THIS IS PART OF A COLLECTION OF IDEAS FOR BUILDING OUT A LESS-THAN-COMMON ADVENTURE WHERE YOU CAN PUT YOUR OWN DUNGEON OR NPCS–THINGS THAT TEST THE PLAYERS AND PC’S ABILITY TO THINK DIFFERENTLY.
What Is It?
I wanted to work on unconventional dungeons and adventures with the new 5E being out and there being such a drought of modules or real deep setting books out about the new system. That’ll change, as I’m sure WoTC wants to sell some books, so it’s a free for all out there with no wrong ideas (yet).
To that end, I had a notion the other day about the rarity of halfling or gnomish (small playable races) roles as anything other than supporting cast or characters in the story of a Medium sized thing. I rarely see a halfling leading the party, even if he’s the high Charisma character. I never see a gnomish “conqueror”.
One can say “it’s not in them”, but practically speaking they had to have had their own Hitlers and Genghis Khans and Napoleons, right?
So, a dungeon made for smallfolk–which would be especially troubling for Medium creatures (PC’s) and doubly so for the non-intuitive nature of dealing with halfling threats to life and limb.
Maybe something like a halfling “Vlad Dracul” situation. A warrior. A noble. If not liked by his people, centuries ago when he lived, then at least respected and feared. It was Durgan the Great that made the Dwarves run back to their mountains after crushing them in the Night Raid. It was Durgan the Feared that cleansed the land of goblin scum and Orcish hordes. It was Durgan the Terrible that shackled dark mages and cruel monstrosities in a dark cavern on the coast and tortured them for information and secrets and perhaps pleasure. It was Durgan the Horror that was ultimately killed by his own people and pledged warlords from a dozen valleys after he was rumored to be feasting on his enemies and making pacts with dark forces better left alone.
And, out of peasant fear and prudence, he was burned, boiled, dismembered, hung, stabbed, shot with arrows, and stored in 4 seperate casks of holy water and then sealed in a tomb then buried and never mentioned of again by the halflings of WhateverPlace.
Flash forward centuries. He survives. Halfling vampire/wizard (Divination). He takes decades and decades to regain his body and strength–the bonds that seal the tomb, however, are just too strong and for all his martial and tactical and arcane ability, sometimes you still can’t move mountains. So, he nurtures his creatures. Turns his prison into a sunken palace and place of power from which he will one day break out and destroy every bastard responsible (and their descendants, more likely).
Whatever the story, the whole thing fails if its just a comical take… selling the realism is tough–but I don’t think impossible. I think much hinges on whether the NPC’s act as though kids television characters or serious “Tyrion Lannister” sorts. I think one has to get serious and brutal quickly.
What Might the Gimmick Be?
So, fluff aside, I’m thinking of a good, classy dungeon/tomb. But the conceits are two-fold:
- You have a mid-level and plainly immortal halfling sociopath with heavy Divination influences (for “knowing” stuff as the adventure goes on, about the PCs). Not funny. Not a joke. Genuinely interested in the eradication of many, many, many people. Revenge.
- All the halls and doorways are designed with small creatures in mind. The halls are maybe 6 feet high, 5 feet wide. Close for a small creature–but they’d be able to run and jump and swing a sword and whatnot just fine (imagine it being 9 feet by 7, as a regular sized person); tight for a medium creature, no overhand sword swinging, no side swings, really just thrust and parry. Hallways might well offer a disadvantage to melee. Doorways are smaller, 4 1/2 or so. Narrow. The Squeeze manuever from the book would get a lot of use. One simply can’t (as a medium creature) “run out the door” or “run into a room”. It’s challenging.
- Those players that delighted in being Thor… the ones that insisted they were 6’6″ in armor and all… movement penalties for hunching, maybe exhaustion as it goes on for hours and hours.
- Monsters are swarms and small creatures. It’s an excuse to breakout small, but high CR creatures. And where there aren’t many, maybe invent some. You can HAVE a demon be the small, dinky CR1 version; but these are highly outsidery sorts of creatures and there’s naught to say that a truly powerful arcane demon thing can’t be the size of a damn shoebox as it’s from a place where that might be huge. Really play on the “size doesn’t matter” aspect. A smallish or tiny stone creature stomping toward them might be regarded as a “little stone golem” and not taken seriously–but if the thing is made of an adamantine-like rock (all the stats of a regular stone golem, but just small), then its a small juggernaut stomping towards them and simply an evenly paced, slow, unavoidable coming horror that blasting and arrows and dropping shit on doesn’t seem to stop.
- It allows a new way to push on unconventional spells from the book. We have a highly unconventional antagonist that doesn’t care a whit about the lives of the PCs and in truth would rather just subjugate them for his cause and continue plotting his vengeance. I’d take the whole book of “damage” spells from evocation, all the conjuring and abjuration perhaps… toss ’em. Have this guy (and, possibly, his minion mage/warriors) lean on Transmutation and Divination. See how offensive they can be. Rattle the party up as he turns the ground beneath them, upon running at him in some room (first encounter with him in the tomb), into mud, the floor being normal stone, but over a pit they now fall muddily into. Or close them in with magical stone blocks in those tiny hallways to worry about air and getting out. Make them fear and respect more than just Elves and Human Wizards with Blasty Spells and Ice and Fire.
Big, thick spellbook of Div and Tra spells (yay wizard), vampirism for someone (maybe), maybe some Transmuter Stones (but with permanent effect on them, so long as they’re carried). Etc.
But a long, dark, narrow, horrifically difficult dungeon built for Small things would be interesting.