Saturday, March 19, 2016

Five Room Dungeon: Purify The Altar to The God of Zero

Rude, Antiochus.
I've written two of these types of posts so far, and taking a step back and looking at ur-examples of the original formula, I've realized I lost something in the mix. A real Five Room Dungeon should be a bit more vague, leaving details and the like to the GM. I mean, I wasn't writing a completely fleshed-out top-to-bottom dungeon with maps and stats and all that, but the platonic ideal is meant to fit on a single page and spark ideas. I think I'm gonna go with a compromise this time and try starting off with the abbreviated format first, and then some suggested details afterwards. So, let's give this idea a test run.

The Entrance

The entrance is supposed to set the mood and be a challenge in terms of actually reaching the actual dungeon.
 The dungeon is a temple, and it is not far from the town where the players realize there is a problem. There is a disaster of spiritual consequences at hand. Perhaps it is a battle for men's souls, protecting humanity from the opening of a demonic portal. Entry will be permitted to this dungeon if the players can convince the clergy somehow that they are the right people to do the job. Perhaps they will need someone to vouch for their deeds; a religious character like a Cleric or Holy Warrior might have the investment needed to be taken seriously without much argument. A party with evil characters will probably need to use measures of subterfuge and deception to succeed.
The task is to find a religious altar that needs to be purified so that the priest can stave off the aforementioned pending disaster. For setting the mood for the eventual plot twist, knowing the type of deity the temple was built to worship is important here. For my later implementation details, for example, this is a temple for a deity of purity and cleanliness via the concept of transparency, and clarity.
Another important detail before traveling to the temple is that the priests should specify a passage chapter and verse from an important manuscript in a library at the temple.

The Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge

When the party enters the library of the temple, the purification rite scriptures have been torn apart and scattered throughout the library. There are a few approaches that can be taken here.
  • The one page that is found has some scribbled words on it. The words can optionally be in a difficult to translate language and/or be a riddle. And now we begin a scavenger hunt to find the pages. Who wrote these hints? Why didn't they just assemble the document themselves if they wanted to be helpful?
  • The library could be an immense thing in deteriorating condition. You need to use dungeon parkour to traverse the entirety of its decomposing platforms, collapsed staircases, and overturned shelves.
  • Misdirection - in the library, where you would expect to find the scripture, you instead find a map. Someone thought to protect such an important piece of writing, but now you are going on a wild goose chase that is on a whole magnitude higher than a mere scavenger hunt.
Grimacing Tattoo men.
Once the ripped paper is reassembled, the puzzle is solved.

The Trick or Setback

The players should be allowed to explore the fairly simple temple until they find the altar. Maybe they find treasures of demonic or religious significance. The most likely scenario is that they find minor demonic forces. You can use a random encounter table or a map to decide what they find, until they decide to begin purification rites. You can read the section on cleansing on p.9 of Dungeon Fantasy 2 under Curses 101. For more tension, you can have a small encounter occur while a priest is busy with the purification ceremony.
When the ceremony is complete, whoever did the ritual will realize something went wrong. The sanctity of the area changed for the worse. What was actually accomplished was the completion of the summoning ritual that the temple was originally desecrated for in the first place!

Climax, Big Battle, or Conflict

It is revealed that the demons needed a human (or elf, or dwarf, or anyone capable of "cleansing" rituals) to complete the summoning, and the puzzles were laid out in a way that would only make sense to the right person. [Ha ha! Lampshade successfully hung!]  The two obvious outcomes of this scenario are:
  • Ugh, guess we need to destroy these guys and figure out how to do the real purification ceremony.
  • You know what? Maybe we can just hang with them. Infernals might make good patrons anyway.

Rewards, Revelation, or Plot Twist

What happens here is pretty contextual and depends a lot on the previous phase.
  • If the players decided to vanquish evil:
  • Chuckling Tattoo men
    • Deus Ex Machina: The text of the evil ritual transforms itself into the proper ritual.
    • The clergy are grateful to the heroes, but from here they ask for more help since the ritual they need to use will only help abate the earlier mentioned cataclysm, not end it entirely.
    • Appropriate awards might be
      • Favor, Reputation, and Contact
      • Some type of nothingness power or otherwise depending on the realm of the deity of the temple
      • A religious treasure with properties related to the deity.
  • If the players decided to side with evil
    • They begin a corruption process into an infernal or Elder-spawn template from Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level. Give a number of free points of advantages and some disadvantages without getting points back each game until they are completely consumed within the entire 75-point template. 5 points every session for a gradual morph, *probably* about a year 15 for a pretty fast transformation, about a month, or 25 if you really like the thought of it occurring overnight.
    • They are branded enemies of the church
    • They are granted infernal treasure or the opportunity to develop infernal powers.

Entrance Extra Details

There is not much to be said about the entrance here, but if the players don't have any characters with Investiture, a priest with little fighting ability might need to tag along. If you like stats, a pretty capable one could be made from the cleric template in Dungeon Fantasy 1 and a more power appropriate version from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen using the Initiate template.
If people fish for rumors, the type of information that might be appropriate to know:
  • Worship of the deity is performed by meditating to become nothing. Forget all prejudices, desires, and earthly callings. As the deity represents nothing, it has no name. If it must be referred to, some call it "Absence", but religious figures are quick to correct the assumption that even that is a real name.
  • There is still a demonic presence at the temple to this day, but it is pretty weak.
  • The clergy are extremely powerful. Why would they call upon outsiders to do something that is probably within the scope of their ability?
  • Traveling shouldn't be difficult; it is less than a day away, and the temple is small.
Some critical failure results
  • I don't trust the Clergy; they are probably planning something awful. It would suit you to believe the same.
  • Can we really believe in demons? Aren't they just a different side of the "angel coin"?
Good monsters before approaching would be wild animals, maybe mundanes driven slightly mad by the sinister force, and perhaps a very minor demon.

When the players reach the temple, it should have low to no good sanctity, and normal to high evil sanctity.

Puzzle Extra Details

If you like Touchy-feely props, make a poem on a piece of paper and do some faux aging, crumple it and rip it into some pieces to give out one at a time as the players solve riddles. I am not an expert poet but here's something if you don't want to get in touch with your creative side.
Relinquish the things that bind you| So ignorance can purify | Render thy focus to the new | So that way the truth becomes lie
I am cringing right along with all you fellows at home,  but this is about what I would go with. Something that is obviously not right, but still along the themes of our deity of nothingness. Our evil spirits represent the concept of ignorance, a kind of negative aspect and perversion of the more naïve true concept of this deity. As for some scavenger hunt riddles to find the torn pieces of paper that might work for a library (stolen from here):

  • The only place in the world, where Saturday comes before Thursday
    • A Dictionary
  • I have a neck, but no head, but I still wear a cap
    • A bottle
  • I have a face that does not smile or frown. I have no mouth, but I make a familiar sound. I have hands, but fingers I do not. 
    • A Clock
  • What invention lets you look right through a wall?
    • A window
If you are smarter than me, make some of your own riddles. If your players can't solve these, try letting them use knowledge-based skills or IQ. Decide what should happen if they fail ahead of time. Maybe if they take too long (can't solve it naturally and fail the roll) a monster wanders up.
Give the entire party a bonus character point if they solve all the riddles without resorting to rolls. Chastise them if they can't figure out how to put 4 pieces of paper back together.

The Trick or Setback Notes

Here I hint it is fair to meander aimlessly. In my head, I think there is a possibility of three more rooms in this temple, besides the library and the altar, and all the rooms are connected by a small foyer. The altar should almost be obvious by floor plan and design, so if players choose to explore instead, let them find in each of the three rooms either a fight or a treasure. Roll against an appearance roll of 10 the first time, and then subtract 2 each time the roll "succeeds". On a success, the room should have a treasure, and a fight on a failure. Fights should be pretty purely infernal and demonic at this point. If they get to the third room and had fights for the first two, throw them a bone and fiat the last room into a treasure room. If any items are rolled with random powers, they should have divine or infernal origins, which will be impacted accordingly by the sanctity. Try using Dungeon Fantasy 8 for random treasure, or browse 40 Artifacts or Glittering Prizes for ideas if you like a little more control.

Boss Battle Extra Notes

The head demon should have a cool name that means the opposite of something. I can't think of anything good right now, so I'd say "Anathema". He needs to be a warped satire of the idea of purity and nothingness. He represents ignorance, laziness, and jealousy. Set up a fight using one strong demon and several minions. But also make him smugly "grateful" for the help of the "ignorant" humans who did what they thought was best without actually thinking. Dramatic irony, folks. In fact, he likes them so much, that if the players try to parley, he might even accept them as disciples!

Rewards Extra Notes

As said in the trick or setback notes, use a divine or infernal power modifier as appropriate. Turning demonic or elder god sounds like a bum deal, but it comes with a lot of free points too. Make sure to give the players a very powerful enemy in the name of the church if they choose this route.

 Final Notes and Closing

This time I was a bit more generic again, but I kinda like having a skeleton. I think I also like more detail too. I just recently bought the Pyramid issues for Dungeon Fantasy I - IV, and I like the free-form advice in those issues for dungeon design. They really resonate with my beliefs. Like the Decagoblin dungeon and my thoughts on how terrain should have interesting impacts on fights, as well as the idea of Complications, Made Simple in the same vein. Also, Living Rooms in Dungeon Fantasy IV gave me some real far-out ideas. Gotta apply that a bit.

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