Not all ruins are created equal, from fallen towers to crumbling keeps, haunted, twisted, and occupied by whatever monstrous squatters are passing, but they’re all bait for any adventurer fool enough to believe that just because the walls have fallen doesn’t mean the traps stopped working. Ruins are a staple dungeon for and D&D game, but where some are simply old castles long ago abandoned, some have a far deeper history for those willing to dig a little deeper.
Built high upon the rocks of a distant hillside, the only solid land amid leagues of shifting desert, stands the Mohg-Ortha, last repose of the impenitent. Once the prison was run by a half-devil, a cambion bound by contract to the office of warden, that name is forgotten, as are those who drew up the words and conjured the creature who would watch over the perpetrators of the most unforgivable crimes.
The sands claimed the stones, the walls sagged, and Mohg-Ortha became a curiosity that travellers and nomads would stumble across after weeks in the desert. Only the unwitting take shelter.
Locales and Features
Prison Wings – The bulk of the ruin is a labyrinthine tangle of cell blocks, tiny, cramped stone rooms, with little sense of organisation. Some wings are circled around pits, with all cells opening onto the centre, others are long avenues lined with cells stacked on on top of the other, while others are narrow corridors that wind ever lower into the stone, doors every few feet. Most of these have collapsed, only partially accessible if accessible at all. Remnants of inmates remain here and there, but most are mingled with the dust that fills every corner.
In a few of the cells, a curious soul might encounter markings, and strange effigies of bone and mummified flesh. An arcana or religion check of DC 21 will attribute them to witches sworn to Bel’Taln, some but only by finding all nine of the marks will anyone determine their purpose (see Denizens).
The Warden’s Office – The lock on the door still holds firm, and attempting to pick it are made nigh-impossible by centuries of rust, and though the ancient timbers have dried they remain robust. A DC 20 check with thieves tools or strength are required to open the door. Inside the inquisitive will find ancient ledgers by the hundred, names and details of prisoners and their deeds, those that had them incarcerated, and those perpetrated while behind the walls. The walls are hung with tapestries of a sort, linen hangings with words written in a language that shifts and changes, despite the permanence of the medium. Those who can read Infernal will note that it is a contract binding the Warden to their post, in exchange for the immortal souls of every inmate.
“Interrogation” Chambers – Only a handful remain of the black rooms, and the tools – while rusted and past use – still tell a bleak tale of their purpose. Those who stay in the rooms for more than a few minutes will need to make a wisdom saving throw DC 16 or loudly confess a secret that they have kept from their friends. An imp remains invisibly in each room, caged beneath a grate in the floor, they are agents of a far greater devil, and whatever they learn, their master knows.
The Pump – Deep within Mohg-Ortha, passing through partially collapsed corridors and passing through missing floors into lower and lower chambers, following paths well trodden, there is a single water pump, the only source of water for leagues in any direction. It is surrounded with the stumps of candles, and a small stone slab is covered in lizard bones before it.
The Hermitages – Scattered throughout the massive complex are people in permanent residence, perhaps less than a hundred humans, and none of them wholly sane. Some make boastful claims to be descended from former prisoners, others driven inside by a storm and “forbidden” from ever leaving. They make strange offerings, some at the door to the Warden’s office, others wander the Interrogation Chambers, simply talking aloud, irrational babbling, confessing impossible sins to the open air.
They are all afraid of a creature they claim protects the water, making every trip to the last functioning pump a terrifying ordeal. They argue over the origins and mythology of the beast, some say it is the warden, some say it is their own personal jailer determined to hold them in Mohg-Ortha, others say it is the one who claims their sacrifices, and only hunts them if their offerings if they are unworthy.
The Creature – Anyone seeking the pump, or walking near the Warden’s office after nightfall, may find themselves confronted by a beast of Bel’Taln, a Banderhobb (Volo’s Guide to Monsters) with resistance to acid and cold damage. It hunts in the darkness, attempting to swallow whole any creature in its path. If it is slain, it reforms at sundown each day, unless all nine of the witch-magic sites are destroyed with abilities such as Dispell Magic, Anti-Magic Field or any similar negating effect. Knowing the lore of Bel’Taln will also allow the sites to be destroyed with an arcana or religion check of DC 20.
Next week’s choices…
A titan, a horror from the earliest days of creation that may or may not still wander the world, or on its edges.
Three constructs fresh off the floor of a dwarven workshop, stepping out of the forests, or rising from the forges of ancient powers.
Or some “questionable” magic items from the shelf of Granny Wormjaw, notorious witch of dubious motives.