Dungeon, Inc


Dungeon, Inc. is a tabletop roleplaying game I'm working on. It is (for the most part) motorized by Eric Nieudan's excellent Machiatto Monsters (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/203614/Macchiato-Monsters-ZERO). I've done about 15 playtest one shots in the last few months and I think it works OK, but I haven't yet tested in campaign mode. So with my Hong Kong players I'm starting a proper campaign.

Dungeon, Inc. Pitch

Since time immemorial, wise ones have wondered about the coherence of these dangerous but lucrative places often called Dungeons. Adventurers explore them, and should they survive the monsters and traps they face, they exit richer than they entrered.

But why do these places exist at all? Why has such a diversity of monsters decided to settle them? Who resets the traps after the last adventurers triggered them? And for that matter, where are the bodies of the last adventurers who failed to survive the traps or monsters? Places that are so easy to hear about (just hit the local tavern or talk to any village chief and rumours will abound pointing to the nearest Dungeon) must after all be much frequented.

The truth known by very few is that Dungeons, or at least the largest of them are actually corporations. They are managed by leaders who recruit monsters, establish the maps of the places they settle in, build traps and handle the visiting adventurers. Why? The oldest reason in the world: money. Adventurers may think they will find riches in dungeons, but in fact they bring in their own wealth: full purses, magical devices or weapons, divine medallions, even golden teeth.

In a nutshell, Dungeon, Inc. kills adventurers and grows rich from their wealth. It’s their business model, at least when things go right. Because such an operation actually requires a lot of money up front and is complex to set up and maintain: one must attract adventurers through the spreading of rumours, the abduction of village children; once in a while, an adventurer must get out enriched, otherwise the lure would grow cold fast. Monsters need to be recruited, traps maintained, places mapped so the monsters know where to find the adventurers and how to best deal with them.

Higher up in the organisation’s hierarchy, investors must be found to expand the Dungeon, and provisions must be made to ensure they will make money too. Employee unrest must be kept at a minimum without salaries exploding. Most importantly perhaps, the organisation must ensure that all of this remains a secret: if adventurers start going around and telling other adventurers it’s all staged to ensure their deaths, it’s not going to be good for the business.

In Dungeon, Inc. you play receivers, part of the Client Services division. Your role is to welcome the adventurers, generally with broad swings of your nailed clubs. You are the Dungeon’s fieldworkers, equipped with maps of the levels where adventurers have been spotted. Your role is to take advantage of the fact you know the terrain to eliminate them as fast as possible. Your aspiration is to spend your stipend in the Dungeon’s company stores, inns and brothels; indeed, the Dungeon is a thoughtful employer and knows your well-being to be paramount.

And who knows, if you do your work really well, you might become Employee of the Month and for a few days have access to the salons and entertainment opportunities of your betters. This is how you get the chance to frequent the cream of the company’s most promising managers in this great family that is Dungeon, Inc.


The Employees

Gnorman (silent G), a Gnome Trapmaker is a frail gnome whose skills with traps got him a position in Client Services. What he lacks in physical strength he more than makes up in precision. Gnorman always carries with him spherical exploding devices of his own making. They're not always reliable (Unpredictable Explosions is a Specialist Training). Gnorman can also use some pseudo-magical devices to Grease the floor in front of him or plunge a room in Darkness. (Magical Training). Gnorman worships an obscure deity called Glord.

Zolark is a Conniving Goblin who advances by gaming the system. If there's one area where he has done his homework it's in knowing all of the company's rules and regulation (and how to abuse them). His specialist training is that he is Insanely Bureaucratic. He is also pretty tough for a Gobelin and starts the game with 2D6 hit dice.

Ssservalax is a Vain Troglodyte. She is female, not that anyone notices. She is convinced, despite everyone's behaviour around her, that she is beautiful, and certainly does all she can to enhance that natural beauty. She is a tough troglodyte (2D6 hit dice) and has a specialist training to use her troglodyte glandular sacs to project a noxious vapour.

Toad is a Glory-Hunting Werewolf. He can shift to a wolfman form which makes him stronger in melee combat (and weaker in all precision activities). He is pretty dim generally, but he's a weapon fanatic and loves to discuss the properties of various weapons with those similarly interested. He has a martial training of D8.


Some Colleagues

The group's supervisor is Zyylla, a female Goblin who is Distracted and Insecure. She is Zolark's second cousin (+).

The quartermaster in charge of their equipment is Quinlan, a Generous but Inefficient Minotaur. Toad and him share an obsession with weapons (+) but he thinks Gnorman is beneath him, both literally and figuratively (-).

The cartographer they interact with is the Imp Irma. Despite the name, no one really knows if she's female, or even if Imps have genders. She's a Perfectionist and a Devout worshipper of Glord. Gnorman and Irma get along largely because of their shared worship (+) whereas Sservalax has no time for her idle superstitions (-).

More often than not, the Employee of the Month is Sir Robert of the Golden Lance (but "please just call me Bob"). Sir Robert is a Likeable and Selfless Zombie. He gets along well with Sservalax, and they often play draughts together (+). On the other hand, he believes that Zolark is up to no good (-) and Toad is jealous of him being 'in his spot' (-).

(+) denotes a positive relationship
(-) denotes a negative relationship


Mission #1 : A Discreet Magician

Zolark, Gnorman and Ssservalax are playing cards in the resting room. Ssservalax keeps looking aside: there's a mirror there and she's checking herself out.

Their supervisor Zyylla walks past.

- Hi cousin! says Zolark.
- Oh, hello! What are you guys doing here?
- Waiting for the next mission. What are you doing here?
- Me? I'm... Oh damn! I need to see you in my office right now!

She dashes out back to her desk.

The three receivers pack the cards and get up leisurely. They walk to Zylla's office. On the door there a plaque that says Zylla - Supervisor. Ssservalax knocks.

- Come in! Oh! It's you. How are you guys doing?

Zyylla is sitting behind her desk, shuffling through pieces of parchment with a frown on her face.

- We're just fine, Zolark says.
- What brings you here?
- Well, you just asked us to come see you!
- I did? Oh damn! So I did. Yes, I know what I was looking for now.

She shuffles parchment again until she finally snatches a sheet.

- Ah ha! You guys are going on a mission, isn't that amazing?
- Sure, sure, Gnorman mutters.
- So this one's a bit tricky, but I'm sure you'll manage just great.

Zyylla scans the page before continuing:

- Right, so these clients erupted into level -48, a section called the 'Halls of the Dwarven Kings'. There's a hobgoblin tribe there. Our stuck up orange cousins, she adds, winking at Zolark. They dispatched the adventurers, but Supervision says one of them made it alive. It's surprising really, as hobgoblins tend to be thorough, but anyway, you need to go check it up. If one did indeed survive, you need to fix it.
- Kill thisss client? Ssservalax asks for clarification.
- Yes.
- What do we know about this client? Gnorman inquires.
- Says here he's a magician. I don't know how Supervision knows, but there you are.
- Anything else?
- Errr... no. So who volunteers to be mission chief?

No one lifts a hand, but Zolark discreetly winks to his cousin.

- Well, in that case, I guess I'll just nominate one of you. Zolark, you are mission chief.

She hands him the mission order, and off they go one level below to the Storehouse. The large corridor they arrive from has openings on one side where desks have been laid. Behind the desks, they see the inside of the Storehouse level: massive racks supporting weapons of all sorts, hangers with various pieces of armour, and some crates and barrels at the back where the rations are kept. Quinlan, their assigned quartermaster is sprawled over his desk, scratching one of his massive horns, his bovine eyes staring vaguely in the distance. He only reacts when the receivers are standing right in front of him.

- Oh, hi Ssservalax, he says. You alone ?

In response Zolark raises his arm with the mission order (his head is actually below the level of the desk). Quinlan snatches the mission order and asks:

- Is the other (he makes a sign with his fingers suggesting something small) there ?

- I can hear you, you know, Gnorman says in a cold voice.

Quinlan scans the mission order, mumbling.

- Halls of the Dwarves on minus fourty-eight... Yes, I think I saw those mission packs this morning. Let me check...

Quinlan turns around and rummages through a number of sacks by his desk. He hands one to each of the three receivers, tossing more than giving it to Gnorman.

Gnorman has a small leather coat and a round buckler, a sling and some stones as well as whip in his pack. He also has some dry biscuits.

Zolark has an unwieldy voulge, a long bow he doesn't know how to use and a helmet that is too large for him. His food is liver sausage and various items of dubious use.

Sservalax has some javelins, a ringmail armour and a large stick in her pack as well as some food and assorted items.

- Quinlan, she hisses, they forgot to give me a sssword or sssimilar weapon for melee combat.
- Nope, he says, pointing at the stick?
- You mussst be joking!
- That's what it is, girl...

Having taken stock of their unconvincing gear, they head out towards the Map Library, muttering about earning enough to buy their own equipment and not depend on the Storehouse management's absurd decisions.

- According to the rules and regs, Zolark says unconvinced, they give us whatever equipment has been collected from clients. In a sense we should blame the clients.
- I don't buy thisss for a sssecond. Incompetent fools! Ssservalax retorts.
- Mind you Quinlan isn't exactly a paragon of competence himself... Gnorman adds acidly.

The Map Library is a large room with massive tables in the center on which company cartographers are tracing the maps to the seemingly limitless levels of the Dungeon. All of the walls are covered with racks of small square section holes. Each hole holds a rolled map.

Irma is at its desk, scratching a used parchment. Its concentration is extrement, so that only Gnorman's greeting gets its attention:
- May the glory of Glord bask you day, the gnome says.
- Glord be with you and smite thine enemies, Irma answers automatically. So where are you guys headed?
- Level -48, Dwarvish something or other.
- Oh yeah? That rings a vague bell. Let me see the mission order.

Irma stares at Zolark, a little surprised when he hands her the parchment.

- Alright, let me fetch that for you then.

It hovers away, heading for one of the racks. It extracts from there a parchment, and rolls it into a bone case, which it then hands to Zolark.

- You are to bring this map back in its current impeccable condition, Zolark.
- Yeah yeah yeah, like every other time. I know the drill.
- Well, I'm more attentive than other cartographers you may have worked with, so make sure you bring it as pristine as it is now.
- Sure, sure.

As the three receivers head out towards the Elevating Platform, Zolark opens the bone case and unrolls the map. It's handdrawn and annotated. He reads the annotations aloud for the others to hear.

Then follows the long descent into the bowels of the Dungeon. Our three receivers have no idea how the Elevating Platform is powered, but it creaks and shifts constantly. In order to pass the time, Dungeon, Inc has appointed Kaenidji, a goblin bard who sings quiet tunes or plays soothing instrumentals throughout...

Zolark, Gnorman and Ssservalax finally emerge from the Elevating Platform into the Central Column on level -48. This column connects all the client-ready areas on that level through a series of complex secret passages. Only receivers know the series of bricks to press in the right order to get these passages to open. Still, emerging from the central column passages is always a delicate moment since they must not be seen.

The three receivers, having used the discreet eye-piece always positioned to see that no one is on the other side of the last secret door. Having checked this, Zolark taps the bricks in the right sequance and the wall swings open silently.

The map doesn't describe this small room specifically, but it's next to a room marked a Weapon's Storage. This one looks more like it must have been food storage a long time ago. Everything is long rotten or turned to dust though. Jutting out of the grey stone walls the receivers can still see rusted iron rods that must have supported wooden shelves. One thing stands out however: crumbled on the floor is a large piece of cloth. Zolark lights one of his torch so that they can all see details better. Ssservalax pokes it with her stick, and when nothing moves, she picks it up. It looks like a green robe, human size, slashed and with traces of blood.

- Probably the clothes of the one we're after, Zolark says.
- Ssstrange. Why would he disrobe? Is he going around ssstark naked?
- Hard to tell. Probably not enough blood here for him to be dead from the blood loss alone, Gnorman opines.
- Let's move on, then, Zolark concludes.

After having listened that no one is in the next room, Zolark opens the door and enters the Weapon Storage. He finds himself surrounded by the dull gleam of dozens of rusted weapons: swords, axeheads, pikeheads, either lie still in the metal racks designed for them or lie on the floor. Only one weapon is still shining as if it'd been forged yesterday: a fine short sword that looks very sharp indeed. Zolark has a moment of hesitation, but decides that it would be too conspicuous to pilfer such a weapon.

Beyond the next door the goblin hears shouts and laughs and while he can't hear the specific words, he's pretty sure that the language is Goblin.

- This is where the hobgoblins must be. We should go and talk to them.

Zolark opens the door and casually enters a massive hall in the center of which the hobgoblins have settled. The architecture is decidedly Dwarvish: the columns are square and heavy, dwarven runes in frises adorn the upper part of the outer walls, and here and there are the remains of statues of stout dwarves. The hobgoblins have settled about half of the hall, living on the floor in a quite orderly fashion. The only feature of their encampment is a tent which has been erected on the far end of the hall from where the receivers are looking, just in front of the secret passage to the fake treasure room shown on their map. Three female hobgoblin warriors are standing in front the entrance, swords drawn on their laps.

The hobgoblin tribe seems to number in the twenties, and the warriors are well equipped: shining studded leather armours and swords. A few of them have short bows as well. Even among those who are clearly not warriors (mostly because they look too young or too old) there's an air of discipline. The tribe seems to be currently gathered around a fire over which a human leg on a spit is slowly roasting. The smell is quite appetizing to Zolark, although the others don't much care for it.

Zolark openly walks towards the largest Hobgoblin, who he presumes (correctly) to be the chief. Two of the hobgoblins draw their swords, but clearly more as a precaution than as an aggressive gesture.

- Hello my friend, Zolark says. I was wondering if you have seen some human explorers in recent days ?

The chief seems a bit taken aback, but decides to answer nonetheless:

- Yes, and my tribe has slaughtered them without even one of our warriors dying. They did not even pass the door of our Hall!
- Has one of them escaped?
- No! We have killed them all and are now eating their flesh! Are you doubting our prowess?
- Not at all, just inquiring. You see I have it on good authority that one of them is sneaky, so I was wondering... How many did you kill?
- Three or four, I do not recall exactly. They are in the antechamber over there, you can go see for yourself. Don't count the limbs though, we've been eating some of those!!!
- We will go and check, we will.
- Why are you asking these questions? the hobgoblin chief asks, slightly menacingly now.
- Well, see, I work for a crime boss a few levels up. This gentleman we're looking for has swindled the boss, and that's just not on. So we've got to kill him dead and bring his stuff back to the boss. Simple as that.

The hobgoblin chief scratches his head, and the three receivers head out to said antechamber, North on their map. Zolark cautiously opens the door. It looks (and smells) like expected: bits of human cadavers spread on the floor. Zolark gives the all clear and the three receivers move in. There are four corpses, including a magician with a green dress identical to the one they have seen tattered in the closet they entered from. As they are examining the scene, Zolark grabs a dagger and plucks an eye out of one of the corpses.

- Don't eat that! Ssservalax says. It'sss disgusting: it'sss not ripe yet. You'll get a belly ache!

Zolark hesitates, then shrugs and munches on the eyeball.

- This is very strange indeed, says Gnorman looking at the magician's corpse. Do you think he had two robes? If yes how did the one we found end up over there?
- We'll have to elucidate this later, but meanwhile, let's gather their gear for collection, Zolark says.

The goblin takes the robe off from the magician's corpse and starts piling all the stuff they find on it: weapons, armours, pouches, trinkets, etc. Zolark swipes a fine looking dagger and keeps it for himself. He then starts dragging the heavy parcel out towards the weapon's room. As soon as he passes the door to the main hall however, he falls forward as he suddenly realizes he is not dragging any weight.

- What?
- This is getting curiouser and curiouser, Gnorman says.

They head back in the antechamber. They see all the equipment piled up on the floor where they put it, but the robe is no longer there, it's back on the magician's cadaver.

- Hrm, Gnorman says, scratching his chin. I recently spoke to Linda, you know the human girl in Advertising who often goes Outside to talk to Wizards and understand how to attract them to the Dungeon. She gave me a few tips on how to recognize illusions, and I'm pretty certain this is one of them. In fact...

Gnorman examines the corpse closely and notices that the skin has a slight orange tinge.

- ... I suspect it's slowly wearing off. So the magician is not dead, he is passing off as one of the hobgoblins.
- Let's go and warn the chief, Zolark says, he's a good guy.
- I sssuspect he may not believe usss, essspecially consssidering his pride in their martial prowesss.
- Ssservalax is right. I think we will have to unmask him (quite literally) ourselves. I may have a plan.

Gnorman explains his intention to his colleagues and they agree to follow his lead.

They enter the hall again and head towards the Hobgoblin chief, all smiles.

- Any chance I could partake in that roast? Zolark asks. It smells amazing.
- It would be my pleasure. Will your friends eat with us as well?
- No, but do not feel offended: they're not great meat lovers. Pity, but it leaves all the more for us, eh?
- Indeed. I myself am partial to roasted toes. Would you like to try them?
- I would, I would!

While they are chatting in Hobgoblin, Gnorman and Ssservalax stand in a central position, where all the tribe members might hear them and start talking in the common tongue. After a short while (and the hope that they have the attention of any Hobgoblin passing himself as a human), Gnorman says:

- Ssservalax, have you heard about the Goblin who ate too many plums?
- No, I have not...
- He was green with diarrhea!

The punchline is uttered quite loudly, and both Ssservalax and Gnorman hear a faint chuckle coming in from the tent. They keep on talking as if they hadn't noticed, but Gnorman makes a face at Zolark, pointing towards the tent.

- So what's that tent there? It's your quarters, I suppose?
- No no no. A hobgoblin chief lives among his tribesmen. This is the Shaman's tent. Shaman's need to perform their magics and talk to spirits in seclusion. That is why our virgin warrior maidens keep the tent always.
- Oh, how interesting, you see amongst us goblins...

Zolark keeps on chatting the chief for a little while, and finally concludes, saying they need to get going and will be exploring the area for traces of the man they are looking for, if it's no bother. The chief gives him his ascent, and off they go, deciding to enter the forge and from there check out the fake treasure mentioned on the map.

The forge is dusty and entirely useless, but features all things expected in a dwarven forge: bellows (with the leather mostly rotten), anvils, basins, rusted pincers and many more items whose functions are not clear to the receivers. From there they move on to the King's Chambers indicated on their map. Again, the chambers are barren of anything organic, only the metallic frame of the king's bed is still there, though thorougly rusted. Zolark tries to find a sequence of bricks to open the secret door indicated on the map, to no avail. Gnorman starts examining the bedframe, and find a small lever behind of the bedposts. He flips it, and the wall opens with a mild click.

The room the passage leads to is a treasure room, at least on first examination. Its metal coffers, though ruster half open, are full to the brim of golden coins. Zolark's eyes gleam in the light of the torch reflected on those coins until...

- Wait a minute! That's copper coated with gold paint!
- Those colleagues in advertising are sssmart... I would never have known, Ssservalax answers.

Gnorman, meanwhile, checks the map and starts looking for a switch to open the secret passage into the Shaman's tent. He finally finds something that feels like a button on the inside of the lid of one of the coffers. Looking at the others, he waits for them to be ready and presses the button.

The wall slides down, and the three receivers look into the Shaman's tent. The Shaman himself is surprised and terrified at the intrusion. "Help!" he yells in Goblin. "I am being attacked!" It may be faint, but Zolark detects an unmistakable accent in his speech.

Ssservalax throws a javelin at the Shaman. She uses a technique shown to her by Gryfflick, a killing chimaera wotking in Termination, but only grazes him. Zolark stands back, knowing himself to be ineffective in combat. Gnorman meanwhile takes out one of his exploding orbs from his sack and lobs it at the back of the tent where he can now see the hobgoblin virgin maiden warriors standing up and coming to the Shaman's rescue. The orb explodes, and the front of the tent collapses. The back of the tent is fastened to the wall and so stands, but the tent itself has caught fire. The Shaman points at Ssservalax, and a stream of purple light shoots from his finger and burns her.

Zolark decides it is time for him to intervene. He jumps directly at the shaman, with the idea of rolling him into the fire. He succeeds, but also catches fire himself. He stands back up nonetheless and tries to stab the Shaman with the dagger he took from the corpses, but to no avail. The Shaman starts yelling... in Common and slapping himself to extinguish the flames! As he finally manages it, Gnorman starts pelting him with well shot slingstones. The shaman looks Gnorman intently in the eyes, and the gnome senses a wave of friendship pass through him. He strains to resist though and manages not to be swayed by the magic.

Ssservalax has run out of javelins. It's time to move in close and start hitting with her stick. Zolark realises that unless he puts himself out, he's going to burn to death. He remembers a discussion with Eldorg, a dark elf who works in maintenance. Eldorg told him that after the great fire of level 17, Maintenance discreetly implemented a policy of having sand bags hanging in many dungeon areas. He looks around, and indeed there's such a bag. He slashes it with his dagger and the sand douses the flames on him.

Meanwhile, the warrior maidens have been hacking at the front of the tent. The receivers can also hear the barks of the hobgoblin chief. They start to see their blades cutting through the fabric. Time is running short.

Ssservalax manages to graze the Shaman again with his stick, but it's one of Gnorman's slingstones, right between the eyes, that finally downs the Shaman. Just as he hits the floor, the Hobgoblin chief and the warrior maidens appear, weapons drawn and ready to hack the receivers to bits.

- Look! Zolark yells, pointing at the Shaman's body.

The body is elongating. Its skin changes to a more pinkish colour, blonde hair and a beard appear: in death, the Shaman is shapeshifting back into the Magician. The Hobgoblins cry in horror, and the chief yells at Zolark:

- What is this sorcery? Where is our Shaman?
- I suspect you will find its dead body in your antechamber. This magician used sorcery to take his place, disguise the body and and live amongst your tribe.
- Why did you not tell us?
- You would not have believed us, and we would be dead by now.
- That may be true. I suppose you have our thanks for ridding us of this intruder, then.
- That's fine. He's the one we were after. We will now take what he carries with him and be on our way.

They strip the body of any valuables. These include an ornate bracelet with a drawn frieze that shows a man turning into a bear and back. Also, Zolark finds on him an old map that shows the Halls of the Dwarves and points to the fake treasury with this mention: "gold aplenty in the Dwarven King's Treasury".

- Those marketing guys, Ssservalax hisses looking over the Goblin's shoulder, they are very sssuccesssful, yesss?

The receivers ask the chief if they may rest in the hall before being on their way, and although troubled by their presence, the chief now fears them a little. He agrees. When most of the tribe is asleep, they slip out through the weapon's storage room with the equipment of the four receivers. Thus their way in isn't revealed to the hobgoblins. They drop the equipment in the central column to a representative of supplies who will inventory them. Before that though, they look inside the purses of the dead adventurers and each choose to keep a little gold for themselves.

Once back in the receivers' quarters, they give Zyylla a quick summary of the mission (omitting their own pilfering, obviously). Zyylla is pleased, and commends Gnorman on using his exploding items wisely. They then head out to the Map Library to hand the map back to Irma, who inspects every corner of it before declaring it intact. Finally, they hand back their equipment to a bored Quinlan, and can finally head out to their bunkbeds and get a well deserved rest.


Mission #2: Wrong Assessment

Following the completion of their mission, and particularly upon hearing how cleverly Gnorman got the metamorphosed magician to betray himself, Zyylla sponsored the gnome for Employee of the Month, and Gnorman was chosen by the board of directors. He leaves for a week of well-deserved rest in the upper levels of Dungeon, Inc. where (presumably) he'll be able to smooch to the important people in the company.

Meanwhile, it's more work for Ssservalax and Zolark. Following an unfortunate series of accidents amongst receivers, Zyylla reshuffles the teams around and adds Banult, a reckless dwarf and Rodriguez, a go-getting skeleton to the team. She calls the four of them in for an urgent mission.

- Marketing has set up this scheme a few years ago, she explains. They call it 'proactive advertising' and a number of client areas work this way. In this case, it's the Lair of the Reptile God. It's an area with some big lizardy monster that Troglodyte residents worship. People from advertising regularly set up teams to go to the Outside and bring back some villagers for 'sacrifice' to the Reptile God. That way, adventurers are continually attracted to that area.

- Very clever, Rodrigues interjects.

- Anyway, Zyylla says, a group of four adventurers have entered the area. Now this is an area suited for clients of intermediary power levels, so I normally wouldn't send you there. But supervision tells us that these clients are actually novices. Chances are they will be wiped out by whatever the level has to offer to them. Still, you need to make sure they're done for, and possibly get rid of a survivor if there is one.
- Ssso, kill them? Ssservalax asks.
- Yes, kill them, of course. Oh, and before you go: it has come to my attention that some receivers in my teams may have been keeping some loot on the side for their own enrichment. I don't need to stress that this is not only forbidden by company policy, it's a dangerous path to tread on. Those that do this will be Warned, and believe me, you do not want to be Warned.

Zyylla is not looking at anyone specifically, but tension can be felt in the air. She finally breaks it by saying:

- So, who will be Mission Chief ?

Zolark, who doesn't want to attract any further attention following Zyylla's tirade about pilfering doesn't put his hand up.

- If no one else minds, it would be a great honour for me to take the mantle of Chief for this mission, Rodriguez says. I will do my utmost to steer the team in the right direction!

- Good, that's done then. Off you go to see Irma.

The small band goes to meet the cartographer. She hands them the map of the Lair of the Reptile God and stresses repeatedly, looking Rodriguez in the eye sockets, that the map should come back in the exact state that it's been given in.

- You have a reputation, Boney, and I don't like those that think themselves cartographers when they're not.

Original Map by Dyson Logos

Then they go to see Quinlan for gear. Ssservalax is handed a pristine musket.

- You know how to use one of these? the minotaur asks.
- Of course I do. We are not an inferior race, you know!
- Yeah, yeah. Well be careful with this one. It packs a punch, but it pulls a little to the left.

- Rodriguez' pack holds a rapier, a bola and a scale mail armor. Banult is given a massive war flail, some dueling pistols and a light leather tunic. Zolark ends up with a dagger, a throwing axe and the same oversized helmet he had last time.

- Seriously, he asks Quinlan with exasperated eyes.
- Sorry, little buddy, the Minotaur responds.

After a short elevator ride, the four find themselves at the entrance of the Lair of the Reptile God.

- Now Team, Rodriguez says. I'm sure we'll do great work here, and I want us to keep a positive attitude at all times. Lets stay on our toe-bones and everything will be fine. Banult, I think you should go first, but please keep cool-headed.

Banult lights a lantern that was in his pack, and they enter the Lair. They explore the first corridor, and a short flight of stairs going down leads them to a flooded area with about a foot of water everywhere. Looking at their map, they decide to first eliminate the rooms on their left in order to make sure the clients, dead or alive, are not there. The room marked with a trapped statue looks empty, so they avoid getting any closer. Towards the end of the corridor, they find two changing rooms with adept's robes. The robes are brown with ornements at the bottom that look like Troglodyte speech.

- It is our sacred script, Ssservalax says, but it's gibberish. They have just ssstuck random words together. It makesss no sssense...
- OK, team, Zolark points out that in case we meet the resident troglodytes, we will need a cover story. I suggest that myself, Zolark and Banult put some robes on. That way we can be penitents that Ssservalax has recruited if we should meet the locals.

They find appropriate sized robes, and don them on. They also take some extra cords tying the robes in case they need something akin to rope (which was not in any of their packs). Then they make their way back towards the entrance to explore the other branch of the complex. They are wading through water and while they aim for quiet, it's not that easy to achieve.

As they near the area where the albino alligator dwells, discussions start again about who should go check that the beast hasn't eaten one or more adventurers. Finally, Rodriguez uses his prerogatives as Mission Chief:
- I'm going to make a decision. Banult, you go and check the alligator room.

Banult shrugs and goes. He advances prudently to the edge of the room and notices the headless body of a white alligator floating in the (deepers) basin in the room. He calls in the others.

- Maybe it's eaten a client that has sunk to the bottom ? Zolark asks.
- Well, if that's the case, we can always go check once we know one of them isn't accounted for. Agreed?

So they continue on towards the location marked as Vicious Pit Trap on their map.

- It's got two skulls on the map, so it must be pretty deadly. Let's all be careful here.

Before they head down the corridor, the search and find the mechanism that opens the secret door to the Oars and Boots cabinet. They pick a couple of oars, thinking it might help them with the pit trap.

After having closed the secret passage again, they start tapping the floor in front of them. Quickly they realize that there's a grate on the floor where the pit trap should be. Ssservalax even feels like something crunched when she pressed the oar handle on the grate. Rodriguez decides to have a look.

The skeleton pushes his head underwater while Banult lights the lantern above him. Rodriguez sees that there is indeed a sturdy metal grate, and two hands are gripping it from below. He emerges to explain this to the others.

- I remember this! Zolark says. I was once chatting with Geraldine, you know the dwarven gal from Upkeep. I asked her about some of the nasty traps they had to handle and she told me about this one: it's underwater, and by default the pit is open. Someone steps into it and momentum and weight carries them to the bottom, not too far. There's a pressure plate there, and when pressed it slams the pit shut underwater, so they basically drown.
- Oooh, that is vicious... Banult says admiringly.
- Anyway, I know how to open it again. We need to collect the body, or rather its belongings, right?
- Indeed.
- Geraldine told me that for this kind of trap there's usually a lever a few meters before, hidden under the water.

Zolark finds the lever hidden behind a shifting brick underwater. He actions it and Rodriguez goes into the pit to fish the body up. It looks freshly dead with a terrorized look on its face. It's wearing a light armor, a rapier and miscellaneous tools in a satchel.

- Probably a thief, Rodriguez says.
- You're supposed to say Rogue, these days, Zolark mentions.
- Who cares, technically all our clients are thiefs.

Zolark suggests that they should keep the pit trap closed and tie one of the robe cords to the lever so that if they need to they can run past the pit and grab the cord to open it up.

- Excellent plan, Rodriguez says. Love the energy, we're being creative, it's awesome!

Having executed on Zolark's plan, they continue down the corridor which opens into a massive cave. There are dozens of natural pillars over the water which clearly gets deeper. There's a ledge however on which the receivers are now standing. The air reeks, a smell not unlike burnt fish. All around them, floating in the shallow water are charred corpses of troglodytes. Several pillars are black with soot.

"That feels like some pretty powerful magic for novice clients", Zolark thinks, but he doesn't say anything.

Ssservalax looks mildly put off at the massacre of her brethren, but is not excessively outraged. After all, she made a radically different life choice and to her these were mostly bumpkins...

Rodriguez looks at the map and says:

- We should first secure those side doors leading to the Treasure of the Troglodytes.

They head down in that direction, trying to minimise sloshing noises. Where the map indicates that there's a boat, they indeed find a small skiff. They also notice that there must have been a second one moored there, but the rope has been slashed and the boat is no longer there.

- They must have gone towards the end of the cave, maybe aiming for the Eggs, Rodriguez states.
- Should we follow them there? Zolark asks.
- Does anyone know how to row? Rodriguez asks in response.
- I think I can manage that, Banult says. I went cave exploring with my pal Jack the Wandered from Exploration a few times and he let me row.

Indeed, the strong dwarf's strokes soon get them going, navigating in between the pillars. After a while however, Ssservalax spots some shifting lights in the distance and hear some voices speaking in common.

- Be wary, Sir Dramman, as there may yet be more of these slimy creatures around.

Ssservalax looks shocked and turns to Banult to quietly say to him:

- We're not slimy you know. That's actually a misconception!

Looking afar, Zolark spots three men on a skiff. A man in armor is rowing, his hair are cut short and his face is severe looking. A man is standing besides him holding a torch. He is also wearing armor and a mace hangs to his belt. Finally, there's a lithe silhouette in the shadows sitting at the back of the skiff.

Rodriguez has a moment of indecision. He wonders what to do now, when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a small bat appears and starts fluttering around him. It looks like it's got a tiny message tied to one of its legs. Rodriguez puts his hand out and the bat lands. He quickly unties the message. It reads:

"Supervision has made a wrong assessment of the situation. These are not novice clients. Try to stall them for as long as possible, we are sending in reinforcements."

- Uh oh... the skeleton whispers.

As Rodriguez turns around, he notices that Ssservalax has quietly slid into the water, swimming towards the other skiff. Zolark has grabbed her musket and is carefully aiming it at the man holding the torch.

- Pulls a little to the left, he keeps muttering. Quinlan showed you how to use one of these last time. Aim... Cock...

A ferocious detonation suddenly fills the air in the cavern. Zolark's shot hits the client square in the chest, and he falls back in the skiff, dangerously rocking it. The goblin immediately starts reloading the musket.

- Master Rezzan, prepare the artillery! the knight yells as he turns around towards his fallen companion.
- The artillery is always prepared! a soft voice responds.

The robed figure at the back of the boat stands up and arcane chanting follows. Suddenly, a flame erupts from Master Rezzan's hand and blooms into a cloud of fire that engulfs the boat the receivers are on. All three are burnt pretty bad although luckily the pillars and the lack of a good line of sight has diminished the impact of the fireball.

That's when Zolark decides he'd rather not stay around for the next piece of artillery. He remembers how Craicg from Inner Relations told him about the Swamp Goblins and their natural ease with swimming. Taking heart from this he dives into the water.

Meanwhile, Ssservalax has slithered very close to where the client's skiff is. The knight seems to be putting his hands on the shoulders of the wounded man, and a while light shines briefly. The man stands back up, and takes a medallion from under his shirt. A bright halo of light suddenly bathes the entire cavern.

Ssservalax recalls a conversation with Borisss, a kuo-toan colleague from reception about underground water currents. He told her that just outside the main channels in underground lakes there are often jagged rocks just under the surface. She dives, then gives the skiff a good push, but her strength is not enough to really change the course of the embarcation.

However, the nudge attracted the attention of the knight who draws his sword, standing, and prepares to slash at the troglodyte. Ssservalax dives, remembering her times playing hide and seek in the caves with Bronigren, the gnome from Exploration who loves spelunking. She uses the reflections on the stalagmites and those of her own scales to confuse the Paladin, and his sword just slashes the water.

Rodriguez grabs the loaded musket and aims it at the wizard. Meanwhile Banult gives their skiff a push from one of the natural pillars, and they start sliding towards the client's skiff. Rodriguez remembers a Flumph hunting party that he got invited to by Smythyngton, the Death Knight from Patron Relations. He has shot back then, but not from a moving boat. He fires, but the shot goes wide.

Banult is struggling with the oars and cannot seem to steer the boat. The wizard starts chanting again and three streaks of purple erupt from the robed silhouette's fingers and fly to Ssservalax (undrwater), Banult and Rodriguez. The arcane missiles hit them in the chest and burn with an unnatural light.

Ssservalax realises that they are going to get killed unless they get creative and decides to even the odds in the receivers' favour. She floats to the surface for an instant and releases the toxin in her sweatgland sacks. A horrendous stench suddenly swallows the client's skiff and its surroundings. The three clients become nauseous and have to struggle to keep their last meals in.

Zolark emerges on a rock outcropping south of the cave. He slides onto the rocks. The clients have not seen him, but he's quite far. Still, he takes his throwing axe out of his pack and tries to throw it at the Paladin. He fails, and the axe sinks quietly into the lake.

Rodriguez decides that there's no point in standing on the boat like a sitting duck so he lets himself sink into the lake. Banult meanwhile gets annoyed at the oars. He gives a good kick on one of the pillers and his boat glides over the water towards the other boat. He quickly rolls into a ball at the front of the boat in the hope that they will not see him.

Zolark sees what is happening, and decides to attract the attention to him (despite the risk to his own health).

- You are filthier than the excrements of a leprous pig! You stink worse than a goblin's drunken vomit! Your mother was a hairless ape and your father a lecherous troll! You're no knight in shining armour! You're just a sanctimonius fleshbag of sputum wrapped in tin!

The Paladin tries to stay cool at this avalanche of vile insults, but Zolark manages to distract him long enough that he doesn't see Banult stand at the front of his skiff, war flail in hand. At the last moment, the knight realises he is being attacked, and he manages to dodge despite his nausea, at the cost of being severely destabilised. Banult, who is also feeling nauseous because of the smell instead focuses his attention on the wizard, who is chanting again, and this time hits him in the back with the flail, knocking him off the boat and in the water.

Ssservalax wastes no time and, cutlass in hand, starts slashing at the elf (for it is an elf) who struggles to stay afloat. Zolark can only look at the scene remotely and without any idea what he can do to help. Rodriguez finally emerges on the shallow end where the burnt troglodytes lay. He turns around and shouts encouragements. "Love the energy guys! Keep at it!" But he also doesn't know what to do.

Banult is facing the Paladin (who has finally recovered his balance) and the other man who looks decidedly like a priest. In fact his hand is now glowing with a golden night, and the dwarf decides he'd rather not touch that hand. So instead, being reckless, he jumps at the other boat and swings his flail as hard as he can at a precise spot he knows is weak: Jon from upkeep told him a while ago that Dungeon, Inc. went cheap on the boat purchases, and all the skiffs in the Dungeon have a structural defect there. The bottom of the boat blows apart and the skiff starts to sink. The paladin loses his balance again and falls in the water. The cleric tries to touch Banult with his luminous hand, but the dwarf is having none of it and evades.

Ssservalax realises that she's not efficient enough slashing at the wizard, so she grabs him by the ankle and starts pulling him down. When he sees that, Rodriguez decides he would be more useful underwater helping her than pep talking from the short. He enters the water again.

The paladin swims to the Banult's skiff just as the client's skiff goes entirely underwater. The dwarf face the choice of either jumping on the safe skiff and avoiding the cleric's hand, or slamming his flail at the Paladin but risk being touched by the cleric. He decides for neither, and with a mad laugh, he jumps and slams his flail into the intact boat. With a big hole in the middle, the boat starts to sink. The Paladin is plunged into the water again and this time the cleric follows suit.

Banult then swims as fast as he can towards the short, with the Paladin hot on his heels. He now measures the advantage of having been handed a puny (but light) leather tunic by Quinlan, and he reaches the short ahead of the knight.

Ssservalax has finally managed to drown the wizard. She abandons the lifeless body and moves on to the priest who is trying to swim to short. As she reaches him from below, she is surprised to see Rodriguez who grins (or does he?) as he himself grabs the other ankle of the priest. The two of them make short work of the religious man. How fitting that he should die for the glory of the Reptile God, Ssservalax things.

Meanwhile, on short, Banult is waiting to face the Paladin, now well and truly enraged. He manages to land a blow on him, but the Paladin slashes him in return. He is clearly the superior fighter and while Banult had an advantage with the Paladin still half immersed, on solid ground he might not last long. That's when Zolark from the other side of the cave yells at him in Troglodytic language*:

- Go into the corridor and set up the trap by pulling on the cord!

Banult pretends to flee. The Paladin's sword is now illuminating the scene as the drowning Cleric's light fades.

- I will cut you to pieces, you evil halfman! the Paladin yells.

Banult runs down the corridor, sloshing in the thigh deep water, feeling the light of the sword on his back. He grabs the cord and keeps running. The grate that was closing the pit opens just as the Paladin is walking on it, and he falls straight down underwater. There's a noise of a mechanical slam underneath, and muffled yells for a few more instants, and then it's over.

Banult sits down, panting, as his companions slowly make their way back swimming (or in Rodriguez' case walking).

That's when the dwarf hears a noise coming from the entrance. Weary, he stands back up and grabs his flail firmly. His dark vision allows him to see a silhouette walking towards him cautiously with a long sword and a shield. A very deep voice then calls at him:

- Hey Banult, is that you? Is everybody OK?
- Yes, Sir Robert. We got them.
- Wow! Good job, man! the zombie says slapping the dwarf on the back.

They all meet Sir Robert of the Golden Lance in the corridor while they are stripping the four dead clients of their belongings.

- Thanks for coming to help us, Rodriguez says to the undead knight.
- Think nothing of it. When I heard you might be in trouble, I volunteered to come and help immediately while they put together a proper rescue team. I'm glad I wasn't needed.
- Well, you did notheless sssave the day, Sir Robert. I was growing quite faint with fear that we might never play draughtsss together again...⁠⁠⁠⁠
- Bla bla bla, Zolark mutters under his breath. He didn't "thave the thay". And that damn rotten do good pile of maggots is going to take credit for our hard work... again!

Rodriguez takes a minute to address his receiver colleagues.
- We are of course grateful to Sir Robert for his assistance, but most importantly I wanted to say that I was really proud of you. What we did today proves that the letters in TEAM do indeed spell Together Everyone Achieves More.
- Aaaarghl Zolark mutters. Kill me now.

* the PCs have all chosen to speak Troglodyte so that they would share a relatively obscure language to communicate when clients can hear. Well, except Toad, despite his name.
Last edited:


Forgot to include the intro of the new characters:

More Employees

Banult the Reckless Dwarf. Banult is a dour dwarf who rarely has consideration for his own safety as long as the thrill of the action is there. He is trained in combat (Martial Training D8) and sturdy (2HD).

Banult shares a love of exploration with Quinlan the Quartermaster (+) but Zyylla is no fan of his because his recklessness has caused some problems in the past (-).

Rodriguez is a Go-Getting Skeleton. He's a company man through and through, and relishes the opportunity for work for the greater good of Dungeon, Inc. He has found out that he can control his bones in an unusual way which grants him the special training of Disattachment: it allow him to crumble into a pile of bones or detach his skull and leave it somewhere. All senses except touch are linked to where the skull is. He's also tougher than your standard skeleton (2HD).

Rodriguez is a good friend of Sir Robert the Zombie. It makes sense since they were raised together (+). On the other hand Irma has no love for him because he has a reputation of annotating inaccurate maps (-).


So out of curiosity, is anyone reading me?

If yes, what do you think so far about the concept and the implementation?