Continuing on from the first part of the adventure building series, in this part we work on the broad strokes of the adventure and create a map of the laboratory.
So we have a core concept; there’s a lab with an undead necromancer and someone will pay to have it cleared out.
At the same time we have some backstory too; there’s a noble willing to pay, there’s a group interesting in recovering materials from the lab who will try to intervene and there’s a town that needs protecting.
IMPORTANT: all of the work we’ve done is subject to change.
If you learn only one thing from this series, then I hope it is that you should always be willing to take everything you’ve done and throw it away.
If you ever find something isn’t working or you find something that massively improves a section of your game but requires a lot of work to accommodate, do it.
So what’s the next step? We draw a map.
Drawing the map
There are lots of online tools to draw dungeon maps but most are not free which is part of the aim of this series.
Dungeon Painter even has a free in-browser tool, though a lot of functionality is removed and when I tried to use it to create the map for this adventure, I found it very frustrating using the free version.
While the paid version works better, I reverted to my first thought for this process.
The best way to draw your map, is the easiest; paper & pencil. Squared paper works well, dotted paper is great (if a bit expensive) but plain and graph paper works too, you don’t need £20 of art supplies to get the job done.
So what do we need in this laboratory?
We need an entrance, a bunch of rooms, maybe a trap or two, some corridors to connect it all up and of course other beings to interact with.
It doesn’t need to be a sprawling maze, this is a necromancers lab, he would probably need clear ways to get around. If he’s trying to keep a low profile and hide his plans to the outside world would he waste his resources building an elaborate base of operations or would he build just the rooms he needed?
So let’s draw a map.
There are a lot of tutorials out there to help you create nicely drawn maps if you search online, my favourite is Dyson’s tutorials.and for more advanced check out two minute tabletop on Youtube.
So here’s my map, freshly scanned in. Your map doesn’t need to be any more than this. It conveys the meaning, it’s easy to understand, we just need to place some encounters.
In the real world, I work as a designer and I can’t help myself, so after a little tinkering we get something a little more visually appealing.
Now some encounters
So now we just need to add some encounters.
In a later part to this series, I will polish the interactions and settings in this adventure but for now, we’ll do it quick and dirty.
- Let’s have a couple of zombies out the front to try and capture new “recruits” for our necromancer wight.
- Let’s put the remains of the necromancers associates in here, they got in, were quickly dispatched by the wight, got zombified and now help to guard the place.
- I think the necromancer would have a trap to secure his work. There’s a flame trap in the basic rules, so lets use that and just replace the statue’s face mentioned in the basic rules with a skull with glowing eyes.
- Every necromancer needs fleshy subjects to work from, so we can put a load of cages in this room, fill one with a rapidly escaping zombie and one with a caged up victim. That gives us someone to rescue, who could provide some hints about what’s going on and possibly provide an adventure hook for a longer campaign.
- The main chamber, this doesn’t need to have anything substantial here, but a possibly a shrine would make the most sense. We could throw in some failed experiments, our necromancer could even have dabbled in some other evil domains so we could change up some of our bad guys.
- While drawing this map I decided that maybe we needed a puzzle, so here we’ll put a chest in the top north wall and a chained up zombie ogre with chains attached to a collar around his neck and manacles on his wrists. Players can either fight the ogre or find a solution to the puzzle in the hidden passage (7).
- The hidden passage has three levers at the end, one pushed down the other two all the way up. If the players light something to read the markings above the lever, the ogre spots the light and crashes in grabbing the player closest the door making it impossible to read the instructions. If they’re in the dark they will struggle to read the lever instructions. Detect magic or something similar could reveal the instructions.
- Lift lever one up and the ogre is pulled slowly by the chains against the wall allowing the party to get the treasure.
- Pull lever two and the ogre is released, the chains attached to it’s wrists essentially becoming chain whips.
- Pull lever three and there’s a huge crash as a counterweight drops, the chains holding the zombie are slammed back into the wall and beyond, decapitating the ogre in one smooth action.
- Let’s just leave a general storeroom here, it can act to hide the secret passage but could also contain objects or papers that would work as adventure hooks for further stories.
- The wight’s main chambers. We obviously meet the wight here, but having some hanging medical style skeletons in here that could climb off the walls and come to his aid when the fight begins would definitely add some extra drama to the situation.
- The wights secret chamber; this is likely where the necromancer wight would put his most valuable belongings, be it treasure, research notes or something even more sinister. So this is a great place to put in rewards and information that points to other potential adventure hooks.
There we go, we’ve got an adventure and one you could play without any further work, improvising the remainder of the story fairly easily for an experienced Dungeon Master.
However, I’m going to go further and polish this up more, there are other elements to add in here:
- If there’s a noble, there’s a town, what’s in the town?
- If there are associates of the necromancer, there’s a bigger organisation, who are they?
- Where did the necromancer get his research subjects? How did he hide all this work?
So in the next part of this series I will try to incorporate these elements and start to build our rough draft into a fully thought out adventure.