A few weeks back, I wrote up an idea that I called Flux Space, which is basically a method for randomizing segments of a dungeon. It helps dungeons to feel more like vast environments, and makes it a little easier to organize your notes.
In the thread about Flux Space on google+, Aaron Griffin asked me if I would post an example. So that’s what I’m doing. The Cozy Catacombs are a small example–just 3 locations and 3 fluxes arranged in a triangle. It’s pretty much the bare minimum size for something like this, but I think it gets across the idea pretty well, and there’s enough here for at least one or two game sessions if you want to try it out.
The Cozy Catacombs
The city of Sarip is old. Its been inhabited since pre-history, and through the millennia has always lent authority to whomever lived there. Empires, religions, and societies may pass, but Sarip remains. The Immortal City.
Beneath Sarip is a sprawling network of catacombs. Countless generations of bones are stacked along the walls so thick the stonework isn’t visible between them. The catacombs themselves have been out of use for hundreds of years now, at least officially. They’re a popular retreat for anyone not welcome in the city above, with plenty of space to live and work rent free, so long as you don’t get lost.
Area 1: Entrance
1. At the bottom of the stairs is a bronze plaque mounted on a plinth. It’s a recent addition, put up by city officials, warning people to stay out of the catacombs, lest they become lost.
The floor is littered with empty booze bottles and scraps of trash.
2. A small group of homeless folks have set up a camp here, around an old fountain they use as a urinal. One of them has scurvy, and will soon die from it.
3. A group of fresh corpses. They’ve been flayed, and their bones taken. From the scattered equipment, it looks like they weren’t homeless. Probably here hoping to plunder some treasure. Bloody, boney footprints trail off to the south, towards Flux B.
4. A larger group of homeless folks, cooking a stolen chicken on a spit. There are some children running around and playing loudly. Among the group is a well dressed young man, about 20 years of age. He seems to be having fun, slumming it down here, seeing how the other half live.
5. A group of 7 teenage girls. They’ve all got dirty faces, and kitchen knives. They’re arguing about how they should divide the 6 silver coins they found.
Area 2: Necrotic Praxeum
1. Long benches are arranged next to one another in this room, with rows of zombies standing on either side, polishing old bones to a pristine white sheen. Other zombies with carts move up and down between the tables, handing out dirty bones, and taking the clean ones.
2. A few shelves, and a collection of tomes detailing the history and practice of necromancy. The librarian is a wizened old man named Bu’zaldu. It’s not clear whether he’s undead, or just very very old. He teases the students here with cryptic hints, and there’s a rumor that if you can prove which one he is, he’ll teach you a spell even the headmistress doesn’t know.
3. 12 beds, stacked 3 high, where students are allowed to rest between lessons. There’s very little downtime here, and even less privacy.
4. A well stocked alchemical laboratory, with jars all along the walls containing a variety of exotic items. In the middle of the room is a student who has fallen asleep in their chair, next to a solution that is slowly dribbling into a vial. It’s just about full now. If thrown, this concoction will explode, dealing 3d6 damage, and instantly transforming anyone killed by it into a zombie under the command of the thrower.
5. Most of the students are congregated here. There are piles of polished bones in front of each student, while the school’s headmistress walks around the room, describing the proper method of raising a skeleton from the dead. Students work in pairs to raise each one, which the Headmistress then comes over to inspect. If she approves of it, she’ll congratulate the students, give them some pointers on refining their technique, and give the skeleton some task to perform. If she does not approve, she’ll berate the students, and send their skeleton walking down the path of shame (into Flux C.
She only approves of roughly 1 in every 5 skeletons.
6. The office and living space of the head mistress. Skulls and gargoyles are everywhere you look. There’s a bed, a desk, and a rack for punishing students who perform poorly. On the desk is a stack of wax-sealed letters, tied with a ribbon, waiting to be delivered. If opened, they all contain a list of students who are doing poorly, as well as a brief description of each one’s qualities. The letters are addressed to various peoples: inquisitors, slavers, and a cyclops named “Gorkk Manmuncher.” The implication of each letter is clear: I don’t really want these kids anymore, so I’ll happily part with them for a good price.
Area 3: Skeleton Vanguard
1. An old chapel, with a statue of St Stephen. The pews have been stacked into a circle, which serves as an impromptu fence for a group of skeletons. The skeletons wander around without any apparent purpose, bumping in to one another, falling down, and losing body parts. Whoever raised these obviously did a terrible job of it.
2. Havord, the leader of the skeleton vanguard, is conferring with five of his most intelligent comrades. They’re looking over crude maps they’ve been able to make of the dungeon, and arguing about where they should expand to.The two Flux spaces would be difficult to defend. But Area 1 would expose them to detection from the outside world, and Area 2 would cut off their supply of incoming skeletons. It’s a serious problem, and the argument is getting heated.
Havord himself has a skull 4 times larger than a normal human skull. He is otherwise a normal skeleton.
3. A classroom where a trio of intelligent skeletons try to teach some of the dumb reject skeletons how to think, and perform simple tasks. The program is effective, but frustrating. The curriculum is similar to what you might see in a kindergarden class, but with a lot more discussion of killing the living.
4. A storage room where the skeleton vanguard keeps their weapons, and a bunch of animated skeletons folded into boxes because there’s not enough room for them to move about more comfortably.
5. A 24 hour skeleton dance party. The best way to unwind for off duty skellos.
6. The floor of the room has been dug up in several places, and a frail weave of twigs placed across the opening to 15′ pits. The trap is painfully obvious to anyone with any intellect, but apparently it’s sufficient to trap dumb, wandering skeletons. Even now, scraping sounds carry from several of the pits, where dumb bags o’ bones are trying to claw their ways out.
Description: Small gargoyles and other statues punctuate the stonework. Every so often, when you look away, the bones here rearrange themselves.
1. 2d4 students from the Necrotic Praxeum. They’re either on their way to, or returning from, a supply run in the city above.
2. A door made of pink flesh. A supernatural darkness obscures the room beyond, refusing to allow any light to penetrate. The room beyond can only be navigated by touch. It is soft and fleshy, with a slimy mucus seeping in through the floor and walls. The room is deep, but does not seem to contain anything interesting. Each turn, there is a 1-in-4 chance that 2d20 goblins will come flooding out of this room, and out into the catacombs beyond. If the room is harmed, this flood may be prevented for a few days. If it is harmed severely, the room may be killed, and the goblins will cease to be born from it.
3. The Goblin Market, where all manner of oddities are for sale. There’s jars full of eyeballs, armors, buttplugs, and a whole shop dedicated to selling various styles of 10′ poles. (That last one is having a blowout sale. They’re overstocked). No violence is allowed at the Goblin Market.
4. 2d6 + 4 goblins, which have just finished killing a group of three human adventurers. The goblins are in the midst of organizing the adventurer’s equipment, and slicing off meat from the adventurer’s bodies.
5. A randomly determined member of the party trips. They flail their hands, and grab on to a leg bone that’s sticking out from the wall of the catacombs. Unexpectedly, it turns down, as though it were a lever, and a secret door swings open. Beyond is a room with a plinth in it, and a skeleton wearing golden armor.
The armor is incredibly valuable, but whomever takes it from this place is cursed. Any building they sleep in has a 1-in-6 chance of catching fire in the night.
6. A map to a Vampire’s lair is sketched onto the wall. Next to it are the words “PLEASE KILL ME.”
Description: A green ooze seeps from between the stacked bones, dribbling onto the floor and disappearing into the cracks. Many of the rooms contain abandoned camps. Apparently this area was once more heavily settled by homeless people, which have since left for whatever reason.
1. 2d6 + 5 highly capable troops of the Skeletal Vanguard. One of them is working on a map of the area, while the others are holding weapons at the ready to kill any meat-people they bump into.
2. A little shop, built into an alcove in the wall. It has a bar, some stools, and a sign which reads Durza’s Drugporium! Durza herself is a squat, fat old woman. She’s coy about how she survives down here, and she sells the best drugs you’re ever likely to get your hands on, at cut rate prices.
3. A fountain swarming with fairies, all of whom are men. They’ll offer to cure anyone who is injured, only revealing after the fact that they require blowjobs in return. And you’ve gotta swallow, ‘cuz that’s the part that will heal your wounds. To add insult to injury, their vaunted curative abilities amount to a single hit point of restoration.
4. A finely ornamented Victorian parlor, with all the fashionable amenities. There’s a fire going in the fireplace, fresh biscuits on a tray, and several comfortable looking lounge chairs arranged in a conversation circle.
The chairs are alive, and will attempt to eat anyone who sits in them.
5. 2d4 + 2 goblins fighting with 2d4 + 2 skeletons.
6. A very obvious lever, built into the floor. There’s writing on the handle which reads “Pull for treasure!” If pulled, nothing happens.
Description: Apparently there’s an underground river running nearby, because there are fountains everywhere, pumping cool clean water, despite the fact that none of this has been maintained in centuries.
1. 1d4 skeletons who are wandering away from the Necrotic Praxeum. They’re dumb, and clumsy, but do have basic life-destroying instincts, and will try to attack any living creatures they encounter.
2. 2d6 + 6 soldiers of the Skeleton Vanguard. One is mapping, while the rest seek out dumb skeletons to recruit, and fleshlings to kill.
3. If the players found and pulled the lever in Flux B.6, they will a door here, with a plaque on it that reads: “Congratulations, lever puller!” Within is a chest containing two bags, each olding 500 silver pieces each. If its been more than a day since the players pulled the lever, the chest may already have been looted. If the players haven’t pulled the lever at all, there won’t be any door. They’ll just have the vague sense that they’re missing out on something cool.
4. A forge, with a bellows and an anvil. The air his hot, and rings with the blows of hammer against metal. Weapons of war are being forged here by…snakes. Snakes, holding hammers in their mouths, and slithering around with buckets of water on their backs. Thousands of them are here, working together. If the players bother them, they will scatter into little holes in the wall, and wait for the players to leave.
5.Garrison Renuar, a 325 year old Vampire, sitting on the edge of his coffin with his head in his hands. Garrison wants to die. Life is dull, and he doesn’t really like killing people. However, the vampire which birthed him is still alive, and he is incapable of killing himself of his own free will without permission from his ‘parent.’ He will beg anyone who meets him to try and kill him, but is obligated to fight his best to stay alive.
6. A nearby fungus growing into the corpse of a wizard has been mutating out of control for awhile now. Recently (as in, last week), it began to produce a race of mushroom people: squat, 2′ high mushrooms with eyes, mouths, and feet. These new creatures don’t really know what to do with themselves. They haven’t developed a language or a society yet, though they are intelligent enough to do so. For now, they’re just following their fungus instincts, but those aren’t really taking advantage of their new mobility and intellect.