Wednesday, October 16, 2019

d6 Dungeon Merchants

I've been playing Crypt of the Necrodancer and I've realized that I like the idea of bumping into merchants in the middle of a dungeon.

Among other things, it makes the dungeon able to replace one of the functions of the city, without making it any safer.

from Crypt of the Necrodancer
1 - Dungeon Bugs

Something like long-legged roaches, each as tall as a child.  They scamper like children, and laugh like goats with a mouth full of dice.  They're friendly, but callous.  You'll find them on the ceilings of rooms,

They taste terrible, and so are largely ignored by predators.  They have little interest in any task requiring their attention for more than a few moments, and are all competing with each other to collect enough shiny crap to attract a mate.

No one has ever seen a female dungeon bug, or knows what happens when a dungeon bug gets hitched.  The dungeon bugs themselves might not even know.  They rarely talk about their secret nests, except to boast of them.

A voice from the ceiling, "By the seven fucks, no, you don't want to go that way.  Two silver and I'll tell you which way is most goodwise!  And a refund if you don't thank me when you go to bed tonight!"

"That's my corpse!  Look, I marked by it by biting off the earlobe--I have it right here.  I was saving it for later, times like these.  You can have the pockets, though, for 20 silver.  Eat my eyes if I can go any lower.  Just eat em!"

"Just climb down this shaft and head towards the smell of seaweed. That's my cousin's store!  You can buy a pickled piercer for a penny!"  (The Pickled Piercer costs 30s.  You can buy a barrel of pickled goblins for 200s, though, which counts as 100 rations.)

2 - The King of Hens

A ponderous thing with pale skin like a drowned man.  A full head taller than a tall man.  Thin limbs, stretched and slightly bent, like ghastly taffy.  The hands are huge flippers, like hands that have been run over by a cartoon car.  They open and close slowly.

The feet are chicken feet, and they are strong.

The chest is huge, and the belly is stretched to bursting.  It is wearing the remains of a red robe, fallen off the shoulders and only held on by a belt around the waist.  It is filthy and matted, but it was once silk.  It's back, chest, and arms are all covered with lashes, both old and new.

The face is shambles, perhaps from unlucky birth, perhaps from a creative torturer.  The face has little to do with a chicken's, and even less to do with a human's.  It is, at least, a bit beaked, where the cleft palate climbs into the sinuses.  The dark, watery eyes are entirely unlike poultry, however.

The King of Hens is accompanied a quartet of small, loud women.  They are the king's court.  They will announce what is for sale today, and what the prices are.  If you agree to buy something, one of the hags will stay with you while the other three lead the creature around a corner.  After listening to a few minutes of cracking whips and ragged sobs, they will return with a bloody egg.  Inside the egg is your purchase.

Suggested Items (Roll a 1d6 twice)

1 - A nutritious egg.  (Counts as a ration.  DO NOT INCUBATE IT.)
2 - A random curse. Latches onto the nearest person when the egg is broken.
3 - Black sugar.
4 - Midnight wind.

3 - The Hive Dead

A cyclopean door.  On it, someone has written "Put the sword on the ground and step out of the room.  Wait until they offer the right payment.  Stay away from their holes."

Inside is a cavernous room.  The center of the ceiling is dominated by a huge crack, going upwards.  You seem to be at the bottom of a very deep abysm.

The walls are studded with holes, each one about two feet wide.  The holes are roughly circular, and are arranged roughly as honeycombs are.  (This is the most efficient way to stack circles.)  There are several hundred of these holes on the back wall of the room, and several hundred more up inside the ceiling crack.

Each hole is home to an undead.  They are not visible in the gloom, but they are watching the center of the room with an unblinking intensity.  When an item (or items) is placed in the center of the room, an undead will approach it after 1d6*1d6 minutes, and place a roughly equivalent item across from it.

If you enter the room and take the offered item, you have just sold your original item.  If you wait another 1 hour, the undead will return and reclaim the item it offered as a trade--there is a 50% chance that another undead will appear after 1d6*1d6 minutes and make a similar offer.  If you reclaim your original item, the deal will be cancelled, the dead will be offended, and all future responses will take twice as long.  If you take both items, all 660 corpses will attack you.  (Stats as zombies, Int 10, movement as human.)

Some items that might be offered:

  • The bones of a horse.
  • A suit of plate mail in perfect condition.
  • The lost crown of a local principality.
  • A spellbook (contains 3 pyromancer spells).
  • A large package of ancient tea.  (Worth 1000s).

If anyone dies in the room, the undead will command the dead to rise.  The fallen character will arise as a new undead, painfully gag down all of their coins and gems, and dig a new hole in the wall.

4 - Charlie Pox

He looks more like a flock of freckles than anything else.  He appears on your belly, using your bellybutton as a mouth.  He's cheeky and talks fast.  He'll crack jokes to put you at ease.

Buy something why don't ya!  I've traveled all this way!

This is Charlie.  You probably caught him from a rat bite or something.

The purchase will be produced from your own body.  If Charlie likes you (and Charlie likes most people), this will be orally.

If you try to hold Charlie hostage, you'll get sick.  Real sick.  Best just to buy something and let him pass one.  The prices aren't even that bad, don't ya know!  He's doing you a favor!

Once he's gone, all he leaves behind is a patch of freckles in the shape of a winking smile and a mild cold.

5 - Sir Gavin Ghastlecrumb

A brute in a suit.

Picture a man shaped like a gorilla.  Wrap him in the most expensive clothes that money can buy.  Give him a fierce beard and a brilliant top hat.  Make him love violence the way that scared soldiers love their mothers.  Make him loud and brusque and ambiguously British.

When you find him, he's spooling intestines from a naga, draping them over a fire, and eating them, all in a single continuous assembly line.  He has a little silver fork.  (It's a regular fork.  It just looks small in his hands.)

He hopes you will give him a reason to kill you, and will tell you as much.  He is a devout Hesayan, and if you are also a member of the flock, he cannot attack you unprovoked.  He has his afterlife to consider.

Why is he selling things?  He has too much loot to carry.

  • 16 swords.  Must by all of them.  50s
  • A magic bird that can learn any song, and will invent new ones besides.  100s.
  • A duke's son from a nearby city, worth 1000s in random.  300s.

The other stuff in his bag is equivalent to a dragon's hoard, but he's not selling it.

Stats as a giant.  If you miss him with a melee attack, make a Str check.  If you fail, Gastlecrumb breaks it.  If he fails a Save, he can choose to lose 10 HP and reduce the effect of whatever he just saved against.

6 - Machinduma

A coiled machine sits alone in a dark room.  It looks like the polished extrusion of some massive crustacean, with gently fluted crests and warped gullies.  The front is the tallest part, and you must slip between some flying buttresses to reach the "front" of the machine.

You can only see the seams if you look close.  (Those who have seen both will recognize similarities to the Egg of Drume.)

There are two alcoves here, set into the machine like eye sockets.  Above them, you can read the words "One is taken, the other is improved."

If you put two objects into the alcoves, the chambers will slowly recess and then close off.  Out of the two objects, the more valuable one will be taken by the machine.  The less valuable object will be returned in an improved form.

Shitty swords will be made excellent.  A magical sword will be made amazing.  A non-magical item may be made into a magical one, but the enchantment will be a trifling one.

A living creature that is improved will be given a random beneficial mutation.

If you do a lot of exchanges with the Machinduma, and if you show a certain ambivalence for human life, it will start offering you fetch quests.  It will extrude soft white disks with writing on them, which dessicate and crumble away from the warm, bloody interior of the machine.

People that are taken by the Machinduma are not lost.  You will see them again, in a different city, at a different time, on some different business.  They will have a different name, and they will not recognize you.  They will have a different history and speak accurately of a different home town (very far from where they are now).  They are always fetching an item.

The Machinduma has stats as four ogres in full plate, fighting in tight square formation.

See Also

Dream Merchants




Stuff to Buy

The Metal Earth has finally birthed a book.  Check it out here.

Patrick has translated Gawain and the Green Knight, which seems like an immensely Patrick thing to do.  You should buy it in order to one-up that one guy who won't stop talking about how much Appendix N he's read.


  1. Sweet voice of the Authority, these are good. Consider them to be stolen for usage this Sunday, IF my players manage to make it out of the Isles of the Dead.

  2. "And a refund if you don't thank me when you go to bed tonight!"
    I feel like Dungeon Bug is uniquely qualified to actually live up to this statement. Headcanon: Dungeon Bugs are bedbugs.

  3. I came into this expecting to just make Re4 merchant jokes but holy hell the King of Hens will be in my nightmares.

  4. Really elegant ways to integrate what can often seem inappropriate in a lot of dungeons. Definitely stealing Charlie Pox!

    1. Charlie Pox is pretty cute. I think. . . Boston accent, maybe?

  5. The Hive Dead is *way* too cool to be a d6 dungeon setpiece, that's something you build a dungeon or location around.

    1. I know, right? And yet, here it is on a d6 table, and I can finally delete it from my slush pile.

  6. Great stuff Arnold, happy to see you back!

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    1. I've almost accidentally deleted this stupid comment like, three times.

  8. Okay, I just used the Dungeon Bug in my current campaign. It's Pathfinder, volume 1 of the Strange Aeons (Lovecraftian) adventure path. There's a room that you can only access by solving a haunt. As written, it's just a reward room with some treasure -- a brave guard gathered some supplies, including some valuable loot, before being overwhelmed and dying yadda yadda.

    I added Frances ("Call me Frank!") the merchant. He made offers for -- among other things -- the bard's voice, the strength of the paladin's arms ("Aahhh, you're killing me! Okay, the strength of ONE arm") and the wizard's brain ("You're not even using 80% of it! And -- here's the sweet part -- I'll leave you the stem! Heartbeat, breathing, all that good stuff! So you can just walk around until you find a new brain! Maybe even a better one!")

    Eventually he settled for a single song from the bard (this song is now gone from the bard's memory forever, and can never be played again) in return for answering one question. "Ahhh, it's not much, but okay! I can't go home with nothing to the mate and the larva!"

    The players absolutely loved Frank and hope to meet him again. So, thanks much.

    Doug M.

    1. Your dungeon bug sounds much more magical than mine. (I've had my dungeon bugs purchase feces off the players before.) Glad it worked for your group!

  9. Question about Charlie Pox: how do i pay him? Sorry if this has been covered already, i was just going to say you shove the coins in his gob (your bellybutton) but would like the canon answer!

    1. Bellybutton or swallow them. Whatever works best for you campaign. (There is no canon.)

  10. This. All. Night. Long. Next campaign I run, all of these are in . . . one dungeon. That is all.