This week in Deconstructing Dungeons I’m taking a look at one of my favourite adventures; Terra Incognita. Unfortunately, it’s also one of my worst. I’ll discuss this at length later on. For those that don’t know, Deconstructing Dungeons is an article series in which I take a look back at my published works and review them. I give a detailed, spoilerific synopsis of the plot, give some details about the resources I used to help me go from idea to adventure, and then summarise what I did well and where I messed up. I also give away a free copies of the adventure and my Adventure Compendiums each week (details at the end of the post).
Terra Incognita is a Tier 2 adventure that should take several sessions, around 6-10 hours, to complete. I first published the adventure on August 1st 2017, a year to the day from my debut adventure Seeds of Chaos (which also has a Deconstructing Dungeons article). I fondly remember writing the adventure while I was travelling around Europe that summer in a tiny little notebook I bought from Florence (I think). The fact I was writing it during that summer probably goes a long way to explain why I messed some of it up! The basic premise of the adventure is that a loyal friend of the party is kidnapped, and seems to have disappeared without a trace (in theory). The party have the task of uncovering the truth behind the kidnapping, tracking the villains back to their lair and recovering their friend. Of course it’s never as simple as that, but that’s the premise.
The first section of the adventure provides an example NPC friend, called Boddyknock Murnid (a current NPC in my campaign at that time). He’s the head of the cartographer’s guild, and had been supplying the adventurers with cheap maps and travel guides because, in return, they were helping him map new locations. One night, Boddyknock goes missing from the Cartographer’s Guild after staying up late working on a new invention. The next morning, the Guild appears locked from the inside, and the town watch are called to help investigate. They in turn get in contact with the party for assistance. After sifting through the Guild, the party turn up a variety of different clues which should help them gather information about the kidnappers, a band of duergar. One of these clues is Quinthar Liliathen, a naive half-elf, who was fooled by the grey dwarves into permitting them entrance to the Guild. Here, unfortunately, is where I mess up. Somehow, the door is locked from the inside (by Boddyknock) and the back door is barred from the inside. Quinthar is locked in a crate. The duergar went down a hidden tunnel around the back of the guild. Who barred the back door? OOPS! When I get the chance I’ll need to make an adjustment here. I think I might include an ingenious self-locking mechanism on the back door to remedy the fault. Either way, the party will hopefully discover the hidden umber hulk tunnel out the back of the Guild, and begin to follow it.
During the second section of the adventure, the party must traverse a small section of the underdark until they reach the ruined city of Grindstone. I have included a few encounters here to help wear the party out/give them an XP boost to make sure they’re prepared for the upcoming scenes. A few of these encounters are simple combat-focused fights with a little twist, but there are also some opportunities for roleplay. My favourite of these are the Meenlock Ambush and Grimlock Cult encounters. These give characters a chance to learn more about the adventure or gain some valuable allies.
The finale of the adventure takes place in Grindstone – a duergar fortress that was destroyed by a purple worm. Lurking in this tomb of a town is Kroth, a formidable fomorian slaver who has Boddyknock in his dungeons. That’s not all that’s going on in Grindstone though. The reason Kroth targetted Boddyknock in the first place was because Vadania Mithryn – a drow priestess – placed him under the geas spell, forcing him to obey her commands. The weakness Kroth showed by allowing himself to be put under the spell has caused fractures within the duergar that follow him. A gang known as the Triarchy has emerged, whose aim is to kill Kroth and take over his slave trade for themselves. Of course, in typical JVC Parry style, all of these factions end up butting heads at the least convenient time for the party, trapping them between the three evil agents and forcing them to make some hard decisions.
Grindstone is also fully detailed in this part of the adventure. I’ve included maps of the whole area, as well as Kroth’s Palace. Travelling throughout Grindstone has a chance of random encounters which are detailed, and the general features are included in a handy sidebar. Kroth’s Palace is fully fitted and fortified with a range of features to stump the usual tactics of entry a party might consider, hopefully encouraging them to think outside the box.
The resources I used to make this adventure are the usual, Photoshop for the cover and Homebrewery for the interior layout. All of the maps are hand drawn and scanned into Photoshop so they can be labelled. Most of the interior art is from the DMsGuild creator resources, but there are a few gems from artists I reached out to on DeviantArt. The amazing cover image is by Martin Sobr.
What I did well: I think I did a good job in this adventure at blending together a mystery and a combat heavy finale. I also, like in Shattered Souls, did a good job of creating factions within the dungeon that each have their own motives and methods. I also think Grindstone is a fantastic location and believe I did a good job of detailing it.
What I did poorly: Let’s be honest, I messed up the beginning a bit. It’s a relatively easy fix, but it needs doing sooner rather than later. Other than that, I think this adventure is relatively well constructed and is actually one of my favourites!
GIVEAWAY! If you like the post on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a giveaway to win one of five copies of Terra Incognita. If you retweet or share the post, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Adventure Compendium Vol II, which contains Terra Incognita as well as a handful of other JVC Parry adventures! Good luck!
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