Thursday, March 19, 2015

Filling in the Blanks

NB: Trying to keep campaign secrets from my players so some parts are whited out, highlight for spoilers.

Let’s get started. Once again the second rule of dungeon craft necessitates a secret for this major piece of the world. I’m assuming from here on out you’re familiar with the Fall from Heaven setting so I don’t have to retell the world’s history. Here’s the secret: Haven was built on top of the ruins of an ancient Patrian city from the Age of Magic. This city belonged to the archmage Leucetios, a master of life magic and one of Kylorin’s original students. His work included great perversions of life magic, such as sewing the corpses of various animals together and then causing them to heal into a single creature. Most monstrous creatures inhabiting the world today, along with some humanoid races, were originally the experiments of Leucetios in collaboration with his fellow archmages Kezef (body magic) and Majen (creation magic).


As Ray Winninger suggests, I have a Secrets file where I go to when creating secrets and clues about them. Haven’s secrets are listed as follows:


  1. Leucetios, one of Kylorin’s 21 students and an archmage of life magic, is responsible along with the archmages Kezef (body) and Majen (creation) for many of the monstrosities and some humanoid races that exist today.
  2. Leucetios sought to create a race of super-soldiers in an eventual bid to gain more power in the great Wizard Court of Kylorin.
  3. The lizardmen were one of the many products of these mages’ experimentation. Leucetios was unhappy with the lizardmen, finding them to be inferior specimens rather than the superhuman warrior race he originally intended them to be. After further refinement of the lizardmen stock, the ancient mages succeeded. The dragonborn were created, superior specimens bred for battle, embodying some of the best traits of the gods’ war machines.
  4. However, there was one flaw the archmages could not purge. Dragonborn were not true breeding. Not a one could reproduce, significantly reducing the size of the army these archmages sought to build for the inevitable Wars of Secession. Eventually the project was abandoned, and every few generations a dragonborn is spawned.
  5. Haven was built on the ancient ruins of Leucetios’ fiefdom.
One more to explain the multiple underground cave systems in the area:
  1. Many of the world’s dungeons and underground cave systems were not created by the dwarves but the survivors of the Rain of Fire and the Age of Ice. The survivors of this region were once the citizens who lived in Leucetios’ fiefdom and his many experiments.


I’m going to save secrets 3 and 4 for the jungle area around Kalocly. That leaves me with four secrets to drop clues in the 15 squares I have to fill. If it turns up not being enough, I’ll find a couple of other secrets and start sprinkling clues. This setting is great for secret generation because there is so much amazing lore that isn’t known to the world’s inhabitants. The hill squares north and northwest of Haven are a great place to put some underground structures, in addition to the dungeon due east in C7. I like the idea of the dungeon being a man made structure not hastily built out of necessity but with a specific purpose. What if this dungeon is merely the top of a tower the archmage used to store the experiments too dangerous to let roam about? I can imagine a buried wizard’s tower filled with labs, broken cages, and roaming terrors which survived the centuries by growing into a flourishing ecology.

The next question that strikes me is what do the residents of Haven know about Leucetios’ Tower? My first instinct is nothing. So going with that they would need an explanation to fill the blank and would do this with rumors. Let’s tie it to Haven’s history, which in my version of FfH is Captain Falamar’s personal pirate cove. It started as a secret place to store his loot. Eventually with his plundered wealth he made Haven a more permanent place to restock and repair his fleet, growing the cove into a pirate port. The current locals know this history and have applied it to the nearby dungeon. Their reasoning is if Falamar used this place to bury his loot, then a dungeon from where none have returned is the best place to store it. Hence the locals call the dungeon Falamar’s Locker, often just shortened to the Locker. Falamar himself neither confirms nor denies this, preferring to let people believe in his legend.

I need to key the square in the Map file, and come up with three clue’s that tie to a secret. Since the tower was used to store the twisted creations of the ancient archmages, it’s the best place to explain Secret 1 with plenty of clues. On to the Alexandrian’s Three Clue Rule: For any conclusion you want the PCs to make, include at least three clues. This rule is so important that I’ve added it to the list I keep of the rules of dungeoncraft.

The first clue I thought of is the remains of a scientific journal written by Leucetios. It will mention the other two archmages and his displeasure with his recent creation of the ogres. Also it mentions how one of his apprentices displeased him, and how he used that apprentice to create an ogre mage. There will be a few gruesome details of the process. In addition to dropping a clue towards the secret that the dungeon was once a wizard’s tower belonging to a Dr. Frankenstein, it foreshadows the presence of an ogre mage.

The next clue will be in the set decoration. A few rooms will be dedicated laboratories filled with petrified body parts from all kinds of creatures, equipped with half-stitched corpses (or maybe hibernating monsters) and cages. Some have skeletons of various animals. Others are broken open, indicating wandering monsters.

The third clue is location treasure. This clue will indicate the archmage’s mastery of life magic, probably by some checks or detect magic to determine the location is magical and was enchanted by a high-level wizard. The location is a magical well which turns water into green healing potion. If bottled it becomes non-magical, but if drunk directly the drinker benefits from cure wounds restoring 1d8+5 hp. I don’t doubt that I will think of more when I flesh out the dungeon. Appropriately themed treasure could be rare spellbooks or scrolls, or petrified animal parts as one use magic items allowing casters to utilize metamagic. There are lots of possibilities.

After keying the location, secret and clues in my map file, I’ll be rinsing and repeating for each square. I could focus on dungeon building to finish the tower but that’s another post. Hex stocking is in my immediate future. Next time I’ll be taking on Haven, the city square.

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