Dungeon Days: The Black Dragon’s Lair

After reworking the haunted manor, I had just enough time between sessions to whip up the dragon’s lair it connected to before my group found their way to the mural in the furnace.  Sorry the map is a little messier this time; I’ll admit to cutting corners and freshening up the original map I drew instead of using the old one as a reference for a new copy.  To sweeten the deal a little, I’ve included a print-out-and-cut-up puzzle component.  Once again, 5th Edition D&D terms are included here, but feel free to change, convert, or ignore them as you see fit.

This is the subterranean lair of Nakryativatka, the rare sort of black dragon that prefers trickery and traps to direct confrontation, and her kobold servants. All rooms are pitch dark and hollowed out from marsh clay unless otherwise noted.

1 square = 5 feet, as usual. Click through for full-size.

1. The entrance, and the twisting passage that follows, are flooded with three feet of standing water (difficult terrain), so wee folk like halflings will have to ride piggyback. The passage is pocked with underwater pits full of sharpened stakes (DC 12 Dex save to avoid 1d4 piercing + risk of infection); unless the characters can see through brackish, tannin-filled water, they’re unlikely to see the stakes before stepping into them.

1a. A thick curtain of roots and hanging mosses reaches down to the water’s surface. These have been coated in an itching/stinging powder; those moving through must make DC 15 Con saves or be distracted by burning eyes and itching scalps, taking a -2 penalty to concentration checks and Perception checks for ten minutes. Rolling a 1 on this save means the character got the stinging stuff in their eyes and is blinded for a minute. A darkmantle roosts just past the curtain of roots and moss, waiting to ambush the first person who emerges.

1b. The ceiling of the tunnel slopes downward until it is only two and a half feet above water level at the end of this area. The water past the chokepoint in the tunnel has a thin sheen of violet slime growing on its surface (successful Knowledge check identifies). The slime looks like a brightly iridescent oil slick (but parties traveling without a light source will not notice the iridescence). The slime is inert until it dries on the clothes or skin, at which point it becomes a hellacious acid that burns away organic material for 2d6 acid damage per round for three rounds or until washed off. Past the slime, a wooden landing overlooks area 2; most of its support pylons have been eaten away and replaced again and again. A T-bar handle hangs just past the far edge of the landing; anyone who manages to grab ahold of it sets off jangling bells that alerts the kobolds in area 2. Additionally, the last five feet of the landing are rigged to collapse into the pit if a creature weighing more than a hundred pounds steps on it (or, the kobolds hope, attempts to leap to the zipline).

2. The wooden landing looks out into a forty-foot plummet into a pit full of standing water. The walls of the chamber are home to a barnacle town of kobolds, who have constructed a system of ziplines, bridges, and ladders between dozens of shanty houses. Some candle-sized lights twinkle from within kobold dwellings. Kobolds on ziplines harry the PCs with crossbow fire; a few have harpoons, with which they try to pull PCs off the landing and into the water, which is infested with zombies. If kobold dwellings start getting destroyed, a clay golem drops from the ceiling into the pit and will stomp nearby PCs or throw zombies at them if they keep their distance. The narrow passageway out of this chamber and deeper into the dungeon is protected by a set of tripwires that drop sharp portcullis-like grates. There are five grates in total that can drop, and they do not necessarily drop in order.

3. The kobold’s mushroom farm. It’s maintained by a large swarm of shiny black beetles, who flee from fire and heavy boots. 3d8 pounds of edible mushrooms can be harvested here; they’re all a little bland, but are safe to eat.

4. The entrance to this safe haven is disguised with a hallucinatory terrain spell covering some loose rocks (DC 20 to notice, advantage if a PC is keeping a hand on the left wall as they walk). Party members larger than Small must squeeze through to get in. The inside of the chamber is magically silent. The worked stone walls are covered in writing, most of it an argument between two distinct handwriting styles about how this was a terrible idea and it’s your fault that we’re stuck here. The bickering starts at the base of the walls and travels up to the apex of the rounded ceiling, where the two voices seem to reconcile. Two skeletons lie slumped at the far edges of the room. Leather and cloth have rotted into uselessness, but the skeletons carry a combined total of 47 gp and 22 sp, and some small, goofy wondrous item is present on one of them.

5. This circular chamber existed before even the dragon made its lair here; that much is clear from the ragged entrance into its perfectly smooth basalt corridors. The chamber is filled with the slow grinding of concentric stone rings. A quick escape through one of the three exits from this room is wise—so says the intuition of any party member with a modicum of Wisdom. Fell magic warps sense and space, however, and it is difficult to leave this area. Roll 1d6 when attempting to leave:

1: the character returns to area 5, covered in grievous illusory wounds and suffering a level of exhaustion,

2-4, the character returns to area 5,

5: the character emerges in area 6,

6: the character finds a quivering gold-and-blue orb suspended in the air at waist level, which, if touched, unfolds into a flumph, which silently accompanies and aids the characters until they exit the dungeon (subsequent 6’s lead to area 6).

Any characters who regularly seek out or are exposed to local superstition (such as those with the folk hero background) know that holding your breath can protect you while traveling through creepy places like this, while those who make the Knowledge check described below know that exhaling before holding the breath is the surest way to escape. Characters following this advice advance safely into area 6. The flumph can also demonstrate this tip.  A Religion or Arcana check at DC 25 will identify this chamber as a node of the Rending Void, the realm that spheres of annihilation and black blades of disaster open onto, the cosmic vacuum that darkly reflects the plane of Ever-Changing Chaos. A being of caustic ruin such as a black dragon could do far worse than to make its lair so close to a vortex such as this, but the fact that one of these nodes is open is of great concern to anyone interested in keeping the Material Plane intact.  Anyone lingering alone in the room for more than a minute sees the stone rings sink down into an event horizon. A Dexterity save or Acrobatics check to leap into a hallway will save the character from utter obliteration.

6. The tile floor of this room is stained with large amounts of old blood. Legions of needle-thin spikes cover the ceiling. The far corner of the room is lit from below with white light; hanging in the air above the light is a gold sculpture the size of a human baby. Its shape is indistinct, but dozens of toothy grins seem to be worked into it at a variety of angles and sizes. Taking the sculpture transports it and everyone within 20 feet of it to area 8. The sculpture is indeed made of solid gold (if judged by weight alone, it would be worth about 500gp). If removed from the mangrove swamp, it eats the coins or material goods of anyone carrying it (1gp of coins or goods goes missing during the first long rest, then 2gp, then 4gp, then 8gp, etc). Once all material wealth has disappeared, the sculpture will start taking chunks of flesh (1d4, then 2d4, then 4d4, then 8d4, etc). Abandoning the sculpture is fruitless, as it will find its way back; giving away or selling the sculpture begins its curse on its new owner, but if ever the sculpture is returned to someone it has preyed on before, its curse picks up where it left off.  The sculpture can be safely disposed of in area 10.

7. This hexagonal room features six stone statues of long-gone monarchs, warlords, or other fighting leaders. A pile of chipped and broken bones, weapons, and battle-standards lies in a heap on the tiled floor. When a PC enters the room, the room waits until three seconds have passed with no characters entering the room. With this trigger met, a portcullis slams down over the entrance, and the bones extricate themselves to form a band of six skeletons for each of the six monarchs. The skeletons immediately attack anything in the room that isn’t one of their five allied skeletons. If killed, each skeleton spends a round dead and then reforms. If a Channel Divinity ability is used to turn them, the skeletons collapse for one minute or until they or any of the stone statues takes damage.  Each statue has a stone tablet at its base. To deactivate the skeletons, the tablets must be arranged to spell out a command word, which must be spoken aloud.  (The tiles are included in the image at the end of this post; your players might appreciate knowing that they shouldn’t be looking for an English word).  Speaking the command word causes all the skeletons to collapse and all of the statues to slide forward five feet. Behind the westernmost statue is a greased slide to area 9, disguised with an illusion to appear as a winding set of stairs (DC 20 Insight check to disbelieve, but doesn’t hold up to poking with a stick or other physical inspection).  A DC 15 History check will provide a PC with the names of each of the statues’ likenesses: starting from the westernmost statue and working clockwise, they are the lizardfolk Tzeezh the Evershedding, the elf Lord Verdurath, the tiefling Gyrall of Hope’s Folly, the human General Latanya, the orc Olgark Toothbreaker, and the gnoll Arrakhat Seven-Stomachs.   If the check succeeds by five or more, the PC remembers that the empire of Olgark Toothbreaker (the southeast statue) collapsed when he was betrayed and assassinated by his own forces. Once the statues have slid forward, stabbing Olgark’s statue in the back will open a secret door to a ladder that leads to the catwalks above area 8.

8. Another room with a bloody tile floor. This one has a drain in the center; a DC 10 Intelligence check will conclude that the perfect lines in the floor-gore imply a pushing or dragging force. If the PCs came here as a result of teleportation from area 6, the room activates, and the walls begin to close in trash-compactor style. Roll initiative; the walls advance to their final crush position in round three, and the ceiling reaches its final crush position in round seven (at which point everyone needs to make DC 23 Strength saves to avoid 5d6 crushing damage per round, or half on a successful save). The way out is up; past the crushing portion of the ceiling is a series of catwalks. Getting around the crushing walls into the mechanism that drives them will also provide safety for about a minute, until the walls retract.

9. This cramped, tiled niche is the home and workshop of Breeshki, kobold master trapmaker, a coldly scientific mind ruled by stress and egomania (she has copper teeth and wears hand wraps and a muddy blue tunic sized for a human). Two workbenches covered in trap components take up two of the three alcoves; each is lit by a driftglobe, and one has a kobold-sized hammock slung underneath it. The last alcove is taken up by an intricate summoning circle onto which only a few trap components have spilled. When the PCs show up, Breeshki tears herself from her work long enough to furnish each PC with a clipboard, a trap feedback sheet, and a pencil. If attacked, she pushes a panic button on one of the tables, causing two clay golems to burst from the walls, then pops invisibility and hides.

10. An unworked cavern, disturbed only by the catwalks connecting it to areas 10 and 7. A glowing aquamarine pool shimmers faintly at the floor of the cavern. Before activation, it is a potent base that dissolves everything but glass (acid damage in d10s proportional to degree of contact, 20d10 for immersion). If the sculpture from area 6 is immersed, it dissolves, and the true power of the pool is unlocked. Now so much magical mineral water, the pool will convert up to two pounds of immersed gold (about 100gp worth) into as much platinum (multiplying its value by ten). If the water is consumed, transformative magic works upon the body; roll on the reincarnation table to determine the drinker’s new form. Immersing gems into the pool dissolves them and shapes the pool’s magic into something resembling sentience; the pool will truthfully answer one yes-or-no question per 100gp worth of gems, as a commune spell (maximum 5 questions; no gems dissolved beyond 500gp in value).

11. The slide from area 8 bottoms out into a ten-foot pit full of jagged spikes, which are periodically repaired and slicked with filth and poison by kobolds. In addition to damage suffered from falling thirty feet, the spikes impale for 5d6 and 2d6 poison.

12. A large, swampy chamber houses another kobold settlement. These kobolds serve the bidding of the dragon and manufacture tiles for Breeshki (area 11), and while their day-to-day is less combat-centric than the lives of their bretherin in area 2, they will surround and attack any intruding parties at range and from above. Searching the kobold dwellings to the south of the room might reveal a secret hatch leading to the catwalks above area 10.

13. If the kobolds in area 10 were alerted to the presence of intruders, this ceramic, tube-shaped passage to the dragon’s lair will be filled with a high rattling whirring sound. The sound is caused by beads of force spinning at incredible speeds along the inside of the tube. The utmost caution (Acrobatics checks) must be used if attempting to pass through on foot; contact with a bead of force causes it and all the other beads in the tube to explode for a total of 10d10 explosive damage (DC 20 Dex save for half damage if inside the tube or within ten feet of either exit). If the explosion occurred past the halfway point into area 14, all contents of the tube are blasted fifteen feet into area 14; otherwise, they are blasted back fifteen feet into area 10.

14. Eighty feet below the tube in area 13 lies the black dragon Nakryativatka’s chamber . Flooded with three feet of swamp muck (difficult terrain), which is continuously rehydrated by drippings from the ceiling (thirty feet above the tube in area 13) and by eight gargoyle-like fountains at fifty feet up. Putrescent carcasses of prey animals litter the area.  Inside the mouth of each fountain is a metal disc with a handle on one side and a ragged edge on the other. One of these discs is a key for the drain, which is under the muck on the far side of the chamber. Engaging the key and twisting will stop the fountains and drain the water from the area, exposing the dragon’s slime-covered hoard.  If fearful for her life, Nakryativatka flies to the ceiling of her chambers, which she tears to pieces. The waterlogged wood, held together by a gluey organic substance, falls apart under this assault, exposing the chamber to open air and providing an exit (also forcing beings down below to make Dexterity saving throws to avoid being damaged or pinned underwater by falling rubble).

The tiles in area 7.