Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Grand Original Map Contest entry: Torvek's Tower

Here is my entry for The Grand Original Map Contest being put on by master map-makers Dyson's Dodecahedron, Mithril and Mages, and Tenkar's Tavern. I must say I am pretty pleased to be able to squeeze this much insidiousness into such a small map. The idea here is to give a high-level party a challenge with a minimum of monsters and man-made traps. Yes, there are some big nasties, but the real baddies are tiny. After this, you'll either never want to scrub the shower again or you'll take a flamethrower to your bathroom. Maybe both. I loosely use an AD&D 1st edition rubric with a liberal sprinkling of house rules involving saves versus stats (I rather like that method - suddenly, those stats mean something). Below is the map and the key. Now, I must apologize right away for not being very good at working with graphics - I'm not sure if the numbers are going to be all that visible, honestly. If it helps, encounters 1-4 are on the outside of the hill and ruins that comprise Torvek's Tower, while room 5 is the inside of the tower, 6 is the stairway going down to the cavern beneath, and 7-13 go from extreme left to right on the cavern level.
  
Torvek’s Tower carries the great lich’s name not because he dwelt there (that dubious honor belongs to his keep, Zellendeharr), but because it is the place where the legend met his demise in a suicidal gambit to destroy the temporal form of the Planetar Fenbarruk. The approach to the tower is treacherous, requiring a 12,000 foot climb up the face of a mountain that is part of the narrow range of jagged peaks known as the Dragon’s Spine, followed by a 12 mile long traverse of the spine itself. Of course, wise adventurers will utilize their best means possible to shorten the journey whether by mount or magic, but travel through the air is made difficult by hot gusts of wind that thrust up from the desert valley below, only to slam into the cold air of the mountain top, causing randomly swirling winds that sometimes exceed 70 knots (characters flying on a mount or carpet must save versus Dexterity every 1000 feet of ascension or be thrown from their mount, those flying by spell, ring, potion, or similar self-contained means travel at half speed or, if they fail their save versus Dexterity, ¼ speed for 1-10 turns. Once on the spine, there is a 10% chance per hour that a gust will hit the party, requiring a save versus the average between Dexterity and Strength to remain on one’s feet. Of course, these gusts always seem to come at the most inconvenient times . . .).
  1. The Battlements – It is atop the tower where Torvek and Fenbarruk met their doom. The blast outlines of their shapes, one a large human shape with wings, the other, that of a crowned skeleton wearing a cloak, are burnt into the stone floor of the tower’s upper level. A heavy aura of residual magic saturates the battlements. The forces unleashed in that ancient battle cause wild fluctuations in the effectiveness of magic (whenever a spell is cast and the spell caster is touching the tower, whether on the outside or inside and, yes, standing on the floor counts, a d4 is rolled, randomly determining whether the magic is more or less effective: 1-2 magic is less effective, 3-4 magic is more effective. Range, duration, damage, etc. are either dampened by 1-100% or strengthened by 1-100%. A 0% effective spell fizzles and the caster loses that spell for the day). Rubble is strewn all along the edges of the decaying battlements. Beneath a pile of stones in the southeast corner is hidden a molten lump of gold worth 200 gp. Inside the lump (though not fused to it) is a large black pearl worth 1,000 gp. It will appear as a worthless rock, (though a dwarf or gnome has a 1 in 6 chance of recognizing that something is wrong with the rock, if they pass within 10’ of it. Others may find it by searching and will notice that something is wrong if they pass a Wisdom check).
  2. Along the base of the east side of the tower is a large accumulation of green moss some 50’ wide, which thrusts out about 5’ from the wall itself, then climbs the wall to a height of 5’. This makes for convenient egress to the tower’s battlements, which are about 10’ from ground level. Thieves need make no roll to climb, and others of human size or larger must make a save vs half their dexterity or slip harmlessly to the moss below (Did we say “harmlessly”? Oops. Those who are not wearing gloves of some type will feel sharp pains in their palms and fingers resulting from an aggressive parasitic mold that has grown to cover the entire east face of the tower. Those wearing gloves will feel the stinging in their face as they brush the wall on the way down unless they are covered by a great helm. The bulbous piles of moss are the moss-covered and infiltrated remains of those who succumbed to the parasites. Those injected with the mold must save versus constitution every 10 minutes for four hours. For each failed roll, the character temporarily loses 1-3 points of constitution – thus affecting further rolls – and 1d6 hit points. Characters reduced to 0 constitution irrevocably die and can only be brought back by Resurrection or Reincarnation spells or a wish. This effect can be stopped by a Cure Disease spell, limited wish, or consumption of a Sweetwater potion. If the character survives the four hour ordeal, constitution and HP return at a rate of 1-3 constitution per hour and 1d6 hp per hour, though the character cannot gain more constitution or hps than he or she had at the beginning of the parasitic infection.).
  3. This low depression is filled with knee-deep stagnating water and dead leaves. There is a distinct smell of urine here, also. The top of the water is almost perfectly still, except for the occasional ripple of water as a gust of wind passes through. (Unless characters drink the water without boiling or treating it, there is no danger in just walking right through. It is rather entertaining to see how paranoid players can get around an innocent puddle of water, though).
  4. This corridor smells dank and the floor is riddled with slime. (a 10 HP green slime will drop down on the second character to pass into the tunnel, unless the lead character is carrying a lit torch, in which case the slime will be loosened from the ceiling and drop on the first in line. Note that if characters aren’t explicitly looking up, they won’t see it.).
  5. Two mummified human corpses dressed in rags lie in this room, one in the northeast corner of the room, the other in the southwest corner of the room. As the characters enter the room, the tower rumbles, sending stone blocks tumbling over the west entrance. While not impassable, it will take some time to dig out. A set of stairs leads down on the south side of the room. (The rumbling is caused by a naturally-occurring earthquake shaking the mountains. Close examination of the corpses reveals puncture wounds to the throat of each. The body in the northeast corner is female, the other is male. There is nothing of value on either body. Characters wishing to dig the rubble out of the doorway to allow free egress may do so, but it will take 30 minutes to clear an area big enough for one human-sized body to squeeze through. While digging or simply while exploring the room, there is a 2% cumulative chance per turn that the stirges in the stairwell below are awakened and attack the party.).
  6. This is a high-ceilinged stairway leading down below the foundation of the tower. The whistling of wind can be heard in the distance far below. (17 stirges of 6 hp each hang from the ceiling of the stairway. If they have not already been roused by the party’s activities in room 5, they will awaken and attack the party. Fighting while on the stairs requires a dexterity check with each attack to avoid falling down and sliding down a number of stairs, possibly knocking over other party members).
  7. The corpses of two armored dwarves lay here against a wall, the picks laying by their side and the scored walls witnessing that they were trying to dig a tunnel here before they succumbed to their fate. Both wear dwarven plate mail and have backpacks and pouches hanging from various leather harnesses. Strangely, all leather goods on them, from their straps to their boots, are covered in a half-inch-thick hot pink mold. One of the corpses holds a burned out bullseye lantern. On its belt is a scabbarded short sword and dagger. The other corpse has a large battle axe slung across its back and a dagger at its side. (Characters touching either corpse will immediately be swarmed by a proportion of the 30 rot grubs that inhabit each body, divided up equally among those who touch the corpses. They are hidden under the armor and thus, won’t be seen until they spring out, attracted by the character’s body heat. Survivors of the rot grubs are well-rewarded. The sword-laden dwarf carries 50 PP in his pouch, along with a sweetwater potion in one iron flask and a half-liter of fine whiskey in another. The dagger is magical, +2. The axe laden dwarf carries a small cylindrical rod of lapis lazuli, 6” long and 1” in diameter, worth 500 gp. The axe is also magical, +1. He also wears a Ring of Free Action. The pick axes are of Svirfneblin make, crafted of adamantium and, while not magical, they do get +1 to hit and to damage. Players should not be discouraged from trying to dig to find what it was the dwarves were after, though there really is nothing hidden in the rock.)
  8. The tunnel narrows here and adventurers will immediately note that the floor, walls, and ceiling are covered with a dazzlingly bright hot pink substance that almost seems to glow. Those who touch the mold seem to suffer no ill effects. (But their leather goods, that is another matter entirely! Airborne mold spores in this section will invisibly attach to any exposed leather the characters may be wearing. Within two minutes, all non-magical leather goods will grow a half-inch-thick carpet of hot pink mold. This will affect any leather clothing, straps, wineskins, leather backpacks, pouches, etc. It can be scraped off but grows back within a minute. It cannot be removed from the leather with anything short of a Cure Disease or Remove Curse. Of course, the leather can be abandoned, but must be altogether removed to be of lasting effect. Any leather piece remaining, no matter how small, will contaminate new leather within two minutes.)
  9. A few strange, tall bumps dot the floor here on the already-uneven ground. (A pair of shriekers and four violet fungi of 18 HP each clog this area of the passageway. If the shriekers are approached, whether cautiously or by characters falling down the stairs, they start their noise, alerting the shambling mound at area 10 to the presence of intruders. The shamble will then approach the area, coming up the slopes from its pit to feed).
  10. (If approached from the east) This area is more warm and damp than the surrounding cavern. Some steaming fumaroles release vapor into the chamber from a lava-heated underground river, far below. A great deal of vegetation has grown in this area, with vines hanging from the ceiling and a thick carpet of mixed moss, grass, and small plants on the floor. (The carpet is actually a shambling mound that will wait until stepped on or prodded to attack, *unless* the party approaches from the west, in which case the shrieker alarms will entice the creature to climb the stairs to area 9 and attack directly. The creature has no treasure.)
  11. A curious buzzing can be heard overhead. The black ceiling seems to undulate, drip, then reform in the darkness. (A group of 6 bluebottle flies of 18 HP each crawls along the ceiling here, waiting for the shambling mound or the shriekers to wound a victim. Once they smell blood, they will attack, though they will flee out of the cavern mouth if brought to below 6 HPs. If the party appears unhurt and rested, they will mull about on the ceiling, waiting for an opportunity to attack a wounded party member. If harassed by a healthy party, they will flee out the cavern mouth.)
  12. Adventurers who step into the shadows here will hear voices of warning call out to them. There are two voices, similar, though not exactly the same: “Remove yourselves, mortals, from the unholy monument of Torvek. Turn. Go. Now. You have your warning.” (If characters do not immediately leave, they are attacked by Gruzzek and Cargizzin, twin wraiths and followers, in their mortal life, of the Wizard Torvek, who did them the favor of turning them into wraiths of 33 HP each. They now jealously guard the way into the cavern beneath this unholy memorial. If characters turn away and leave immediately, the wraiths will not follow them. They are, after all, lawful, if evil. Any hesitation at all will result in the wraiths attacking.)
  13. This alcove seems unoccupied. (Careful examination will reveal that there are two patches of earth that are discolored. Dwarves or gnomes will spot this on a 4 in 6 chance. If the party digs into the discolored patches, they discover two coffins with desiccated carcasses therein. Each has a latched with a woodblock print of two brothers, identical twins, richly dressed, smiling at the artist. Each skeletal hand has a gold ring on it – for a total of four rings – each worth 100 GP).

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