Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Just Another Tomb

Well, that took longer than anticipated.

Catching up on my blog reading Sunday, I happened across this post from Joseph Manola about a certain dungeon design challenge put forth by Patrick over at False Machine (whose site I don't peruse as often as I probably should). While I like a good blog-tastic challenge as much as the next dude, after reading the criteria I figured this particular one wasn't really for me: not only was I hopelessly late to the party (it was supposed to be completed a couple weeks before), and there's nothing really "art-punk" about me. Hell, I had to find a definition and visit a bunch of other web sites just to figure out what that term is supposed to mean!  SO...soft pass. 

Then my players got TPK'd fighting kobolds and I needed a new adventure.

Since Dyson's map was still staring me in the face from these open tabs on my laptop, I kept looking at the thing, analyzing the layout, seeing if it would suggest a scenario. And, of course (eventually) one did...and as the map was already drawn (and map-making is really my achilles heel when it comes to this D&D stuff) I figured I might as well use it. So I ended up kind of doing the challenge after all.

No, it's not artistic or "punk;" I am a total hack of a writer with nary an original bone in my body. Most of my adventure ideas come from books or movies I've seen over the years (I seldom draw on adventure modules, preferring instead the easier, lazier route of just running pre-made adventures). In this particular case, I drew on an old favorite of mine: the 1999 action film The Mummy. It pretty much has all the ingredients for a D&D adventure...monsters, magic, treasure, tombs, etc. 

The problem was: the map. Man, I puzzled over that thing for nearly two days before figuring out what various rooms were and how they interacted and whatnot. That was tough. That damn river. That giant chamber with the open pits. All that jazz. Plus it had to work for a small party of 1st level adventurers.

Anyhoo, I got it done, and we started the adventure last night. Although the party is in a bit of a pickle at the moment (the cleric failed at his attempt to turn the skeletons...jeez), I wouldn't say they're doing terrible. I mean, no one's died yet...
; )

This morning, I wrote up my notes in a bullet-point format in case anyone's interested in seeing how lame my adventures are (usually I just use a handful of notes on a spreadsheet). You can download the PDF from MediaFire here (do people still use MediaFire?) or you can simply read the text (posted below the map). I call it "The Tomb of Bendan Fazier." Cheers!

[oh, forgot to mention: this is for 1st edition AD&D; suitable for 5-7 1st level characters]

You know how long it took me to figure out
how to add numbers to this thing?
I am soooo lame!


The arid, windswept hills east of Akima are known as “the Tomblands” for it is said that the ancients buried many kings, wizards, and high priests among the dry rocks before the Great Reckoning. True or not, searching more than 600 square miles of wasteland for hidden sepulchers is a fools’ errand…and finding one not yet despoiled by treasure hunters is an even slimmer hope. 

But Tully the Dwarf knows one. 

1. Hall of Guardians
  • The outer door was spiked shut (by Tully) from his last foray. Putrefying bodies of three companions (no treasure, gear hacked to pieces) lie scattered about the chamber. 
  • 12 skeletons (HPs 4, MM p.87) programmed to kill any who enter the chamber; they will not pursue beyond this room. If turned they retreat to the river and are swept away. 
  • A bricked up, secondary tunnel has been collapsed at its base by a curious troll (#7). 
2. Desecrated Chamber 
  • The door to this room has been smashed open (by the troll at #7). 
  • Wet, muddy footprints (identifiable by a ranger) gives evidence of the culprit. 
  • Some scattered coins (D6 each of copper, silver, and electrum) indicate the place was looted. 
3. Alcove 
  • Careful examination of this dark and dingy alcove finds an ancient bronze wheel set into the wall. 
  • A bend bars roll is needed to move the wheel; multiple characters can combine their percentages for a better chance of turning it. On a roll of 00 (99+ with two individuals working, 98+ with three, etc.) the mechanism breaks. 
  • Turning the wheel: a loud grinding, stone-on-stone sound echoes in the distance as the mechanism causes the false wall at #5 to lower into the floor. 
4. Hall of Glory 
  • Doors to this chamber are stone and difficult to move (normal open doors roll). 
  • Each column holds a torch sconce with an ancient torch that may be lit. 
  • The eastern wall depicts a fantastic painting showing the reign of Bendan Fazier over an agricultural people, using his wand to conjure monsters and his staff to smite skulls. He doesn’t appear to have been a nice person. 
5. Rod Room 
  • Three rods of black metal lay in a heap on the floor; each is about 18’ long and weigh 70#. 
  • The southern wall is of different stone than the rest of the chamber; it can be lowered with the mechanism at #3. 
6. Bridge 
  • The bridge of ancient wood and rusted metal is rickety but only collapses if more than 150# tries to cross at once. 
  • Slots allowing for the insertion of three rods (from #5) reinforce the bridge so that there is no chance of collapse. 
  • A rusted iron ladder will disintegrate, dropping any would be climber unceremoniously to the beach below (1d4 damage). The subterranean river is exceptionally cold; its current is sluggish. 
7. Troll Den 
  • A river scrag (HPs 27, MM2 p.121) makes its lair here; it wears a silver necklace (120gp) as a bracelet. 
  • There is only a 20% chance the creature is here, but it will return D4 turns after a party starts poking around its possessions. Any time the party encounters the river, there is a 25% chance the troll is fishing (submerged) nearby; it will be drawn to their light and sound (surprising 4 in 6). 
  • The scrag’s collection of treasure includes five ceramic jars containing 400cp each (each weighs 50#), another containing 250ep (30# weight), an iron strong box (minimal rust) with 500sp, and a dagger +1 used to pick its teeth. 
8. Antechamber of the Sun 
  • Massive doors of polished metal greatly reflect light sources, illuminating the chamber. 
  • A sun-shaped depression over the obvious key hole allows the door to be opened with the sun key (#9). 
  • Attempts to pick the lock sets off an ancient fire trap (1d4+12 damage, save for half). 
9. Hall of Keys 
  • Each of the three statues in this chamber portrays a young woman standing at attention with an elaborate headdress (snake, dog, and owl); around each statues neck hangs a metal symbol attached to a rotting leather thong (sun, moon, and star)…keys to areas #8, #11, and #12, respectively. 
  • These are caryatid columns (HPs 22, FF p.18); each will animate ONLY if the key is removed from around its neck. Attacks will be focused on the person who holds the necklace. 
  • The tapestry at the chamber’s end may be illuminated by a torch placed in the empty sconce near it; it depicts the funerary ceremonies of Bendan Fazier, including the tomb’s construction, his mummification, and the sacrifice of slave workers in the subterranean river that flows past this very chamber. 
10. Hall of the Demesne 
  • A globe of continual light (L12) illuminates this magnificent chamber. 
  • The floor is an incredible mosaic depicting the realm once controlled by Bendan Frazier: a region north of Akima, including the Akima river and its main tributaries. The image is punctuated by hundreds of sparkling precious stones, cut and set within the image (350 gems worth 10gp each; diligent work can pry up five stones per turn of effort). 
  • The map is oriented with “north” towards the eastern wall; the rivers tributaries are made to appear to be flowing out of the three open pits along that wall. 
11. Room of Preparation 
  • This level is reached by dropping down one of the 20’ deep open pits in #10. All the mummification equipment was destroyed long ago, its pieces scattered on the floor amongst the shredded crumbling pages of Bendan Fazier’s tomes and scrolls. Empty torch sconces line the walls. 
  • The locked metal door in the southwest can be opened with the moon key (#9); it radiates both magic and evil. Anyone inserting the key into the lock must save versus spells to resist the impulse to immediately attack the other party members (attempts to pick the lock have the same effect). The madness leaves the character after one turn. 
  • Engraved in the door is a three-line verse in an ancient, dead language. Translated it reads: My Tomb Lies Beyond/Those Who Would Desecrate It/My Doom Will Suffer
12. Tomb of Bendan Fazier 
  • The chamber contains a rotting wooden chest containing 800gp (chest will break if moved), a metal box (with 100pp), and a large stone sarcophagus. The last may only be opened by using the star key (#9); a combined strength of 24 is needed to move the lid which is carved with another three-line verse: My Spirit Has Flown/Yet My Flesh Remains And Will/Rain Vengeance On Thee
  • A mummy lies within the sarcophagus. A scarab of protection fastens his funeral garment; one hand clutches his wand of conjuration (8 charges), the other his staff of striking (4 charges). His death mask is a mix of gold and precious jade with cut emerald eyes (3500gp value). Removing the mask reveals a horrible rotting face with wriggling green worms crawling in and out of its orifices. The remains, now a Son of Kyuss (HPs 19, FF p. 83) animates and attacks; all characters in the chamber must immediately save against magic or flee in terror. 
  • In the northeast corner, an ancient bronze ladder leads to a trapdoor in the ceiling which may be pushed open to allow access to #10. The trapdoor can only be opened from below. 

NOTE: Tully the Dwarf (a second level thief) is a middle-aged dwarf of hardy constitution (15 hit points!) and sour disposition. He brooks no nonsense, but is willing to cut PCs in for an even share of the treasure (he has no choice as he can’t face the tomb dangers alone). He has leather armor, a broadsword and dagger, a stout pack mule, torches, rope, and a couple flasks of oil. His main concern is finding a cleric to take care of the damn skeletons! He has a weathered map to the tomb that he keeps on him (under his armor) at all times.


  1. Looks like fun. I didn't really get the "Dungeon Poem" concept either, but we got some good campaign fodder out of it, like Grognardia's Jakhalla post and your Tomb. Calvino.

    1. Agreed. After reading a bunch of the entries I've decided I'll take "practical and usable" over whatever "art-punk dungeon poetry" is supposed to be any day of the week. Some of the other ones just felt like creative writing exercises gone wrong, or the scribblings of a drug addict.

  2. I read this post, the posts that you linked that led to it, I can not wrap my head around any of it. LOL

    Tully the Dwarf? Bendan Fazier?!? Our approaches are so different and its wonderful and amazing. I shall continue to study this in hopes of fathoming the way the other half lives.

    1. Hey, Adam:

      Um...can you elaborate? I mean, what’s your approach? And how does it differ? I like to study other people, too! ; )

      D&D (for me) is it’s own animal. When I used to run games like Vampire and Ars and Over the Edge, etc. I had a VERY different way of writing adventures, because the system/setting demanded it.

      But D&D, to me, has always been about creating scenarios to entice players into trouble. As my son said to me after our last session, “there better be some good treasure in here!”
      ; )

    2. By the way, it’s pronounced Fay-ZEER.

    3. The names throw me off and take me out of it a little. 44 years in the hobby and I'll never get someone naming their character 'Twiggy the Druid' or some such. seems like a dungeon. Like your post title says, 'just another tomb'. What is the 'adventure' everyone keeps mentioning? I feel like a missed something. Why are the PCs searching the tomb? Is it just to find treasure? How or why does Tully have a map to the place and want to explore it?

    4. Hmmm...

      In this particular instance, the PCs are taking the part of tomb robbers...robbing tombs for (fun and) profit.

      I suppose they could hire on (the fantasy equivalent of) a tramp steamer, or join an expedition to "parts unknown" like an explorer in a 19th century adventure fact, both of those options are good ones to consider for future scenarios (as is the classic "going to war," although there are no local wars -currently- in my campaign).

      But in AD&D...unlike some other D&D editions...acquiring money ("treasure") is Kind Of The Thing. Lots of things for adventurers to spend cash on.

      The scenario posted here is the "short form." Here's how it was introduced in my campaign:

      "Tully" the dwarf was part of a band of adventurers that had found a map to a burial site in a region legendary for treasure-laden tombs (think Valley of the Kings). Deciding to follow-up they were delighted to find the map authentic and overjoyed that the doors were sealed and the tomb un-despoiled (meaning they'd have first crack at despoiling it themselves).

      Unfortunately, they encountered a bunch of skeletons and took a number of casualties before being forced to retreat.

      Tully went to the nearest large town to hire a cleric and a new magic-user (their last mage being slain). That fit with the new PCs my players created after their last TPK. They thus set-off to rob the place. The adventure is what they'll have at the site (assuming they survive to tell the tale).

      Regardless, once they're done with the tomb, they'll still be in need of MORE money and will have to find some other "job" to do. While they are in the midst of playing THIS adventure, I'm in the process of creating other interesting (potentially lucrative) options for them to check out, in and around the area.

      But, no. In answer to your last question, they're not there to explore the place. Nor are they on a quest or seeking to find some Lost McGuffin or defeat some Big Bad Monster. They hope the place will have loot. Which they'll use to outfit themselves, hire their own henchmen, train, etc. before the next "adventure" presents itself.

      That's how 1E AD&D works. It's a little different from other editions.
      ; )

    5. I see. Very different from what I am used to regardless of edition and of course what game I'm running or playing. I find it most curious and indeed quite fascinating.

      Thanks for clarifying JB.

    6. You're welcome. You've made me want to write a post about the differences in campaign STYLE between editions (because AD&D is so different from the others). Maybe I'll get to that next week.

  3. That is a nice little adventure! I may see if my boys want to play through it this weekend.

    1. Make sure they bring a cleric.
      ; )

      The challenges appear survivable for a party of 1st levels that don’t get too far over their heads (activating all three caryatids simultaneously, for example). Besides Tully, the party consists of two rather beefy fighters, a cleric, and a wiz...all of whom are 1st level. So far, so good.

  4. If you need some more strange 'Tombs' hit me up - I've got a weird one I'm playtesting.

    1. I *have* been following your recent posts with much interest, and I appreciate the offer.

      However, I think the PCs next adventure is going to be something a little more "in town."
      ; )

    2. Ahhh you await the glorious "Goin' Down to Scarlet Town" supplement scheduled for 2015...

      I jest. I do have a town by that name in my home game based on a line from a 19th century "expose" of frontier life:

      "A town filled with vileness, its very atmosphere impregnated with the odor of abomination; murder runs riot, drunkenness the rule, gambling a universal pastime, fighting recreation."

      It feels about right for my game, but I suspect not for yours.

    3. *sigh* Probably not. My kids aren't really the drunken, murdering type (unlike their father).

      Still, I'm working on what the towns look like. They ARE kind of rough frontier towns (it's post-apocalyptic Eastern Washington)...but "vile?" More like "shit-kicker heaven."