D&D General Brainstorming a 'magic glitch' dungeon

TL;DR - in a bronze age city-state, sometimes poorly worded magic spells 'glitch' and shunt nearby people and objects into a demiplane of loosely linked motes of reality. What sorts of weird stuff could the party find in there.

(This thread is loosely linked to an earlier one: D&D General - Brainstorming an inland temple of a bronze age sea goddess)

I'm running a bronze age fantasy game in a setting inspired by Mesopotamia, centered around a city with a holy ziggurat called the Palace Hill. The state religion produces a variety of tablets which contain the literal 'Word of God,' which creates magical effects in close radius (e.g., no rats or fleas can come within 12 cubits; or any person who disturbs this garden who is not a devout follower of the goddess Methodra shall be expelled; or the nearby fountain shall be fed with safe water).

The vibe I'm going for is a mix of Hammurabi's Code and the Ten Commandments, but with a sort of computer programming language element. Over a century, the state religion (which can produce exactly one tablet each day) has gradually worked out what sort of phrasings function as intended, though along the way they've had some small disasters when flowery language was rendered literal by a magic tablet. (E.g., "When a traveler from another land has trouble making their words understood, natives of our land within 12 cubits of this dictate shall know what is in their hearts" . . . leading to speakers of foreign languages dying horribly as their hearts are ripped from their chests.)

The religion keeps these mistakes secrets, but internally refers to them as Consequences.

I have an idea for a dungeon that would be created from when odd interactions between tablets get resolved by basically glitching stuff into an extradimensional space. "Oh, tablet A says no vermin within 12 cubits, and tablet B says that priests of the camel god can curse someone with biting fleas which they cannot remove for 1 day, and the cursed dude walked within 12 cubits of tablet A? Well, he's now no longer here, and he shows up in a semi-void, like if you were programming a video game and no-clipped off map."

(Or something sorta like the video game Bastion.)

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Originally everyone just, y'know, died when this happened because they'd fall into a void, but one priest investigating someone's disappearance had a hunch and made a special commandment tablet to ensure anyone vanishing due to a Consequence of tablet magic gone awry would find themselves somewhere safe. Now, whenever a new glitch occurs, the magic has to determine what 'somewhere safe' means, which usually takes the form of an 18-ft radius (12 cubit) chunk of dungeon manifesting - with floor, and maybe some walls, but seldom a ceiling.

And they're all linked together and somehow have breathable air and at least some light, at least where you first arrive. But so far no one has ever gotten out. I want the PCs to be the first, giving them a monopoly on accessing this demiplane that's full of weird stuff.

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In last night's session, the party stole a magical tablet from a temple of the sea. The tablet's purpose was to let the high priest of the temple decide which creatures could come and go through the threshold of a holy pool in the center of the temple, which they cultivated as a sort of garden with sea life and coral and such.

The party managed to sneak in, swap the tablet out with a decoy, put the real one in a bag of holding, and then slip away.

You really shouldn't put these magic tablets in extradimensional spaces.

So when they were trying to cross a canal to get out of the city and back to their hideout, the moment one of them tried to step from the boat to dry land, they glitched. They were 'leaving the waters,' but since they weren't in a temple, 'who is high priest' was undefined, and so was 'what choices did the high priest make on who can come and go.' The uncertainty got resolved by just preventing any of them from leaving the water, and we ended the session with the party having been deposited in the Consequence Dungeon.

Right now it's just them, the small ferry they were traveling on, and a freaked out pilot, all stuck in a space with a stone floor, and part of a wall, and a hazy void beyond, where they can see other motes of solidity connected by dark pathways, and all around them cascades of water pour into the abyss.

So now I need to flesh that dungeon out.

I already know at least one way I am thinking they can escape. A previous person who got stuck in the Consequence was a former priest of the sea goddess, and he could do enough magic to conjure food for himself to survive, but he has gone gradually mad with isolation, and has begun to transform into a Lovecraftian horror. Still, he is a priest, and if they speak with him he could help them understand the nature of the glitch. He could decide to let them leave; they just have to find a temple for him to be in - and of course there's a whole temple that got inadvertently glitched into the Consequence also. They just need to get there, and fight all the weird things in their way.

Another option is that the party has befriended a few folks who are still out in the real world who could notice their disappearance, one of whom is a priest of a god of fire. The party's tabaxi fighter (and copper merchant) has received a blessing from the fire temple, and so I might have the priest be able to communicate briefly whenever the tabaxi is nearby fire - hearing a voice from the flames, which could let them coordinate between the two worlds. My players are clever. Hell, one of the reasons I made this whole campaign was because of how much I enjoy seeing them figure out exploits and unexpected interactions of things in my settings.

So the escape is less the hurdle. I need ideas for stuff that would get glitched into an extradimensional dungeon. I want to give the players a reason to keep coming back, to look for useful magic and such. They might even figure out how to start intentionally glitching stuff there to turn it into a super-secret base of operations. So it'll be sprawling, but I want there to be at least some logic to it, some theming.

Right now the party's 4th level.

So, any ideas? What's here, and what went wrong for it to get here?
 
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One starting place is "stuff a bronze age society would want to disappear. So swarms, certainly. Maybe a lot of unclean water and waste, ew. Rocks surrounding precious ores.

Also I'd expect a lot of undead from people who went missing and starved in the Consequence.
 

A priest whose friend committed suicide is distraught, and makes a commandment meant to stabilize the health of anyone who injures themselves. It only could only be applied to a single person at a time, but a priest could link it to someone he feared might harm themselves, to protect them anywhere.

Later, the king forbid human sacrifices, so a high priest made a commandment that ripped open the belly of anyone who slew another person for the purpose of a religious offering, to ensure they died as well. A cult tried to find a way to avoid that restriction by putting prisoners in horrible Jigsaw-esque situations where they either have to kill themselves or let a loved-one die. Technically the people doing the sacrifices are not the members of the cult but the sacrificees themselves, so it avoided consequences . . . until one of the people they tried to sacrifice was also suicidal and protected by that first commandment.

He ended up feeling a sudden desire to live, and so refused to kill himself, which meant the other prisoner died . . . which then triggered the second commandment to open his belly to kill him, . . . except his death was forbidden by the first commandment, . . . so the whole death trap prison full of murder cultists got sucked into the Consequence.
 

Inspiration from Ghost of Tsushima Legends:

Paired blood-sucking undead which cannot die unless both are disabled, and damage one undead does heals its twin.

Monsters with odd taboos, like legless ravenous undead trailing their entrails behind them as they scamper about on their hands, who have damage resistance if they haven't eaten lately, which will pause to devour food. (Not to self, track supplies in the Consequence.)

Or dog spirits that have to chase anything thrown.

Or faceless warriors who've battered all the reflective surfaces in their part of the dungeon because if they see their reflections they are blinded.

Or glitchghosts (need a more on-brand name for the bronze age) which are a bit Schrodinger's Cat-y, in that they can never be targeted if you can observe them. You can hit them with area attacks, or strike while no one is looking at them.

I might also just use the dungeon as an opportunity to let the party fight enemies themed on the various gods of the setting, without the, like, political consequences that would come from fighting them in the 'real world.'
 

Stormonu

Legend
Could have a demi/god avatar stranded in there because of poor wording that wasn't expecting them to arrive where they did - that'd be a really BIG coverup.

A few animated objects might have ended up there as well as the commandments couldn't quite sort them into "objects" or "creatures" correctly. Maybe a mad flesh or clay golem, or an animated object that yearns for a soul of its own and resents being sent here because it didn't have one.

Maybe also a priest or three who had to perform some rites that temporarily made them unclean and they got zapped in before they could perform the proper rites to cleanse themselves (and would really like the PCs help to get things straightened out).

An artifact that was designed to help physically build society but somehow went insanely wrong and was zapped here. Mayhaps a "temple built by the faithful" that is actually constructed from the bodies/souls of the faithful who were displaced to this realm and got too close it. It's growth has been stunted, but it might be of significant size to be explored and dealt with. And it (or someone inside) has plans for getting it out ...
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
One starting place is "stuff a bronze age society would want to disappear. So swarms, certainly. Maybe a lot of unclean water and waste, ew. Rocks surrounding precious ores.

Also I'd expect a lot of undead from people who went missing and starved in the Consequence.
Look into the prohibitions that old religions had that weren’t based on keeping people safe from crimes.

For instance, sha’atnez refers to the OT prohibition against wearing fabrics of mixed wool (an animal product) and linen (a plant based fiber). Perhaps those who violate a similar restriction find themselves trapped within. So might merchants who aim to sell such goods.

Or consider the dietary restrictions of various faiths. Eating forbidden foods or selling them for (local) consumption could get you banished. Even RAISING such foods might get you banished unless there were a loophole- like the (allegedly) elevated pig farms of Israel.

And there’s always the Hellraiser-type option. Blasphemers & other sinners get yeeted “into the cornfield”.
 

aco175

Legend
Pick a Jumanji movie and insert quirky NPC. Maybe just have a diary of the poor soul who knows the many secrets of the demi-plane instead. Although a NPC is always fun to feed information.

I was thinking of a common monster that roams all the 'islands' in the plane. Something like giant ticks that have been mutated along the line and can jump to other islands. Once the PCs figure out how to use them to move, they can find more places to explore.

There should also be goo places to rest and find aid. Maybe a construct or angel is there with a pool of healing water or an oasis where others in the place come and go as a sort of inn or village to gain equipment and knowledge.

I always have fun with a rival adventuring group. They know the way to hop around the plane and are one step ahead of the PCs until they need their help and must be some sort of friends with the PCs for a while.
 

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