Dungeons & Dragons Online

Encounter: Five Faces of Darkness

I am customizing encounters for ye olde C2 tournament module, The Ghost Tower of Inverness, in preparation for some old-school 1st edition players.

While racking my brain for a new challenge for the southwest tower, I encountered a peculiar emotional intelligence test as part of a job application: faces were shown on a screen to be matched with one of twelve emotional states. Well, well, decapitate some NPC's, add some magic mouths, and away we go…except that Quintessons and the FIVE FACES OF DARKNESS from the Transformers cartoons naturally came to my mind.

The 10' high and 10' wide corridor becomes a dead-end, and a huge skull (face of Death) fills the entire wall. When approached, it simply asks, "Guilty or Innocent?" and awaits a reply. (My players will instantly know what the skull is, as soon as the question is asked) If answered, its mouth opens, and PC's may enter (c.f., module S1 Tomb of Horrors, but not so cruel). Rather than answering Death's question, the characters may request a different face or a specific face, which also then asks, "Guilty or Innocent?" The reason for this same question asked by five different faces is that this is an Endless Quest, and each face, based on the answer, sends PC's on a path to one of four places or one of four "deaths." This is a terrible idea for running C2 as a 3-hour game session (so stated in the module, so it must be true), but this rabbit hole beckoned.

Face 1 Death

Guilty: randomly go to Death 1-4

Innocent: randomly go to Death 1-4

Face 2 Wrath

Guilty: go to Death 1 (digestive system) leading back to Start

Innocent: gust of wind 50’ tunnel leading to the Washington, DC Metro Station Gallery Place (curiously, my players all lived and/or worked in DC at some point in their lives)

Face 3 War

Guilty: infinite hallway leading to the boardgame Tsuro (my players love boardgames)

Innocent: go to Death 2 (throne room) leading to Start/Mine Shaft/Walls of Eryx/Metro Station

Face 4 Wisdom

Guilty: go to Death 3 (disappearing stairs) leading back to Start

Innocent: rotating/spinning 20’ tunnel leading to the Mine Shaft

Face 5 Doubt

Guilty: 70’ corridor with an easily navigable 8’ wide pit in the middle, and beyond the pit the corridor leads to the Walls of Eryx. The pit is 100' deep, with continual darkness, silence, and feather fall after 50' down. If the PC's point or throw down the pit a light source that illuminates farther than 50' (a torch will provide light in only a 40' radius), they might notice the continual darkness. At the bottom of the pit is a passage leading to the False Ghost Tower.

Innocent: go to Death 4 (Hall of Pain) leading back to Start

Start: The PC’s are rudely deposited on the floor in front of the Quintesson, which laughs and rotates its faces, by which the PC’s now know there are five faces to…face. I am reminded of the Apple II game, Chivalry: “Back so soon? Most fools only pass here once.”

The deaths aren't actually all that bad, but the PC's may visit several of them, and the pre-generated characters (whom I buffed to Lvl 9 Ranger/Lvl 9 Monk/Lvl 9 Cleric/Lvl 10 Magic-User) in the C2 module are intentionally and woefully under-equipped, especially in light of my other changes to the module.

Death 1 Digestive System (c.f., the body of Moander in SSI's Pools of Darkness)

This one-way 100’ passage is a 7’ diameter twisting, pulsing tube with flesh-like and irregular surfaces, and the PC’s movement rate is halved (the 9th level monk can still dash across in a single round). Rather than treating this as swallowed by a purple worm, it is only disgusting and acidic (d4+1 damage per full round in the place, so stop moving so slowly!). Due to the twists and turns, the PC’s cannot see the exit from the starting vantage point, even if their light source could reach the full 100’. Infravision, which the human PC’s don’t have, does not work well, as the organ’s temperature is equilibrated throughout; however, the PC’s body temperature is probably distinguishable. If the organ is at all damaged, the digestive system convulses (movement rate is now at one-third speed) and may throw PC's to the floor, then Flumph-like creatures (AC8 HD2) appear, and the number of them scales with the damage dealt: 2 Flumph-ish creatures and an additional one per 3 points of damage dealt to the digestive system. These creatures automatically hit anyone sprawled helplessly, otherwise they have THAC0: 18, attaching and dealing d6 acid damage each round. The attached creature can be automatically hit by bystanders. PC's do not have to fight a pitched battle but can slowly crawl/scramble to the exit of the 100’ passage, which returns them to the Start. Any attached creatures will travel with the PC’s, amusing the Quintesson.

Death 2 Throne Room (c.f., the adventure in Portown in the 1977 D&D blue book)

At the center of the room is a stone throne facing the PC's. There are four doorways in this room, but each may only be opened by rotating the throne to point at the door. The door through which the players entered now leads to the Mine Shaft, the door to the left of the players leads to the Walls of Eryx, the door across from the players leads to the Start, and the door to the right leads to the Metro Station. Before the throne is engraved, “Dare ye turn from thy fate?" The throne also has three curious slots, marked by the symbol for Earth on the left arm rest, Water on the right arm rest, and Fire on the head rest. Someone has to sit on the throne (d6 damage, per The Bard's Tale) in order to rotate the throne. If the party has either the Earth, Water, or Fire KEY of the Ghost Tower, they may instead insert one in the appropriate slot, which then opens a passage beneath the throne (c.f., Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) that leads to the False Ghost Tower. If the PC’s return to this room, their entrance is again the door that leads to the Mine Shaft.

Death 3. Disappearing Stairs (c.f., AD&D Cartoon "Quest of the Skeleton Warrior")

The PC's arrive at the base of a stairway up. As they ascend, the walls and stairs behind them begin to disappear into a void. The PC's cannot outrun them. PC’s willingly falling or running with 6" movement fall for d6 damage. Running with 9" movement results in a d6+2 fall, 12" movement results in d6+4, etc. Note that the 9th level monk cannot be hasted or slowed, and there is no nearby wall permitting a safe fall, so at a maximum speed of 23” the monk takes a ridiculous d6+10 damage (stop moving so fast!). The PC's land at the Start.

Death 4 Hall of Pain (c.f., the Gelt from SSI's Pools of Darkness)

As the PC's travel along this plain 100' corridor, they feel pain. Hateful eyes sporadically appear on the walls and ceiling and glare at them (circumvented by invisibility), or you may opt for simple heat or cold. Damage increases. Between 11-20' of the corridor, take 1 damage; 21-30' of the corridor, take 2 damage, 31-40' of the corridor, take 4 damage; farther along the corridor, take no damage (after all, this is one of the paths from the Face of Doubt). The end of the Hall of Pain leads back to the Start.

Infinite Hallway:

The PC's appear at the center point of a seemingly endless straight corridor that is actually only 1 mile long. The walls, floor, and ceiling are enchanted with continual light. As the PC’s walk, the floor is wobbly: the PC’s are actually on a magical treadmill-like floor, so their un-synchronized footsteps are moving the “treadmill” erratically. If some PC’s leave the rest of the group standing around, the group is imperceptibly (yes, as in, no Perception checks) pushed in the opposite direction, while the walking PC’s are effectively stationary. Dropping something on the floor will not help, either, as it, too, will recede in the distance, as if the party is actually moving. However, if the walking PC’s travel far enough (1/2 mile, walking about 15-20 minutes) to push the rest of the party to one end of the hallway, then they may deduce it’s a treadmill. If any PC’s walk in opposite directions, the floor buckles and there could be a squeak or grinding sound. Casting continual darkness or a successful dispel magic against an 18th level magic-user (the 10th level magic user PC has 50-(2x(18-10)) = 34% chance of success) on a surface (like the wall) will darken one section and mark that the party is, to reverse an expression, "moving without traveling." Flying or hopping along will allow actual progress toward either end of the hall – which is also a wall with continual light, which is why it looked like an endless hallway. Pushing on the wall at either end of the corridor rotates it and leads to the Tsuro boardgame.

Rotating Tunnel:

Most of this 20’ passage is a rotating tunnel like a carnival fun ride, a rolling barrel through which the PC's must clamber to the other side, which leads to the Mine Shaft. If the PC's come to the rotating tunnel a second time, they discover it is spinning faster and will even reverse direction, like an agitating washing machine. They suffer d3 damage while traversing the tunnel and slamming into the sides, 2d3 if they return a third time, etc.

Walls of Eryx: (c.f., H.P. Lovecraft's story, “The Walls of Eryx”)

This is a maze of invisible walls. There are four exits from the maze: a 15 x 15 grid (150' x 150') with 5 Gelatinous Cubes scattered throughout and an additional 4 Gelatinous Cubes completely occupying a 20' x 20' corner. The western way leads back to the Start, the southern way leads back to the Start, the eastern way leads to the END, and the northern way leads to the Metro Station. When the PC’s first visit Eryx, they arrive in the west. They arrive randomly in any of the four doorways in subsequent visits. The Walls of Eryx is probably the easiest way to reach the END: there’s a 25% chance by blindly guessing, and a better chance if the maze is mapped such that one can determine which exits have already been tried. The PC’s may use a wall of fog or sufficient smoke to billow through the maze, revealing the walls and Gelatinous Cubes.

Mine Shaft: the mostly unremarkable mine shaft has three levels: Level 1 has mining carts, and rolling along the tracks in one will lead to the Metro Station, where the cart disappears (it is not a roller coaster, despite my prior reference to the AD&D cartoon). Level 2 has a chute or sluice that deposits PC’s back to the Start. Level 3 has a zip-line-like thing with buckets that leads to the Tsuro boardgame.

Metro Station: The PC’s are dumped in the Gallery Place metro station of the Washington, DC metro, where the Red Line connects to the Yellow Line and Green Line. Although without railcars, these can be real, abandoned metro stops or just a curious set of tunnels, although much shorter than the actual distances of the metro. At the far end of each line is an exit:

green/yellow Greenbelt -> Start

green Branch Ave -> Mine Shaft

yellow Huntington -> Start

orange Vienna –> False Ghost Tower

orange New Carrolton -> Eryx

blue Franconia-Springfield -> Start

blue/silver Largo Town Center -> Start

silver Wiehle-Reston -> END

red Shady Grove –> Zombies!

red Glenmont –> Zombies!

There are wandering monsters here – packs of 3d8 Zombies. Yes, Ogrillons look rather Morlock-y, but the Zombies give the pre-generated 9th level cleric in the module a chance to turn/disrupt d6+6 Zombies at a time (very gratifying for the player). I can justify the Zombies as those drained ages ago by the Soul Gem, the treasure of the Ghost Tower of Inverness. The Zombies also get to moan “Lashtop” (Last Stop – yes, very Hodor-ish). The Zombie hordes at the ends of the Red Line are effectively endless. You may decide to increase the frequency of wandering packs of Zombies, if the PC’s disturb the Zombies at either end of the Red Line (Glenmont or Shady Grove).

Tsuro: There are a maximum of 48 exits on a Tsuro board, 12 on each of 4 sides. On each side, the 12 exits include: 5 to Start, 1 to END, 2 to Walls of Eryx, 2 to Mine Shaft, 2 to Metro Station. Assign the exits to the board, then either use a pre-set board or use a single pre-determined starting piece. I put it in the bottom-right corner, and none of its four exits off the board from this starting piece should go to the END. Hand the players a board piece (it slowly spins in front of the PC’s to be placed on a holographic map also floating in front of them), and then another board piece after they’ve moved to the paths created by placing a board piece. Note that they can backtrack, if they like. If the PC’s return to the Tsuro board, they will randomly appear on any exit that is connected to a path. This may include exits that are actually inaccessible to the path the PC’s were previously using, and such exits may actually lead to the END. This can become an elaborate waste of time, but you can designate some additional goal (e.g., they're actually playing Tsuro solitaire, or they're just trying to connect all twelve exits on one side of the board via paths, thereby making those twelve exits now all lead to the END).

False Ghost Tower: This is like a bonus level for a chance to give the PC’s a preview of the actual four levels of the Ghost Tower, albeit depopulated of monsters. Level 1 (Air) has an exit to the Start and a pathway up to Level 2. Level 2 (now Fire, in my edited version) has an exit to the Start and a rude trick to reach Level 3. Level 3 (now Water) has an exit to the END and an exit to reach Level 4. Level 4 (now Earth) has an exit to the Start (which would normally go to the Soul Gem chamber).

END: The Air KEY hovers in the center of a small circular room, and the entrance to this room is also the exit to the Start

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