This is the minimalist version of the Dweller Beneath’s lair presented in a context free format. I wrote it up for a one page dungeon contest, and will hopefully be using the format to prewrite many of the adventures here in this format (though I’ll probably not post their one page versions.)
X – Pit in floor
G- Carved Glyphs
B – Boulder
H – Hole in the ceiling.
Notes: This dungeon is a set piece intended to be placed in almost any type of game. The intention is to create horror based tension, preferably without any actual combat encounters. The individual GM is going to have to set the tone as appropriate to his or her specific group of players.
The creature in the cave system is not intended to be fought. Instead, by the time it reveals itself, the pcs should be ready to bolt. Ideally they will never get more than a glimpse of the thing that dwells deep within the earth. If they do attempt to stand and fight, it should be less of an opponent than a force of nature.
There is a great deal of dust, all undisturbed before the pcs enter the cave system.
The roof of the larger caverns is webbed with cracks from the collapse of the complex above.
The spheres and depressions are a red harring. They are there to give the party a reason to move through room 3 multiple times. When you feel it thematically appropriate, trigger descriptions a,b,c, and d. There are no signs to precede a. B is preceded by a very light click in the distance (the stone moving a small distance.) C is preceded by a loud scraping sound and then a loud bang as the stone settles. D is preceded by a literally deafening crash and the real danger of cave ins through the complex.
If the PCs flee and they used ropes in their ascent, have the creature pull on any ropes in the hole.
1. Entry Way There are two complex symbols carved in the floor in front of a narrow hole. The hole leads down to a rough shaft, barely wide enough for a single person to climb down. It twists and bends as it descends, foiling attempts to determine its depth from above. Any character failing their climb check has multiple chances to catch themselves as they fall. The total depth of the shaft is 400′
Skill Checks (easy/difficult/impossible)
History/Occult/Arcane/Anthropology: E The symbols are some sort of warding and warning. D They are intended to make something keep its distance from them. I The symbols themselves are non-magical. Instead they are representations of primal forces of reality, scribed to keep something very specific from passing them. You can determine their function, though not the identity of whatever they are intended to constrain.
Dungeoneering/Stonework/Natural History E Near the bottom of the shaft, the walls show signs massive collapse. It appears that there were worked spaces that were allowed to or caused to cave in. Based on the number of collapsed side tunnels, there was a n extensive complex down here. D Neither the tunnel nor the collapse of the complex were natural.
Climbing/Athletics E If a character begins to fall down the shaft he may catch himself after falling 20 feet with a successful check. (Repeat for every 20 feet fallen.)
2.. Last Stand There are a dozen shattered and dessicated corpses scattered around this cavern. They show signs of blunt trauma but they show no signs of having been gnawed on by scavengers before dessication. There are broken weapons scattered amongst the corpses. This is a good place to include hints about the nature of the group that built the collapsed complex above.
3. The Dweller. This cavern is dominated by a boulder made of a different material than the rest of the cavern. It is far too large to have come into the cavern by any route. The boulder has chalk markings all over it similar to the runes in the Entry Way.
3a. The dust that coated the floor of the room has been disturbed. It fills the air with a choking murkyness. Perception (Medium) The boulder seems to have shifted a half an inch or so. The slipping of the boulder is probably what disturbed the dust.
3b. The boulder has obviously moved, about six inches to the east. Perception =(H behind the boulder, it looks like there may be a small hole or depression. The clearance is a fraction of an inch.
3c. The boulder has shifted several feet. It is once again nearly flush with the wall. A nauseating odor emanates from behind the rock. (Saving throw or be nauseated. Minor penalties on physical actions and anything that takes mental focus.)
3d. The boulder lies shattered in thousands of shards across the room, The air is full of rock dust to the point that visibility is greatly restricted. The PCs can’t see either exit from the center of the room. The cracks in the ceiling are much larger than they were previously, and the earth itself is groaning, The hole from behind the boulder is a foot and a half in diameter, and utterly black. It absorbs any light shined on it and anything thrown into it fails to make any sound. It can only be examined by someone within a few feet of it. After the PCs spend a few rounds in the room, there is a scratching/dragging sound that from the hole that rapidly gets louder and the stench suddenly gets much stronger. Any pc in the room is severely nauseated (even if usually immune to such effects.) With a saving throw they take moderate penalties on physical actions and anything that requires concentration. With a failed save they also become dizzy and disoriented. If the pcs don’t decide to leave at this point, something darts out of the hole, faster than they can track, grabs someone, and disappears back down the hole. (Preferably an NPC, but if there aren’t any handy…) The target is larger than the hole and most likely leaves parts (limbs, the head) behind. If the PCs stay, this is where they get attacked.
4. There are thirteen shallow depressions in the floor of this room. (Shaped so that the stone spheres in 5 settle into them.)
5. This room contains abandoned mining gear and 13 stone spheres (3 foot diameter, 800 lbs each.) This is another place to insert clues to future events.