For awhile I wanted to take a shot at "rebuilding" 4th Edition's published adventures so that they were more fun (or, actually fun). I got through Keep on the Shadowfell, but then 5th Edition was announced so I decided to start over and covert them to that. This required a lot more work because I had to deal with a system in flux; I had gotten about two-thirds of the way done with Thunderspire Labyrinth before I decided that 5th Edition, to put it nicely, was probably not something I was going to enjoy.
On the plus side, my first foray into running Dungeons & Dragons adventures using Dungeon World proved exceedingly popular, as was my quick conversion for Keep on the Shadowfell. Given that I already put a lot of work in rebuilding Thunderspire Labyrinth, I figured I might as well take the plot and layout changes I made and present them with a game I do enjoy.
Two of the original hooks for the characters to go there is to investigate the Bloodreavers and rescue some slaves. In Keep on the Shadowfell the Bloodreavers were originally oddly shacked up with Kalarel and some undead. In my rebuild I changed it so that they were in the region capturing and selling slaves to the death cult for use as sacrifices and raw materials, but otherwise could care less what they were up to or what happened to them. Case in point when the death cult was wiped out they just packed up what stock they had left over and headed back to the Thunderspire.
The main hook is that, with the kobolds and undead taken care of, Lord Padraig asks the characters to hunt down the Bloodreavers and rescue whoever they can. Valthrun has an interest in the labyrinth and so offers to tag along, which gives the characters a chance to know him and also provide them with information if necessary. You could also tie in arcane spellcasters with the mages of Saruun, have divine characters receive a portent that something bad is about to happen, or pique the interesting of treasure-seeking characters with the fact that it is a ruined, underground city presumably full of valuables.
Rather than have the characters go into a dungeon, free some slaves, and find out that their slaves are in another castle (twice), I try to strengthen the tie between the other dungeons by having one of the mages being held hostage, and then having them confront the renegade mage in the last dungeon to stop him from getting an artifact from Baphomet himself. I also redesigned all of the dungeons (or planned to in the case of the Well of Demons), hopefully making them more logical and interesting.
NOTE: You can get the map for the Seven-Pillared Hall here, the Chamber of Eyes here, and the Horned Hold here. I never got around to mapping the Well of Demons, but I do describe what the new design looks like in its own section.
Centuries later a group of mages discovered the ruined labyrinth within the Thunderspire. They explored and mapped it, intent on discovering its history and secrets. They found the ruins of a minotaur city that they called the Seven-Pillared Hall (because of the seven pillars), and thanks to their arcane expertise and assistance from willing minotaurs managed to figure out how to access a floating central tower. It is not known exactly what they found inside, but when they returned they possessed special amulets that let them control bronze, minotaur-like golems that had long since stood inert throughout the hall. Their magic, now supplemented with an army of golems allowed them to easily gain control of the hall.
They continued their research, and to make things easier on themselves allowing other "civilized" creatures to gather around their tower, establishing a kind of trading post. This provided them with a ready source of materials, supplies, ancient artifacts, and information without even having to leave the Hall. When they did leave their floating tower they each wore identical masks and robes both to conceal their identities and true number, a practice that has served them well as over time they have succumbed to age or other disasters during their experiments and explorations.
Case in point while examining one of countless relics Paldemar, one of the three remaining mages, was, for lack of a better term infected by the spirit of a once mighty minotaur priest that worshiped Baphomet. Over the course of several days it played upon his ambitions, gradually subsuming his personality and making him more cunning, depraved, and power hungry. Several days ago he managed to capture another mage, a woman named Niene, and bring her to a clan of duergar in the hopes that it will occupy his former compatriot long enough for him to retrieve a potent artifact from a minotaur monastery and gain control of the Hall.
The Hall was formerly a minotaur city that was positioned at a crossroad of sorts. Originally it was infested with deranged minotaurs, norkers, quaggoths, oozes, strange monstrosities from the depths of the Underdark, and worse, but since the arrival of the mages the place has become somewhat safer. At least near the floating tower. The further one gets away, the more dangerous the Hall is, particularly near the gates and chasm.
Most of the Hall's inhabitants consist of minotaurs, dwarves, drow, hobgoblins, bugbears, and kobolds, with a handful of other races in the mix. They eke out a living searching the labyrinth from ancient artifacts to sell to the mages, or failing that to someone willing (or foolish) enough to take it off of their hands. Others cultivate mushrooms, raise spiders, sell gems and other trinkets, deal in the slave trade (which is tolerated due to proximity to the Underdark), or offer their services as guides, whether to specific locations or into an ambush.
Defense Guard (bronze warders and minotaurs)
History The fall of Saruun Khel
Power Mages of Saruun. The mages are an enigmatic force that keeps the Hall in line through a combination of their innate magical power and bronze warders. They wear the same clothing when outside of their floating tower, so while many are aware that there is more than one, they have no idea how many there are, which suits them just fine. They are willing to enforce order up to a point: if something interferes with their work, expect them to step in. Otherwise they leave it to Asteron and his men.
Other Religion (Torog, the King That Crawls), Exotic (gems, slaves, ancient relics, riding spiders and lizards), Need (food), Blight (various underdark denizens)
Orontor is a mage of Saruun. His immediate concern is getting Niene back safely.
Asteron is a minotaur warrior that serves as the mages' enforcer on most matters. He would like to see his kind recover and rebuild, and thinks that the mages are their best chance.
Niene is a mage of Saruun. She was kidnapped by Paldemar and given to the Grimmerzhul clan to use as leverage against Orontor.
Paldemar is a mage of Saruun. He has been possessed by the spirit of a minotaur high priest devoted to Baphomet, and now seeks an artifact that will allow him to command every bronze warder in the labyrinth.
The Gorging Gorgon is the best inn the Hall has to offer, not that there are many alternatives. The walls are lined with statues, some former adventure companions, most of which have been at least partially eaten. The owner, a half-orc named Feng, is offering a bounty on anyone that brings back the head of the gorgon responsible.
A pair of disgraced dwarves run the Deepgem Consortium. They will take gems from anyone, no questions asked. Each week they make a trip to Fallcrest in order to unload their haul.
Horses are not ideal in the labyrinth, so if you are looking for a mount Scuttle's Den has you covered...so long as you are okay with giant spiders and lizards. Scuttle, a heavily scarred human, might also have some poison on stock.
Most people heading into the labyrinth make a stop by Torog's Shrine to cast some coins into the chasm for good luck, or at least to maybe be spared from falling rocks when an earthquake hits. The efficacy of this ritual is heavily disputed.
If you are looking for slaves both the Grimmerzhul Outpost and Bloodreaver Enclave have got you covered.
- You find an ancient, articulated bronze statue of a minotaur.
- A group of drow watch you carefully.
- The ground violently trembles for a few minutes.
- You discover the partially dissolved body of a humanoid creature.
- Did that winged statue just move?
- Something is hiding within the shadows of a ruined building.
When you cast an offering into the chasm at Torog's shrine and utter a prayer to the King That Crawls, roll+CHA. *On a 10+, the next time you are trapped or confined you will escape from your bonds. *On a 7-9, the next time you are trapped or confined take +1 forward trying to escape.
Bronze Warder Solitary, Large, Construct
Axe (d10 + 2 damage) 18 HP 3 Armor
Close, Reach, Forceful
Crafted long ago when the minotaurs of Saruun-Khel were still in the business of crafting things and had an understanding of magic, it is theorized that these were used to protect their cities and police the halls that connected them. While most of them sit inert and gather dust, when activated they are no less dangerous than they were centuries ago. Instinct: To obey whoever holds its control amulet
- Smash the scenery with a wide swing
- Activate suddenly and attack
Possessed by the ghost of one of Baphamet's most powerful high priests Paldemar seeks out an artifact known as the Tyrant's Horns, a bronze crown that appears to be made of numerous horns, so that he can reclaim the Hall in Baphomet's name and ultimately restore Saruun-Khel to its former glory. In order to keep Orontor occupied while he completes his task, he captured and delivered Niene to the Grimmerzhul Clan.
Impending Doom Tyranny
- Paldemar heads to the Well of Demons in search of the Tyrant's Horns.
- Paldemar completes Baphomet's trials and receives the Horns.
- Paldemar returns to the Hall and begins a ritual to bind the bronze warders to the Horns.
- With the bronze warders until his control, Paldemar easily conquers the Hall.
The Grimmerzhul Clan (Hordes)
The duergar are constructing hellish siege weapons—literally, they shoot hellfire—in preparation for their assault on the Hall. Because of this they have had to purchase additional slaves, including some taken from Winterhaven; some dig, others are used as sacrifices to power the weaponry.
Impending Doom Usurpation
- The duergar prepare themselves for battle.
- The duergar begin their march.
- The duergar lay siege to the Hall.
- The duergar conquer the Hall.
Murgol Grimmzerzhul leads the duergar. He is a devout worshiper of Baphomet and seeks to reclaim the Hall in his name.
- Can Paldemar be saved?
- Will the minotaur spirit possess someone else?
- What will become of the Tyrant's Horns?
- Will Murgol be stopped? If so, will someone else take up his crusade?
Time has not been kind to the labyrinth: the halls are cracked and crumbling, many passages have collapsed entirely, and irregular tremors contribute to its state of disrepair. As if that was not bad enough, false signs are placed to misdirect the unwary, some of the still-functioning mechanisms re-arrange portions of the maze, and feral minotaurs, oozes, and subterranean predators prowl the halls in search of prey.
- You find the corpse of a humanoid. The cause of death seems to be that its heart was torn out.
- A caravan approaches.
- Distant tremors cause the halls to shake.
- The hall is mostly collapsed; you will have to try climbing over or find a away around.
- A mighty howl echoes in the distance.
- The floor gives way to a lava-filled chasm.
- The halls shift, revealing new passages and closing off others.
- A bronze gate blocks your path or slowly begins to lower into place.
When you spend a day wandering the halls of the labyrinth in search of the Seven-Pillared Hall, roll+INT. *On a 10+, gain 2 progress. *On a 7-9, gain 1 progress. *On a 6-, lose 1 progress. When you have 3 progress, you have finally made your way to the Seven-Pillared Hall.
NOTE: If you feel like planning out other cities or interesting locations, accumulating a progress of 3 could mean that they stumble upon one of them, too.
When you consume the heart of a minotaur, you instinctively know your way to a location that you have been before.
The Chamber of Eyes
Formerly a temple dedicated to Torog, it was taken over by the Bloodreavers who used it as a headquarters to make trade with Underdark denizens easier. Recently a beholder arrived, and after easily disintegrating their leader took over operations. It has its eyes set on taking over the Seven-Pillared Hall, and while that has its appeal the hobgoblins are more immediately concerned with being randomly killed and/or eaten by their new boss.
Hobgoblin Horde, Organized
Spear (d6 damage) 4 HP 1 Armor
Unlike regular goblins hobgoblins are bigger, stronger, and much better organized, traits that they often instill in their lesser kin and animales like wolves and wargs through rigorous training and discipline. Instinct: To march into battle
- Fight as an organized force
- Employ other creatures and beasts in battle
- Stage a fighting retreat
Xan'tchak, Beholder Solitary, Large, Planar, Intelligent, Terrifying, Devious
Eye Rays (b[3d8 damage, and roll d4; 16 HP 3 Armor
1. Nothing (whew!), 2. Forceful, 3. Messy, 4. Ignores armor)
Special Qualities Levitation
Heralding from a dimension of strange geometries and possessed of an alien form and purpose—more so than even the most base elementals and capricious fey—beholders are the antithesis of freedom and sanity. They do not belong in the natural world, or any other known plane for that matter, but all the same they just want to rule it. Instinct: To enslave others.
- Disrupt arcane energies with its central eye.
- Put someone to sleep.
- Temporarily charm someone.
The Horned Hold
Formerly a minotaur stronghold, the Clan Grimmerzhul duergar have taken over and repurposed much of it to suit their needs (and size). Slaves toil in nearby mines, providing them with the necessary metals they need to create their siege engines. Getting to the Horned Hold is easy; Orontor can provide them with instructions on how to get their relatively quickly. The hard part is getting inside. The front door is a thick, wide gate made of solid bronze that bears the symbol of Baphomet, images of demonic minotaurs, and scriptures written in an infernal tongue that hurt to read.
Given the dangers of the labyrinth the duergar are well-trained and experienced, so even if they were able to kick in the door it would be a fool's errand; they are going to have to come up with a good plan in order to succeed. They might be able to pose as slavers (or possibly even other duergar) to trick their way in or find another way (the chasms could work, though dangerous what with all the lava). If they rescued any of the duergar back in the Chamber of Eyes they might be able to call in the favor they are owed.
When you try to sneak into the Horned Hold through the chasms, roll+DEX. *On a 10+, choose 2. *On a 7-9, choose 1.
- You avoid being damaged by a blast of searing heat.
- You avoid dropping something into the fiery chasm below.
- A duergar sentry does not spot you.
Duergar Group, Organized
Axe (d8 damage) 9 HP 2 Armor
Special Qualities Fire in the blood
Legends say that dwarves were chiseled from stone by their god. If that is true then duergar were wrought from brimstone. Some think that they were crafted by an evil dwarf god, others think that they were corrupted by fiendish worship. Otherwise they are not much different from other dwarves—hardworking, disciplined, enjoy gems and working metal—just generally evil and sometimes work with demons. Instinct: To stand their ground
- Summon infernal reinforcements
- Toil endlessly
Greataxe (d10 + 1 damage) 12 HP 3 Armor
Hand, Close, Forceful
Also known as the Horned Thane, Murgol is the ruler of Clan Grimmerzhul. He is a devout worshiper of Baphomet, believing that the ruined keep is a chance to prove their strength to the Horned King. He dreams of restoring the ruins of Saruun Khel to their former glory and ruling the Thunderspire. Through fervent devotion and gruesome ceremonies—namely devouring the hearts of minotaurs that he has personally slain—he has been blessed with minotaur-like horns and a fearsome strength. Instinct: To enslave and destroy in Baphomet's name
- Bring his great strength to bear
- Impale someone on his horns
- Wreathe his body in infernal fire
The Well of Demons
In the original adventure this was supposed to be a monastery that challenged petitioners, but it ended up just being a bunch of interconnected rooms filled with gnolls, some tieflings, and a dire boar. I think demons might have made an appearance at some point, but by then it was probably too little, too late.
This redesigned Well is a series of three bronze discs stacked horizontally, with smaller discs inside, suspended over a cylindrical shaft that plummets hundreds of feet below into a pool of roiling lava. The discs slowly rotate in different directions and are riddled with openings in the floors, walls, and ceilings, which creates an ever-shifting maze. As if that were not bad enough, lava from three screaming minotaur heads carved in the ceiling of the shaft randomly pours onto the bronze discs, cascading through various openings before plummeting into the pool below. Due to the rotation of the discs and random intervals of the streams, this means that at any time a room or hallway could get showered in lava.
Finally, there are two additional challenges that the characters must overcome as they descend: the Halls of Paranoia and Slaughter.
The Halls of Paranoia are located within the second disc; here shadows seem to writhe, giving the impression of creatures lurking in the halls, and characters are overcome by dreadful paranoia. They are unlikely to help each other, which includes sharing food or other supplies, protecting each other, using healing magic, etc. This can be emphasized with a pretty simple move:
When you try to help someone in the Halls of Paranoia, take -2 forward.
If the characters want to try and risk overcoming this paranoia, they can use this:
When you try to overcome your paranoia and help your friends, roll+BOND. On a 10+, you help them after only brief hesitation; create a new bond to demonstrate your increased trust. *On a 7-9, you eventually help them; mark off a bond and write a new one to demonstrate your fraying trust.
The final disc contains the Halls of Slaughter. Not only is this disc more likely to contain actual things to fight, characters can become possessed by bloodlust, attacking the closest thing possible...including each other.
When you are wounded in the Halls of Slaughter, roll+WIS. *On a 10+, you manage to keep a clear head. *On a 7-9, you attack the nearest target and take +1 forward.
If you manage to make it all the way to the lowest levels of the Well, then a platform lowers itself to the lava below, where either Baphomet or--more likely--one of his underlings provides the victor with an audience to request a boon. Be careful what you ask for, as depending on your request and how you ask for it might cause offense. This could result in a fight, or the platform simply flipping over to dump you in the lava.
NOTE: The assumption is that Paldemar gets to the Well not long before the characters do. You could have them spot him at various points while exploring the maze: maybe they notice him in the distance, but the maze shifts before they can get to him. Maybe they fight him, but he escapes before they can finish him off? Maybe they kill him, but another character gets possessed and encourages the rest of the party to press on to see what they find.
Of course if the duergar are still keen on taking over the Hall, then the characters might need the Horns to muster an army powerful enough to stop them.
- A stream of lava cascades from a ceiling opening.
- The ghost of a half-melted minotaur appears.
- A tear in the planar fabric disgorges a demonic entity.
- The disc's rotation opens up a new passage...or closes one off.
- An imp offers to guide you through part of the maze...for a price.
When you spend hours trying to find your way through the Well, roll+WIS. *On a 10+, choose 3. *On a 7-9, choose 2.
- You manage to find your way to the next disc.
- You do not get burned or lose something to the intense heat.
- You do not get separated.
Demonic Minotaur Solitary, Large, Planar
Goring horns (d10 + 2 damage) 16 HP 1 Armor
Close, Reach, Forceful
Special Qualities Demonic mutations
When it comes to minotaurs most people are familiar with the horns and hooves. A strange, lesser known aspect is that it is possible for them to gain strength by eating the hearts of certain creatures. In ancient times they would eat each other's hearts, but it does not have to be a minotaur's heart: some would consume the hearts of dwarves and grow tougher, while others gained innate shadow magic by eating the hearts of drow wizards. Then there were the thankfully rare individuals that preferred demon hearts, the results of which are as varied as demon-kind. Instinct: To use their demonic mutation
- Rip out a creature's heart and eat it.
Also decide their motivations for going there. Rescuing slaves is an adequate default option, but if you can create a more personal, player-chosen motivation at least in addition to that, it will make the adventure all the more meaningful.
The characters make it to the Seven-Pillared Hall looking for the captured villagers. The Bloodreavers maintain an outpost in the Hall, and while they might have a few captives on hand others are at their headquarters, which is somewhere else in the labyrinth. The characters can extort the information from the hobgoblins there, ask around the Hall, or hire a guide (at least several people are aware of its location). Something I had not considered are Torog's priests: the hobgoblins are squatting on one of his ruined temples, so if they talk to one of the priests they could not only provide the location, and even help as they would love to see it cleaned out so that they could use it again.
From here they make it to the Chamber of Eyes and have to sneak and/or fight their way through the temple. The Bloodreavers have recently been taken over by a beholder (hence the dungeon's name), which is both powerful and quite insane; it is entirely possible that if they talk to the hobgoblins about their problem (or overhear them talking about it) that they would be willing to return every captive if they "handled" it. My rebuild notes also have a scenario where, if the alarm has not been raised, that the characters can make it to the beholder's chamber to find it talking to some duergar that have come from the Horned Hold seeking slaves and possible aid.
During the negotiations the beholder tries to kill the duergar so that it can blame it on the mages, further inciting them to attack. If the characters intervene and save the duergar, then they promise to repay the characters later (in Dungeons & Dragons alignments they are Lawful, after all), which can be used as a potential way for them to get into the Hold. Probably not enough to get Niene back, mind you, but at least get them inside.
At some point after they return to the Hall they run into Orontor, who is happy that there is a band of capable adventurers in the Hall. He reveals to them that the duergar have taken one of his compatriots, a fellow mage of Saruun named Niene. If asked he explains that they have not offered any ransom terms, just that if he shows his face (or rather, mask) there that they will kill her. He offers to reward them well if they can rescue her, and tells them where to find the Horned Hold. The characters go there, find a way in, rescue her (possibly other slaves, too), and learn that Paldemar helped capture her to keep Orontor in check while the duergar prepared to attack the Hall.
By the time the characters make it back with Niene, Orontor has discovered that Paldemar has gone to an ancient minotaur monastery known as the Well of Demons. He is not sure why, but given that knows it used to be a monastery where minotaurs would brave deadly challenges to seek out Baphomet's favor, assumes that it cannot be good. The characters go there to try and stop Paldemar before he can acquire the Horns (or at least before he gets back to the Hall). If they succeed, then that is that. If they fail, then they get to try and stop him from casting the ritual that will grant him control over the warders.
Brimstone Maul 2 weight
The head of this maul is made from a solid block of brimestone. Infernal runes are scored into the sides, and the handle is made from black iron. When you use this hammer to smash something and roll a 12+, it unleashes a fiery blast: roll your damage twice and take the best result, and it gains the Ignore Armor and Forceful tag.
Shackleskin 2 Armor, 1 weight
This suit of chainmail seems to constantly writhe as if alive. It is made from the chains of a kyton, which still retain a semblence of the creature's sentience...and malice. If worn by a good character, the chains begin to constrict the wearer until it is pried off, and if worn by a neutral character it acts as normal chain mail.
It is when donned by an evil character that it helps out: in combat it tries to deflect attacks, and strike and strangle enemies. Unfortunately even outside of combat it can act out, frightening or even throttling anyone visibly good or that it feels is simply annoying the wearer.