Diviner's Creative Process
Hello folks, Diviner here with something for you to pass the time. Pandesmos will occasionally toss me a homework assignment for the following week. One such case came up two weeks ago, when I was tasked with dressing two of our dungeons. What you are about to read is a conversation I had with myself regarding the second of the two dungeons known as The Temple of Tranquility. My "conversation" starts after the break. Hope you enjoy.
Me: So, what does the Temple of Tranquility look like?
Me2: How should I know? You're the one with all the ideas; I only exist in your head.
Me: I don't know. I thought I knew what it looked like. This is weird. I shouldn't be having trouble with this.
Me2: Oh stop it. Look at you, "Wah, I can't think of anything. This is hard."
Me: I don't think I like your attitude today.
Me2: Like I care. Come on with it. You know what it looks like. So, let's hear it.
Me: I don't know, I was thinking it would look angular, very right angle stuff. You know, squares and stuff.
Me2: Dude, eff squares. A small child can draw squares. Think. Squares? That's it? What does it look like?
Me: Hmm. Okay, how about this: the walls are covered in condensation. There are large cracks in the sides of the walls. Most of the condensation is dripping onto the ground from the cracks, creating pools of varying sizes. On the third level, a crack has broken away some of the wall which leads to a natural cavern complex. The cavern complex is large, expansive. There are no steps, the paths leading between the levels are slopes with grooves in them for footing (no, not the right word) traction.
Me2: That's a start. Keep going.
Me: the air is hot. It's tough to breathe. The sounds of laughter and splashing echo throughout. It sounds like a party. Everyone is speaking very fast. Rocks skip along the water and bounce off walls. The place is a mess. The previous owners would be very upset. Their work has been undone. The once Temple of Tranquility is now anything but.
Me2: Good. Now take the kid gloves off. What does it look like?
Me: The light source for the place has spread. The crystals are growing, looking nothing like the way they used to. What adventurers will never know is that the former owners would use rough stones to smooth down the crystal shafts and dress them with a woven plant. There is a weed that grows on the islands, twice the size of a man. They would cut down the weed and let it dry. They would then pull off strips and break it down. The weeds would grow back within a couple of weeks. Someone referred to it as the Hair of the Goddess…
Me2: You're getting sidetracked. Digress.
Me: Sorry. The crystals have spread and are branching out, like a tree. They are providing light to the whole place. The crystals can be used as a torch for a time, then they become dull.
Me2: What about the floor?
Me: The floor is covered in rocks from the walls and ceiling. Since the stone was smoothed down, all of the condensation makes the terrain quite slippery. I'm thinking the players should make dexterity/agility/balance checks to keep their footing (especially during combat). Nothing of value is in the main rooms (at first glance), but the side rooms might have items that survived the Cataclysm. The pool in the center of the room has cracked open, causing water to flood parts of the floor. The fourth floor is the worst; the water ranges from waist to neck deep for a man (demi-humans are always screwed.) How about some sort of sea creature that lives in the bottom? If the players...oh, I know! What about the final floor being a place where the sea creature lays its eggs?
Me2: There we go. Now we're cooking. What kind of creature?
Me: Not sure. Any ideas?
Me2: You got this. Keep going.
Me: Okay. You won't find Steam Imps down here. That will be the weird thing about this level. For some reason, they are afraid of it. But what frightens Steam Imps?
Me2: You tell me.
Me: Perhaps it's something one of the elves brought back with them from one of their travels. Perhaps it was kept here as a pet. The Temple of Tranquility was turned into some sort of aquarium by the drug addled elves. They used this place for all the weird space creatures they found that were water based. Should there be a place for the creatures they found? An air/water/fire/earth elemental museum scattered on the islands?
Me2: Run it by Pandesmos and Wintergreen. Have Safari draw a picture of the sea creature; he's good with stuff like that. What does the bottom floor look like?
Me: If the players swim down to the bottom, they will find a large crack in the one of the corners. This crack opens into an underwater cave which will lead to the coast.
Me2: That's quite a swim. Thinking about the museums, it may be that creep thing Pandesmos was talking about so nix it for now. The other museums could be under water and the elementals or whatever they found returned to their native plane. This thing down here likes this place, which is why it never left. It could have went from being the hunted to the hunter. Now it's king and nobody messes with it. It could even be intelligent. So few sea creatures are intelligent in games.
Me: That's very true. But back to your first point, yes it is quite a swim. But this creature doesn't mind it because it is so far removed from things it feels safe. The creature uses a lava tube to go most of the way. Maybe amphibious?
Me2: It could be. Keep talking about the bottom floor.
Me: Sorry. Stream of consciousness and all. The water starts a few feet from the entrance to the bottom floor. It ripples, almost like a tide. As the players venture onward, they see there are several small drops from tiny stalactites forming on the ceiling. The water almost sounds like several tiny faucets running at once. It doesn't appear the water level is rising.
Me2: Where is water coming from?
Me: Part of the ceiling collapsed. The opposite side of the entrance is where most of the damage is. Several small stalactites are forming near that area. The water is shallow. There is a small spot where the collapsed rock creates a slope upwards, like a type of shore. On the "shore" is what appears to be a nest of sorts. Kelp, bones, hides, and parts of a ship (oars, beams, a large rudder) make up this resting place. It might not be obvious at first (a spot/perception check might be advisable). The water level throughout is uneven due to the floor. Near one of the corners is the passageway to the sea.
Me2: Okay, it seems like the bottom floor is mostly covered. What about the upper floors?
Me: The first floor most resembles most what the original temple looked like. There are cracks and Steam Imps, but it… no. The first floor is a mess. Half of the first floor is collapsed, with a large boulder covering the stairs leading down (strength check to move the boulder or break it to move). The pool on the floor is drained, so it looks like a pit with several smaller holes near the center. There is a gradual slope toward the center. The center could be weak so if enough weight is in the pool there is a chance for the ground to give way (falling trap) to the second floor. The side rooms on this floor are accessible, but hidden (Dwarves or Elves can locate them easily). There could be small caches of jewels and other items of value (mostly trinkets) in stone carved chests. The leather hinges used to keep the lid attached to the box have long worn away.
The walls and the ceiling would be unstable. A collapse of the walls or ceiling could happen at any time on floors one, three, and four.
Me2: Okay. Falling trap, nice touch. Anything else that's scary?
Me2: What about the second floor? Why isn't the second floor equally susceptible to fall ins/collapses?
Me: I think the second floor will most resemble the original architecture of the temple. The other floors were built near natural caverns and lava tubes thus weakening their structural capacity; this floor is the most stable because its surrounded by several feet of basalt on three of the four sides. (Scratch that, only the walls are stable. The first through third floors should have an equal chance to collapse. If that were the case, you could theoretically fall from the first floor to the fourth. A fall like that would probably equal death for any involved). Though there are cracks in the walls and ceiling, if a collapse or fall in were to occur, it would happen from above (because of the weakened pool on the first floor). The second floor is where the party will first encounter the imps. The imps are huddled together in groups of four to six. They will be squatting and looking at the ground. They are engaged in games of skill and chance. Some are playing darts, others are playing dice, others still are playing poker. There will be clusters lounging near the pool. The air is stifling hot and very uncomfortable. I'm thinking like a sauna. The walls are running with water in here. The ground is very wet. Drops from the ceiling fall into the pool and other smaller pools spread throughout.
Me2: Do the imps attack?
Me: Not at first. It will be an awkward silence, like in a movie when the out-of-towners walk into the local bar. Everything stops, the record skips, the whole thing. This time, all of the imps will stop what they are doing and look at the party. For five seconds, the water will stop. Then, they will go back to what they were doing, paying the adventurers no mind. If the party attempts to converse with them, the imps will generally make fun of them and coerce them into playing games of chance. They will have their fun, and revert to ignoring the party.
Me2: What if the party attacks?
The imps will defend themselves if attacked. They will use steam to blind the party, making ranged attacks or spells requiring sight impossible to use. They will also fill the room with steam, making it difficult to breathe. They can be hurt by magical weapons and spells, but they cannot be killed.
Me2: They don't die, huh?
Me: Well, they will vanish if enough damage is done to them. But, they all of the imps here are bound to this realm and only return here.
Me2: Hmm, makes sense. It seems like the second floor is covered. What about the third floor? You mentioned it before, but I need details this time.
Me: The third floor is difficult to traverse. I think I neglected to mention this before, but the Cataclysm has shifted the earth, causing the entire temple to be slightly off kilter.
Me2: Off kilter?
Me: Yes. The temple floor is at a 10 to 15 degree slope, making this area a bit more difficult to traverse.
Me2: In addition to the water and small pools everywhere. Talk about taking the kid gloves off.
Me: It was your idea.
Me2: I'm not complaining. Continue.
Me: The third floor is also rife with imps. They are gambling and laughing and carrying on. They are very similar to the imps on the second floor; they will mess with you, but otherwise leave you alone. I'm thinking they should have the same name.
Me2: Same name? Like what?
Me: Not sure. I'll come back to that later. I digress.
Me2: Nicely done. What's special about this floor?
Me: I think this cave will have a large crack in one of the walls leading to a natural cavern complex. Stalagmites, stalactites, weird albino creatures. Nothing harmful, worms and something that eats worms like bats or small lizards. The party could find more of the crystal growing down here, in small clusters.
Me2: The glowing crystals from earlier?
Me: Yes. The crystals have grown here for centuries, untouched. They glow softly, and sometimes they pulse.
Me2: Pulse? Like a heartbeat?
Me: Exactly. I don't think the players will find out why it pulses. But there should be an x% chance that when they find the crystals, they pulse like a heartbeat.
Me2: Neat. Any monsters or creepy crawlies the party should be worried about.
Me: No. On second thought, I'm thinking the party could fight a large albino centipede. It has lived here for eons, and the Cataclysm disrupted its long slumber.
Me2: Don't forget to check with Pandesmos and Wintergreen about creep.
Me: Noted. Other than the sea creature, the imps, and the centipede, the most dangerous thing about this place is the structural integrity. The walls, floors, and ceiling could go at any time.
Me2: Okay, it seems like everything is in its place. So, why would adventurers want to come down here?
Me: I was thinking about that earlier. The original purpose of the temple was to gain spiritual enlightenment. Later, the temple was converted into an aquarium for exotic creatures. There could be boxes hidden in the walls (elves and/or dwarves could find them) that were donation boxes. These could have been used to collect funds to keep the place going. Kind of like a national park or something.
Me2: So how do the adventurers know there is treasure to be had here?
Me: There could be an NPC that heard from someone who was in prison with someone, who's brother's sister's cousin heard from a reliable source that...
Me2: Okay, I get it. What else?
Me: The pools could have been lined with precious stones and metallic conductors used in a magic spell to keep the exotic creatures locked the pools.
Me2: Which would give the players cause to go into the pools and,… ah ha. I like your style.
Me: Thank you.
Me2: What else?
Me: I think that covers it. I'll toss this over to the other two. They'll tear it apart and come up with something better. Then it'll be time to draw the map.
Me2: How is that going by the way?
Me: Don't get me started.