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Dungeon Situational – Books and Their Secrets

Books, rich tomes of lore and knowledge, and in a world of magic, power, monsters, worse, and better, knowledge can reveal so much about the world that you can use to twist and bend to your advantage. Eldritch secrets, long forgotten treasures, and far darker mysteries abound to those with the patience to settle down and get some reading done.

As per usual, Dungeon Situational uses Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules but should be readily modified. It’s all just ideas to get you thinking about how to stock your own fantasy library.

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Dungeon Situational – Three Quest Specific Spells

The spells of D&D 5e – as contained within the Players Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to everything and other sources – appeal to a broad range of characters with applications in combat and in many instances of day to day life. In a world of unexpected and varied dangers it pays to cover all bases… but what if the more a plot unravels, the more specific forms of magic become useful to you?

Presented here are very specific spells designed to inspire ideas specific to your own campaign, referring to motives of specific factions or parties, designed for combating a particular type of opponent, or overcome a particular type of obstacle. The rules as listed use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but should be readily modified to suit most fantasy systems. Here are three campaign-specific spells.

Abjure Serpents

3rd level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (A trilliant cut emerald worth at least 200 GP)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes.

Snakes, yuan-ti, hydras, and other serpentine creatures within 10 feet of you must succeed on a wisdom saving throw or be afraid of you. While afraid of you they cannot use their action for anything other than dashing away from you. Creatures must repeat the saving throw when they enter or start their turn within the range of the spell. Creatures you designate within the range have advantage on saving throws against poison effects, and resistance to poison damage.

At higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you may increase the radius of the spell by 10 feet, and again when you use a 7th level spell slot, and again when you use a 9th level spell slot.

Decipher

6th level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Touch
Components: V, M (a complex puzzle of wooden or metal pieces that has been solved)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour.

For the duration your mind sees through elaborate and complicated patterns as if they were childishly simple, isolating clues, and comprehending solutions. The affected creature has a +10 bonus to intelligence checks made to solve riddles, puzzles, and devices. This bonus applies to all checks made to recall knowledge concerning the riddle, puzzle, or device, and to investigation checks made to search for clues, hidden components, or hidden patterns.

The spell does not account for active deceptions, or any knowledge not overtly possessed by the creature, such as languages it does not understand. If a component is missing, the spell will allow the creature to observe this fact, but will not reveal the location of the missing object, unless it is something they have already encountered, or if it is something that can be found within areas the creature investigates while affected by the spell.

Mark of Bel’Taln

Transmutation Cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: S
Duration: 1 hour

When you cast Mark of Bel’Taln, take 1 fire damage. A brand in the shape of the arcane mark appears on your skin on a location of your choosing, and remains there for the duration before fading.

The mark is used to identify members of the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln to one another, and can only be taught to members by other members. A creature does not need to have the spellcasting feature to be able to cast Mark of Bel’Taln, but you must have a wisdom or charisma score of 13 or higher. This spell cannot be learned by elves or half elves.

When you reach 5th level, and good standing within the cult, you may be granted one of the additional features listed below. You may gain additional features at 11th level, and again at 17th. You must be granted these features by a a higher ranking member of the cult. When you cast the Mark of Bel’Taln, you take additional fire damage equal to twice the number of additional features you know.

  • While you bear his mark, you may speak the language of Bel’Taln. You can understand and be understood by monstrosities as if you shared a language, and you have advantage on charisma checks and animal handling checks made to influence their behaviour.
  • While you bear his mark, you have the blessing of Bel’Taln. You have resistance to acid and cold damage. Your unarmed attacks deal bludgeoning damage equal to your proficiency modifier, and you may choose to make unarmed attacks using your spellcasting modifier instead of strength.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the heart of Bel’Taln. You may teach the cantrip Mark of Bel’Taln to another creature. Doing so takes 1 hour, and the process ordains the creature into the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln. That creature must meet the requirements to learn the cantrip as listed above.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the wrath of Bel’Taln. When a creature makes a melee attack against you, you may use your reaction to deal an amount of acid damage to that creature equal to your spellcasting modifier.
  • While you bear his mark, you know the enemies of Bel’Taln. You have advantage on skill checks when they specifically pertain to elves. For example, you have advantage on stealth checks made to hide from elves, or insight checks made to sense the motives of elves.

Ok, I think we run this series through November and then put it to rest for a few months. I have had an idea for something else for next year, and I have some films chalked up to review. As for next week:

Books and their secrets, some tomes of knowledge that grant unexpected benefits, such as spells, formulas for magic items, or unveiling the location of incredible treasures.

An extra planar encounter table, detailing potential encounters within… let’s see… Carceri! The Prison Plane, the inescapable torment.

Or three different ways in which paladins can embrace or interpret their oaths, and the laws that they abide by.


Dungeon Situational – High-Level Encounters

Introduction

Sufficiently challenging your players at higher levels can be a difficult task for any DM/GM. With players of 15th level or higher who can take out creatures like dragons with relative ease, making encounters that are both interesting and a challenge can be tricky but ultimately worthwhile, if done well.

Below I have prepared a number of encounters using 3 different sets of monsters, two of which are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, that have been designed to both be a challenge to a party and be interesting and unique encounters.

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Dungeon Situational – 20 Rumours

Information is a valuable commodity to an adventuring party, no matter the setting. Whether the group are seeking information on a quest they’re already involved in, or looking for a job to keep them in gold and hot meals, keeping an ear to the ground in taverns or out in the street can be an excellent source of information, but only once they have separated out all of the misinformation from the truth.

Among the rumours listed below is a mixture of truth, half-truth, and out and out lies, and within that information there are hooks for two quests, the location of a dungeon, and one piece of mundane gossip. It is up to your players how they will learn which is which, and up to you where the truth is.

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Dungeon Situational – Three Curses

Among the many weapons in the DMs arsenal, often we overlook the idea of curses. Monsters and traps aplenty, puzzles and challenges, sure, but a curse is something wholly other. Disease is frequently too random, we rarely use disease because it is not something earned through foolish action, but a curse can be laid upon a player who does something foolish, or stumbles across something terrible.

These curses broadly use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but can easily be adjusted for other systems and settings.

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Dungeon Situational – 20 Travelling Partners pt. 2

Right, where were we? Travelling companions eleven through twenty. Here’s one through ten if you missed them.

Matoban Riverwheel

Halfling, female

The softly spoken halfling dresses in soft leathers and expensive looking silks, but without much by way of ornamentation or showy colours. Her hair is a thick bundle of dun dreadlocks tied with a chord, and she goes barefoot most places while travelling. She’s hard to hear in the midst of heavy conversation, but happy enough to listen and participate only when she feels it’s her “turn” to speak, waiting for lulls where she might be heard clearly. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – 20 Travelling Partners pt. 1

Ahhh… this may have to be a two-parter. This is going to be a two-parter. Having hit 1600+ words with only half of my wandering NPCs written, I shall save another ten for next Thursday.

Here below I offer you ten NPCs who may travel with your party. Some may help, others may hinder, all were created using random tables and generators for race, gender, jobs and roles, although the names and details are all my own. Thanks to the Hyper Halfling’s Book of Lists, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Fantasy Name Generators for giving the bare bones of the characters brought to life below.

Allow these fine folk to join the party for their next journey to help bridge the gaps between civilisation and adventure. If nothing else… it’ll be memorable. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Nemesis

There are days when the grind of combat becomes a simple matter of pointing and declaring “I hit that one” or “I cast this spell”. Sometimes what is required is a combat so utterly challenging that players are forced to think outside the box, get creative, and push themselves to the very limit. It need not be the bigbad, the final villain, the single enemy to which all other narratives have been merely a pursuit. It might be something stumbled upon in the course of exploration, something rumoured, but never sought, or something simply in the way of something else…

The raid boss, or nemesis villain, is more a staple of the hack-and-slash style RPG than the narratively driven tabletop role-play, but it’s fair to admit sometimes that we’re gamers of a new generation, who want a break from talking around a campfire, and just want the deadly thrill of facing a foe designed to kill. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Pandemonium Spell List

Let us suppose a variation of magic that does not manipulate a natural force ever-present in the world. Instead let us consider a school of magi who pull their power from the realms beyond the material, reaching into the turning gears of Mechanus, the glorious light of Celestia, the feral twilight of Ysgard, or – as presented here – the twisting tunnels, the ever blowing gales mingled with the howls of souls as they shred and dissolve into the headwaters of the Styx, Pandemonium.

The spells here are selected with a view to their aesthetic relation to Pandemonium, which borders the roiling chaos of Limbo and the demonic halls of the Abyss. Pandemonium itself is predominantly home to demons, a handful of damned souls that endure the winds, and a few evil or mad gods who have come to build their realms within. The spells are heavy on necrotic forces, death, madness, and eternally howling winds. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – Made By Sphinxes

Sphinxes are divine, extraplanar entities, mostly good, but exacting and demanding, and pitiless to the unworthy. The catlike beings are highly intelligent, powerful both physically, and mystically, they are trusted by the gods to ward places of power from the corrupt who might seek to use divine power to terrible ends. Leonine paws are ill-adapted to weapons that we might recognise, and their arcane majesty relies more upon their innate divinity, rather than arcane learnings, so what kind of items might a sphinx craft, or even need?

As in all previous Dungeon Situational articles, the following ideas use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but should be easily modified for other systems and settings. Here are some items, crafted by, and for the use of sphinxes… (more…)