Deconstructing Dungeons is an article series in which I take a look back at old adventures I published on the DMsGuild, and talk about what I did right, and what I did wrong. I’ll give a short summary of the adventure, and discuss its themes, as well as the resources I used to create it. This week we’re going to dive down into the depths of Sanguine Sacrament, a kuo-toan dungeon crawl with an epic boss battle at its finale.
Like many of my older adventures, Sanguine Sacrament is based on an adventure I ran for my home group. It sees the characters explore a littoral cave network in which a tribe of ko-toa have taken up residence. These fishy folk have been capturing the local clergy, believing them to be heretics in the face of their true god, an aboleth named mezzogoth. They have also managed to create a strange demigod of their own from a bemused octopus.
This adventure was really spawned from the descriptive text of both the kuo-toa and the aboleth in the Monster Manual. That book, as I’m sure you know, if FILLED with wonderful monster-based plot hooks that leap out of the pages at you. The particular element surrounding the kuo-toa’s that I enjoyed was the fact that these creatures create their own gods by worshipping strange combinations of objects, or items they have discovered. Through their own will, the kuo-toa create physically present gods that walk among them. I tried to play off this description, and that of the aboleth of being an ancient, almost lovecraftian evil that lurks in the depths of the oceans. They are capable of telepathically influencing creatures around them, and bending their will to match the aboleth’s own desires. In this instance, the aboleth wants to continue its ascend to divinity and corrupt local villagers with its presence. In order to do this, it has its kuo-toa worshippers kidnap local clergy to remove the existing ecumenical structure.
Throughout the dungeon crawl, the characters will be on the back foot, having to fight creatures in their own environment, whether that be in the slimy kuo-toa caverns or beneath the surface of the dark shark-infested waters. The environs of the dungeon are designed to put characters in difficult situations. Some rooms have elevated ledges which give the kuo-toa the advantage of cover and superior field of view. Mezzogoth’s own lair has a deep central pool in which the aboleth resides, forcing characters to swim down to attack it. Meanwhile, a kuo-toa archpriest named Flooplidoopl shoots spells at the characters from atop a cliff-face shrine. Using the environment in ways like these can make mundane monsters dangerous foes, and deadly ones absolutely terrifying.
As is often the case with my adventures, I used homebrewery for the layout, and draw the maps in photoshop. The maps and layout are in desperate need of an update, which will come when I get around to making this adventure print on demand. All of the interior artwork in the adventure is from DMsGuild art packs, which luckily have a nice selection of kuo-toa and sharks! The cover artwork is from Tuomas Salmela, who I originally found through DeviantArt.
What I did well: I think I did a good job here of taking an idea from the Monster Manual and turning it into an adventure. There are so many hooks in that book that can be exploited in that way, and I’d recommend doing so for any who are looking to start publishing on the guild. I also think I did a good job of using locations against the characters to make combat more interesting. Kuo-toa are not difficult foes to fight, but I think that the inclusion of a dangerous environment makes them far more fun to fight, and adds a little deadliness to their normal abilities.
What I did poorly: As with many of my early adventures, this one lacks context. When I come to updating this particular adventure, I think I’ll set it in the Forgotten Realms somewhere coastal, and start it off as a mystery kidnapping. As the characters start investigating the missing clergy, they will slowly uncover signs of the aboleth’s influence, possibly through already converted cultists. They’ll then be able to piece together enough clues to lead them to the dungeon, where they can fight mezzogoth and his worshippers.
GIVEAWAY! Don’t forget that by retweeting or sharing this post, you could be in with the chance to win a free pdf copy of the adventure! The winner will be announced this Sunday (August 19th 2018).