Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Basics, Part 5


The dungeon occupancy rate is less than 20%, with the majority of rooms empty of inhabitants. An adventuring band will not find an orc with a pie in one room and an ancient red dragon across the corridor.

The occupants of rooms frequently follow tribal or creature lines, and a groups of rooms are often inhabited by tribes of similar humanoids (though that does not preclude mixed tribes of creatures) with empty rooms serving as a buffer-zone or no-man's-land between rival groups.

Dangerous monsters will be given a wide berth by other denizens, so the buffers of empty rooms around their territories will be larger, dependent on the size of the beast.


The Ring Vaults changes itself around as time goes on. Sure, some of the creatures that inhabit it add a corridor here or there or divide off a room or two, but the majority of changes occurs within the dungeon itself.

Some of it is subtle, a door changes in some way, moves down the corridor a little or disappears entirely. Some of it is less so, with whole areas of the vaults disconnected from others for unknown reasons and lengths of time.

Often these changes are linked to the phase of the moon or the sun or the stars (or even other, more mysterious conditions), while some are linked to situations (there is a room in the Ring Vaults that hides from elves - no elf or party that includes an elf can ever find it).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A First Map

Here is the first map for the blog, showing a side view of the Ring Vaults. There are at least 55 different levels that descend into the deep, deep earth, divided into three sections: the Upper Halls, the Mid Vaults and the Lower Deeps.

The levels are connected by stairwells, pit traps, sinkholes, corridors, spiral-stairs, mining tunnels and space warps, some of which are one-way. An underground river flows between the Mid Vaults and the Lower Deeps and there are at least ten extensive caverns, one of them with a sea fed by the river, that dot the lower vaults.

The Upper Halls consist of the seven main entrances to the dungeons, and a score or more minor entrances, and their nearest vaults. The main entrances are located around the Ashford Valley at the following locations:

A. A ruined tower near the western wall of the valley.
B. A sinkhole in the Rolling Hils.
C. A shack on the outskirts of Ashford town.
D. A basalt pinnacle in the Elven Woods.
E. A runestone in the Deep Forest.
F. A cave entrance in the Rolling Hils.
G. A circle of standing stones in the Deep Forest.
H. A river-side cave along the Soot.
I. An abandoned watchtower near the eastern wall of the valley.

The Upper Halls dungeon levels consist of A1-A3, B1, C1, D1-D3, F1-F3, G1-G3, H1-H3 and I1-I2.

The Mid Vaults are A4-A5, B2-B3, C2, D4, E1-E2, F4-F5, G4-G5, H4-H9 and I3-I5.

The Lower Deeps stretch from A6, B4-B6, C3-C5, D5, E3, F6, G6-G7 and H10-H12.

Next: The main entrances on the Ashford Valley map.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Basics, Part 4


Waste management is important for a dungeon this size and disease from waste is a frequent issue with the rougher beasts and humanoids. Conveniently, there are many areas of the dungeon that are empty and used exclusively for disposal.

Most of the dungeon is clean (or at least not a complete toxic hazard) because something or someone regularly releases gelatinous cubes and other waste-removing creatures into the halls. Often, a previously visited area is cleaned in this fashion when visitors return.


The Ring Vaults is not a killer-trap-of-death-filled dungeon, but they do exist and many are set up by denizens waiting to catch the unwary, rather than specific to the dungeon.

Some traps are deadly, but most are annoying or distracting or designed to capture and wound rather than kill. A smart or clever party (or just a lucky one) can avoid them or trip them with little damage.

The few dungeon-specific traps are often re-set after being sprung, sometimes repaired if damaged and sometimes re-armed with ammunition, while the denizen-generated traps are definitely rebuilt and re-set, but only if there are survivors to do so.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Basics, Part 3


Water is plentiful in the vaults and there are a variety of basins on walls, fountains and pools in rooms, and streams running through the under-halls. The water is clean, with very few poisoned or toxic sources and many creatures lair near the major sources. Magical waters exist within the dungeons as well, but taste them carefully, for many have weird properties and not all beneficial.


Besides monsters eating other monsters and adventurers (as they are wont to do), food is relatively plentiful in the Ring Vaults as well. Many locations include a magical wall shelf that dispenses a flat, bland trail bread (treat as iron rations) with the push of a button. While it is possible to live on this bread, it quickly tests even the most unadventurous eater's palate due to it's lack of flavor. These dispensaries rarely are dangerous, except for the companies that gather near them, and seem impervious to destruction. Many experienced adventurers have claimed that this food is just another way to punish anyone who seeks glory or treasure in the deeps.

Other edibles exist as well, within the various communities and growing wild among the vaults, and often these foodstuffs have nearby cultivators who will fight for their territory. Raid these plots, both large and small, at your peril.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My History with the Ring Vaults

Let me tell you a story about the Ring Vaults and a genesis of over a decade.

I first started using the Ring Vaults as a dungeon around the early-2000s but I didn't write about them until Issue 0 of my 'zine One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine in 2007 (based upon a game I ran the year before).

I remember having been reading the Harry Potter series and really enjoying Gringotts Wizarding Bank and the goblins that ran it. The descriptions of a series of tunnels and rooms, containing treasures and creatures and traps to guard those treasures touched a nerve - what could be more dungeon-like, even if it was a stable business at the same time?

So I robbed the bank from the books. And I wanted to keep the surprise, because everyone else was reading Harry Potter, too. But how to do that? It took me a while and I went through a couple of names and the idea sank and surfaced in my thoughts as I figured it out.

So I first presented the Ring Vaults with a stone block out front a ruined building that housed the entrance to the dungeon. The block was weathered, worn and chipped in places and read:

T H E   _ R I N G _ _ _ _   V A U L T S

I think a few people got it.

And then after a few years of publishing the 1001+1 Nights 'zine, I started my Switching to Guns 'zine, with stuff about the Ashford Valley. And made a comment or two about the dungeons beneath.

But it wasn't until the Diocese of the Elven Wood post, during the April 2011 A-Z Blogging Challenge, that the dungeon beneath the Ashford Valley started mixing with my mega-dungeon.

I wrote quite a bit on the Ashford Valley in STG, the STG page (including some extras) and my other blog Asshat Paladins but most of those adventures were on the surface of the Valley, hinting vaguely at dungeons filled with Morlocks below.

And so we are at 2012 and with the advent of the year and seeing such sites as close it's doors, Wizards announcing D&D Next and Grognardia fund via Kickstart Dwimmermount (yes, I'm one of the backers).

So I thought "mega-dungeons - I can do that!"

And so the two separate settings, the Ring Vaults and the Ashford Valley, mixed it up in my head.

We'll see where this takes us.

Basics, Part 2


The Ring Vaults are mostly well ventilated and the air, even in the deepest vaults, is, at worst, stale, rather than toxic. Gas traps, natural and deliberate, do exist, however, and those rooms associated with deliberate traps seem to have some sort of ventilation system that stops the flow when the gas trap is tripped.

The natural gas traps are more problematic. Perhaps the ventilation system has failed in those areas, which, while not unheard of, presents just another danger any enterprising explorer needs to deal with.

A side effect of this ventilation system is that sounds and smells waft through the vaults with regularity. Often, the sounds are from other parts of the dungeon, sometimes even from different levels, and all are distorted in some way. A number of adventurers have reported sounds from the exploring party itself, either from an earlier area in the dungeon or even a future (or possible future) encounter. All the sounds range from creepy to disturbing, loud and soft. The worst, by far the most horrifying, are the magnified death sounds.


Most of the Ring Vaults are lit, with some exceptions. Torch-filled sconces are placed every 10 feet and on both sides of most dungeon corridors. The sconces are within arms reach, about 7 feet up the wall and the torches in them don't seem to burn out. These torches can be easily removed from the sconces, once they are, however, they become regular torches and burn-out after an hour.

Removed torches are replaced by some magical or mysterious means when the sconce is out of sight. Damaging the sconces is possible, but they eventually are repaired, perhaps by the same mysterious powers that supplies and lights the torches.

On occasion, the torches disappear in sections of various dungeons, so most denizens keep stocks. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often nor for very long.