Down the Well (3.5e Quest)
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- 1 Down the Well
- 2 Stage One: Down into the Darkness
- 3 Stage Two: Up into the Light
Down the Well
Intended for four level 3-4 adventurers.
Down the Well requires a setting that supports necromancy and doesn't shy away from the undead. Years of Gold isn't the most fantastical of settings, so while the quest is originally designed for the campaign setting, it might find a better home in some other setting. The hidden headquarters of a pair of necromantic twins should be an interesting dungeon in any game.
- Prep Time 30 min to 1 hour
- Play Time 2-3 hours
|What kind of an idiot would willingly|
descend into an old well?
A medium-to-long dungeon crawl with a mystery introduction and a vicious last fight. The theme of the quest is exploration, perhaps even with grave robbing underthemes; the mood works best as a serious romp through a nasty environment.
Drago and Monn Gerring, a pair of twins born and raised in Brimhaven, grew in terrible conditions and thus, became terrible men. They joined with one of the many cults of the city when still adolescents, a cult now long dispersed, and then another, and another. Their hunger for dark secrets seemed to know no bounds, and while they learned much, they grew little in power. It was only when they discovered that as twins, they could work their magic together to achieve power that they couldn't alone.
However, the twins have little notoriety in Brimhaven. The city is a wicked one, and the arcane evil of Drago and Monn goes largely unnoticed, to their frustration. To alleviate this and to become a greater threat, they've established a secret base of operations in an old, abandoned well that coincides with a far older crypt complex. They've managed to dry out the mostly-flooded complex, and now practice their necromancy with the help of hunchbacked dregs and trainees.
- The party is hired by Drago and Monn, masquerading as archaeologists interested in the ancient crypts, to dispose of the "grave robbers"
- A Brimhaven noble wants the party to recover five cryptic tablets from the crypts; Drago and Monn happen to be away, but return at the worst possible moment
- The party hears cries of help from the well: a child playing in the woods has fallen down by accident, and the adepts desire his bones
The quest starts with the party descending into the well (there are no other entrances). What follows is a delve through the many rooms of the crypts, following whatever objective they have been given. Finally, the party exits, or tries to exit, and is attacked/betrayed/surprised by the Gerring twins.
Stage One: Down into the Darkness
The players approach the well for the given reasons and descend it at their leisure. Leaving the well before the chosen objective is completed is entirely possible; in this case, Drago and Monn won't ambush the players, and when they discover that they're found out, will move their operations to a more secretive locations.
(approaching the well) You come to a small clearing among the leafy alders. A burlap tent has been set up next to the slowly disintegrating remains of a well. Many of the well's stones have fallen off, some on the ground and some into the musky blackness, but the wooden beam above has been recently replaced. A rope descends into the well and out of sight. Next to the well there's a stand with several shovels and spears, and a wheelbarrow, currently empty.
A clearing in a forest (no map). A 10ft.-by-10ft. tent northeast of well, a weapon stand and wheelbarrow south of tent. A 10ft.-by-10ft. well with a sturdy rope (60ft. long, Climb DC 5) descending into it. When searched, the tent contains pieces of bones and alchemical equipment.
NOTE: Whenever coordinates are present, alphabets are vertical and numbers are horizontal.
1 - Bottom of the Well
The rope ends in a wet coil at the bottom of a recession in a fairly large room - this really doesn't look like your average bottom of a well. The walls, albeit deteriorated, are fashioned of expensive stone and decorated with murals filled with burial symbolism, and the wet stone beneath your feet is gleaming alabaster. You can hear hushed sounds and see torchlight coming from a room to the east.
30ft.-by-30ft. room, 10ft. high. Western stone door unlocked (hardness 8, 15 hp). Stairway to the north (descends 10ft.) Passage from here to room 7 trapped (check map) with a nonanimate skeleton which bursts through the earthen wall and stabs the triggering character with a masterwork longsword through a pulley system (attack roll +2, damage 1d8+1/19-20; Search DC 25 to discover, Disable Device DC 20 to disarm). The well leads upwards in the middle (C3-4, D3-4). A depression with stairs at the well's base (5ft. deep; B2-5, C2-5, D2-5, E2-5), the bottom of which is still damp. If the adepts and dregs to the east hear the characters' descent, they'll arrive to confront them here.
2 - Processing Room (EL 3)
A couple of torches on the walls light a grisly scene: two stones tables in the middle of the room are occupied by partly-melted, chopped corpses. Around them, two priestly types dressed in gray are busy dripping acid onto the bodies, while two misshapen servants hack away at the flesh; the clothes, flesh, bones and assorted filth are piled onto the corners of the room. This all happens in a disturbingly everyday fashion. The four finally notice you, and stare for a long while. Then one of the priests instinctively throws his jar of acid at you.
20ft.-by-25ft. room, 10ft. high. Two low stone tables (B2-3, D2-3) with mutilated and acid-damaged corpses on them. A pile of rags (A1), a pile of flesh (A4), a pile of bones (E1) and pile of assorted garbage (E5) all count as difficult terrain. A niche in the wall holds four full and eleven empty flasks of acid and a jar of acid (counts as a grenadier flask). Two adepts and two dregs working busily on the corpses. When confronted, one of the priests throws his jar of acid and a fight commences.
The two dregs (who happen to conveniently be closer to the party than the adepts) attack with little tactic, hacking away with their butcher's cleavers (handaxe +4 melee, 1d6+2/×3). The dregs of Drago and Monn are invariably the most downtrodden, misshapen people of Brimhaven slums, and are incredibly loyal to their employer. The adepts start the fight by one throwing his acid jar as mentioned above, and the other casting bane. They use their limited spell list to weaken opposition, then move to melee with their maces and their inflict light wounds. One of the adepts might run into the excavated tunnels when low on health or when everyone else is dead, at which point a minor cave-in crushes his skull - warning the players of the hazards of the tunnels.
3 - Flooded Chamber (EL 3)
The descend a short staircase into a high-ceiling hall that's seen better days. Parts of the floor are still intact near the far wall, but must of the room is overtaken by water. The water is so stagnant and murky that you can't guess at its depth at all: as far as you know, it could be two inches deep, or go on forever. There's an intact corridor at the far end of the room, and a collapsed one just across the water.
40ft.-by-20ft. room with a 20ft.-by-15ft. alcove, 15ft. high. Stairway to the west (ascends 25ft.) Two inches of murky water on most squares, 5ft. in places (check map; deep squares indicated with blue D). Leeches dwell in deep water, requiring a DC 12 Fortitude check or take 1d3 Constitution damage when fall in water and at start of each round. Intact, unflooded floor near the walls (check map). Weakened floor (D1) that crumbles to the side (to D2), depositing the offending character there, when a Medium or larger creature enters the square. Caved-in passage (against A6). An allip haunts the room: it is the undead remains of a indecently-pregnant farm girl who tried to commit suicide by jumping into the empty well and dragged her mangled body into this room. The allip attacks when 1) someone falls into the water, or 2) the party passes the halfway point of the room.
The allip fights madly (as is appropriate), always attacking the nearest foe with its touch attack. The biggest danger is the babble, although the allip is unable to make any strategic use of fascinated enemies.
4 - Lecture Hall (EL 3)
The architecture of this room is decidedly strange: the northern part of the room is elevated high above the rest of the floor, with the ceiling sloping towards the southern end. There seems to be no way to easily move between the levels. The walls are lined with low stone benches, surprisingly unmolested considering the general condition of the complex. The upper floor is dominated by an imposing figure: a great skeletal monstrosity, roughly in the shape of a giant humanoid, constructed with rope and cloth from the bones of smaller creatures. The huge body is topped by an oddly small skull. Another priest is applying the finishing touches to the creature's massive legs.
25ft.-by-30ft. room, 25ft. high at northern end and 10ft. high at southern end. Half of the room is 15ft. higher than the rest (check map). Low stone benches against walls (A1-2, A4-5, F1-2, F4-5). The chair at A4 contains one of the five tablets, if the party is doing that version of the quest. A wooden toolbox filled with hammers, nails, exceptional bandages and crutches (a healer's kit) and a prayer wafer of enlarge person. A giant skeleton built of smaller skeletons and an adept finalizing it are on the higher floor; they attack when they notice the party.
The skeleton, massive hulk that it is, takes the brunt of the attack, charging and then full-attacking foes as effectively as possible. It is directed by the adept, who sticks to its back, peppering opponents with first bane and then cause fear. It reserves the inflict light wounds to heal the skeleton if possible, attacking foes with his mace instead. The adept may run, in which case it orders the skeleton to fight to the last if it's still up.
5 - Catacombs (EL 2)
|An interior decorator's nightmare.|
You take a step down from the well bottom and enter a cold double hallway. The stone floor is still moist from water that must have been dried out quite recently, but the main attraction of the room has been untouched - the main attraction being the graves. All along the walls, spaced out evenly, there are two niches, one on top of the other, each containing a dessicated body. Some clever burial rite has been used to dry the bodies out, so they've stood the test of time. What they haven't stood is grave robbing, however: the moist of the floor is mixed with corpse dust from people pulling the once-buried out of their resting places. This can't be good.
15ft.-by-45ft. room with 10ft.-by-5ft. and 5ft.-by-10ft. alcoves (check map), 6ft. high. Each alcove has two niches with corpses in them (think Indiana Jones). The bottommost left alcove (against H1) contains one of the five tablets, if the party is doing that version of the quest. The second-from-the-top right alcove (against D3) contains a wand of color spray. A small box with a golden ring (worth 150 gp) has been forgotten in a dusty corner (I3; Search DC 20 to locate). The lower of the two middle alcoves has a bat swarm living in it, which attacks those who disturb the alcove.
The bat swarm attacks creatures mindlessly as long as they stay in the catacombs area. Upon leaving, the swarm returns to its alcove, although now it's hostile and will attack anyone who enters the room again.
6a, 6b and 6c - The Tunnels
This tunnel has been excavated into the living earth, and is clearly part of neither the well or the crypt. Ramshackle supports hold the mass of packed earth and stone at bay, at least for now. Coffins - some rotten wood, some stone, some stranger still - jut out from the earth. The area around the well must have been a graveyard, long ago. You shudder as you imagine the builders of the well drinking their corpse-water. Perhaps that's why it's abandoned.
Several tunnels (check map). The end of tunnel 6c contains one of the five tablets, if the party is doing that version of the quest. Any sort of agitated action (attacking, jumping, running, shouting, explosions) has a 20% chance of causing a localized, 5ft.-by-5ft. cave-in. A cave-in deals 3d6 damage to those caught in the area (usually the one taking the action; Reflex DC 15 half). A square that has caved in becomes difficult terrain, and once the same square has caved in three times, that spot becomes impassable (heavy work to move, even with tools).
7 - The Stage and Balconies (EL 2)
You enter what is easily the biggest room you've been to in the complex: it almost looks like some sort of theater hall. Two balconies loom over lines of stone benches on the northern wall. Their degenerated conditions does little to lessen the architectural effect. The southern end of the room houses a stage, lined with blazing-orange sardonyx. The stage is currently occupied by an adept, seemingly testing the capabilities of four skeletons standing in front of the stage. She raises a hand, they all raise their hands. She raises another, they all raise another. She turns to look at you, they all do.
55ft.-by-30ft. room, 25ft. high. Chairway to the north (ascends 15ft.) Two balconies (A3-5, A7-9; 15ft. high) and a stage (E4-8, F4-8; 5ft. high) with a staircase to it (F8). Floor of room littered with broken bones, disintegrating parchment, remains of stone furniture. An adept on the stage "calibrating" four humanoid skeletons. They attack anyone who enters.
The adept orders the skeletons to attack the first person through the door, then barrages everyone within range with cause fear and bane. She sticks to the center of the stage, preferring to command her minions instead of engaging in melee. Only when someone climbs onto the stage does she attack herself, with inflict light wounds or with melee attacks if she's spent that to heal a skeleton.
8a and 8b - Back Room
This room seems musty and cramped after the dilapidated magnificence of the stage room. Could it be that it really was a theater, and this is a dressing room? Old stone bookcases stand tall, looming over you with the dried-up, rotten contents bare for all to see. They might have been tomes of great knowledge - centuries ago. There's little of note here, if you don't count cobwebs and dust.
10ft.-by-10ft. room, 10ft. high. 8a: three stone bookcases (against all non-doorway walls); the top left case contains one of the five tablets, if the party is doing that version of the quest; the right case contains a fingerbone of sneaking (as elixir of sneaking; activated by snapping) and a masterwork scimitar. 8b: two stone bookcases (against far wall); the bottom case has fallen over and cracked, and has under it one of the five tablets, if the party is doing that version of the quest; the top case contains three daggers and a small jade skull (worth 90 gp). All cases in both rooms contain book spines, dust and assorted lint in addition to other items.
Stage Two: Up into the Light
Once the characters want to leave the well (usually once they've completed their objectives), they'll return to room 1, only to discover Drago and Monn above them, hastily sawing the rope with a dagger. The twins rather expected their adepts and dregs to take care of the party, and now plan to leave the characters to their dark fate. Sawing the rope through takes Monn (the knife-wielding one) three rounds of uninterrupted work - so the party better react fast. The players are left to device their own plan, but here are some examples of what could take place. Note that this isn't a list of "right" answers: anything logical (or cool) is obviously acceptable.
- RACE THEM: A character who is a fast enough climber (perhaps a dunner) can try to ascend the rope before Monn manages to cut it. When the character arrives at the top, Monn gets a free, nervous swipe against them, with the character usually being flat-footed. Since Drago and Monn have back-up, the others ought to be following quickly, or the first to climb be able to hold them off for a while.
- TALK TO THEM: Drago and Monn are insidious, but no one ever said they were particularly clever. Any number of parlay strategies (Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidation all come to mind) can be used to stop or at least slow down the inevitable rope cutting. As a DM, reward good roleplay: rolls are all fine and well, but a good, sensible talk-to to the twins should be the best method when taking this route.
- ATTACK THEM: Risky, but possible. Ranged weaponry and spells can be used to attack into the well opening above (remember that the distance is 60 ft. from the well floor to the opening). If one of the twins is reduced to low enough health, the other continues his work, but if both are hampered, they back away and the party is one step closer to freedom.
- LEAVE THEM: Not a particularly good idea, but one that some players might take. It might work: the party can excavate their way out in theory (although lack of tools, food and water makes this a decidedly desperate idea; the rooms 4, 7 and 8 are the closest to the surface), they can use clever tricks to get another rope/a pole/a ladder/a makeshift staircase in place and ascend that, they can contact allies through magical means and hope they'll come help... All dangerous choices, but beggars can't be choosers.
- COMBINING THE ABOVE: A mixture of the above ideas can work excellently. For example, having the fastest climber ascend the rope while the whip-tongued sorcerer intimidates the twins and the ranger fires crossbow bolts at them probably works better than just concentrating on one direction. Again, reward cleverness and/or coolness, as well as good roleplay.
Once some or all of the characters are up, a fight usually commences (unless the route up negates this; for example, good enough Diplomacy might make Drago and Monn leave the party alone). The twins are supported by two dreg servants (EL 5).
The dregs are always the first in line, these two wielding their shovels (as greatclub except slashing, +4 melee, 1d10+3). Of the two twins, Drago is the more violent and abrasive one, and he closes the distance (although with this longspear, there's still some space for him to maneuver), although not before buffing himself with both divine favor and shield of faith. If the fight goes long, he debuffs a melee combatant with doom. Monn, ever the skulking coward, stays back, casting bane to weaken foes and then attempting to command in a tactically sound way (approach for a spellcaster and drop for a two-handed wielder are common choices). The twins are cowards at heart, and will run away at the first sign of defeat, leaving their dregs to fend for themselves if they are still alive.