For the last several sessions of Into the Odd, my players have explored a depthcrawl dungeon. Below you can find the exact and entire notes I wrote for it, and then an example run-through based on what my players did. Note that big chunks of the material came from the Jade Colossus Ruin Mapping Engine by Monte Cook Games, which I think is just a really great gaming resource.
A depthcrawl needs three things: a threat, an aesthetic, and a reason to explore it.
As a refresher, for each new room, roll a d6 and add their current depth (starting at 0). If they go deeper, add 1 to the depth. Then for each room, roll a Detail and an Oddity they can find, and then check for an Encounter.
Aesthetic: non-Euclidean fantascience research facility
Threat: nanoswarm? automata?
Reason: lab on top (how do they know?)
Roll a d6: 1 encounter (d6); 2-3 clue/foreshadowing; 4-6 none.
- Lost Explorer: He is suffering from an infected wound and might die if aid isn’t found soon.
- Competing Party: 2d2 explorers initially believe that the characters have been dispatched by some other group to find and assassinate them.
- Trapped Kanthid (d3 individuals, STR 8, DEX 5, HP 5, Armor 1, d6 bite)
- Repeats nonsense snippets from previous victims
- Wants to feed on stragglers
- Might repeat useful rumors
- Nanoswarm doing maintenance (DEX 16, WIL 6, HP 4, Armor 2, d6 swarm)
- When swarm is essentially whole, has rudimentary intelligence
- Wants to keep infrastructure functioning
- Each bot is about the size of a human tooth
- Nanoswarm attacking (break down organic matter)
- Vaytaren (STR 14, WIL 8, HP 10, Armor 1, d6 void beam)
- Wants to protect facility
- Entryway: 20′ square // Black screen shows colors that vibrate in intensity matching the voices
- Hive: 15′ diameter circle // nests hold insect-like automatons that act as a single intelligence that knows a little of nearby areas // Pool of clear fluid, but thick as honey
- Aquarium: Glass barrier holds healthy aquatic biome with strange moving creatures // 2d4 Colostran: intelligent masses of coral that can move and swim
- Labyrinth Chamber: 100′ x 50′ // Crystal column with symbols in a complex pattern that place target’s mentality in psychic labyrinth until they can escape
- Stasis Pod: 15′ diameter hexagon // Metallic pod puts anything that enters into stasis, which lasts until the pod ejects the object or creature
- Ruined Portal: Roughly 30′ x 60′ // Transparent sphere has a diameter of 30 feet (9 m) but contains an area far larger than its size would seem to indicate // In this area, hazily visible, is a deserted ancient city of silver towers (portal to another location if sphere is opened somehow)
- Lance-atorium: Closet-sized rectangle // Device attempts to operate on living creatures; replaces a limb of a living creature with a long, pointed cone of red metal
- Trauma Chamber: Roughly 15′ x 30′ // Platform causes d4 WIL dmg with perfect recollection of trauma
- Information Storage: Device contains knowledge of esoteric mathematical formulas that, when decoded, provide research data on nanites
- Spare Parts: Stacks of metallic disc-shaped oddities that avoid being touched by anything organic, sliding away if possible
- Observation Deck: A glowing spinning disc hangs at the chamber’s center that displays an aerial view of the surrounding environment outside the facility
- Final Lab: “Sempiter”, human in hooded robe with an eye medallion. WIL 18, Armor 2 (nanite field) HP 5, d6 mind ray, attended by nanoswarm.
- Attending to monitoring consoles and crystal storage
- Body is periodically renewed and mind backed up, survivor from the prior age
- Wants to observe and keep secrets, subtly guiding exploration and research to productive and peaceful development
- This room can extrude a “bubble” to lower them down to the surface
- White fire “burns” here, but isn’t hot; objects and creatures that enter area begin to flame, but do not burn
- Floor electrostatically sticky, holds explorers (STR save)
- Pool of opaque black fluid that flows to cover explorers, dehydrating them (d6 damage, Deprived until enough water can be consumed)
- Crystal column with complex symbols representing a shifting map of the locations and connections in the facility
- Wavering light sculpture resembling a human brain with three major divisions instead of two
- Multidimensional crystal object the size of a human head floats and moans, as if in pain
- Torso of faceless humanoid of white plastic protrudes from wall, makes strange gestures in response to questions
- Creatures that trigger a slender device gain glowing, hexagonal tattoos that replace their irises. Vision isn’t restricted but the creature can occasionally (1 in 3 chance) see an aura indicating the general emotional state of someone they are talking to
- Glass container holds slug-like creatures without eyes in a haze of orange mist that sustains them. The slugs are intelligent, telepathic, and desperate to convince explorers to free them.
- Nozzles spray area w/ sleep-inducing vapor (WIL save)
- Walls of chamber striped with material that absorbs emotion, making it impossible to feel happy, sad, curious, scared, or other motivating emotion
- Large device with many conduits sparks and snaps with electrical discharge, but the discharge is directed into a point on the ceiling, rendering the device relatively safe to approach, despite appearances.
- Sparkling dust (inactive nanites) fills this chamber in fine drifts. One investigating character gains a glowing nimbus (composed of orbiting nanites)
- Clear circular conduits run through the area, conveying pale liquids to other chambers. If broken open, the liquid has a blue tint that reflects images of strongly remembered scenes
- Everyone hears a voice in their heads in a language that isn’t known. The voice seems to be making some kind of announcement that lasts about 20 seconds.
- Concentrated ion leaks from a crystalline and synth device, causing a howling, moaning sound to reverberate through nearby areas, along with a slight breeze. A fierce psychic wind emanating from the device at its source makes it difficult to approach directly (WIL save)
- The surrounding area is oddly quiet as sound is stripped away and stored in a silvery device with two metallic prongs (like a tuning fork). A malfunction in the device sometimes releases the stored energy in sonic crescendos of white noise that can deafen nearby creatures.
- Pulsed light erases victim’s memory of previous 24 hours on failed WIL save
- Pulses of green light are emitted from a sphere-like device, changing slightly with each pulse, counting down to a gravitational pulse (d6 damage)
- Vat with hundreds of metal and glass spheres with tiny silver wires leading from the back; they resemble disembodied human eyes
- Bone Magnet: Attracts or repels a single target that has a skeleton (WIL save). Amulet, d8 usage.
- Space Folder: Creates a gate between two flat surfaces that you can see. The gates close if you pass through or break line of sight. Small handheld device, 1 use.
- Memory Dust: Projects the events that recently happened within the area (more or less the previous 10 minutes) with large shapes and broad movements; smaller details are difficult to make out. Capsule, d12 usage, d6 WIL dmg if ingested
- Mental Thieves: User exhales spores as they ask someone a question. The spores are breathed in by the target, where they find the answer in its thoughts and are exhaled once more, giving the answer to the user. Syringe of fluid, 1 use.
- Mind Sled: Upon applying to the forehead, the user falls unconscious and the crystal begins to glow. When someone else places the crystal against their forehead, the user’s consciousness awakes in that person (temporarily submerging the host’s own consciousness). This lasts a day. If the original user’s body has died in the meantime, their consciousness dissipates in a short time. Finger-sized crystal, 1 use.
- Dynamic Timer: The user disappears from existence for several seconds, then pops back. Anytime during the next day, they can re-activate to get an extra turn. Small hand-held device, d6 usage.
- Wing Tattoo: The user can sprout wings from their back and fly for about an hour, after which the wings shrivel into dust. Temporary tattoo, 1 user.
- Remote Sensorium: Create a replica of one sensory organ. For the next day, the user will sense whatever that particular organ does (sight, sound, smell, taste, balance, etc.). Putty, d6 usage.
- Permanent Marker: This marker can write on any surface (even liquid) and the writing will never be erased.
- Remnant Reader: When used to scan organic residue, the device will show a tiny hologram of what the creature looked like when alive. Small hand-held device, d4 usage
Note that this is just an example that represents how we went through it and the choices I made to interpret the results of the tables. Your experience will be totally different and reflect your group’s collaboration as well as the random outcomes of the dice.
My group entered at the Entryway and ended up generating the below “map”, starting from the bottom since I ran this as a tower out in the badlands.
We set a few ground rules: inside each node, a door surrounded by green lights meant “deeper” (or “further in”), while red lights meant “back” and amber lights indicated “same depth”. They could scout out any door so as to make informed decisions and thus retain player agency.
- In the Entryway, they found eyeless slug-like creatures in glass pedestals of orange mist. The slugs communicated with the explorers telepathically, trying desperately to convince them to set the slugs free. Roland suspected a trap and instead experimented with the space. Gravity was locally oriented to the tangent of the sphere everywhere: in other words, any place you stood on the inside felt like “down”.
- The Lanceatorium contained a surgical pod, and outside of it stood a torso made of plastic that communicated via vague gestures. Inside the pod, they found 4 syringes and eventually figured out what they did. After some friendly competition, eventually Roland entered the pod and had his left forearm replaced with a long thin cylinder of angry red metal that tapered to a sharp point.
- Inside the Ruined Portal, they saw a hologram of a brain divided into thirds (rather than the two hemispheres to which we’re accustomed) projected from a cylindrical pedestal with a purplish-pink crystal rhombus in it. A translucent sphere dominated the room, encompassing what looked like a model of some unusual city with another tripartite brain holo floating above the city. They took the crystal and eventually pushed over the pedestal, rolling it so the smaller brain holo projected into the sphere. Once they did this, they could communicate with the mind inside, but only via emotions. Concrete, specific thoughts didn’t work. The mind eventually helped them understand it existed far, far away, but would welcome a visit if they could find a way. (This was one of the sweetest, nicest encounters I’ve ever had in an RPG.)
- Going sideways to a chamber with a Stasis Pod, they saw white fire permeating the room. After some experimentation, they determined that the fire didn’t actually burn. The pod, itself sort of a small room, contained a tank of fluid with a sort of couch standing up out of it with a small cabinet next to it. The cabinet held two markers (red and blue). Eventually they had Roland continue his role as “human crash test dummy” and lay back onto the couch, then activate levers that lowered him into it. He didn’t move, breathe, or react inside it, but when they raised him back out after 30 seconds, they determined that no time had passed for him. The team carried a couple of liters of this out with them, reasoning this could be used in emergency medical situations with severe injuries.
- The Trauma Chamber, shaped like the inside of a pill (an obround shape rotated about the long axis) had swirling stripes throughout it, white and brown. When Penny stepped on the white stripes, she felt no emotion whatsoever. She could act independently, think, and make choices, but felt neither fear nor curiosity, neither joy nor sadness. When she stepped back off of the stripe, emotions returned as normal. Around the center of the chamber stood four pedestals; when she stood directly on one, Penny relived her worst emotional trauma and wept quietly. (As a note, during this section, I intentionally referred to Penny in the third person rather than saying “you” to the player, and I also did not in any way require her to specify what that trauma might have been.) They found bowls on the pedestals with capsules in them, and Beorsson determined that the memory dust within would show them activity of the last few minutes. Roland, not forgetting his role, decided to ingest this dust, at which point I had to figure out what they would do to him.
- Information Storage held a standing collection of multiple rectangles, all aligned vertically but of differing sizes and ratios. Above it, hanging from the ceiling, was a sort of inverted two-armed fork with an amulet hanging from it. And sound was extremely dampened within the room, making it difficult to hear each other. After climbing up, Beorsson donned it and found he could mentally “tug” on someone’s skeleton. On those rectangles, Penny found a small screen with scrolling symbols that seemed to take the form of mathematical formulae but in a notation and language she did not know. Beorsson also thought that whacking the large fork would prove interesting, at which point they found out the cause of the sound dampening. That tuning fork on the ceiling had absorbed almost all sound, and despite the fact that the dice never indicated the malfunction that would set it off, hitting it certainly did. All that sonic energy released at once, temporarily deafening them and causing yet another massive headache.
- The Spare Parts warehouse finally had an actual encounter with a severely-wounded explorer who’d been lost inside the facility and ended up extremely dehydrated. The team saw to his needs – including using the stasis fluid on his arm – before inspecting the containment disks stacked around the room. Beorsson shot one of them experimentally, which knocked it over (though didn’t penetrate) and set off the nozzles in the ceiling, spewing a sort of sleep gas.
- Once they reached the Final Lab, they finally found an actual inhabitant: a robed man with an odd accent and an eye medallion who said his name was “Sempiter”. Above him on the ceiling, they could see a silvery sphere hanging down with a dark stripe in the middle lit by green lights that pulsed occasionally. He laughed when they asked how long he’d been there, told them that the facility primarily existed for “experiments on the mind”, and that he “watched and kept secrets” on the world but also guided research from time to time. I didn’t know whether they’d fight him or not. After all, he represented the archetypical hermit wizard in his tower. Instead, they decided to align with him and will now head back to a nearby town ruled by an authoritarian family to stabilize it.
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