This week in Deconstructing Dungeons we’re going to be taking a look at Cult of the Glutton, an adventure I published on the DMsGuild in September 2017. In this article series, I take a look back at adventures I’ve already published on the Guild, and analyse what I think I did right, and what I did wrong. I’ll also talk a little about the resources I used to create it.
Cult of the Glutton’s inception occurred when my newest party came together. As I mentioned in the last Deconstructing Dungeons, I went through a large player turnover, which resulted in a drop from 7 to 4 players. To introduce the new group to each other, the existing members decided to check out a dungeon they knew existed in the elven lands, as a proving grounds for the new characters. I knew that I needed to come up with something on the fly, and so began to improvise a dungeon, making notes as I went.
Thankfully, I had already fleshed out the story behind the elves, so I had something to start from. I knew that the elves were in trouble because of a demonic invasion. They had managed to fight off the demons once, around a century before, but the new intruders were more discrete, corrupting small areas at a time with their influence and slowly spreading like a disease. Because the elves in my setting are a highly insular people, they refuse to reach out for help, and are falling prey to a their own specific demise. Because I wanted to invoke this kind of virulent theme, I decided to use a demon lord that had a similar disgusting feel; Laogzed – the demon lord of troglodytes, gluttony and wanton destruction. Like his troglodyte spawn, Laogzed is a putrid, hideous creature that resembles a hybrid of toad, lizard and troll, with rotting flesh and corrosive blood.
Working from this standpoint, I knew I could populate most of the dungeon with troglodytes. I remembered that Out of the Abyss had at least one troglodyte variant, the champion of laogzed, that I could include too. On top of that, I wanted to foreshadow the presence of a more powerful demon lord; Zuggtmoy, so included some fungal creatures and spore servants. I knew that in order to have time to string together a few dungeon chambers and begin work on a map, I’d need to throw in a few smaller encounters to warm the characters up, and give me time to think ahead. Because of this, I narrated their journey through the corrupted elven lands, and started the dungeon with an easy encounter at the entrance with troglodytes, that help set the theme to come.
By the time the characters had reached the entrance, I’d already sketched out a map, prepped some encounters, and knew that I would probably publish the whole thing on DMsGuild. In some ways, the creation of this adventure is similar to that of Beneath the Sands; both originated in my home game, and both to fulfil a very specific role. Beneath the Sands provided a location for a magic item that I already knew existed in the world, and Cult of the Glutton supplied a home for a powerful demon I knew the game needed.
Although the adventure is a relatively simple dungeon crawl, with only one level, I did my best to add in a few different encounters and terrain elements to keep it action packed. I wanted the characters to feel like they were encroaching on the home of something powerful, and thus created traps and encounters that would keep them on the back foot. By having an aggressive defence strategy for a dungeon, you can make help to guide the characters movement through the dungeon, and curate a feeling of fear in them, which was essential to this abyssal adventure.
As the characters move through the adventure, they not only have to deal with troglodytes, but more typical cavern dwellers such as ropers and stirges. There is a fast-flowing subterranean river in the caves which can help or hinder them, and half a dozen pools of acid and disease bringing traps (barrels of infested frog corpses) to keep them on their toes. As mentioned earlier, I also included a large cavern filled with fungi and their myconid cultivators, as well as some elven spore servants to help reinforce the theme of elven corruption. I also threw in some basilisk pets, and a nalfeshnee demon to keep introducing new challenges to the characters. Having new and unexpected creatures is essential to keep a combat-heavy adventure interesting, as simply cutting your way through troglodytes gets boring after about the tenth one. I also made sure to add a hidden elven shrine to give a little puzzle for the characters, and some historical context for the dungeon.
I took a lot of inspiration in terms of dungeon layout and denizens from The Forge of Fury – Glitterhame, which appeared in Tales from the Yawning Portal. I had the book nearby and knew that it was filled with dungeons, and a quick skim through found the cavern map, which I could tinker with and recreate into something almost entirely new.
The final encounter in the dungeon is, of course, Laogzed himself. It occurs in a three-dimensional chamber filled with towering ledges, deep acid pools and multiple entrances and exits, all of which, combined with the CR 20 demon lord rising from a bubbling bowl of acid make for a cinematic fight.
All the cartography for this adventure was done by myself, by hand. I then scan the map into photoshop to clean it up a little and add labels. The cover art is by the amazing Dean Spencer, and the interior art is all from the DMsGuild resource packs that you can find for free on the guild, or appropriately sorted here.
What I did well: I think what I did best in this adventure is take the inspiration from my home game, and from Forge of Fury, and created something unique and thematic. I think it’s a great adventure to drop into an Out of the Abyss game as foreshadowing, or in any abyssal-themed campaign. I also think I did a good job of creating new magic items and monsters for the adventure, including the stats for Laogzed himself.
What I did poorly: I think my greatest downfall in this adventure, similarly to Beneath the Sands is the lack of roleplay or social interaction opportunity. This adventure is also rather light on exploration. To me, it has a rather old-school adventure theme that involves a lot of hack-and-slash, and not an awful lot of nuance. If I were to rewrite it, I’d probably set it in the Underdark, and weave it directly into Out of the Abyss, probably via a corrupted drow household.
GIVEAWAY! As always, if you retweet or share this blog, you’ll be entered into a raffle to win a free copy of the adventure. The winner will be announced this Sunday (July 15th 2018)