Dungeon DIY: Erythnul’s Skeletal Scaffold
Dungeon DIY is a featured series that showcases Mike’s Dungeons & Dragons creations. Things featured in this series are used in the”City of Splendors” campaign, which he DMs for a quartet of miscreants and real-life pals. You can follow the campaign’s progress on its official Obsidian Portal page.
I’ve been running this campaign since December of last year, and it may very well be the most involved game I’ve ever been a part of. With the exception of a six-month break between graduating and finding a job, it’s been more or less a regular affair, and the characters are progressing impressively. The party is made up of Havard, the self-serving Human Scout with a taste for the arcane; Aystra, the spunky Human Cleric who just wants to help; Vyurek, the calculating Illumian Duskblade who refuses to leave a job unfinished; and recent addition Laire, the angsty Elf Rogue who’s just in it for the chicks.
The campaign takes place in, around, and below the great city of Waterdeep, the commercial hub of the Sword Coast. Since arriving in the city, the party has learned of a recent earthquake that shook its citizens, and seems tied to more than a few strange happenings in their travels. Currently, they’ve delved deep into the subterranean reaches of Undermountain, a massive dungeon beneath the mountain on which Waterdeep lays. Gyudd, a brewmaster who’s convinced he’s the heir to a long-lost line of Dwarven royalty has hired them as escorts to take him to the bottom of Belkam’s Fall, a massive natural lava tube that is rumoured to contain the crypt of the line’s last king.
In their most recent adventure, the party explored Erythnul’s Skeletal Scaffold, a massive series of platforms constructed of flesh and bone, and brought to life with necromancy.
The scaffold is made up of eight smaller platforms, with a ninth large platform at its base. In game, it’s about 120 feet across and at least 100 yards deep. For a tabletop recreation, I made it about 3 feet wide by 2-and-a-half feet high. The platforms were built out of foam-core board, held together with bamboo skewers and hot glue, and propped up on some plastic sticks I found at the dollar store that are used to hold balloons or something. The surfaces of the platforms were mocked up in Photoshop, printed in colour, and just glued on top.
The party landed on the top platform via a rickety elevator, and had to make their way down. The edge of each platform held a rolled-up bridge made of bone that could be unravelled and connected to the next platform below. Figuring out how to connect the bridge was the party’s first challenge. After some argument and brainstorming, the Cleric cleverly (and correctly) guessed that since the entire platform seemed to be an Undead construct, the bridge could be commanded with a Turn Undead effect.
The scaffold was about as stable as it looked, leading to some precarious balancing acts in-game. Luckily, the model served pretty well, and save for a few clumsy hands knocking a couple minis off, it held together for the entire encounter.
The players loved it. The physical layout and Undead nature of the scaffold led to some very interesting combat encounters, and they even managed to surprise me with some creative tactics. On one of the platforms, a trio of bowmen had constructed a barricade of bones to pick off the players from safety. Aystra unleashed a Turn Undead on the wall itself, knocking it over and hurling the mobs backwards towards (and over) the platform’s edge. On another, an evil cleric mob manipulated two of the bridges to stage an ambush, trapping the party on a narrow scaffold.
In all, Erythnul’s Skeletal Scaffold proved to be my most ambitious but most successful D&D adventure to date. Players love it when you present them with something new and different, and if it’s huge and unpredictable, all the better.