doors, only two of which have silver suncrosses. They check the blank room: it's a toilet. There might have been a monster lurking within, but understandably none of them could be arsed to check.

The first suncross door they check ends up being a bedroom. Two beds, two trunks, nothing but some changes of clothes and minor personal effects. Beds hadn't been made, but at least there was no blood, rotten food, or corpses hiding under the beds. The room behind suncross door number two was much, much worse.

A small library of sorts, but as with the first floor books, pieces of books, and pages are scattered about. There was another staircase, which meant there was at least another floor, but as they again completely ignore the books and try to cross the room they hear a cat growling. They soon find the source, a tortoiseshell cat (named for its coat coloring, not for being a tortoise-cat hybrid) hiding underneath a bench, but as they try to call it out it starts hissing.

Looking around they realize that their shadows are stretching up the walls and across the ceiling, and are starting to loom menacingly overhead. Flynn blast them all with icy wind: the shadows dissipate but the act also harms Mortiz (everyone else felt the cold, but it wasn't severe enough to harm them). The cat then transforms, growing tentacles and horns, and begins speaking in a demonic language, causing chains to burst from the shadows and wrap up Amita.

Luckily the demon-cat is about as durable as a normal cat, and it only takes a single good whack to splatter it across the floor.

At the top of the staircase is a short hallway. There are three doors, and each has a silver suncross. There's nothing to indicate what's behind any of them, so the party chooses one at random.

Door number one is a ransacked alchemical lab. On the one hand they only find three unlabeled potions, but on the other hand nothing tries to kill them. If they make it out of the tower alive they can always have someone try to identify them, later.

Door number two is a slightly better furnished bedchamber for one. As with the other bedroom things look to be in order, and they find a chest underneath the bed. It has glowing runes, which all but guarantees there's something good inside, but while trying to force it open Flynn gets rendered unconscious by a lightning trap.

Luckily they have mystery potions. Even better it only takes two before Moritz finds the mending potion, and with Flynn back on his feet and covered in bark they open the chest to find a magic staff. Amita figures out that it shoots lightning, but since none of them are wizards using it will drain them physically. Moritz ends up taking it since she's the toughest.

Door number three opens into a large ritual chamber: there are tables and bookcases piled and packed with jars, pots, scrolls, and books, but unlike previous rooms there's still a semblance of order. In the center of the room is a magic circle, presumably written in blood, with a dead body crumpled up next to it.

It's mostly in one piece, though it's clearly been dead for awhile. They can see black veins on what bits of flesh are still intact, leading Amita to believe that he'd been poisoned. On the table is an open book depicting a muscular, demonic creature with a barbed tail. A likely culprit, given what they'd encountered thus far.

A disembodied voice speaks, claiming to be the wizard's ghost. He'd been summoning demons but one of them killed him. The voice confirms that it's the demon depicted in the book, and explains that it has escaped the tower to wreak havoc on humanity. Luckily he just so happens to have a magic ring that would aid them once they find the demon, and directs their attention to a silver box on the table.

The ghost tells them that the ring is inside, and they need but wear it to gain access to the magical powers it contains...but when Amita opens it the ring flies out and begins circling about the room. They hear a voice cackling with glee, and the ring floats over to the top of one of the bookcases before the cause of the ring's erratic behavior is revealed: the demon from the book, identical in every detail.

Well, except for the size. It's pretty small, about the size of the demon-cat on the previous floor. To be fair the he illustration in the book didn't mention size or have any scale reference, so they were just assuming it was going to be really big. While their standing there, not sure if they should be afraid or not, the demon slips the ring on one of its fingers and asks which of them wants to vomit up flies first.

Instead of answering everyone just starts attacking. The demon is pretty quick, can fly, and most importantly is highly resistant to their non-magical attacks. It manages to evade Flynn's icy fists, but Amita gets a good eldritch blast in, so the demon targets her, first. While she's puking up maggots Moritz decides to give the staff a shot, and the ensuing lightning bolt causes the demon to explode, showering little demon guts and bits of flesh everywhere.

When they're pretty sure there's no ghost-wizard about to impose some quest upon them, they gather up everything they can carry from the room and leave the tower. Never did find any wolves.

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I also ran this adventure for Melissa and the kids. Party composition for that was a monk, infernal warlock, and a forge-and-fire domain cleric (though Melissa oddly never fixed anything).

Not going to post the play report for that session since it was a lot sillier, a lot looser rules-wise, and the kids are too young to play the game in such a way that it would make for useful playtesting, anyway.

Buuut here are some pictures Melissa took:

Can barely see the character sheet. I changed WP and VP from numbers to boxes, so the kids could just x them out as they got hurt and recovered.

The cat mini was I think one of those Nolzur minis, painting to look like our daughter's cat Kalima (named so because she's a calico, slightly less so because of Temple of Doom). She didn't seem to have much trouble incinerating her cat in-game.

Most of the furniture is Nolzur stuff, though the crate and barrel stack is from Dwarven Forge. Gotta say the bookcases are way nicer than Reaper, which have a tendency to fall over.

Dunno why the bacta tank is there.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

The first issue of The Delver, a magazine featuring fungal-themed content for both players and GMs (including an adventure in which myconids find religion), is available!

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Ranger, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

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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