Sparrow’s Heart, a Mörk Borg misadventure (III)

[Go to Part I | Go to Part II]

third and final part: the dungeon, the black tower, the sparrow’s tower. enjoy it with good music

REMEMBER THIS Rooms 21-23 are underground, the building looks like an inverted T from THE outside, but it’s actually shaped like the satanic cross of the antigod. Lines connecting rooms are normal (black) and secret (red) doors, ladders, corridors and stairs.

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1 Entrance

  • Pieces of a statue, put together is a random PC and reveals Secret Hatch to 6.

2 Waiting Room

  • 16 pixie skeletons sleep inside a dead man’s chest. If the body is disturbed, the swarm attacks with very small swords and sharp teeth. HP 6 Morale 12 No armor Bites & swords d6 Quick attack & defence DR14.
  • Corpse plundering: A vial filled with a pastel pink liquid, labeled “vampyre”. Drink +d6 hp Throw d6 damage Drop summons a Bloat Vampire.
  • Bloat Vampyre: 1d3 1 it helps you 2 it flees 3 it attacks you. A human-sized floating pastel pink mass of foam and lashing lamprey-like tendrils. HP 6 Morale 8 Soft matter -d2 Bite d4 Lash d6 Regeneration bite attacks regenerate 1 hp.

3 Parlor

  • A canal of molten brass (d10 damage) separates two rows of benches. Roll d4.
    1. 2d4 Forever Mourners just chilling out. HP 4 Morale 8 No armor Ritual dagger d4.
    2. Kuts the Albino aka Pink Eyes. Average stats Goblin. Sleeps on a bench.
    3. The Thing That Should Not Bee. Giant greenish black bee, stumbling upon walls. HP 10 Morale 12 Thick Hide -d2 Sting d8 + Poison Toughness DR14 or d6 damage + blind for one hour, two doses per day.
    4. Roll twice until you get two results between i and iii. Both are encountered and they d3 1 fight each other 2 cooperate 3 ignore each other.

4 Meditation Chamber

  • d4 Forever Mourners chanting from a hymnal, headbanging and giving the Sign of the Horns. HP 4 Morale 8 No armor Ritual dagger d4. Loot regular corpse plundering.
  • Faustyr the Doom, three-armed Forever Mourner Priest, plays a tambourine. HP 6 Morale 10 Scaled skin and gold crown -d2 Dreihänder d12 Powers d2 random unclean scrolls, 1 random sacred scroll, and unclean scroll The Law of the Plague. Loot crown worth 150 silver.

5 Interrogation Room

  • Sister Missy chained to an interrogation chair. She can be a replacement character if needed or an NPC with these stats: HP 1 Morale 6 No armor No weapon Powers 1 random unclean scroll tattooed on her left arm.

6 Attic

  • A number of hanging ropes equal to the number of PCs prepared for their victims. Oh, God! It would be so easy!
  • A dirty sock tied in a knot. Full of fingers, but are they human?

7 Study

  • Crystal spider statue surrounded by boiling blood trench. Jump Agility DR10 or fall and Toughness DR12 or d10 damage. Break the spider and find a gold bell the size of a marble, worth 10 silver.
  • Ring the bell 1-in-12 chance of summoning Cleet the Clown. HP 4 Morale 9 Yesterday gowns -d2 Sword d4 Special ghost-clown will obey your commands for d3 rounds, when he disappears, the bell disappears as well.

8 Room of Traps

  • All deactivated or previously triggered except the pit trap.
  • Pit Trap: Presence DR14 to find or Agility Dr12 to avoid d6 damage. Impaled ninja holding antigleam dagger d4 damage, all light sources in the area are extinguished; the dagger emits black light, you can see the silhouette of your enemies while making you invisible to them. Presence DR12 or blind in one eye. Next time, Presence DR10 or blind.

9 Shower Room

  • A pool of water is on the ceiling. Roll d4 to see what happens here:
    1. The third person in line falls into the pool. Leave the pool normally, then Agility DR14 or fall to the floor for d6 damage.
    2. Agility DR12 or the hardcore sludge falls upon you for d6 damage. HP 6 Morale 12 No armor Acidic spit d4 Special extra d4 damage every round until a Toughness DR14 is passed. Black metal core worth 500 silver.
    3. The pool drips. It’s not water, it’s acid. Toughness DR16 or d4 damage.
    4. A large tentacle tries to catch the last in line. Agility DR14 or be taken, suffering d6 damage each round.

10 Pantry

  • Rotten and maggot-invaded food.
  • A wheel of cheese, very stinky. Eating a portion a day heals all HP. Eat a second portion and be poisoned Toughness DR 14 or d8 damage. 8 portions total.

11 Interrogation room

  • A blood-drenched skeleton sitting in the interrogation chair. Roll reaction. Average stats. Has a rusty key.
  • 10 exotic feathers worth 50 silver, 2 love potions worth 50 silver each, a bottle of wine worth 20 silver.
  • Caged goblin called Reuben. The skeleton has the key. Average stats. White trousers. “Let poor Reuben go and he will tell you a secret of gold and jewels”. Can you trust him? Flip a coin.

12 Camera Obscura

  • Walls covered with vision-inducing glyphs that glow in the dark. Presence DR14 or vomit copiously for d2 damage. If successful, you can make a Yes/No question.

13 Defiled Shrine

  • Lone warrior called Blod on top of a pile of dead evil orx (horned, pig nosed, dog headed brutes). Can be a replacement character if needed or an NPC with these stats: HP 6 Morale 10 Leather -d2 Flail d8.

14 Library

  • Stacks of ruined mouldering books on iron spikes, 1-in-6 chance to find d3 scrolls (50/50 chance unclean or sacred each).
  • A portrait in the wall, its eyes follow you.

15 Bedroom

  • One bed. 1-in-6 the room is empty.
  • Otherwise, Lovelie A woman with the darkest skin taking a short rest here; white hair, side shave, big badass axe. Can be a replacement character or an NPC with these stats: HP 4 Morale 10 Chainmail -d4 Greataxe d8 Dagger d4.
  • Secret doors open with a lever in room 18.

16 The Terror

  • Child-sized guillotine. Blade is blunt. It hides the unclean scroll Vacuum.

17 The Ossuary

  • Dozens of child-sized skulls. Presence DR14 reveals each has more than one hundred teeth.
  • Presence DR12 (DR14 if the players are timid about defiling children bones) to find a Crown of Thorns: When wearing the crown, the wearer suffers d6 damage but gains the False God Walk ability, which allows him to walk on water for Presence + d10 rounds.
  • One skull talks: “Hey, mate. Would you mind taking me out with you? It’s boring to be here with all these dead, they never talk to me.” “Allow me to join your troupe, make a friend a favour, will you?” “No, I don’t have a name. I’m a skull!” No name HP 2 Morale 6 No armor No weapon Special tells inappropriate jokes and drinks a lot.

18 Strange Machine

  • A system of pulleys and gears is visible through the cracks in the walls.
  • There is a lever in the neutral position. It can be moved to the right, left or up. Each position opens a secret door to the indicated room number: Right 16, Left 17, Up 17.

19 Repair Workshop

  • Albino Rat Swarm HP 8 Morale 11 No armor Bites d8 + Black Poison Quick attack & defence DR14.
  • Secret door opens with a lever in room 18.

20 Theater of Misery

  • Missing Prince Bernardus sleeps on a pedestal. Impossible to wake. He feeds on demonblight. “Saving” or killing him means d100% of the male inhabitants of Murk Burg, including him, transform into demons. (See Misandria). HP 1 Morale 6 No armor No weapons.

21 Septic Tank

  • Goblet, black liquid, 2 snickering goblins probing the abyss. HP 2 Morale 7 No armor Dagger d4.
  • Loot: One goblin has a fire-fly lantern: fire-flies inside a glass jar. Light as candle. Eat the fire-flies and can make a dragon breath attack once for d12 damage.

22 Trophy Storeroom

  • 10 statues, total d6 eyes of ruby (100 silver each).
  • When all rubies are removed, a ladder to room 23 is revealed.
  • 2-in-6 the statue being looted is trapped. Presence DR14 to avoid the trap. What trap? Roll d4 to find out:
    1. The most terrifying black spider you have ever seen. And felt its fangs inside tearing your skin apart and injecting its venom. d6 damage + red poison.
    2. Acid burst burns your face away. d8 damage and disfigurement.
    3. Toxin gas. Toughness DR16 or lose a permanent Strength point.
    4. Your finger gets stuck. Cut the finger and suffer d6 damage or use grease or a similar substance… if someone can find it.

23 Sparrow’s Heart

  • Almost the entirety of the room is occupied by a giant beating heart. The heart is connected to the apocalyptic underworld, where strange beings dwell.
  • There’s a 2-in-6 chance that the heart beats and fires a monster out of one of its ventricles. Which monster?
    1. Undead Doll
    2. Misanthropic Spectrum (afterimage ghost) semi-transparent but solid human HP 9 Morale 12 No armor Sword d6 + curse Curse if it kills you, you become a misantropic spectre yourself one round later.
    3. Grotesque
    4. Voodoo Babe an adult-sized baby HP 11 Morale 10 No armor Rattle d8 Voodoo animate a fresh corpse as a zombie.
  • If the Sparrow Heart is destroyed, the tower will collapse, killing Prince Bernardus. HP 4 Morale none No armor No weapons.
  • Black Blood pierce & drink blood, pass a Presence DR14 test for an effect (d4):
    1. For you zero hp works like 1 hp, and -1 hp works like zero, permanently.
    2. When you die, you can choose to return to life, naked, with a femur as weapon and only 1 hp. If you die again before you “level up”, you return as a skeleton, controlled by the referee.
    3. Gain d2 maximum hit points.
    4. Your four ability scores are mixed up, at the referee’s discretion (but don’t expect mercy).

Part I | Part II

affilliated button

Avoid paranoia-driven dungeoneering

When players become too paranoid and start exploring the dungeon methodically, it’s sometimes fun, but when this behavior becomes too constant, specially when there’s no sensible reason to be extremely cautious (not all dungeons are tombs of horrors and grinding gears after all). Here are some ideas that could solve this situation.

The party

Set a timer

The mission must be completed under a certain number of turns, otherwise something happens and the players know it: when it’s 2 minutes to midnight the sect of evil orcs will kill the unborn in the womb to summon The Hand That Threaten Doom, the crazy wizard eats his pet bat and spread disease, the PC’s clothes and weapons turn to rags and scrap, the PC’s carriage turns into a pumpkin at midnight, the artifact only appears for a few minutes after sunset with a waxing moon before it returns to its dimension of origin, &c.

Something wicked comes

This is mostly arbitrary, but if the party spends more than two turns in the same room, a special random encounter check is rolled. If the d6 comes up 1 or 2, this special monsters or ghostly NPCs or something, appears, causing a drawback: “You are under arrest”, “You smell tasty”, “It smells funny, please make a saving throw versus poison; if you fail, you fall asleep”; falling asleep is too boring, though. Maybe this gas contains some mutagen agent which modifies the PC’s DNA, causing a mutation. Don’t abuse this or it becomes more boring than the alternative.

Rival party

Describe a few areas showing traces of another party of adventurers in the same dungeon. “It’s clear this party is not being methodical, but reckless, they really want to get to the treasure sooner than you. What are you gonna do?” The rival party works better if you introduce it, or its leader, beforehand, without specifying what its role in the campaign will be.

Rival Party

You’re not supposed to explore every inch

This works better in a wizard tower or a more linear dungeon, but with a lot of dedication, it can be used in almost any dungeon (but perhaps it’s not worth it). After a period of time, some parts of the dungeon are permanently blocked. For instance, water springs from the bottom of the tower, and you can only explore one or two rooms on each floor before it becomes impossible to explore another and have to go to the next floor; or opening a door permanently seals another, but make sure sealing a room won’t prevent the party to further explore the dungeon or move to the next level; multiple stairs, stairs in hallways, and teleportation pods are helpful.

Make traps reasonable and obvious

Traps should only be put in a room, door or item when it makes sense. Corridors full of traps induce paranoid behavior and should be avoided (unless, of course, it’s a special dungeon of traps or something). I have an ambivalent feeling for visible, obvious traps, I usually prefer classic, hidden traps, but telegraphed traps are useful when you really need to set a faster pace. If your players spend more time searching for traps than doing anything else, maybe obvious traps are for you.

Don’t measure time, measure turns instead

I quote what I wrote in Hidden Shrine of Setebos: “One turn equals a few minutes, maybe ten but that’s not important. Most standard actions take one turn. You don’t have to measure time rigorously. Ignore time, focus on turns.” This means that 6 actions add one hour, it doesn’t matter if six characters take one action each at the same time, in the same room, each one still adds one turn, total six turns or one hour, not because they spent one hour in the room, but because time is fictitious and malleable, which meants that after (6 x 8) 48 actions (specially actions that demand a roll), 8 hours have passed. Let’s just assume there is a lot of dead time between turns and separate actions. I hope it makes sense; in my head it does but it’s not easy to explain.