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An ancient temple in the Desert of the Gods... adapted from Diablo II

An ancient temple in the Desert of the Gods... adapted from Diablo II

When I first launched my old-school 3.x campaign in 2001, we started with a mega-dungeon campaign to get our feet wet. We based it around an area I used occasionally but always intended to use a lot more in my B/X campaign – the Desert of the Gods.

The Desert itself is a “magical wasteland” in a massive crater (about 110 miles across). Just barely visible in the distance from some points around the edge of the crater is a massive windswept plateau of rock that has been used by various civilizations and races over the ages to build massive temples and tombs. The plateau is definitely favoured by the gods, as multiple saints are said to have climbed to their divinity here, and the masters of the temples gain additional powers from their prayers. More interesting to some is that horrible things happen to those who try to deface, destroy or replace the old temples instead of building new ones in the many faces of the plateau.

My regular B/X players know of the desert as we’ve had adventures in various “lost” temples and tombs over the decades, but this time the desert was their next door neighbor for a full year-long campaign. The mega-dungeon (which I’ll feature in a later post in this series in more detail) was a dwarven citadel built on the crater wall at the point where the plateau is closest to the crater wall. The deeper levels of the dungeon can be reached either by going through the citadel and delving down through many levels, or the simpler route is to go down to the desert floor and enter through one of the caves on the crater wall itself. In order to protect the players from trying this route first (after all, some of the biggest bads of the adventure were down there), I had to populate the Desert of the Gods a little less “in passing” than I had before.

Prior adventures in the desert involved a few rumours, threats of purple sandworms, and mad dashes for the “safety” of the plateau. While the plateau would make several appearances during the 3.x campaign. I needed some potent foes to live in the desert itself to keep the players up on the crater wall for the first few levels. Fortunately for me at the time, the Diablo II: To Hell And Back supplement had also been released in 2001, and it was full of critters from the Lut Gholein segment of the game statted out for D&D3e that I could transport into the Desert of the Gods with ease. In fact, in time the players got into the vibe provided, and the plateau began taking on a feeling less of the deserts of Dune with huge churches, but of the tombs of Tal Rasha in the Canyon of the Magi.

This week I started redrawing my maps and working on the notes I had for Powell’s Folly and realized that I would also have to convert those Diablo bad guys back to B/X for my campaign – after all, the Desert had taken on a life of it’s own in 2001-2002, and I couldn’t just ret-con it into something different when my current B/X campaign finds a treasure map leading to one of the lost temples of a dead god.

Sand Leaper
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 3+1
Move: 180′ (60′)
Attacks: 1 leap or 1 bite
Damage: 2-8 or 1-6
No. Appearing: 2-8 (5-20)
Save As: F2
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

The lowliest of the creatures in the desert are the sand leapers. They travel in packs and developed a strange leaping gait to avoid the predations of the purple sand worms. These skinny toad-like creatures have an extremely slow resting metabolism to minimize water use and storage. The harsh environment of the Desert of the Gods, however, leaves little room for mistakes, and these creatures never pass up the opportunity to eat or drink. Packs sighting a potential meal leave their resting spots and work together to bring down their quarry with great tenacity. Because of their speed and agility, they are difficult to hit and very difficult to kill. They can leap up to 40 feet in a single bound and attack with claws and teeth in mid-leap. Typically half the pack will leap upon foes, and then the next round the other half will leap while the first group will either perform a fighting withdrawal so they can leap again, or they will continue to attack with their savage teeth if they feel they have the upper hand.

A variant of the sand leaper is the tomb creeper. Paler in colouration, these leapers have one additional hit die, deal +1 damage on their attacks, and generally remain in the shade as much as they can (typically in the old tombs of the plateau).

Dried Corpse
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3*
Move: 90′ (30′)
Attacks: 1 mighty blow
Damage: 1-8 plus poison
No. Appearing: 2-8 (4-24)
Save As: F2
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic

Dried corpses are dessicated and preserved forms of zombies – undead humans or demi-humans animated by foule necromancy or the will of the gods. Many were once buried in the hundreds of tombs out in the desert, and now wander the dry lands seeking their long-ago plundered treasures. As undead, they may be turned by a cleric but are not affected by sleep or charm spells or any form of mind reading or control. The touch of a dried corpse is poisonous, and deals an additional 1d6 damage to the victim if a saving throw vs poison is failed. When finally put to rest, the dried body of the creature breaks asunder and releases a foul cloud of poison that affects all in hand to hand with it, and anyone passing through the cloud for the next 4 rounds. As with the creature’s touch, this poison deals 1d6 damage unless a saving throw vs poison is successful.

Coming next:

  • Part 2 of the Desert of the Gods – Powell’s Folly mega-dungeon overview
  • Part 3 of the Desert of the Gods – The Sand Raiders

(but tomorrow is part 2 of the Heavy Metal Mutant Future series – featuring Den)

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