Sunday, November 6, 2011

Deadly Dungeons: Scholomance Part 1

It may be seen as a black mark in the tabletop gaming community, but I spent several years as an avid World of Warcraft player. For all its flaws, the game is damned good at being what it is. My favorite game activity was Instancing, or dungeon-delving to use the tabletop terminology. My favorite dungeon in the entire game, bar none, is Scholomance (Naxxramas being a close second). Before the numerous nerfs it has gone through over the years, it had everything I love. The grim undead motif, the unique challenges presented by each room, the numerous bosses, involving quest lines, and compelling lore all combined to make Scholo perfect for me. I've probably logged more hours inside Scholomance than I have in any other five instances combined.

So much do I love Scholomance, that a couple years back I sketched down the map, wrote up some quick stats for the various monsters and enemies found within its halls, and ran it as a D&D dungeon. The short session was a blast, and ever since then I've been determined to put more detail into the dungeon so that it can serve as the centerpiece for a truly challenging adventure. The project is a large one, though, so I've broken this post into 3 parts which will be put up over the next few weeks. Part 1, which you're reading now, will include the maps, and room descriptions. Part 2 will cover monsters, enemies, bosses, and treasure found withing Scholomance. Part 3 will cover role playing details, as well as several of the quests which can be done in Scholomance.

As a disclaimer before I move on to the content of the post, not everything is precisely as it can be found in World of Warcraft. Scholo has changed a lot over the years, and here I've combined my favorite elements from all of Scholo's long history. Additionally, since [Tape of Measuring] never drops for me, some of the rooms may be scaled incorrectly. I'm confident, however, that this does not adversely affect dungeon design whatsoever. Finally, I have not included Caer Darrow island, or the mansion which leads into scholomance. If I do include them, they will likely be altered to fit into my game world, and be found in part 3.

Without further ado:
Scholomance B1-1

B1-1 A: The descending stairs are made of dark stone, lit only by torchlight. Dusty skulls and rib cages are strewn sparsely on the landing. Rats and other vermin occasionally scuttle in and out of view.

B1-1 B: The stone stairway gives way to a wooden platform edged by deteriorating railings. The room extends ten feet beyond the platform, and the walls are densely packed with burial drawers, many of which appear to have been forced open. Elaborate candelabras, and skull-laden chandeliers light the room, and an iron gate across from the entrance leads into the next. Four armored skeletons guard the way forward.

GM'S Note: If the players look over the edge of the railing, they will be looking into room B2-1 E

B1-1 C: This is a balcony looking over a large room below. (GM's Note: Room B2-1 A) A stairway on either side of the balcony leads down into the room below.

Scholomance B2-1

B2-1 A:Five large chandeliers and numerous candles light this massive library. Book shelves of varying sizes are spaced along lower walls, while stone shelves containing mummified remains dominate any wall space too high to be reached. Under the stairs in the south of the room is an alcove with a balcony looking over another room below. (GM's Note: Room B2-1 E) Necromancers and undead gather around tables, or in the large open space in the center of the room, discussing hells-knows what. A succubus wanders amongst them, as if overseeing their conversations.

B2-1 B: More bookshelves boarder his low-ceilinged room. Six small pits in the stone floor are filled with the remains of numerous dead creatures. Around the pits stand small groups of necromancers--a teacher and one or two students. Two armored skeletons and a drider patrol the room.

B2-1 C: Stairs lead down to a small wooden platform which opens onto a small balcony extending from the cliff face. The balcony overlooks the lake below. A large iron bowl rests on the balcony's edge, without any obvious purpose.

GM'S Note: Pouring the blood of an innocent into this bowl summons Kirtonos the Herald, a powerful vampire.

B2-1 D: The walls of this massive room are covered in stone shelves, many of which still contain mumified remains. Others have been converted into storage for books, potions, scrolls, or candles. Various bookshelves have also been set up around the room. On the north side of the room, two alcoves end in balconies which look over another room. (GM's Note: Room B2-1 E) Here, again, groups of young necromancers converse with each other, and with their undead tutors. A skeleton the size of a hill giant patrols this room, along with three skeletons in more ornate armor than those in previous rooms, and a drider.

GM's Note: The southern door is covered behind a tapestry. When the players walk past it, a number of rats should scamper out from behind the tapestry. Perception DC 15 to notice that the rats seem to come from nowhere.

B2-1 E: This room is a teeming pit of mindless undead. Simple skeletons, zombies, and ghouls jostle each other as they aimlessly wander within the confines of this room. A drider walks amongst them, acting as shepherd to the horde. A heavy portcullis blocks access to a chest in a small alcove on the east side of this room. The door on the east side is thick, and has an ornate lock on it.

GM's Note: Rattlegore has the key to the heavy door. Lockpicking DC is 35. The portcullis can be raised by finding the secret torch lever in room B3-2. Lifting it is nearly impossible, requiring a strength check of 32.

Scholomance B2-2

B2-2 F: The floor in this large, open room is uneven, sloping gradually downwards towards the east. Like every room, the floor is covered with dusty bones and broken coffins. Dozens of student necromancers stand or sit around the room, listening to an elaborately robed skeleton give a lecture on the effects of negative energy on dragons. The skeleton stands on a raised platform filled with bookshelves, and tables covered in scrolls and urns. In the shadowy corner of the platform stands an armored zombie wielding a large sword.

B2-2 G: Bubbling cauldrons and tables filled with steaming beakers fill this room. There are fewer students in this alchemical laboratory than there are in other rooms--only three groups, each guided by a professor. Four large glass cylinders filled with green liquid hold the floating bodies of various undead creatures. Tables with straps obviously intended for humanoid creatures are positioned around the room, though none of them are presently occupied. At the far end of the chamber, surrounded by hundreds of candles, a lich in ornate robes paces.

B2-2 H: This room is filled with newly hatched dragons, each fluttering unstably on untested wings. All of the have a pallor which leads you to believe they must be quite ill, but this does not appear to concern the three handlers which patrol the room. Unlike most rooms and corridors within this crypt, no bookshelves line the walls. However, every 5 feet there is a recess in the wall, with a hole dropping into the room below.

Scholomance B3-1 & 2

B3-1: Heaping piles of bones fill this dirt-floored room. Most of the piles are situated under the holes to the room above. In the center of the room is the largest pile, reaching almost to the ceiling. Bone constructs with crude blades instead of forearms mill about the room. Atop the central bone heap stands the largest of the constructs, twice the size of the others, mindlessly overseeing the wanderings of his subjects.

B3-2: This room is devoted to shelves for the dead. There are even three rows of open shelves which separate the room into four "aisles." Unintelligent zombies and skeletons wander between these aisles in groups. A small alcove on the far side of the room is filled with hundreds of candles. Within, a single spectral woman in noblewoman's robes reads from a book.

GM's Note: One of the torches in this room, near the alcove, is a lever. Characters with 5 ranks in Knowledge(Architecture) are entitled to a Perception check DC: 20 to notice that the sconce for the torch seems to hang oddly on the wall. Pulling it opens the portcullis in room B2-1 E. If a character reads the book which the spectral woman is reading, they will find plans for a bag of devouring.

Scholomance B3-3 & B4-1

B3-3 A: You emerge onto a walkway surrounding the edge of a two-level room. Like many rooms before it, the walls are covered with open shelves displaying mummified remains, while the walls below the walkway are covered in burial drawers. Six rooms can be accessed from this one, with each doorway marked by a raised portcullis.

B3-3 B: The entrance of this room is 10ft above the rest of it. Twin sets of stairs allow access to the pit below. Dozens of zombies fumble and bump into one another there. At the far end of the room, standing stock still in a small nook, is one zombie which seems somewhat amused by the poor motor skills of his brethren.

B3-3 C: The entrance of this room is 10ft above the rest of it. Twin sets of stairs allow access to the pit below. Bloody meat hooks hang from the ceiling, and stone tables covered in rotting carcases give off a horrible stench. Half a dozen ghouls pace across the blood stained floor. Across the room, with his back to the entrance, stands a man garbed in scarlet skillfully hacking a corpse to pieces with his meat cleaver.

B3-3 D:The entrance of this room is 10ft above the rest of it. Twin sets of stairs allow access to the pit below. Eerie purple flames in braziers around the room cast unsettling shadows. Three groups of necromatic pupils are gathered here, guided in their studies by a strikingly beautiful elven woman.

B4-1 A: (See description for B3-3 A)

B4-1 B: Stairs at the entrance of this room descend into water which is about a foot deep. Several sarcophagi rise above the water, and four skeletons wielding staffs and wearing robes pace amongst them. Across from the entrance, another set of stairs rises into a small alcove, where a spectral woman stands, as though waiting.

B4-1 C: A large sarcophagus dominates this room, flanked by two armored skeletons. On either side of the sarcophagus are stairs which lead down into water which is about a foot deep. Numerous smaller sarcophagi rise above the water here. Amongst them stands a man with pale skin and sunken eyes wearing full plate armor, and wielding a massive sword which glows blue. He is flanked by two armored skeletons.

B4-1 D: Five sinister looking skeletons, each with bones of an unusual hue, paces about this room. Behind them stands a hunched corpse golem, with skin as pale as snow, and powerful arms hanging at its sides like battering rams. Three 10x10ft sections of this room are lower than the rest of it, and covered under about a foot of water. A handful of Sarcophagi dot these low areas.

And there are the maps & room descriptions for Scholomance. I'll be working on parts II and III, and you can expect to see them in the coming weeks. If my spelling or grammar errors are particularly egregious today, I apologize. Preparing this post has been more draining than I might have expected.

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