Shattered Tomb of Acheron Zul
You can download the map without the numbers here.
Acheron Zul is long gone, but his horrible curse afflicted the nearby fief of Trinta. The adventurers must now enter his tomb to find his remains, but goblins have raided it first, finding things they weren't expecting.
This is the tomb of a once powerful necromancer, called Acheron Zul, who died horribly during one of his rituals. Goblins raided this tomb to scavenge for magical artifacts but ended up waking up Acheron's curse. Now the goblins and the undead roam the chambers, fighting each other.
This adventure is planned to be played in more than one session, with the adventurers going back and forth from the dungeon and to the nearby village, to rest and restock.
This adventure was heavily inspired by many stories by Clark Ashton Smith, especially The Weaver In the Vault. It's not a direct adaptation by any stretch, but if you read it you will see the references all over. While reading the short story is not required, it will definitely help to understand the mood of this adventure.
Things were already bad at the fief of Trinta, and then the bad omens started happening. Milk turned sour, water became red, tasting like iron and chalk, chickens started to eat one another and old people would cough small insects. The lord took action only when his youngest son fell ill.
The lord's soothsayer made it clear, Acheron Zul's curse befell the village, and a ritual must be conducted to purge them from that blight. Somebody must venture into his tomb, and if there is still a mummy of Acheron Zul, or anything left of him, it must be meticulously fetched and brought to her.
When the adventurers accept the quest, give them a portable coffin and tell them that they will need to place Acheron Zul's corpse in there. The coffin occupies 2 slots.
Possible ideas for starting out:
- The adventurers came to Trinta through a trade caravan they were hired to guard.
- The adventurers are under the command of the Lord of Trinta. Going in the tomb might be the safer than confronting him.
- The caravans leaving the village are all halted because of the curse, the horses hoofs are all infected. Solving this might be the only way out.
- The lord is suspicious of the adventurers, blaming them for the curse. Finding the corpse for the lord might be safer than trying to run.
- The adventurers have no job and are getting low on resources when they find out about the 80 silver bounty that the Lord of Trinta has on retrieving Acheron Zul's remains.
Start by giving each adventurer a rumor. If an adventurer has 2 or more points in presence, they know 2 rumors. Do not repeat rumors between players, roll again on repeats. Ideally this should be passed as a note, so they can speculate between them.
|2||Villagers were forced by Acheron Zul to pray to dark gods, but would sneak to a secret room to perform a ritual to curse him|
|3||Guhlat, a giant spider, lives deep in the tomb, and ate the ones that were thrown in the sacrificial pit.|
|4||Acheron Zul wanted eternal life; some say he found it.|
|5||Acheron Zul's library has powerful spells, but his will can make the reader mad.|
|6||Part of the mausoleum is sinking and collapsing, swimming might be required.|
|7||The place is full of secret passages.|
|8||Arcane rituals took place there, involving demons and the undead.|
|9||Goblins don't fear the undead, so something else must have scared them.|
|10||Long ago, a noble paladin went to the dungeon to seal the undead there, but never returned.|
|11||The dungeon is flooded and the water is tainted with dangerous chemicals, which caused the bad water in Trinta.|
|12||The soothsayer cannot be trusted. The mummy is actually a very powerful artifact.|
This is some optional history for this dungeon, if you are in a hurry, feel free to skip this chapter. This information should not be shared directly with the players, this is a guide to the GM, so you will know what's actually going on in this tomb.
As well as being the feudal lord of the fief of Trita, Acheron Zul was a necromancer-priest almost a century ago. As with most necromancer-priests of that time, he was desperately trying to stop the dead vigil. While he started with good intent, he quickly got obsessed and arranged macabre ceremonies and experiments.
His ever increasing demand for corpses would be satisfied by an old custom of Trinta: every month a sacrifice was made to Guhlat, a giant spider that lives on a nearby hill. The spider would leave the Trinta alone as long as she was fed live humans. The peasants would often capture and throw unwary travellers in the sacrificial pit for that purpose.
Acheron Zul would then use the corpses after the spider had sucked them dry, and eventually had a tomb-church built on the spider's hill. There he would perform many experiments, involving demons, undead, and forgotten religions.
Digging ever deeper, they found the primordial cave, and an ancient temple of a forgotten god. Using the temple, Acheron Zul summoned the Vault Weavers, flying demonic spheres that would consume any corpses, leaving no traces behind. The problem was that the weavers presence was highly unnatural, and their feeding would cause terrible effects on Trinta, animals would die, food would spoil and people got horribly sick.
The people of Trinta, scared, thought that Acheron had cursed them. They invaded the tomb, killing Acheron Zul, sealing him inside. The curse eventually went away as the Vault Weavers consumed all the corpses in their chamber and hibernated.
After many years, the curse returned after a group of expelled goblins stumbled upon the tomb and began living there. They accidentally trapped their matriarch inside the weaver's vault. Some of the goblins ran away scared, sealing the place. The ones inside started feeding corpses to the weavers so they would spare their matriarch. The disturbing goblins also woke up other creatures in the tomb, including void demons from previous failed experiments.
The villagers are now sending mercenaries to the tomb, feeding the weavers even more.
The tomb is on top of an old hill, covered in moss, grass and vines.
There are three main points of interest outside: the abandoned graveyard, the sacrificial pit and the mausoleum entrance. You may allow the players to explore freely for a while or just jump right to the tomb entrance.
The abandoned graveyard has a chained grave; if opened, a passage to the secret entrance will be revealed.
The sacrificial pit is a big hole on the ground. Villagers tell tales of human sacrifice in this place. A small opening can be seen on the side of it.
The mausoleum entrance is a big, ornate stone building covered in crying statues. There's a rusty gate, unlocked. There's a trail of blood coming from the mausoleum.
If you allow the players to explore, they will most likely want to use their skills to gather information, so here are some:
- Animal affinity: The place is covered with unnatural spider webs, and there are lots of small spiders all over the place; you've never seen spiders of that species.
- Loremaster: This place dates to the time of when the dead vigil first occurred.
- Holy rites: This graveyard has no warding against the dead vigil. The corpses have probably been removed or there would be a lot of movement coming from those graves.
- Infiltration: There are no apparent traps or security measures from the outside anywhere.
- Survivalist or cooking: Tea leaves grow on this small hill, so you can pick some (special rations).
Tick a checkbox every time the characters make excessive noise, waste too much time or come back from the interlude. If the timing doesn't work (they just entered the dungeon back from the interlude for example), you may wait a couple turns to trigger the doom event.
- The Wandering Goblins show up.
- The ground shakes, something stirs underground. The water in the embalming room is drained. 4 dire spiders are now wandering the halls.
- All the adventurers feel a ghostly chill, the walls glow a faint light then a sudden wind snuff all the torches and lamps. Many ghosts raise through the floor and exit the ceiling. Everyone is shaken.
- The ground shakes and the ceiling starts to fall apart, hitting everyone that doesn't hide under something for (STR 2). Raising a shield should add shield tokens to this check normally.
- Guhlat, the giant spider, finds the adventurers! During every turn of combat, a spiderling joins the fight.
- 2 void demons and a lesser demon start roaming the dungeon.
- The curse gets worse: every decay, roll twice.
Use them when the adventurers wander too much, feel too safe or if things get a bit boring.
- Wandering Goblins: They were ordered to roam the tomb looking for intruders. 3 goblin scrappers and 1 hobgoblin.
- Gremlin Crew: A group of gremlins is scouting the place, looking for tools and trinkets to build traps, 4 gremlins.
- Guhlat hunting party: A group of 3 spiderlings is looking for food for their nest. They will avoid fighting if the adventurers give them some meat.
1 The Tomb Entrance
The entrance is overgrown with roots from the outside door covering every wall. A strong, moldy smell permeates the place. The entrance is barricaded from the inside quite poorly, but there's no way to enter without making a lot of noise.
When dismantling the barricades, a group of 2 goblin scrappers and 1 hobgoblin will come from the door, attacking the adventurers from the back.
2 Fountain Room
A murky fountain bubbling with a strange foam.
If the water is disturbed, 3 giant frogs can attack. You may skip this fight if the adventurers have encountered too much trouble already.
Inside the fountain there's the remains of a human hand, with a golden ring (worth 10 silver).
An iron door connects north; it has a small window with a grate.
A wooden ornate door connects west.
3 Small Prayer Room
A row of benches, all broken. An amber statue of a saint of Yulak, barely standing, covered in moss watches over the room. Banners with the symbol of Acheron Zul's house decorate the walls, oddly well-preserved.
There are 5 slumbering corpses praying, to the statue, with a low chant. They are distracted and will not attack if not bothered.
- The amber statue is very valuable (80 silver), but extremely heavy and awkward to carry. Requires 2 adventurers to carry it with both hands. Breaking the statue will produce 4 pieces of amber, each Big and worth 12 silver.
- Behind one of the banners, there's a makeshift tunnel.
- In the northwest corner there's a burial cart, for carrying corpses, now empty.
This is not a hard fight, but may look like one. The adventurers probably should avoid this one, since it's just mostly a waste of resources, with very little reward, unless they really want that amber statue.
4 Machine Room
A partially flooded and sunken machine room.
An old pump is present, hopelessly broken. A wizard can fix it with the Machine spirit spell, though. If fixed, it will pump out the water from the flooded embalming room and from the illustrated vault.
Searching this room you may find a mechanic's toolkit.
A pile of spikes and red plates with holes are stacked in the corner. [This is a clue to a trap in the future.]
2 goblins are tinkering with the pump and will try to flee as soon as they see the adventurers.
5 Flooded Embalming Room
The room has a lower part, with some stairs, which is submerged in water. The whole room is also partially sunken into the ground, the roof almost collapsing. The deepest part of the water is 1.5m deep, near the north door.
There's a shelf full of coffins, stacked in the west side of the room.
The room was originally an embalming room, and has many chemical flasks floating on the water. After the first character crosses the water, some flasks may open, causing the water to become toxic, causing 1 intelligence wound per turn to anyone else that crosses.
- Maybe the adventurers can improvise a boat with a coffin?
- Some of the chemicals are actually tonics and properly labelled:
- Anti-poison tonic: Cures Nausea.
- Tonic of Bravery: Character can't get terrified during this expedition.
- Potion of giants: Restore all strength wounds and fatigue. Ud4 uses.
- Rot and Flame extracts.
6 Illustrated Vault
The whole room is flooded with water, around 20cm deep, except for the west side, which is almost 1m deep. This whole room is somewhat tilted and sunken into the ground.
The walls are filled with illustrations telling the story of Acheron Zul and his rise to power from poor origins.
3 Giant Leeches are sucking a corpse on the east wall.
Upon further inspection:
- The corpse is from a goblin, sucked dry by the leeches and seems quite recent. He has a Falchion and some Rope.
- The walls are covered in illustrations in a medieval style with figures varying in size:
- West: A boy in poverty, begging in the streets, an old man with a staff and carrying books offers help. Some people in green clothes ignore him.
- North: A man performing magic, with the same color as the boy. The old man is pointing at the stars, he looks worried.
- East: A village. Lots of villagers crying in the middle, skeletons rising from their graves and coming from the edges. An old man, with the same colors as the boy, is hypnotizing some skeletons into fighting for him.
- South: An old man, on a throne. Skeletons in green clothes carry his throne. There is a tower in the back with big door painted on it, there is a villager crying in the tower window. > The door is a secret passage and will open to room 7
If the players don't pay too much attention to the door illustration, you can mention a scraping noise coming from the south.
7 Sealed Sleeping Quarters
Upon entering, a starved cadaver that was right behind the door jumps on whomever opened it. If the person didn't open it carefully, the ghoul immediately attacks: make the defense check with disadvantage.
The room is filthy, and has a horrible smell. There are 3 moldy beds in this room and 3 skeletons in the corner. There are 2 tables with drawing and sculpture tools. The door is covered in scratch marks from the inside.
- Staying in this room for 3 turns will make everyone nauseated.
If the adventurers let the door close, they will be trapped in here, too. The door is made of solid stone, so they will need some serious engineering to escape. If they are stuck but making a lot of noise, eventually the wandering goblins will open the door.
- Ink and paper are usable.
- A sharp chisel and hammer can be useful.
- Scroll of curse removal is in a drawer.
- Supply room key is under one of the beds.
- Ether extract
These were the sleeping quarters for the artists that made the illustrations and statues in the tomb. They where trapped here after their work was done.
8 Mosaic Corridor
A long, twisting corridor, the walls are covered in vines, at some points you can barely see what's behind them. There's a mosaic telling a story in the walls. Part of it is flooded (check the map) and the deepest part is almost 1m deep.
- There is a grate to the west, where you can see the secret entrance's stairs. The grate is old and can be broken.
- Behind the vines on the wall, there's a passage to the pit.
- If the players saw the red tiles and spikes in the machine room, describe that a couple of floor tiles are red. [Those are spike traps] stepping on those will cause 3 wounds.
- The left walls have illustrations of many coffins with corpses, some of the coffins have the dead rising and walking. Villagers are crying next to those as some of the dead kill some of the living.
- The right walls have empty coffins with red circles on top of them; the villagers are happy.
9 Secret Entrance
There's a small mausoleum near the tomb entrance. In the middle of it, there's a stone coffin. There's no corpse inside the coffin, though, and removing the lid shows a set of stairs, which lead down to the main tomb.
The corridor inside connects to the mosaic corridor trough an old iron grate (that can be broken).
If the adventurers entered through this door, there's a dead goblin on the ground, and 2 reanimated husks feasting on the corpses. Otherwise, you may leave this corridor empty.
10 Tomb of the Inner court
There are many rows of stone coffins, each with a statue lying on it, representing the person buried there. Most of them are opened, though. Corpses are everywhere - hacked into pieces, blood splattered everywhere.
There's a goblin camp here, and they look injured and tired. They were not expecting the adventurers here, so they act surprised. 1 goblin hunter, 2 goblin scrappers, 1 bloodshot goblin and 1 hobgoblin. 2 of the scrappers are injured, with 1 wound.
- The door to the west is locked; the key is in the sealed sleeping quarters. Breaking it is possible, but it is reinforced, so it won't be easy.
- There's a recent human corpse on the floor. She looks like an undead hunter and was carrying:
- Ud6 Spikes
- Ud6 Flasks of holy water
- Crossbow with Ud10 bolts
- The north wall is partially demolished, a sledgehammer on the ground.
- Digging through the rubble is possible to open a passage to the chapel.
- The 4 corpses are each wearing a silvery necklace ( necklace to bind undead, 10 silver, 5 corpses), removing it will wake the body which is a starved cadaver.
- The 2 corpses in the north coffins are missing (they will be found in the second floor)
If the adventurers fight in the inner court tomb, the doors are barricaded. They can be broken down or the adventurers can find another way in.
The room is an underground chapel. There are probably hundreds of melted candles everywhere, and an altar to the east. The altar is partially elevated and a huge statue of Acheron Zul is behind the altar. The statue is holding a red gem. There's another statue to the south, a man pointing a finger at a skeleton, which is crawling toward a coffin.
A group of goblins is barricaded here. 2 boggarts and 2 goblin scrappers.
They really don't want to fight and are terrified of whatever is down the tomb. If the adventurers tell them it's safe, and their leaders (the goblins on room 10) are dead, they will gladly leave.
- On the altar, there's a metal cross with 3 cross-beams. This is no religious symbol that anyone in the group knows about. This metal cross is actually a key to the last room, so it's important. Explain to the players how weird that cross is so they remember it later or pick it up.
- The red gem that the statue holds is valuable, but has Acheron Zul's symbol on it, so it can't be sold in Trinta, the nearby fief. You should tell the players this, so they don't assume that they can.
- On the altar, there's a religious book, with a passage that draws the adventurers' attention and says, "Weavers from the void shall take our loved ones and back to the void bring them. We come from the void and back to the void we shall go."
- There's a barricade in the north corridor. It's not a very good one, but requires 2 exploration turns to fully disassemble.
Piles of melted candle wax, along with brooms and cleaning supplies are in a corner. There's a big table in the middle with rotten food piled up. A drawer in the south wall is in surprisingly good condition, full of scrolls and inks.
- Ud8 candles
- Scroll of Detect Evil
- Scroll of Flaming Weapon
- The new shelf is blocking a door to the cult room.
- Chains and shackles
- Scroll of Purify Food
- Smoke and Rot extract
13 Burial Chamber Entrance
An ornate hall, and in the middle of the room, two hooded statues frame a stairway going down. The walls are adorned with wooden details. A small red rug is placed near the east wall.
2 reanimated husks are crawling here, one near the stairs and one near the barricade. A void demon rises from the darkness below. If you think that the party is currently too strong, you may add a second void demon or a lesser demon.
There's a stairway to the lower levels here, but it's closed with an iron gate.
There's a secret passage in the east wall. Pushing the wall in the right place will open it.
14 Acheron Zul Study Room
A very well kept room, dusty but otherwise intact. The floor has a red carpet, mostly intact. There's a study desk full of books, notes and scrolls. All the walls are covered with dusty tomes that have no titles, only numbers on the side, and strange scientific instruments.
- Trying to read the books causes a fatigue point and leaves the adventurer disoriented for a short while. If they insist, they may find out some information.
- This library contains mostly Acheron Zul's journals.
- Acheron Zul was searching for how to stop the dead vigil and how to become immortal.
- The journals have a weak curse, making them very hard to read; reading them for too long will make the adventurers Nauseated.
- Acheron Zul Old Grimoire: Scorched, as someone tried to burn it, some pages are thorn. Has wizard spells:
- 2 level 1 spells
- 2 level 2 spells
- 1 level 3 spell
- 1 level 4 spell
- Learning any of the spells in the Interlude requires a PRE test, on a fail get a new trauma: Phobia: Void Demons
- Magi Robe (1 AP): When casting spells, you may allocate 1 point of fatigue on an intelligence wound on the robe. The robe recovers during the Interlude.
15 Sacrificial Pit
A pit, with wooden spikes at the bottom - piles of skeletons and broken bones from humans and animals litter the place. Some of the bones are moving a bit, because of the dead vigil, but are harmless.
- The entrance to the tomb is covered in vines.
- A sturdy helmet (1 AP) is on one of the skeletons.
- The walls of the pit are covered with spider webs at one point. Burning or cutting it somehow will reveal a tunnel to the lower level.
16 Cult Room
A secret chapel with scratched drawings covering every inch of the stone wall. Some dark ritual took place here. There is a big circle of long dried blood.
The wall to the south is covered in what appears to be inscribed leather (it's human), stretched, like in a tanner shop. Behind the leather is a tunnel passage.
The north wall is barricaded by a big bookshelf.
A character with the occult studies skill might know that this is a cult of Gyrrath, the ever hungry - an old god.
17 Makeshift Tunnel
A damp and dirty tunnel, smells of blood. There's a Bloated Screamer on the way.