Tekumel Reskinned: The Dungeon

Posted: 16 June 2010 in Settings

And now the dungeon. For the overall dungeon map, I’m going to use the London Underground map; it’s big and complex enough to be a megadungeon, and there’s one on the internet and in the back of just about every diary printed in the UK, so I’ll be able to get to it anywhere. You could use any other city map or underground map you like, and if the party explore dungeons elsewhere I can use another one – possibly Milan, because then I could have enigmatic grafitti scrawled everywhere: “The Third Line advances!” (I know what that meant in Milan, who knows what it means on Tekumel?)

For those not familiar with Tekumel, every 500 years each city is razed to the ground in a complex religious ritual, then rebuilt on the ruins. However, conservative priestly factions insist on rituals being performed in the original location, clans need cellars to store things, and so on; the net result is that each city stands on the ruins of many previous incarnations, each of which is honeycombed with a labyrinth of corridors and chambers, laced with treasures guarded by men and monsters. It’s a good explanation, and means the city is right on top of the dungeon.

I scan a copy of the Jakalla map from Swords & Glory, print it out reduced to A4, and then print the London Underground on top of it so I can see easily what is on top of what. (Both images are copyrighted so you don’t get to see that, sorry.) A couple of measurements and some quick arithmetic tell me that the tube lines themselves, which are going to be the main corridors between room complexes, are about 20 feet wide compared to the map of the city above. (Excellent, that means I can use a chessboard folded in half as a battlemat for a main corridor section – there are chessboards everywhere too, and they generally come with pieces that can be used for the party and its enemies; the bishop represents the cleric, and so on.) It looks like stations are never closer together than 5mm, so as long as none of the room complexes is much bigger than 100′ x 100′ I should be alright.

The levels descend in the order they’re listed on in the key; I can tie that in to Tekumel’s history so that, for example, there are lots of strange circular markings in the cramped and convoluted tunnels which make up the 14th level. That will keep for a later post, since I don’t need all the levels for the weekend; just the first couple. Level 1 is the Bakerloo Line, and is the contemporary sewer system; Level 2 is the Central Line, which is where I expect the PCs to enter because it lines up most obviously with known entrances.

Stations marked by a little square show where the room complexes are. I need a way to map those that I can carry with me, ideally in my head; each station has a name, so I shall use the initial letter of each name as the corridor layout for the room complex, and add rooms to taste. Here’s a simple example for the letter D:

Example room complex for stations beginning with "D"

Since I plan to do this on the fly, the same room complex will probably wind up with different layouts over time. I don’t think this matters; do your players visit the same complex again and again? I thought not. (If they do, I can say that temple patrols and workmen have made modifications for some reason not immediately clear.)

Stations marked by a larger circle connect levels. Each is a large circular room, built around a well which connects all the levels (Tube lines) which meet there. The well is actually a lift shaft containing a giant Tenser’s Floating Disk for use as an elevator. Runes and glyphs on its surface, if trodden on in the correct sequence, will move the Disk to another level like a lift, or teleport the party to any other Disk on the same level. There’s more to that, but that’s for another post I think, this one is getting long enough as it is.

Why did I pick D for the example complex to detail? Well… traditionally, the entrance to the underworld beneath Jakalla is from the tomb complex just outside the north-east wall. I look at the composite map and pick a pyramid which is squarely over a Tube station; there are about five to choose from, and I pick Debden underneath the Tomb of the Lost King because it’s the first one for which a theme occurs to me; Debden – the den of someone called Deb. OK, that can be a medusa in contact with the local Thieves’ Guild (which doesn’t exist in baseline Tekumel but will here), acting as a fence and crime boss. A medusa is perhaps a bit stiff as opposition for two first level PCs, so we’ll say she’s out when they come calling. The complex will contain storerooms, slave pens, guard quarters, a meeting room, and a luxurious ladies’ boudoir with no mirrors in it. Hur hur hur.

Whatever they do encounter will be appropriate for the second level, since that is where they enter. When using the DMG random encounter tables, I’ll base the level of encounters on the dungeon level rather than the PCs’ level; that gives them more choice about what they face, and they will probably figure that out eventually.

An adventure session will take about 30 minutes to set up, 30 minutes to pack away, and an hour per encounter. We won’t get more than three hours straight, so I’ll prepare three encounters – two I expect to use, and a third as a contingency. Rolling on the tables on p. 193 of the DMG gives me:

Encounter 1: Easy, Commander and Troops, no extra feature. From DMG p. 58, that’s a Commander (controller or soldier) of level n (i.e. 2) and 4 Troops (brute or soldier) of level n-3 (let’s call that 1). Let’s try a Needlefang Drake Swarm and four Stormclaw Scorpions, it’s becoming a family joke that every 1st level encounter is with Kobolds. They can be just opportunistic vermin. I don’t want to give out magic items this early in the game – I’m stingy with them – so I roll 1d6+4 on the treasure parcels tables, and determine the PCs will find 60 gp when they defeat these chaps.

Encounter 2: Hard, Wolf Pack, replace one monster with Trap. 4 skirmishers of level n+5 (i.e. 7). Three Crimson Acolytes fit the bill, probably here to trade with the Medusa; the fourth one is replaced by a Whirling Blades Contraption, evidently set in the meeting chamber to deal with those guests who just won’t take a hint and leave. These guys are worth 40 gp.

Encounter 3: Moderate, Wolf Pack, no extra feature. 5 skirmishers of level n (i.e. 2). Human Bandits, again here to trade. These fellows have 200 gp.

There we go, ready for the weekend gaming slot, and took about an hour to sort out, most of which was spent drawing the map. That will get faster with time, I’m sure.

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