Ruins of Ayuttha
Dungeons, Vampires, and probably death:
My first combat-orientated creation, the Ruins of Ayuttha is really all about smashing things and avoiding reciprocation. The party had advanced to second level after dealing with the abducted street children of Black Mesa. I was pleasantly surprised by the difficulty of the combat; nobody died, but folk hit the floor on a couple of occasions. Regardless of the rated Pathfinder challenge rating, my players normally destroy their opponents with ease.
The ruins proper are home to a makeshift but bustling town. Canopies are trussed across crumbling stone pillars to provide shelter, but a few wooden buildings have been thrown up in haste. On a reasonable Perception or Heal roll (DC12), one might notice that some of the locals seem overly tired; bags hang under listless eyes on pallid faces.
If there’s a momentary lull, the local dentist/barber/undertaker will approach and offer his funeral services in advance. An adventurer could spent a little on some simple epitaph: ‘She laughed in the face of death’, or ‘He shrieked louder than the banshee who plucked out his heart’. Something a bit dearer might read ‘We’ll never know how many lives he saved’. A Lucky heather peddler wanders around flogging her charms.
A few well-placed NPCs can really deliver the feeling of a place – in this case a frontier town where many more enter than leave.
The main ruin mapped out is an abandoned mining complex, and while once home to a dwarf-like race called the Tzerner, it hasn’t been entered in a millenium. During the process of delving deeper into the earth, the Tzerner discovered a dimensional portal. All manner of unnatural monsters poured into the prospectors’ home, and seeing the writing on the wall, the overseers barred and blew the entrances. The entombed survivors held a last stand in the dining hall, but their simple tools were no match for the horrors they faced.
What the locals say:
Nobody knows who once inhabited the area, but the recent discovery of a treasure cache has attracted every adventurer for miles around. Merchants were quick to capitalise, and the camp popped up almost overnight. A steady stream of swashbuckling fortune-hunters arrive each day, before stocking up and heading out into the vestiges of an ancient empire.
Residents of Black Mesa or another town would probably have mentioned the ruins, if only out of surprise that would-be adventurers are anywhere else. If that proves too subtle, have a merchant request a collection of artefacts.
If the group arrive late, they might opt to stay the night in a hurriedly-construction inn (The Champion’s Sally). Roll a d6 to select a random party member, then have them deal with a vampiric intruder.
Perhaps the group fancies exploring the outlying ruins; let them wander the hills and discover an entrance concealed by shrubs.
For a few gold or a lot of ale, a local sot could be willing to lead the party to an ‘undiscovered treasure-trove’. This is what I used; the drunk led the way, pointed to the bushes, and promptly fell asleep.
The stone entrance is half-buried in earth and brush, indicating that it’s not been touched for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Thankfully the doors open inwards, so with some persistent force and a good amount of knife-work around the edges, they give way. The air is damp and stale, but one could easily crawl through into the darkness.
1) Entrance hall.
2) Main corridor.
3) The fallen adventurer.
4) Luxurious quarters.
5) Collapsed room.
6) The dormitory.
8) Dining room.
10) Mine nexus.
11) The vault.
12) Smelting chamber.
13) Dividing pool.
14) Shimmering portal.
A large, open, and barren room; two large fireplaces penetrate opposing walls, though they are packed with roots and detritus. Rotten piles of wood are surrounded by stone benches in each of the four corners. Tidemarks low on the wall and a layer of silt across the floor hint at flooding over the years. Large stone double doors in the middle of the far wall are secured by a substantial metal bar; it appears to have been affixed in a slipshod manner.
The doors can be pulled open after removing the bar, groaning and grinding against the floor in abject protest. DC13 Perception check to notice faded brown hand prints on the rear of the entrance.
A long open corridor stretches into the distance; open doorways run the length of each wall. The ceilings are about 14 feet high, and adorned with several iron chandeliers bearing an array of thick tallow candles.
Amongst the murk of the far end stands a powerful-looking hound. Delicate wisps of flame dance across its back, and ruby-red eyes smoulder with rage; smoke sinks slowly from its maw and pools on the floor. A second trots around and stands beside its companion, before breaking into a sprint towards the party – leaping from wall to floor with impressive bounds.
These are intelligent pack animals, not simple creatures. They will not charge into braced weapons, but move around and focus on the most immediate threat.
The fallen adventurer:
Aside from an assortment of pottery and hessian bags, the room is mostly bare. A ray of moon/sunlight shines through a collapsed opening in the ceiling, illuminating the crumpled form of a man. He gestures weakly with one hand, and murmurs something too faintly to hear clearly. Dressed in typical adventurer’s garb, the unfortunate fellow’s left leg seems bent at a most deviant angle.
If the players advance cautiously or look around in-depth, have a Perception roll; DC18 to notice a dark form and large cobwebs spanning the upper roof members, and DC22 to notice that the man’s abdomen appears to be undulating. Should the players spot the danger above, then the two giant spiders do not get a surprise attack round.
The male spider is well camouflaged, and therefore impossible to see until choosing to move. The size of a large dog, he runs down the wall for a direct attack. The cow-sized female will prefer to open with an incapacitating ranged web attack, before dropping to the floor with a thud. The fallen man’s stomach will burst open as combat unfolds; accompanied by a final agonised scream, thousands of tiny spiders swarm out towards the nearest player.
The adventurer’s bag contained hemp rope, rations, a silver ring, acid flask, two antitoxins, and a set of torches. The spiders’ venom could be harvested.
This was a tough fight. The spider swarm really ruined the fighter’s day, and the ranged web attack put the cleric out of action for a couple of rounds. Normally I’d feel bad, but they had the option to flee…
Tapestries and vast oil paintings hang from the walls, and a thick fur rug sits proudly in the centre of the floor. Carved wooden chairs surround a long table, and a rack stands in a far corner. The three adjacent smaller rooms hold only beds and empty wardrobes. DC13 Perception to notice that one of the smaller paintings is slanted, and DC15 Disable Device to breach the safe it conceals. Safe crackers would find a garnet pendant and pouch of silver pieces, but art connoisseurs would realise that the painting are worth a fortune..
The doorway is completely packed with earth, which spills out in the corridor.
Rows of low stone platforms fill the room, each with a trunk at one end. Blankets are spready about the room in a disorderly fashion. If the storage trunks are all searched, then players will find mainly simple clothing and personal effects. A couple of diaries could be read with an appropriate spell such as Comprehend Languages; one is full of poetry, another is a personal financial ledger. If there are any dwarves in the party, they might realise that the language is familiar, but not comprehensible.
Twelve sarcophagi fill the room in a neat grid, with dozens more recessed into the walls. Small bowls of black powder lie in each corner of the room, but it is otherwise featureless. Upon entry, four of the stone lids will crack and break apart, as fists and swords force their way through. The emerging skeletal forms are entwined with thin black tendrils, woven through every bone; these seem to crackle with elemental energy.
Each of the tombs contains a small wooden figurine, with hands covering their faces. The skeletons held ornate curved silver swords, which can also be found in the undisturbed graves.
These are not undead, but outsiders making use of the remains. That will obviously have an impact on anyone channelling positive energy or the like.
At the bottom of the steps lays a spacious hall, with three rows of pillars keeping the ceiling at bay. Two large firepits are surrounded by numerous tables and benches, many of which lay on their side in a circle. This crude barrier is littered with pickaxes and spades, and tableware lies strewn about the room. In the north-west corner are four neat piles of bones, most likely humanoid given their size. A doorway leads south, and there is a collapsed tunnel entrance to the west.
The bone piles edge forward like limpets – femurs, skulls, tibias, and fibias roll across the surface of congealed black masses.
This fight isn’t too difficult if the players spread out or are ranged-heavy; my group were mostly melee, and huddled together. As the amalgamations die and absorb into one another (see stat cards), they become a bit more of a pain in the ass.
Two blocked chimneys are set into the south wall, alongside a row of shelves and cupboards. Whatever foodstuffs were present have long since turned to dust, but a few suspect jars of cloudy liquid remain intact. Along with the expected utensils and unusual apparatus, one of the large cupboards contains the huddled remains of a woman – a finely-crafted masterwork dagger still clutched in one hand.
A large excavated area with several tunnels to the north and west, open doorway to the east, and circular stone door to the south. The floor of the cavern is covered with a network of cart tracks linking the tunnels to the southern and eastern rooms. Mining equipment appears hastily discarded across the room.
The most NE tunnel seems to have been another entrance to the complex, but it is completely caved in. An examination of the rubble reveal char marks from an explosion, suggesting a deliberate collapse.
The circular door bears eight iron handles, each capable of being placed in any one of six positions. A skilled rogue might be able to crack the combination with a DC20 Disable Device check, whilst others might need to be more creative in their methods. A successful group will hear a distant rumbling as ancient counterweights pull the door aside, revealing a glinting assortment of slender metal bars, and uncut gemstones.
I gave the group gold and silver bars worth 800gp, and valued the uncut gems at 500gp; there was also plenty of bronze and iron available.
This room houses four forges paired with bellows, and a vast coke store. A few picks and crude weapons sit on racks along the wall, but the bulk of the work appears to have been ore refinement.
Descending down a gentle slope, the north tunnel from the main nexus ends in a small chamber; an exposed geode in the ceiling shines brightly in reaction to any artificial light, and illuminates the room. A pool of green ooze divides into two as the party approaches, and one launches itself at a random party member.
The largest and longest tunnel holds the faint odour of sulphur, which only gets stronger as the group advances. A section of rock has disintegrated, exposing a rippling black wall some 20 feet across. The surface is broken when a grey, lifeless form drifts through – its feet gliding over the ground. While strikingly dwarven in appearance, the body is at least foot taller – much closer to the height of a man.
A mass of tentacles pour out from the spine of the cadaver, both supporting the creature as it advances, and lancing menacingly at anyone in range.
The only loot here is a sheathed longsword on the dwarfesque corpse. The blade is matte black, and anyone of good alignment wielding the blade will hear disturbing whispers in the back of their mind. +1 magic longsword.
The real pain comes from the ranged grappling; there are four offensive tentacles, so grapple/constrict won’t tie up all of the monster’s offensive might. One of my chaps decided to leap into the black portal in the middle of the fight, and nobody was willing to use the black weapon.
A vampiric embrace:
Perception against Stealth (+9). If they fail, that member wakes feeling like they haven’t slept, and recovers no hitpoints. Success allows the player to awaken and see a young girl at the side of the bed; the girl will use charm person to try and put the adventurer back to sleep. Further resistance leads to combat, and a hasty retreat if hitpoints get low; the vampire escapes by transforming into smoke and pouring out of a window.
In the unlikely event that the players follow the smoke, it could lead to the concealed entrance of an underground crypt. Fill it with a few unfortunate adventurers as thralls, and release the rejuvenated girl from a stone coffin. The thrall’s weapons are coated in dead-man’s blood (drow poison) for added fun.
Players will most likely want to head back to Black Mesa after this, but if they’re still prowling the hills for combat, there’s no reason they couldn’t run into some ghouls, or other classic opponents. My lot had it handed to them, so they were pretty keen to rest and recuperate.