I’m going to move to a slightly more abstract discussion of the levels because I’m not sure how interesting it is to read the room by room discussions, especially since I don’t have the maps up yet. That’s proving much more time consuming than I expected – the degree of pre-work needed for a dungeon is much greater than other games. I’ll have to see how much it pays off in actual play, but it did feel more labor intensive.
In any event, the remainder of level 2 is the rest of the original castle’s official ‘basement’ (while level 1 was the sub-basement) and also the entrance to their mines. The southern part of the level is that mine entrance and is made up primarily of offices, guard chambers, slave holding pens and other things needed to make the mine run, now all repurposed for the goblin town that lives there. The Goblin Town should feel strange and alien – I want this to carry the first real hints of the extreme ‘otherness’ of the goblins. One quick change is that some of the goblins will have powers identical to those of Sprites to give non-damaging curses; this will only come up if the PCs enter the area as relative friends; If they come in weapons blazing they’ll get a different reaction and no one will bother making their eyes colorless or their hair endlessly long if that’s the case. The goblins are armed as per normal, but they also have a smattering of trapped areas courtesy of the gnomes and a few Hobgoblins and Boars to bolster them up.
There are two exits from level 2 – one of them is the entry into the mines that make up level 3 and 5. The other is at the end of a very long hallway where there is a porch carved into the side of the volcanic jungle valley that makes up level 4. The PCs can decide to repel down there and bypass level 3 if they like, though they will have to move to level 5 eventually.
Levels 3 and 5 have been modified a little from my original plan after discovering the great maps of The Fantasy Cartographic Locales Volume 1, purchased via Drive Thru RPG. Two of their locales are linked together as the carved out interior of a giant stalactite inside a cave and the city inside that cave complex. The idea was just so cool, and the maps so useful, that the stalactite is level 3 and the larger cave complex and city is level 5. This is meant to give the size and scope of the space – by this point they’re pretty much in an Underdark like setting. The hobgoblins control maybe ¼ of this space and the rest of it is filled with other monsters, tricks, traps and strange areas.
Level 4 is the gnomes jungle. While relations with the goblins will inevitably deteriorate as the hobgoblins undermine any good will the PCs might have secured in the zombie bashing the Gnomes could be real long term allies.
As was mentioned earlier level 6 is Castle Amber, and it is stored inside one of the buildings in the subterranean city. That makes it somewhat questionable that the PCs will find I, so there will be rumors of its existence in the goblin/hobgoblin
It’s not until the PCs penetrate into level 5 that they’ll come to the attention of Malcolm (unless they rescue the Wraith on level 2, which will make him aware of them, but he still won’t consider them to be real threats). From that point we can expect some direct interaction with them.
Level 7 is really a roadblock, and I wonder about keeping it, but it is another alien environment, a cave about as big as the one for level 5 but even more inimical to human life, filled as it is with spores, molds and fungus. There needs to be something to drive them to this level, which means rumors of even greater treasures and magic. I think we might include vegepygmies (!) in here and have it exist over the ruins of another underground, magical city of gates that is primed for looting. Add in the gates and I can put anything in there, coated with a layer of slime.
Levels 8-9 are the lizard man and dragon levels with a third culture allied to Malcolm. It’s not like Malcolm has a master plan at this point – He’s powerful, certainly, and a threat, but right now is focusing his attentions on other planes looking for a way to restore his humanity while not, ya’know, dying of old age. He considers himself to be a fly trapped in amber since he can’t level up any higher than his current level. If the PCs or some other group of delvers attract too much of his attention or rescue some of his lower level prisoners (Not Waggoner, who is these days below his notice – plus the curse on Waggoner is such that letting him loose might make things worse for him) they might reawaken his desire to drive the city of Shankill into the sea. That could open a whole new can or worms, but I don’t want to drive too much of the plot in that direction.
Malcolm has sizable allies in the elemental plain of fire – they don’t have any reason to get more deeply involved in the prime material plane, but the PCs will be able to explore the plain of fire and capture any number of powerful magical items. Hopefully that will be reason enough for the PCs to continue.
This has been an interesting experiment in design; the problem is that until I can start actually running it. Live play reports to follow.