4. The Slime Castle
The Moon King needed to kill the merfolk. They were threatening his shipping lanes.
He tricked the king of the merfolk into accepting a gift (or perhaps he snuck it in). It looked like a pearl, but in fact it was a miniature moon. And just like the actual moon, it was capable of influencing the tides.
The Miniature Moon pushed all the water away from the merfolk's castle, and it ensorcelled their king, turning him into a horrible monster that immediately devoured most of his own subjects.
The merfolk tried to preserve themselves with their own magic, but they only succeeded in creating a bunch of mutants that led a failed attempt to reclaim the castle.
The dry seafloor is still inhabited by a few merfolk (who are capable of slithering across flat ground and breathing air) trying to reclaim what's left of their kingdom.
You can buy a merfolk princess egg in a shop. She'll explain all of this stuff, and get the ball rolling. None of the princesses can hatch until their father is killed. Most of them are understandably pissed off about this.
There are also lots of people who would like to get their hands on a pearl capable of repelling water. They'll send you in to reclaim it.
There is also a side dungeon called the Cloud Factory, where you can gain the ability to breath water. (This is a useful ability for the Slime Dungeon, but not a necessary one.)
<digression>The high elves originally used the cloud factory for irrigation. Instead of building ditches to water your crops, why not just build programmable clouds to drop water exactly where it is needed? The Cloud Factory is broken now, and is the reason why the desert exists. The merfolk wizard that runs the place will give you the full breakdown. It is also possible to bring water back to the desert by fixing the Cloud Factory.</digression>
The hardest part is reaching the dry seafloor.
It's possible to "park" a boat alongside the vertical cliff of water and swim down to the bottom. Just swim in the water while sticking your head out into the air when you need to breathe. It's easy in theory, but in practice, it's difficult to avoid falling out of the wall of water and plummeting to your death.
Descending an anchor rope abstracts the problem one step, but doesn't remove it. Ships have a hard time holding perfectly steady. If the ship drifts away from the wall, you can no longer reach the air while holding on to the rope. If the ship drift towards the wall, it can fall off the water-cliff and plummet to its destruction below.
So really all you need is a crew that is both (a) talented, and (b) willing to risk everything for you.
Alternatively, you could just steal the baron's airship.
Alternatively, if you can already breathe water, you can just anchor a safe distance away and then swim down to ground level.
The Slime Castle
Sea shells and all that cliche shit. I hate water level puzzles but maybe I can make one that doesn't suck. Lots of slime, the acidic kind.
Enemies are mostly mutant fish that the merfolk sent to kill the now-monstrous king. Also slimes. Slimes in pipes! Hydraulic slime pistons! Peristaltic slime pumps! Some hilarious version of sushi boats! Think of the versatility.
The Miniboss is a slime, obviously. Potentially a puzzle boss: you have to strike its heart in order to kill it. Even if you don't have a hookshot, you can still trick it into going through a narrow opening, and then just stab the heart when it passes through. Or a desperate player could slather themselves down in vasoline and dive in.
The Slime King is probably just some big, gross, distorted merfolk. There are a lot of directions this could take (coral reef, water wizard, fish sampler platter) but right now I'm thinking about what a grotesquely muscular merfolk would look like.
The clever way to defeat him is just to remove the pearl from his forehead, thereby returning him to normal.
Anyway, when you defeat the Slime King, you're not done yet. You still need to get the pearl out of the dungeon in order to return the water to it's previous level. The catch is that the pearl fights back: it grows larger and larger. It casts certain spells to make your task more difficult. It taunts you. Hopefully it ends up chasing the party and crushing them like an Indiana Jones boulder.
Once you get the pearl outside, all of the unhatched princesses sing to it and it shatters with a rude noise. Something cheesy like that.
The displaced merfolk are the obvious one.
A more interesting one might be a pair of scientists, intent on studying merfolk eggs as well as the biology of all the fucked up mutants. I picture them kissing each other sweetly, romantically dissecting the twitching carcass of a mantis shrimp-manta that you brought back.
You can probably figure out which one I like better.
|by Lloyd Allen|
5. The Queen's Castle
Before the Moon King turned evil, he fell in love, got married, and had romantic weekends with his wife. All of these romantic interludes were conducted in the Queen's Castle, a small castle that was built for this exclusive purpose.
The Queen was a sorceress herself, and of no small talent. When the Moon King died and the whole kingdom went mad, the Queen was smart enough to flee the vicinity.
Not only did the Queen leave, but she seems to have absconded with the royal family and the entire Queen's Castle. No one is quite sure about how she managed to steal the castle.
In reality, the Queen merely filled the castle with her family, shrank the castle, and then swallowed it. A dozen sundry spirit-bargains ensured that the castle would be subject to Magic Schoolbus logic rather than the harsh light of empirical biology.
In fact, the Queen's innards became something quite unnatural. She traded away most of her humanity for the ability to cultivate a miniature town inside her stomach.
The Queen is believed to be dead. Her tomb (built after her disappearance, at her instructions) reads, "A queen, a life, a guide, a light. She will be missed." This is a clue to where she is located: in the lighthouse.
There's also a monstrous bird thing that has been stealing food. If the party kills it, they can steal the key it wears, which bears the queen's seal. If the party talks to it, they learn that his name is Rosicalum, a knight who failed the queen and now serves her in this fucked up form.
It turns out the Puldra Pudok (an enormous, friendly, talking, burrowing dog-thing that dispenses advice) was a friend of the departed queen. She entrusted it with her key. The dog will give you the key in exchange for killing a certain, aggravating member of the Moon King's lieutenants. The dog knows that the queen's key opens the queen, but does not know where the queen is.
You can get the key from Scavverglum, a very old man who is rumored to be the eldest grandson of the queen (this is true). He is so paranoid about assassins, that he lives in the walls of his mansion and fills his house with imitations of himself. You can get the truth (or the key) from him.
I'll pick one later, I'm just brainstorming here.
The key is made from a rib.
You have to find the Queen, put the key in her bellybutton, and turn it.
She's hidden at the lighthouse (where the epitaph clue led). The lighthouse keeper pretends that she is his insane sister.
The queen has retreated inside herself, literally. Her mind (her four souls) are currently invested in a tiny homunculus living in her own stomach. Her body (three souls) is a mumbling thing that sits in a rocking chair, watching the Moon Castle from beside a window. The quilt on her lap is covered with depictions of the sun (a crime).
Her body isn't mindless. The mineral, vegetable, and animal souls know a lot themselves.
Inserting and turning the key could open up a portal in her belly. OR--depending on where we want the adventure's comfort level--could cause her face to go slack, her jaw to unhinge, and her skin to distend. The players then stretch open her mouth (like hot cheese, each incisor six inches away from its neighbor) and slither on down.
This would be a good dungeon for the "you can bring no equipment with you" clause that some dungeons pull. That always 'feels' very Zelda, since they are limited to the (known) tools that they'll be able to find in the dungeon. It doesn't feel very OSR, though. (Something that associate with players have a deep backpack full of tricky shit.)
The Queen's Castle
She's had to separate the princes and the princesses. They kept breeding, and her guts are cramped enough as it is.
People always write flesh dungeons with an eye for disgust. That's how I've always run them. This time, though, I think I want to focus on how a dungeon made of flesh could be elegant, accommodating, and (dare I say) romantic. Pleasant scents and diaphanous curtains of capillaries. Loveseats upholstered with the softest skin imaginable. Softer than your intimate bits.
The queen's castle was a romantic getaway, remember? It was architecture for lovers. Some of that must be preserved, surely.
Sure, this could include loveseats and scenic views over the lake, but it could also include a door that can only be bypassed if a married couple presents themselves. (Remember, all you need to get married is a cleric and a witness.)
And yes, we'll have peristaltic hallways and leukocyte blobs and toothy doorways. That's basically mandatory. Cytokine storm sounds like a special attack anyway.
We'll also have a bunch of naive princelings who have literally never been outside of their grandmother's belly.
She had to keep them safe from their grandfather, you see. You have to trust your granny. Now go back to your bed of collagen.
I mean, it could be the Queen being insane. Or distrustful. And then you kick her ass and she become your ally. That's what WoW would do, and those are sort of lame.
A disease or parasite is also a little predictable. Maybe that could be a sidequest?
The miniboss is a trio of mindless Marrow Knights that were built to prevent all access to the inner sanctum (where the roleplaying happens). They all have to die on the same turn or else they'll resurrect each other.
The boss is this:
When the Queen fled the castle, she was already pregnant with another son. She did not know this at the time, and only discovered it some days after she had already imported her castle into her viscera.
The Little Prince is that unhappy creature: almost 100 years old now, still waiting his turn to be born. A overdeveloped fetus, arrested in the earliest stages of pregnancy, still bearing gills and kidney antecedents. A monstrous unbirth.
You can probably bargain with him. If you kill his mother, he'll be born, and you'll have a powerful ally in a sorcerous child with a legitimate claim to the throne. If you kill him, you'll gain the loyalty of his mother, who knows a hell of a lot about the Moon King and biomancy, but is unwilling to leave the sanctum of her own body.
Alternate name: the Prince Deferred.
I don't know. I need to focus on refining the area outside of the dungeon. The lighthouse, the Puldra Pudok, those are a good start. Whalers who stock the lighthouse with oil. The shepherds of the area who are actually just former knights of the castle, each with a flesh-flower tucked into one of their buttonholes.
Probably the most Zelda approach would be to have an "outdoors" area inside the queen that contained the castle, with another step required to open it. That seems like a lot of shit to write, though.