I haven’t used this blog in a while and what I’ve been working on recently has been stuff about my foray into being a DM. Some of that is reusable, so I might as well share it.
Warning: If you live in the Bay Area or may soon do so, and think you may play in an RPG campaign I run, please do not read this.
I have begun running the one-shot adventure Entombed with the Pharaohs, made by Paizo for their Pathfinder setting, though with D&D 3.5 rules. I got about halfway through, just up to the pyramid itself, and my party had managed to keep the competing adventuring group (Her Infernal Majestrix’s Expeditionary) well behind them. So the dungeon-crawl segment is looking a little sparse on the interesting choices.
Here’s an abstracted map of the Veinstone Pyramid (ignore the orange bits for the moment):
This has a few twists to it, but fundamentally this is a pretty linear map. The party comes in through the 1-3 segment, might miss 4 or 5 but probably won’t, and then have three linear paths available, with two that can connect if an obstacle is circumvented in an unusual way.
To make it matter more what path the players take, I’m adding two secret connections.
First, in area 4, the Chamber of Hieroglyphs. If the hieroglyphs on the raised floor (subarea 4C) are deciphered, they say:
Beware, intruder! The Four Great Ones have marked their goods with these, their symbols, from the sky Above to the flood Below, and should you cast greedy eyes upon them, the curse of undeath that their runes mark out shall render you their guardian.
If a character is fluent in Ancient Osiriani or succeeds a Decipher Script check by 5 or more, they note that “above” and “below” are subtly emphasized. Speaking the word for “below” in Ancient Osiriani while touching the hieroglyph for it causes hieroglyphs to light up in a shape outlining a secret door. This can also be found with a DC 25 Search check. Opening the secret door, once it’s found, requires a DC 25 Disable Device check, but if the trigger condition is met this drops to DC 15.
Once opened, it reveals a shortcut down to the Cerulean Pharaoh (area 8):
The floor tile slides north to reveal a narrow tunnel, chimney-shaped, which runs from this platform down to another room. You can see a sarcophagus on a platform below, with a golden glint lighting it. The tunnel has pitons studding it, but if there was a rope it rotted away decades ago.
This tunnel takes a Climb check, DC 10, to traverse, up or down. It ends 20 feet above the platform, however; without the rope that fall may be painful. From below, allow a DC 15 Spot check to notice a patch of ceiling looks slightly off, and Will DC 19 to disbelieve the illusion, revealing the tunnel.
The second change is between area 3 and area 5. Specifically, place this on the east wall on the landing east of room 5, at the top of the stairs.
There is a sealed stone door here, with no outward indication that it exists. DC 25 Search to find it, and absent stonecunning or the elven free ‘detect secret doors’ attempt, it requires specific search to find. Opening it, once found, requires a DC 20 Strength check or bludgeoning it down (Hardness 8, 30 hp). If the party does so, read this:
Behind the sealed door is a short ramp. At the top of this is a large mechanism that seems to be supporting a stone floor 30 feet above. Another piece threads into a wall to one side.
This is the mechanism that controls the floor trap in area 10. A Disable Device DC XX check removes the ability for the floors to move, but not the wall of force. However, working with the device is noisy; unless the character attempting to disable it says they try to be quiet, Ankana hears them if she beats DC 11. If they try to be quiet, Ankana fails her DC 21 check automatically.
The party may also attempt to manipulate the device to open a way to the room above. If they do, any attempts to be quiet will be opposed rolls against Ankana’s Listen, while she gets -10 due to the obstacles. The wall of force extends to the floor, except for a cut-out part which stops just above the mechanism; this can be squeezed through with Escape Artist but if the floors are moving that will probably hurt.
One final change, not a Jaquaying: The Cerulean Pharaoh. In what I suspect was an effort to make the module not just “fight four different mummies”, they have Anok Fero guarded by his mummified cohort, a blue dragon, while his own body is a nonmagical preserved corpse. Sounds good so far. However, the module as written says that, for the purposes of counting the four pharaohs as ‘defeated’, evading the dragon mummy and looting the sarcophagus counts. This does not make in-world sense. So add this:
Anok Fero’s sarcophagus is protected by a powerful arcane lock, and cannot be opened without a DC 35 Strength check. Inspecting the lid reveals this inscription, spoken in the reader’s native language by a permanent phantasm:
I am gone from this place but I guarded it well.
If you take I shall smite you, by claw and by spell.
When the time comes to raise me my servant’s the key,
But if greed overcomes you, then you will serve me.
This hints at the way to disable the arcane lock: touch a claw, tooth, or eye from the dragon Tukanem-Hanam to the lid, and the lock will be permanently removed and replaced with a levitation spell. Permanently removing the arcane lock by any means (knock removes it for 10 minutes only) ‘defeats’ Anok Fero.