Epic Dungeon in the Playground
A Prison without Bars
I’m unsure, how a good opening should look like. I was thinking about the party traveling through some forest with a bad reputation (locals might warn them, that people vanish there, if they go there by night – might be presented as a plot hook). If the PCs decide to check it out and stay late in said forest, they might an inn/hut/other habitated building. It might be a little out of place, but otherwise seem harmless. If PCs accept an invitation inside, their souls get bound Hotel California style. If they don’t, they might notice, that some inhabitants are very slightly translucent. By the morning the building vanishes and reapears on the next night. This might be enough for them, to go in anyway in order to solve the puzzle.
In the first phase PCs would mainly interact with other trapped people. Most of them won’t even notice, that anything is wrong – they are just having fun and don’t want to leave. They will also explore the place, that will be much bigger on the inside, then it looks. Overall feel should be like some sort of a dreamworld – fancy ballrooms, fountains, exquisite food and drinks, whole worlds behind doors, that should lead to just one room. From gathered information and observation they should understand, that gradually all people become ghosts and are sucked somewhere deeper within the structure. Passages to those deeper parts should be hidden and look as some cracks in reality (a mirror, that shows reflections with half a second lag, a pond, that has a way too colorfull illusory fish in it, a place, that distorts perspective for no good reason).
Next part of the complex should be surreal and progresively darker in tone. I was thinking about areas similar to the previous dreamworld, but long abandoned and decomposing/going horribly wrong. I’m quite eager to put this into use at some point. At least some of the PCs should by now be partially transformed into ghosts. They should gain some mild powers with it (mage hand as a SLA or some such) and their perception of the place should change as well (i’m not yet sure, how to handle this, but ghosts should essentialy see things, that other can’t). It might be possible for the PCs to go between ethereal (or partially so) and material form by making for example a Will save to change their form (going back to being material should be harder, the longer they stay in ghost form). I envision this area as puzzle heavy, where using both material and ghost forms will be essential to solve problems. PCs should encounter first Shadows as well. Not the regular ones, they should be actually scary and might even force the party to run for it. Those creatures should be mostly hunting for ghosts and eat them if possible. PCs should find remains of long dead adventurers as well (no bodies, just displaced pieces of gear, journals and scraps of maps). They’d get hints, that the creatures running the place are particularly vulnerable to [Light] magic and there should be some fragments about trying to find an artifact (specifics below) locked away somewhere in wilder parts of the Plane of Shadow (where the whole complex is located – surprise, surprise).
I don’t have much of an idea, how the holding place for the artifact should look like, so this place is blank for now. Last part will be the descent into the very Heart of Darkness (not of the Conrad kind, but small letters wouldn’t cut it), where they will be very likely to be eaten by grue. They will have to fight their way through to the BBEG (some sort of incorporeal monstrosity). The only thing between them and imminent death will be the artifact’s aura, that weakens shadowy creatures enough, they can actually be slain. Yet some of them will be powerful enough, they will have to burn some charges on the artifact and that would weaken it’s protective aura, so they might choose to run for it instead. Then the last battle commences.
Orb of Light – Alpha version
1. The artifact sheds light as a Daylight spell with the difference, that it does hurt (or debuffs) creatures susceptible to daylight. The strenght of the debuffs and area of effect should be proportional to the number of charges left on the Orb.
2. 10 is the maximum of charges.
3. A charge may be spent, to grant all PCs a sort of a Bane enhancement (to their weapons and spells as well) with some additional goodness (bypassing DR, increasing save DCs for example). This effect should not last too long – I was thinking about 10 rounds or so.
4. The Orb can be recharged by using up spell slots to a total of 20 spell levels per charge (cost can be divided between more persons) and performing a 10 minute ritual.