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New campaign: Return to the Underground Empire

Started by Doktor Howl, November 26, 2022, 03:25:48 PM

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Doktor Howl

This is based on a campaign I ran in 1993-1996, which at the time was just a mega-dungeon that had no point in itself, but had loads of things in it that you would need to find for other campaigns.  It started out as "The Archive," but after a while the players just started calling it the underground empire, after the old Zork game.  So I was asking myself last night, why not incorporate both?

Things I am stealing from for this campaign:
1.  The original Zork. Just for the entrance.
2.  The Maze of the Blue Medusa, for the style of the joint, plus stealing multiple characters to use in different ways than they were intended.
3.  My own campaign, "Ink World."
4.  The graphic novel series "Colder."
5.  "The Slumbering City of Tsar" by Bill Webb.
6.  My old campaign from 1993, mostly just for the floor plan and the idea of it being an ancient repository of knowledge.
7.  Various ideas plundered from the Fallout franchise.

Since this is a home brew campaign for a home group, I feel no problem plundering all of these sources, though if anyone has read them, they won't have much advantage, because I'm only stealing flavor, not the outline of the campaign.

All monsters the PCs will run into will either be created specifically for this campaign, or will be altered from the existing bestiaries.  Not one encounter will be "stock."

There is no going back to town, because the PCs will be on a demi-plane.  This is not a loot-heavy adventure.  They may get a chance to get back to town once, between the archive and the empire, which would be when the PCs are somewhere between 8th and 10th level.  This also means that my normal fame rules are not in play.  In exchange, the PCs will select alternate races from the Advanced Race Guide (which also fits the flavor of the campaign). They may also choose freely between Eastern and Western weapons and classes at the start of the campaign.

Molon Lube

Doktor Howl

Act I, chapter 1:  In which we learn that cows make poor mana batteries:

The PCs wake up in a muddy field, surrounded by hoof-prints, cow shit as far as the eye can see, and dead drovers and their equally dead horses.  They have no memories at all, except for their class abilities.  Not what their names were, where they come from, or how they got here, though they do have a lingering feeling that they were somewhat more powerful than they are now.  The PCs horses are also dead, but their gear is intact.  One of them has a note pinned to his clothing.  The note says:


If you are reading this, then the ritual experiment failed.  I must commend you on your resourcefulness in gathering 5000 cows together, by whichever means you did so.  Sadly, with the experiment having failed, I no longer exist to pay you.  This may leave you with some very angry creditors back in Casomir.  I would suggest perhaps a life of travel.  Distant, distant travel.  I do sincerely apologize, I was absolutely sure this would work, and as you know, this was really worth doing.  Just the gain in knowledge alone would justify the expense a thousand times over.

In any case, good luck in your future endeavors,
Lalivant Greene, Esq.

At the far end of the field, the PCs can see a small white two-story house.  When they approach the house, they see that it is a well-to-do farmhouse surrounded by the ancient, ruined foundations of what appear to be barns, silos, etc.  Inside the house, they find provisions and eventually a trap door in the floor of the kitchen, but then are attacked by The Improbable Kobolds, who improbably show up out of nowhere.  Once those are dealt with, they can check out the basement...Which is a tad large for a small farmhouse.  It is in fact a multi-level library going back to the days of the serpent folk that ruled the world prior to the rise of the Azlanti.

When the last PC is down the hatch, the door improbably closes behind them.  If they try to open it, they find that it is somehow just a painting of a trapdoor from this side, painted over the same stone that surrounds them.

Begin 1st level dungeon crawl.  Details forthcoming.
Molon Lube

Doktor Howl

Monsters for the first level of the Archives:

Improbable kobolds (these will be pretty much everywhere, at the unlikeliest times, rather than placed, 3 events). Completed
Chicken swarm. Completed Edible
Chameleon warriors level 1. Completed
Rat pig. Completed Edible
That thing with the tentacle.   Completed
In One Ear (bleaching gnome maniac with a military pick). Completed
Icy creature lizard man skeletons (advanced bestiary template). Completed
Damn, That's a Big-Ass Stirge.  Completed
Jim Bob (orgekin kineticist, level 2) Completed

BBG: Little Red Riding Ghoul, 2 zombie wolves.  Completed

Traps: (traps are not level dependent, as I don't use step and die traps.  They are usually scalable to be equally deadly regardless of level):

Roger's Worst Staircase Trap.  Ever.
Bucket of Leeches Gag.

Weird Shit:

Scrying/sending from Scabra the Slapstick Lizard Lich from further down.  He's just curious.
Another note from the supposedly dead Lalivant Greene.
Page 5 torn from a journal of a previous explorer with details concerning level 3.
Lockable resting room.  Totally safe.  Honest.  Would I ever lie to you?  Probably not.

Loot to be distributed (above and beyond NPC gear):

3 potions of cure light wounds.
1 potion of remove disease.
1 potion of lesser restoration.
1 ever-burning torch.
2 masterwork weapons to be useful to two PCs.
3 bottles of sour wine.
1 pry bar.
1 pipe wrench.
1 hammer
10 pitons
1 writing kit.
1 mithril rod (part of a key for lower down).


From the moment the PCs wake up until they reach level two of the archives, there should be enough to level 6 PCs to level 2.

Molon Lube

Doktor Howl

Probably should have added start up rules.

Pathfinder 1E
20 point buy.
Medium experience track.
Average starting gold.
No core rulebook races *as written*.  Advanced Race Guide, core races if used from that source must be modified.
Fame and honor not in use.
Modified hero points in use.  (more on this later, it's an actual change in game mechanics)
Excluded classes:  Swashbuckler, gunslinger.
Class archetypes/prestige classes:  All archetypes/prestige classes from primary sources are permitted, except those that use grit or panache.
Alignment:  No evil.
3rd Party source material by prior approval only.
Skill changes:  Spellcraft and Linguistics are now knowledge skills.  Intimidate may use any stat as its associated stat.

Facing counts.

Suggested classes:  At least one full time healer, and one person with trapfinding.  Other than that, go nuts.

Hero points:

Players start with one hero point.  Hero points can be gained by anything that would gain fame, HOWEVER, hero points, once used, are gone until more or earned, or until the PC levels, at which point their hero points reset regardless of whether they are above, below, or at normal (use 'em or lose 'em).  At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, one hero point is added to their standard.  So 1 point at levels 1-4, 2 points at level 5-9, 3 at 10-14, etc.  Hero points can only be used by and on the person who has them.  You may not use one on another PC (exception:  see #3, below)

Hero points may be used in the following ways:

1.  Anything that would outright kill you by any means instead leaves you at negative (your CON -1) and stable.  If continuing damage is going on (ie, drowning or in lava, etc), one point per round must be used to stave off death.
2.  Mulligan for any d20 roll.  This can be done as long as you have points to spend.
3.  Forced Mulligan on another creature's d20 rolls.  This can be done on a single roll so long as you have points to spend.
4.  Regain 2 times your level in expended spell/slot levels or daily uses of school/domain powers.

All other game functions follow book.
Molon Lube


Post for later reference.

Steal more Zork. Grand inquisitor had one of the most sincere villians ever written.
"Never forget, who is the boss of you? ME. I AM THE BOSS OF YOU".

There's plenty of good traps/puzzles in the first 2/3 hours or so that could be nicely repurposed. I'm not sure how easy it is to make your own scratchcard but that one especially would be a fucker.
Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.

Doktor Howl

Quote from: Junkenstein on December 10, 2022, 12:30:46 AM
Post for later reference.

Steal more Zork. Grand inquisitor had one of the most sincere villians ever written.
"Never forget, who is the boss of you? ME. I AM THE BOSS OF YOU".

There's plenty of good traps/puzzles in the first 2/3 hours or so that could be nicely repurposed. I'm not sure how easy it is to make your own scratchcard but that one especially would be a fucker.

Yes, but did they have a chicken swarm?
Molon Lube


I'm pretty sure there was a death scenario in the garden area with bees and intoxicated carnivorous plants that could use you to reproduce them.

And a quite nice Indiana Jones parody that's probably better than recent films.
Nine naked Men just walking down the road will cause a heap of trouble for all concerned.