This dungeon is very much inspired by Perdition and by Planescape. I really like the idea of the soul as eternal. I like the idea of death as an end and a beginning. I like the idea of each life serving as a specific test within the recurring drama of the soul. But beyond all that, I also just like the idea of this hellscape as a place to position a dungeon so that you don't have to worry about stuff like logical congruity. Thanks to Slade Stolar for emailing with me and reminding me about a thing called "balance" that some of you value.
I ran a session using this one-pager last night and will write an AP soon. My group went with "The Confederation is looking for us" and ended up needing to cross the desert to find a Rebel base, with the help of the Jawas and with Tuskan Raiders barring the way. It was a lot of fun, but ended up having much more of an epic Star Wars tone, less gritty western.
I wrote this without a specific front in mind. These monks are not, like most ascetics, seeking a life without temptation. This doctrine believes that only through overcoming evil will you be saved. In the midst of the frozen steppe, long ago a great summoning circle was etched in stone. It maintains a tenuous connection to the hells, enough to heat the hot spring and for evil whispers to come through. The monks bathe in the evil spring, to overcome temptation. The weak are flayed so that their souls might find peace. Who knows what the evil whispers say to the monks while you are visiting, or perhaps they view the party as a means to test their faith.
Thanks to Dyson Logos for the map. I was originally inspired by Yoon-Suin and Valley of Five Fires but I wanted to explore the part of the Steppe that was closer to Russia. I watched Alexander Nevsky and read about Khlysts. Thanks also to those of you I spoke to on Google+, especially Joseph Manola for sharing his post Religions of the Great Road and for Boris Stremlin for sharing a some Russian inspired RPG material. Also art is public domain, the bottom piece is by Ivan Bilibin.
- The meteor that landed in the bay either released or mutated some worms, that have infected the sea-life and some humans. This could play out like the X-Files movie where they are trying to secretly infect everyone, or could just make them into zombies, or could mutate them. I would probably run it like zombies or mutants if it was a one-shot, and secret infection if you wanted to center that threat. The scale of the infestation is up to you as well, maybe the worms can't actually replicate so will fester out on their own or maybe it will slowly end the world. Whatever.
- The tower contains the evil chest that will turn your party into chaos cultists. My players love being chaotic evil and love chaos mutations so they would be into this, but maybe your players are likewise oriented. If you want to give them fair warnings you can let them hear the story of how the woods became evil, maybe it is known in town. Also, the corrupted priest on the road might give them a glimpse of what they could become if the gaze upon the chest.
- The changelings are barely a threat. They are just curious about the world and are learning from the human children. I mean, I guess you could make them more of a threat by having the human children be replaced by changelings or something. Damn that actually sounds fun, I should've written that into the actual one-pager. Anyways, maybe you can get one of them to become your talking familiar or maybe their livers, when dried, can be made into shape-changing elixirs. Play and find out.
Last session I offered my players three paths out of the Flatstone Fortress. One was to an abandoned cave, so I wanted to go ahead and prep in case they decide to go there next session. There is a bounty for the Calytaur, so the players are aware that they are in the region, but not that they are using the cave.