Level Up (A5E) ENterplanetary DimENsions: Dry Dunesia

Though inhospitable—its dehydration causes delirium and it can get so hot that space stretches—Dunesia is A+ adventuring territory.

The heat of summer approaches and ENterplanetary DimENsions is here to remind you that it can always be hotter and with bigger scorpions like in Dry Dunesia!

Dunesia Level Up DnD 5E Banner shrunk.jpg

Illustration by Ede Laszlo

One might easily mistake the planet of Dunesia to be dead. Life persists amongst the desert world however, cast in the shadows of horrors past and the need to survive amidst the unforgiving sands. The task of existing is even more difficult than it might seem for the landscape is rarely the same from one year to the next. When the rains arrive they rarely offer respite, instead falling in such great torrents and deluges that acres of dunes are flattened entirely. In another age the random rainfall might be controlled or tamed, turned into a boon for society—but the resource of innovation is forbidden and what magic has been mastered is turned to more immediate concerns than durable irrigation.

What brought doom to the dunes is the only thing that might save its peoples: technology. Once this place was home to civilizations capable of crafting machines of impossible grandeur and purpose, yet when they turned their devices to the task of altering the entire planet they strove too far. The consequence of their hubris has turned the world into an endless desert battered by the water they sought to control, a monster of nature that brutalizes their descendants and has wrenched the entire realm into a spiral that can only end in its dry demise.

Planar Traits. Dunesia has the following planar traits and the Narrator should make use of the brown mold, extreme heat, fire, magnetized ore, and strong winds encounter elements. When it is possible to do so, noticing one of these encounter elements before it is too close to avoid requires a DC 14 Nature check.​

Delirious Dehydration​

Heat in Dunesia is unbelievably brutal and unforgiving, pressing in on all things to suck moisture out of creatures in its thrall until pressing upon the mind itself. At the end of every hour a creature is exposed to temperatures at or above 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius), it makes a Constitution saving throw (DC 10 + 1 per previous save) or it suffers a level of delirium. Immunity to fire damage grants an automatic success on this save. A creature gains an expertise die on its save if it is resistant to fire damage.

Saving throws made against effects or spells that deal fire damage have disadvantage.

When the temperature is at or above 131° Fahrenheit (55° Celsius), saving throws against delirious dehydration have disadvantage.

Finishing a long rest in the presence of abundant cold (such as a bound water elemental, submerged in shaded water, or in a sufficiently chilled safe haven) reduces a creature's delirium level by 1. Also, a casting of lesser restoration can reduce a creature’s delirium level by 1.

Table: Delirious Dehydration
Delirium Level
Passive Investigation and passive Perception scores are reduced by 5, and can only rest while roughing it (regain half the usual amount of hit dice, do not recover from fatigue or strife)
Regain half as many hit points as normal from a long rest, and reduce all hit dice by one step (from d12 to d10, from d10 to d8, from d8 to d6, from d6 to d4)
Suffer a level of strife, disadvantage on Intelligence checks
Suffer a level of fatigue, reduce all hit dice by an additional two steps (from d12 to d6, from d10 to d4, from d8 or d6 to d4)
Suffer a level of fatigue and a level of strife, disadvantage on Intelligence saving throws
Regain no hit dice on a long rest, while in combat at the start of each turn make a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to current delirious dehydration save DC) or be confused
Incapacitated by unrelenting hallucinations

Desert Denizens​

Lethal as the baking sun might be there are still greater dangers lurking across the dunes. The easiest to spot and avoid are fire giants and their tamed sand worms, followed by an entourage of magma mephits as they kick apart the sands searching for prey hidden underfoot. There are enough ankhegs and bulettes protecting semisolid caverns around aquifers to sustain these titans, and the scent of their prey cooking in their scorching hands spreads far indeed on the desert zephyrs. Although less dangerous, perhaps more disturbing are the only canines remaining in the realm: hell hounds that howl their challenges before running down anything they can find wandering in the grip of Dunesia’s heat. Proof of their savagery is common enough, their victims rising as revenants compelled to search for water to sate a thirst unquenchable. Not everything in the wilderness is bent to malevolence however—brass dragons help travelers as best they can, often changing shape to integrate with a society and trying to improve the situation of those around them without revealing the truth of what they are.

Dune Scorpions. Named for their immense size, dune scorpions are beautiful but terrifying to behold. Over the centuries these insects have developed a peculiar chitin that makes them completely immune to heat, their bodies displaying kaleidoscopic light that gets more vibrant the greater the temperature. Like all other creatures in the sands they still seek water, though blood satisfies them just as well.​

Dune Scorpion Challenge 5​

Huge beast 1,800 XP
AC 14 (natural armor)
HP 104 (11d12+33; bloodied 52)
Speed 50 ft.
18 (+4)​
13 (+1)​
17 (+3)​
2 (–4)​
9 (–1)​
8 (–1)​
Proficiency +3; Maneuver DC 15
Skills Perception +2 (+1d4), Survival +2 (+1d8)
Damage Immunities fire
Senses blindsight 90 ft., passive Perception 13

Chromatic Chitin. When the scorpion is subjected to fire damage its body emits distracting bursts of colorful light. Until the start of its next turn the scorpion’s AC increases by 3 against creatures able to see it without the use of blindsight or tremorsense.

Multiattack. The scorpion attacks once with its claws and once with its sting.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). If the target is Large-sized or bigger, until this grapple ends the scorpion can’t attack a different target with its claws.

Sting. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) piercing damage and the target makes a DC 14 Constitution saving throw, taking 16 (3d10) poison damage on a failure or half damage on a success.

Migratory Marches​

The cities of this world are temporary affairs as a matter of necessity for no oasis lasts long and to survive means following the rains. Like other desert peoples there is some moisture gathered each morning but only very little and not enough to subsist; observing the dawn in Dunesia with a DC 13 Nature check confirms that this is not condensation, instead only the remnants of droplets drawn into the sky by the unyielding echo of their ancestors’ mistakes. As their stored water draws low a society’s mages and seers work divinations to determine where next might the dry weather might relent, their peoples gather up all their belongings, and their hunters return from the dunes to participate in grand caravans that strike out into the sands seeking refuge from the heat and a dry death.

Technological Tragedy​

In the ancient past of Dunesia its peoples were masters of their arid world but not satisfied with its harshness; the sun was too hot, the sand carried on the wind too detrimental to their creations. Their greatest inventors worked upon a grand artifice to correct this flaw in their realm, a machine to make ample water where there was too little and turn the landscape as verdant as their treasured oases. Catastrophe followed within days of its activation and though rapidly dismantled already the damage was done, the planet thrown out of balance and trapped in an ever exaggerating cycle that tore down practically everything else they created. Suddenly the warnings from those still practicing the old ways of magic—ignored in the blunderous and doomed ascent to a place bettered by technology—brought them respect instead of derision, and the fate of civilization returned to practices abandoned to history.

Some clung to the ways of the artificers and died with their supposed savants, the same devices that destroyed the realm ill-suited to contain or deal with the consequences of the epic experiment. Any that didn’t found the ire of a population betrayed, their works destroyed by spite and sharpened steel. However where technology failed magic flourished. The power of divination proved to be salvation for many, the fate of rare rainfall revealed by spells and the foretold dangers in the desert overcome by a new caste of mages practicing the arts of the blazing sands (page @@). So it has been for generations, the workers of arcana or divinity revered for the lives they can save from the merciless heat.

Technological Wonders. Sometimes the explosion of water in the sky and resulting torrential downpours unearth leftover artifacts from Dunesia’s distant past, miraculously surviving the dunes’ endless cycle. These powerful devices replicate the effect of magic items but are themselves not enchanted (ignoring the effects of antimagic field, counterspell, dispel magic, and attunement). Although new technologies are usually tolerated by society, when an ancient device is discovered the person responsible for its destruction is hailed as a hero and increases their prestige rating by 2.​

Dry Patch​

2nd tier (weather)
Challenge 6 (1,150/2,300 XP); DC 16/14
Area Special (1 hour)
A dry crackling echoes across the sands and suddenly the sweat on brows and every droplet in sight is evaporating directly into the air. Soon the strange percussion is joined by dull thudding as canteens and gourds rumble, their contents fighting to escape.

Cool Friend. Creatures adjacent to a naturally cool creature (such as water elemental) gain advantage on saving throws against the dry patch.

Deadly Dehydration. The dry patch evaporates water with alarming speed. At the end of every 10 minutes creatures must make saving throws against delirious dehydration.

Demanding Race. Creatures that move swiftly with Athletics checks can escape from a dry patch, but have disadvantage on saving throws against delirious dehydration while doing so.

Extreme Heat. Dry patches only occur in areas of extreme heat (at or above 100° Fahrenheit/38° Celsius).

Realize Danger. With a Nature check an adventurer knows the danger they are suddenly in and gain an expertise die on checks made against the dry patch.

Spell Solve. A creature continuously cooled by prestidigitation gains an expertise die on saving throws made against the dry patch.

Unavoidable. Because there is no warning to the appearance of a dry patch and it centers itself on sources of water there is no way to bypass or entirely avoid it.

In the throes of a dry patch there is only the fight to escape without losing one’s grasp on reality. Containers can be secured with Strength checks, and if in a desert sand can be burrowed into for safety with Athletics checks.

Critical Failure: All of the party’s water evaporates or spoils. The adventurers suffer a level of fatigue and a level of strife, and they need to locate a source of water as soon as they reach a new area.

Failure: Each of the adventurers lose 10 (2d6+3) Supply charred into inedibility by the unnaturally dry heat.

Success: The party survives the ordeal. Anyone that rolled a critical success gains inspiration.

Critical Success: Rolling sands reveal something of interest in a recently collapsed semisolid cavern suddenly devoid of moisture. Roll on the Boons and Discoveries table.

Encounter Element: Stretched Space (+0)​

The scorched air of Dunesia can become so hot that space itself stretches outward. When the temperature is at or above 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) reality expands causing the following effects.
  • Each creature increases its Speed by 5 feet (minimum Speed 0 feet).
  • The range of weapons is increased by half.
  • The range of spells is increased by half. This has no effect on spells with a range of Self or Touch.
  • Once per round a creature can quickly shift itself to gain an expertise die to its AC against a single ranged attack made against it by an attacker it can see.

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

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