Following the players actions last session, the party seems set to continue anti-clockwise, into the final part of Zanzer’s Dungeon. As such, it’s time to prepare for the final conflict that will see them escape at last, as well as uncover a tantalising clue to a future adventure.
The eastern half of the complex contains the last few stocked rooms of the dungeon, including the small mine itself, and a final encounter with Zanzer Tem. All this is covered in five rooms, even though only four of those rooms contain actual encounters.
We also have the wandering monster list from last session to help fill out the session. This is useful as we can use it to put a stumbling block in the way of the party should they take the detour around the complex that eventually leads them to Room 28, which is part of the unstocked dungeon left for GMs to fill in as they learn how to generate adventures. If the party decides to explore this area at some point in the future, it can always be stocked as needed prior to that session.
Finally, the details for Room 23 remain unused, as does the side complex of Rooms 20 to 22, so the party can always head back and explore these areas. The wandering monster trick can be used to stall the players from exploring Area 24 until we have stocked that area of the dungeon, so even if the party decides to backtrack, or even decides to swap active parties, we are covered for the session.
Let’s take a quick look at how the session should progress. As always, player pacing and decision making will affect this, buta simple plan is as follows:
First, the party has the option of exploring the simple mining cavern that is Room 30. Since Room 30 is behind closed doors, the party may wish to bypass this room entirely.
The party then is faced with a choice between Room 31 and 32, with two very different challenges within. Both are long conveyer rooms, but only Room 31 is active. If the party deals with Room 30, they are given a clue to avoid the deadlier Room 32, which contains a green slime. As Room 32 is the further of the two conveyer rooms, even if the PCs bypass Room 30, they are much more likely to encounter Room 31 than Room 32, since both rooms are open chambers and the PCs will have to pass the entrance to Room 31 first.
Beyond Rooms 31 and 32, we have a complex of tunnels which lead to Room 33, and the final encounter with Zanzer Tem. It’s here that the PCs can find the means to escape the dungeon through a trapdoor in the ceiling. They get to pass the door to Room 34, with the locked trapdoor leading to Stonefast, but chances are that they will take part in the final conflict with Zanzer Tem before they get the chance to do so.
As mentioned above, the PCs might take a wrong turn from leaving Room 31, so instead of encountering Room 32 or 33, they end up travelling along the back way to Room 28. We can always use a random encounter here, if we haven’t used one already. There are some interesting tactical challenges that can be used here – the back way consists of a long corridor with a tight, roughly hewn section in the middle of it. This can easily be used to restrict ranged combat, or to encourage the party to go elsewhere in the dungeon.
All together, we have four potential encounters in this session, in rooms 30, 31, 32, and 33. We also have room for a single random encounter, but chances are that there will be enough fighting to avoid this if the party sticks with the planned encounters. The party should only need to encounter one of Rooms 31 and 32, so we can count both rooms as a single encounter for pacing purposes, which is useful for us as the climactic battle with Zanzer Tem can be quite complex, and therefore might be considered two encounters for such purposes.
It’s worth noting that the players might decide that the final encounter with Zanzer Tem should be deferred until later, after they have explored more of the dungeon. In this case, they might not only explore both Room 31 and Room 32, but also consider backtracking to explore the areas they missed out on. So it doesn’t really matter if the party doesn’t make it to Room 33 and the final encounter in this session – there’s still plenty to explore!
The Mine and the Belt Rooms
Room 30 is the mine, and contains two ogres and four prisoners. The prisoners won’t help the party fight, they are too weak, but will recommend that the party enters Room 31 disguised, and avoid Room 32 because of the “jelly”.
Room 31 contains an active conveyer belt, and consists of six dwarves guarded by another two ogres. The dwarves are chained to the belt, but will attack the ogres that come near them. If freed, the Dwarves will join the party as NPCs in their bid for freedom, but only if they head to Room 33 and try to escape the dungeon. Otherwise, they will bid the PCs farewell and seek their own escape, unless the PCs direct them to where the other PCs are resting. If the Dwarves leave, they will ultimately get lost in Zanzer’s Dungeon, probably heading to room 28, or finding some other secret way out, but could be used as a wandering monster encounter later in the adventure.
Room 32 contains an idle conveyer belt. Hiding within the room, on the ceiling, is a green slime, which drops on the first character who steps 4 or more squares into the room, requiring a DC 12 Reflex save to avoid.
Green slime is a deadly encounter for those who do not know how to handle it – green slime that has fallen on a character can only be burnt off, with half of the burning damage going to the PC, and half to the slime. Luckily, the PCs are likely to have access to torches at this point, but even the 6 points of burning damage required to save a victim can kill those on low health. Of course, a character who is killed can be raised, where as a character who is turned into green slime cannot, and only high level magic, beyond the reach of the players in the campaign right now, can bring them back.
It should be noted that if the PCs fight the green slime, the green slime will attack, but only needs to touch the PCs to cling to them. As such, green slime ignores all bonuses from armour when rolling to attack, but will begin to dissolve the armour. The green slime doesn’t ignore shield bonuses, but if the PC would only avoid being hit by the shield bonus, then the green slime will stick to and dissolve the shield, but the PC has the chance to drop the shield and escape. The green slime will also stick to any weapons used to attack the slime, but like a shield, these weapons can be dropped to allow the PC to escape. Remember that only fire damage can hurt a green slime, and therefore only those characters using torches are going to be effective in combat.
In Room 33, the PCs will encounter Zanzer Tem, and four of his bugbear guards. When Zanzer hears the PCs coming, he will cast a darkness spell over the area, so without the help of the Dwarves, the PCs are likely to be at a disadvantage in this combat unless they managed to retrieve a light spell to counter the darkness.
Zanzer will have used all of his spells at this time, but he does have a scroll with the spells web, shield, and magic missile on it. Zanzer Tem will use these spells in combat. Once Zanzer is out of spells, he will attempt to escape, but if forced into melee, Zanzer will attack using his dagger if he is cornered.
There will be no quarter for Zanzer Tem in The Vale, so unless he can flee to safety, he fights to the death. If Zanzer does manage to escape, he will hide in the wilderness and possibly become a recurring villain for the PCs to encounter, maybe used as a wandering encounter to harass the party later in the campaign. Zanzer Tem might even seek to reclaim his dungeon if the PCs don’t secure it, and use it as a base to continue to harass the area – which might be important if the PCs seek to return and explore Stonefast at a later date.
Speaking of Stonefast, Room 34 has a single feature – a locked trapdoor leading to Stonefast. The PCs can seek to return to explore Stonefast at a later date, but the campaign itself will continue in another direction, as the Patriarch of Haven will seek to send the party off to explore other dungeons as issues arise. These additional adventures will seek to expand the party stable, and give the players something to do whilst their previous PCs recover from their expeditions.
For now, this room serves to tease the PCs with the presence of Stonefast, a lost Dwarven hold, to explore in the future. The PCs shouldn’t be able to open the lock, even with a knock spell. Likewise, breaking open the trapdoor isn’t an option because of it’s quality. Only when they find the key, which the party will find when you are ready for them to explore Stonefast, will they be able to enter. This will hopefully motivate the players to stay in the region of the Vale rather than deciding that they need to explore out further afield for adventure.
The final encounter with Zanzer Tem will end the adventure Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon, leaving only a little bit of clean up for the party to do if they want to finish exploring the rest of the complex. It’s important to engage with the players and see what they want to do, because they might be keen to escape from the dungeon and move on to further adventures, especially if they seem to want to explore Stonefast.
The party will get to travel to Haven, the main town in the Vale. Here, they will set up a more permanent base, so from now on, their party stable will only be available once they return to town between expeditions. As such, the PCs will have to learn to prepare for an entire adventure, not just a single session, before being able to change characters.
The PCs from Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon is likely to need to rest after escaping the dungeon, even if they are at full hit points. They will need time to recover from the ordeal of imprisonment, as well as learn from their experiences. They may have gained enough experience to gain a level, but until they get time to reflect upon this, they will not gain any further abilities.
As such, this is an ideal time to say goodbye to these PCs for the time being, and move on to another adventure with another set of PCs. This time, however, these are pre-generated characters, and so the players will spend more time adventuring and less time creating these characters, as they explore the Crypt of the Smoke Dragon with Graywulf, Stardancer, Delavan, and Zanthar Rex…