Link to PDF HERE
I ran this one shot as a sort of tutorial island for my players at the start of our campaign, and they loved it! It introduces them to roleplay, combat, stealth and other ability checks, puzzles, and exploration. This campaign is meant for level one players (Rogue, Rogue, Cleric, and Fighter), but I believe it would be easy to modify for any level or class. This was written for Adventures in Middle Earth, which is a 5e variant which is mechanically the same except for some differences (no magic classes, a few different ability checks).
Escape from the Dungeon Aqueare
A group of four ragged prisoners is given the chance to escape their prison by a mysterious stranger. Can they use their brains, strengths, and teamwork to see daylight once again? Or will their bodies continue to rot in this dark place?
Escape from the Dungeon Aqueare is a Level One 5e One Shot that I designed as a session 1/tutorial island for my campaign of four new players.
It’s designed to be used with Adventures in Middle Earth, which is a 5e spin-off. Notably, AiME doesn’t have magic classes. However you could use regular 5e and all its classes if you wanted– at level one there aren’t really spells that would break the game.
Escape from the Dungeon Aqueare is meant to give new players a little experience with combat, role-play, puzzles, and exploration before they continue on with the campaign at large.
This one shot is self contained, with a clear beginning and end.
Story and Setting
This one-shot takes place in Isgir, a small continent on the planet Miredel. More specifically, the party finds themselves in the grand city-state of Motrite, the lavish capital of the large and powerful Amil Empire. The technology in this world is best compared to the High Middle Ages, and the culture is similar to that of ancient Mediterranean civilizations and empires like the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, and Byzantines. There used to be magic in this world aplenty, but now users are so few and far between that their existence is doubted or even unheard of by many.
Water drips and pools into putrid puddles collecting on the stone floor. The Dungeon Aqueare is a rundown and underfunded prison in Motrite. It was built long ago, and since newer, better prisons have been built, leaving Aqueare to be an oft-forgotten fortress in a more industrial, more sparsely populated neighborhood of Motrite.
Before the game starts, have your players decide why they are in prison, and for how long. Conversely, you can have them roll 4d20 to determine how many months they’ve been in for. If you choose to continue this campaign beyond the one shot, their reasons for being imprisoned may be important later. However, during the one shot itself this is not as important.
Each hex is five feet. This map consists of three levels: the sewer level (in blue), the dungeon level (in black), and the street level (in pink).
Points of interest (which will be explained on the next page) are in red numbers. Points of interest where NPC encounters are written into the plot are marked with different colored stars.
Finally, the route that Lucius describes to the party (he’ll come into play later), is marked with blue arrows.
Points of Interest
The Starting Point The one shot starts with your party crammed into separate cells in a dark, dank, and foul wing of the prison. These cells are tiny, and have water coming up to the ankles from flooding. Just outside this cell is a guard sleeping at his chair. While there are no other NPCs in the wing of cells the party is in, two prisoners are in the cell next to it. At the other end of the guard room is a closet. A DC 13 Perception roll will find iron bars that can be used as clubs in this supply closet.
The Drunk Tank A small holding cell for prisoners awaiting trial for petty crimes. In this case, the three foul-smelling prisoners seem to be drunk.
The Sewer Junction Sewage, rats, and all sorts of nasty stuff.
Cell Block D A full cell block of dangerous criminals. While they are safely behind bars, they are easy to agitate and rile up.
Prison Wing 3 The guards here are on edge, and won’t hesitate to use violence and force to protect their lives from prisoners and outside threats.
Abandoned Prison Wing A hastily painted sign hangs wearily over an ajar iron door: “Here Abides Deadly Petrys”. The inside of this wing is cold, dark, and smells of death. A DC10 Perception check will see that there are many skeletons, both rat and human, littered about the place.
Guard Latrines When nature calls…
Stairs to the Outside The only thing between the party and the outside world is a large freight door with an odd lock.
Courtroom Several guards, a magistrate, and a prisoner are in here.
The Castle Up the stairs and out of the courtroom is the keep of a small castle. Only two guards are immediately visible.
Supply Closet A successful perception or investigation check reveals buckets, cleaning supplies, guard uniforms, spare manacles, and chains.
Prison Armory Holds armor, spears, shortswords, light crossbows, and daggers.
Guard Barracks Guards who are stationed here overnight have a small cot and footlocker to keep their belongings safe.
Prison Wing 2 Crowded, and even more heavily guarded.
The Main Hallway The main hallway of this dungeon, which connects the different wings and rooms.
Solitary Confinement Cell It is heavily locked, but peering inside you can see the sleeping shell of a man.
17, 18. Sewers
Features of Various Rooms The many rooms and cells in this prison hold many secrets and items for players to find. Here are some ideas to use:
• A table covered with playing cards, coins, and personal items belonging to the guards • A closet with guard uniforms, weapons, and armor • A desk of drawers containing papers, documents, and memos related to the running of the prison • Prison cells with smuggled contraband like daggers, jewelry, paintings, and letters • A guard breakroom with food, drinks, and other personal items • Stone walls with removable torch fixtures • Guards loudly talking about how much their jobs suck, or gossiping about another guard.
Non Player Characters
Lucius Kestrilion Lucius is the first NPC that the party meets. After being thrown into a neighboring cell in their cell block, he introduces himself, and offers an escape. His one item is a lock picking set.
Playing Lucius Lucius has a sly way of speaking, often choosing to leave things unsaid and let his audience ask questions, rather than say too much and reveal his intentions or motives.
He’s someone who has been in and out of jail for most his life, and at this point finds thrill in the repetition of committing a crime, being caught, being sent to jail, and then escaping.
Lucius isn’t terribly brave, but he also isn’t a coward, he simply knows how to survive in prison. Don’t expect him to be leading the vanguard in combat. He’ll stay out of the way during role play, he’d rather not be seen in jail.
His most noticeable trait should be his mysterious manner, and how he shrouds his intentions. Even with strong rolls with Insight, Investigation, Persuasion, or Intimidation, Lucius should remain a mysterious figure who only answers questions indirectly, if at all.
Prisoners The Dungeon Aqueare has many prisoners, serving time for a multitude of reasons and lengths. In the dungeon though, they have all become ragged, dirty, and foul-smelling.
Playing Prisoners The Prisoners at the dungeon are in for a diverse amount of reasons. Try to incorporate their crimes into their personalities. How do they react to seeing the party escape? Do they try to help? Do they try to hinder? Do they get excited, or jealous, or mad?
In a fight, some of these prisoners may fight like they have nothing left to lose. Others may drop their weapons and run away once the tide begins to turn.
Loot dropped: 1d10 copper coins
Dungeon Guard The Dungeon Aqueare is staffed by a force of underpaid and overworked guards, who would love nothing more than to come to work one morning to find a smoldering pit burning where the prison once was. These guards, despite their animus towards their job, will take measures to protect themselves and their jobs. After all, they are minimally trained.
Dungeon Guards may call 1d4 additional guards to help them in dicey situations.
Playing Dungeon Guards Let yourself into the mind of an underpaid, overworked employee of any job. Is your life really worth it? What’s the harm if you take this bribe? How much do you care about whether or not the prisoners are in their cells? Let this mindset guide your role play and combat of these guards.
Loot Dropped: Small brass keys, broadswords, light crossbows, armor, 1d12 silver coins.
Senior Dungeon Guard Unlike his subordinates, the Senior Dungeon guard is well trained and well paid. Unfortunately, the prison can’t afford a whole lot of them. The Senior Dungeon Guard is unlikely to run away from a fight, and holds both prisoner and dungeon guard in similar contempt.
A Senior Dungeon Guard can call in 1d8 of Dungeon Guard support as an action.
Playing Senior Dungeon Guards Take a gung-ho attitude. Whip those guards into line, and show the prisoners who’s boss. After all, you’re the last line of defense between these scoundrels and the outside world.
Deadly Petrys (Boss) After having been locked away for decades in the darkness of the Dungeon Aqueare, Petrys has forgotten all but his name and basic instincts. He’s fiercely protective of his “territory”, an abandoned wing of the prison that he’s turned into his own. He’s survived down here by eating rats and drinking leaking sewage water. He has lost his mind.
Nowadays he roams around his cell block, swinging around the ball and chain that was meant to hold him back. Now he uses it as a weapon, ensnaring those who wander in and beating them to death.
Playing Deadly Petrys Petrys is the final bossfight of this one shot, so make it count, and don’t be afraid to make it difficult for your players. He should be completely deranged– closed off to any reasoning, bargaining, or intimidation. Once he senses someone in his lair he sees red– he will not stop until they are dead. When playing Petrys, be sure to use your most unhinged voice imaginable, yelling “How dare you come into Petrys’ home!”, “I smell youuuuuuuuuuuu!”, or “GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT”. Petrys won’t stop until every threat is dead.
Description of Deadly Petrys: • Matted, greasy hair • Dirty, overgrown fingernails • A foul stench coming from him • Wearing dirty rags of what could have only been a prison uniform • He has a look in his eyes that is very scary. There is no humanity behind them, he seems like a feral animal • His voice is cracked and hoarse • He appears to be around 50. However he looks much older than he actually is • He also stands at around 5’11. However he would be much much taller if he didn’t hunch over. • His fists, ball, and chain are covered with blood and gore.
Important Loot There are some pieces of loot in this one shot that come into importance later. When describing them, you should make them seem appetizing and enticing to the players.
Brass Keys: These keys can be dropped by guards, or found in different rooms or closets. They will come in handy later when the players need to open the final door.
Iron Keys: These can be found on key rings dropped by guards. They open various doors and cells throughout the prison. These should be a little more rare however.
Officer’s Broadsword: This is the final step in the final puzzle, so it would be tragic if the party had to go back and find one in the dungeon. While having the same stats as a standard broadsword or longsword in 5e, the Officer’s Broadsword is more ornately decorated than the swords used by lower-rank guards.
Starting the Adventure The door of your prison cellblock slams open. You can hear two guards coming in, dragging something heavy. A cell door creaks open, you hear a thud, and then it slams shut. You can hear the guards curse, then laugh quietly among each other, and then curse into the cell they just slammed shut.
“Stay in here for good this time, scumbag!”
“Don’t expect a trial next time. You’d sooner want to die in here than to face what we do to you if you get out again!”
The guards curse, laugh again, and leave, restoring the disturbed silence. All that can be heard is the dripping of water. Finally, after an eternity, you hear a new voice coming from that cell.
“Well that was fun, but I best be going. Do you all care to join?”
At this point the party may want to know his motives, or see if he’s a spy. A DC 12 Insight check will reveal that he’s leaving whether or not the party is joining.
One by one, Lucius picks the locks to each prison cell, freeing the party. This may be a good time for them to introduce themselves.
If the party presses Lucius on how they will escape, he will say that he has learned different parts of this prison from repeated sentences and from befriending different guards and prisoners. He says he has the following escape route memorized as a rhyme:
“Right through the drunks, then dunk in the sewer. Forward and forward until the full block. Left out and bare right and stop. Turn right at the empty cell block. Down through the sewers left and first right. First right again to reach the daylight”
Encounter 1 A successful perception or investigation check through the door of the cell block reveals a guard sleeping at his post. The party must find a way past him.
Encounter 2 Lucius leads the party into the holding cell for drunks, saying that there is an entrance to the sewer in the back of the cell. The drunks take notice of them and start grumbling, getting louder with their growing confusion. The party must find a way to prevent them from alerting guards.
Encounter 3 Lucius leads them into the sewer. As they descend, a swarm of rats scurries past. Each player must make a DC10 Constitution Save, or panic (you the DM can decide the consequences).
Encounter 4 The party comes up through the full cell. In order for the sleeping prisoners not to notice them coming up the party must make a DC9 Stealth check (prisoner passive perception). One failure will wake up all the prisoners, who will start screaming and banging on the cell bars. If this happens, the guards outside will hear the commotion.
Encounter 5 Unexpectedly there are two dungeon guards and one senior guard standing watch in Prison Wing 3. If they notice the party they will immediately attack.
Lucius will run off as this attack begins. A DC8 Perception check reveals that he ran out of the door and to the right.
Encounter 6 The party comes up on a door that says “Here Abides Petrys”, leading into the empty prison wing. Stepping in will trigger the boss fight.
Inside the empty wing the party immediately sees the body of Lucius, with his face smashed in. A DC15 Investigation check at any time in this room reveals that Lucius was only pretending to pick the locks– he had a master key the whole time and was using a sleight of hand to pretend he was using the lock picks.
Other things to notice in this room (DM should decide DC checks for these): • In the back of the room, against the wall, is a large sewer pipe. If the players break it (AC 10 HP 10) water will surge out of it, forcing everyone within 20 feet to make a DC14 Constitution save. • Several of the skeletons in the room may have arms, armor, and items around them. • Nearly all the cell doors are corroded and hanging off their hinges. Loot • Whatever the players find among the skeletons • Petrys’ ball and chain
The party will now have to traverse and explore the dungeon without the help of Lucius. Hopefully they will remember the directions he told them on how to get out….
Encounter 7 After however long of traversing through the sewers and avoiding guards, rats, and whatever else lies down there, the party comes across a large door with a seemingly complicated lock. This is the final puzzle, and the only thing standing between the party and freedom. Without an ability check, they can smell a very foul stench in this room. As they approach the door, they can hear shouting in the distance. Have your players roll a Perception check and set a timer according to how well they hear these shouts. They will need to solve the puzzle within that time or be found by five dungeon guards.
Roll Timer 1-5 5 minutes 6-10 8 minutes 11-15 10 minutes 15-20 15 minutes
There will be several ways to get through this door– one “proper method”, two other improvised methods, and whatever you as a DM can think of if they offer a good enough idea.
Opening the Door the “Proper Way” The party comes across this door: A DC 10 Perception Check reveals the words “May Only Officers Enter” Players will automatically see that the door is barred by a heavy oak beam.
To remove this beam, a player must succeed on a DC 16 Athletics check from each side of the beam.
On a successful Athletics check, the players will pick up the beam with great effort and let it fall to the ground with a great thud, revealing three shields attached to the door.
With minimal effort, the two smaller shields to the side can be removed (DC 5 Athletics, if anything). However, the larger shield in the middle won’t budge at all. The party must use two brass keys that they picked off of guards or from supply closets and turn them outward from the door at the same time. This will cause the larger shield to swing down, revealing a very large keyhole. A DC 10 Perception or Investigation check will reveal that this keyhole is too large for any key they have.
To open it, an Officer’s Broadsword (picked up from any Senior Guard) must be inserted pommel first into the keyhole, and then rotated. This will allow the door to open and for the party to escape into the city.
Opening the door through “illegitimate channels” A DC17 Perception or Investigation check on the room that the door is in itself will have a player notice that the foul stench they smell is flammable gas rising up from the sewer. If they manage to safely light it on fire it will knock the door down.
A DC 15 Perception or Investigation check on the room will reveal a large metal beam hanging loosely from the ceiling. A DC20 Athletics check can bring it down. If they players find a fulcrum, like a loose rock, they can use this beam like a lever and work together to lift the door off its hinges, each succeeding on a DC17 Athletics check.
Ending the Story The party bursts through the door, up some stairs, and out a smaller door, finally onto a less-than-busy city street. Should your party want to continue the campaign there are now several hooks at your disposal.
The party smells foul and looks worse. As they start to walk through the city they can see that they are attracting strange looks and stares.
Are there guards following the party? How many people know they have escaped? Is there anybody after them?
Your players certainly had their own lives before they were imprisoned. Will they try to return?
A group of guards finds and catches the party, bringing them to a corrupt politician who offers them exile (instead of death!) to carry out a deed for him. What will this deed be?
Motrite is a large city. Gellusianallec is a large province. The Amil Empire covers a vast area. And Isgir is a large continent. There are many possible adventures to be had.
- None Found
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Escape from the Dungeon Aqueare! A oneshot designed to teach new players the basic mechanics of D&D and AiME. Fight, Bribe, and Sneak your way out of a dangerous prison!" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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