The Gang has been searching through the ruins of Old Stonefist City for the second Orb for quite a while now but they’ve finally made it through the lowest level where the Basement Dwarves live. So, it’s time for Dungeon Master Kyle to do another map dissection.
Before we jump in, be warned: this contains spoilers for the campaign up through Episode 47. A Stonefistful of Dollars Part 9. Go get caught up on the adventure if you need to. Otherwise, let’s do this!
The Basement Dwarves level of the Stonefist City is actually a mini dungeon inside a much larger dungeon. We’ll take a look at the whole dungeon once (if?) The Gang finds their way out, but for now, we’ll focus on this one section.
The way I design my dungeons is to find a central theme or idea I want to use. I then build the area up around those themes. This level is a dungeon inside another dungeon, inside a mountain, all of which are currently affected by various external events related to the overarching story of the campaign. So there are a lot of other factors that went into the design of this dungeon as well. The longer a campaign runs, the more ideas and themes I have to work with. My philosophy is that using as many of those ideas as I can (without being overwhelming) leads to creating a more interesting and ‘realistic’ dungeon.
The themes I was working with in this dungeon were:
- Old Ruins
Having a central theme to build around helps to make a cohesive environment, where each area feels connected to each other. Without that theme, the dungeon runs the risk of becoming collection of separate rooms smashed together.
When I have more than one theme to work with, I try to determine what the main theme is because not every room in the dungeon needs to hit on every single theme. That can lead to a dungeon that feels too busy, crowded or confusing (although, sometimes, you might want that).
1. Old Ruins
In this case, my main theme was ‘Old Ruins’. So every room in the dungeon contained of aspect of that theme. In some rooms that meant there were remnants of old buildings (Area 7), in others there were ancient statues that were crumbling (Area 4). Other rooms were less obviously set pieces showcasing the ruins themselves, but still contained piles of rubble from the collapsing areas, or large cracks and fissures running through the floors.
2. The Basement Dwarves
The secondary theme (in this case I might even consider it Theme 1b, instead of Theme 2) was the Dwarves. This was the living area of the basement Dwarves so it was important that their presence be felt. In order to do this, I contrasted this level of the dungeon with the level above. The whole dungeon had been collapsed, however, the upper levels had been overrun by various mountain dwelling monsters and creatures. Many of the pathways through the upper levels had been dug out by those creatures, indicated by rough and uneven walls and ceilings, and scattered debris along the ground that made it much more difficult for our heroes to travel through the area.
On the other hand, this lowest level where the Basement Dwarves live, the pathways were cleared out properly and with intention. The area was still obviously falling apart, however the hallways were supported properly by trusses, the floors were even, rooms were a standard height throughout. Rather than just working with the area as it was, the Dwarves had obviously done some work to turn the area into their own, as is evidenced by the Sleeping Quarters and the Food Hall in Areas 6 and 7.
The third theme was Oozes. Now, the Oozes are a very important part of the plot, so I could have easily made the Ooze a larger focus of this dungeon. However, as important as it is to the main story. I wanted the Gang to question what the ooze was doing there and how it was related to these dwarves. If the ooze was everywhere, the Ooze Pods in Area 9 would not have stood out against the rest of the dungeon.
Traps and Secrets
No dungeon is complete without traps or secrets and the Basement Dwarves area of the dungeon is no different. Much like the creation of the dungeon area, I tried to keep the traps and secrets on theme as well.
There are a few types of traps in this area.
The first traps that anyone trying to enter this area would encounter are the pit traps in either area 1 or 11.
Both of these traps work the same way. The pit spans the width of the hallway. It is wide enough across that you would not be able to step over, but not so wide that you couldn’t jump across. It appears simple enough, however, there are hidden walls on each side of the pit and a hidden floor that spans across it. The walls and floor are pressure sensitive. The more force the walls are hit with, the more solid they become. The floor is the opposite, where it is solid until force is applied to it.
So, if a creature attempts to jump across the pit, they will slam into the wall on the other side and fall into the pit. If a creature attempts to run across the pit, the invisible floor will give way and they will fall into the pit. The solution to the trap is to walk across the open pit, stepping as lightly and gently as possible.
If a creature does fall into the pit, they take fall damage and will attract the attention of a living, corrosive ooze that will flow into the pit, slowly dealing damage to the creature and dissolving anything made of metal.
Ooze Room Traps
The second set of traps are the “Ooze rooms” in areas 2 and 8. The floors in these areas are pressure sensitive. Once a creature reaches the middle of the room, steel bars slam down blocking both exits from this room and a viscous ooze starts to fill the room, flowing in through the cracks in the floor and walls. The harder a creature struggles to move through the ooze, the more the ooze clings to them, attempting to pull them under and smother them. The way to make it through this room is to stay still and as the ooze rises, you will float to the ceiling. Once the creature is at the ceiling, they will be able to pull themselves along to reach the ‘Drain Chain’. If they pull the chain, the ooze starts to drain from the room and the steel bars raise.
Neither of these traps are designed specifically to kill intruders (but if something does happen to die in the traps, the Basement Dwarves won’t complain). Instead these traps are meant to slow down intruders, give the Dwarves a chance to prepare and defend themselves.
Both of these traps were put in place by the Dwarves currently occupying this area. There is one other trap in this area. It is in front of the vault door. This trap was built with the original city, meant as extra insurance to prevent people from breaking into the vault.
Vault Pit Trap
It is another style of pit trap. The hallway in front of the vault is narrow, but breaking into this vault would require two people working simultaneously. So there is a trap door on the floor in front of the vault. It is pressure sensitive, much like the traps in the ooze rooms. If one person stands in front of the vault door, the trap does not activate. This allows anyone who knows the combination and has the key to enter freely. However, if two or more creatures step in front of the vault door, the trap doors open, and the creatures fall into the pit. The trap doors then swing shut again, leaving the would-be thieves in a dark pit to await the authorities.
There are also a few secrets to be found in this dungeon. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to hide the secrets, so I decided to draw inspiration from my traps. The traps were all triggered when pressure or force was applied to them, and involved invisible components. So why not hide the secrets behind illusory walls that react to force and pressure?
The secret door in area 5 was hidden behind an illusory wall. The wall appeared to be solid, and if you applied pressure to the wall, or tried to force your way through it, it would harden. However, if you gently pressed against the wall, your hands would pass through the wall, where you would be able to grasp the doorknob and open the door.
Basement Dwarves Map Layout Key
- Pit Trap with invisible walls
- Ooze Room Trap
- Shrine room: Raised platform in center with a statue of a Dwarven warrior
- Large room: 4 Dwarven Statues, two pedestals with a Grandfather Crystal atop each. Shimmering Tear across the eastern doorway
- Small crafting area: Potions on tables, secret pathway that leads into Vault
- Food Hall: Large dining table in center, casks of wine and drink, and crates of food stored here.
- Sleeping quarters
- Ooze Room Trap
- Slime Pods
- Empty cage/cell
- Pit Trap with invisible walls
- Ooze Tunnel: Pathway with a thick layer of ooze covering each wall
- Double Pit Trap in front of Vault Door
- Vault: Three walls lined with safety deposit boxes. Small locked cages throughout room, each containing locked display cases, smaller safes, shelves and desks piled high with boxes and other treasures. Secret area behind false wall in back corner where the Orb can be found.
Are you Lost? Can’t figure out where our group of heroes are in the world? Fear not! The World Map is kept up to date with all the locations Kroy, Nubz and Bort the Grappler have visited.
We’ve also started to upload our back catalogue of episodes and theme music over on youtube as well.
Our new mini “Monster Friends” episodes are also available now.
Also, why not check out Kyle and Colin’s play through of Divinity: Original Sin 2 in their new series ‘Original Sinners‘.