Dungeons of the Dominions

I’d like to have the option of dungeon crawls in my fantasy game, but I don’t especially want to create a new setting when there is such a vibrant and detailed one as the Dread Sea Dominions already in play and familiar to my players.

So, where are the dungeons in Beasts & Barbarians? There are little ones all over the place, for example in The Carnival at Nal Sagath or The Sword of Izim, but what about megadungeons? Let’s see… In order of publication…

The Fallen Realm of Keron (Beasts & Barbarians Golden Edition). The vanished Keronian Empire must surely have left behind a number of cities, fortresses, wizard’s towers and so forth, and one could easily create a megadungeon somewhere within striking distance of one of the Independent Cities, perhaps a former surface city now buried.

The Cursed City of Collana (B&B GE, Shadows Over Ekul). This is more a ruined city in the style of RuneQuest’s Big Rubble, but it’ll do. It’s a former trade hub, so it’s full of treasure. Since that unpleasant affair with the Valk demon-summoning, it’s infested with monsters, who just won’t stay put. Apart from straight-up tomb-robbing – er, sorry, I mean "salvage" – there are always those surviving descendants of noble families who simply must have their grandparents’ regalia, and are looking for rough fellows to recover it for them. There is however a near-certainty of a Total Party Kill.

The Sewers of Jalizar (Jalizar, City of Thieves). The City of Thieves has a number of underground "levels", but as the Sewers are intended to be used as a mapless dungeon these are regions with shared architectural features rather than levels in the usual sense. This is much like the underworlds in Empire of the Petal Throne, and is the most obvious choice, as it is intended to be used this way.

The Iskondor (The Queen of the Lost Valley). This is an immense tunnel passing under the northern range of the Iron Mountains; it exploited and expanded old mine tunnels to provide a trade route between Felantium and northern Zandor, but during the Valk invasions it was sealed by a Tricarnian sorceror to prevent the Valk swarming through it into Faberterra. It is rumoured to be cursed and full of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Can you say "Moria"? I knew you could. The players can easily be commissioned to reopen the trade route, giving them a reason to explore and a clear destination. I rather like this one.

Tricarnia (Tricarnia, Land of Demons and Princes). There are many candidates here for megadungeons, including the ruins of Tel Askora, former citadel of a powerful warlock; the notorious Breeding Pits of Nal Nomantor; and of course the original underground city which gave birth to the nation as a whole, Val Hordakor. For inspiration, I would use D&D drow, Warhammer dark elves, and Michael Moorcock’s Dark Empire of Granbretan in the Runestaff novels.

Whichever you pick, one thing that must be taken into consideration is the different monster palette; Beasts & Barbarians is based on the Conanesque side of the hobby’s source material, not the Middle-Earth side; orcs and goblinoids, for example, can be used, but they and the reason they are not stampeding across the Dominions need to be explained – their ecological niche in the Dominions is filled by the nandals, the Caleds and especially the Valk. (According to his letters, Tolkien partly patterned orcs on historical steppe nomads.)

However, more importantly, Beasts & Barbarians isn’t intended to be used with detailed maps, but with advancement tokens, preset encounters, and card draws; download the free adventure The Carnival at Nal Sagath to see how that works. The GM need not draw maps or stock their rooms, but still needs to prepare a group of significant encounters.

This is another example of the Savage Worlds approach to adventures; all killer, no filler.

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