Friday, March 1, 2019

[Dungeon] 30-minute dungeon: The Chaldean Archives

My take on the 30-minute dungeon format initiated by Tristyn. There are already a couple of other people posting these: Michael Raston, Shane Ward, and possibly many others!

The goal is to provide a dungeon adventure with more or less these items:

A Hook General Background 3 Combat Encounters 3 "Empty" Rooms 2 Traps 1 NPC 1 Weird Thing To Experiment With Some Treasure A Magic Item
30 minutes is... not much, I tell you that! I did waste 15 minutes on the map. Although I knew I should't. Then spent 30 minutes on the description, so I broke the rule...

But here's what I got. I think it's a good outline, and perhaps in the near future I can flesh it out! It's an ancient Mesopotamian themed ruin complex.

The Chaldean Archives

General background: Middle East, circa 700 AD. It is the time of the Omayyad Caliphate. But this empire is not the first to rule in the area, and some people are eager to explore the remnants of civilizations much more ancient and powerful – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes.

Hook: Abdul Alhazred, the renowned Damascene scholar (not yet known as “the Mad Arab”) hires the party to explore the ruins of an ancient Chaldean palace, find the archives, and bring back as many clay tablets as possible.

The ruins of a once glorious palace, now buried under the sand. A small part is accessible. There are two entrances, 1. from the east (visible) and 2. from the south (barely visible, covered by rubble, but easy to clear if noticed).

Outside the ruins

A nomad tribe has set up camp next to the east entrance.
They never delve deep into the ruins (sometimes go into the courtyard), just use its walls as defense against the sandstorms.
However, they also don’t want to let anybody else in, unless payment or reason is provided.
6+2d6 nomads (HD 1, armed with scimitars and slings) and their leader Sardar, who tells wicked ghost stories (HD 2, armed with Damascene steel)



Open area that grants access to the various parts of the complex.

Storage rooms

Grouped around the Courtyard. Many broken clay vessels. Their ancient content (sesame oil and honey) coalesced into 1d4 deadly Lubricious & Viscous Oozes (HD 3, engulfing pseudopods, weapons get stuck in them).
Treasure: each Ooze’s body holds 1d100sp worth in assorted items and medieval coins, and one Ooze holds an ancient Egyptian faience amulet (+1 to saves against Magic if worn).

Chapel area

Entered from the west side of the Courtyard, through a small vestibule.
The entrance is flanked by stone reliefs, depicting two winged genies with human heads. The genies each hold a small container and raise a pine cone towards the entrance.
In the vestibule there is a locked chest. Contents: gilded pine cones, a small container with a sweet smelling oil (enough for 1d8 smears), silver cups and plates worth 200sp.
To pass through the door, one must be first anointed with the sweet oil.
Anybody not anointed is struck by searing light from the toppled statue in the next room. 3d6 damage (save against Rays/Devices for half damage).

The main chapel room

Toppled statue of a male divinity, opposite the entrance. Heavy (combined Strength of 40+ to move). If restored to its original upright position, an otherwise invisible compartment opens in its base, holding a gold bar worth 100gp and the personal Seal of the High Priest (small cylinder seal, depicts a nude hero battling a bull-man; can be used to open containers safely in the Sacred Archive area; provides protection against the Bull-Man).

Chapel storage rooms

Guarded by a Bull-Man (HD 7, very strong, bonus to grappling). If shown the Seal of the High Priest, bows and doesn’t attack.
Treasure: votive statues, furniture decorated with gold and ivory.

Archive area

Entered from the north side of the Courtyard, through a small vestibule.
The entrance is flanked by stone reliefs. When first seen, there are 4 winged genies with bird heads and vicious beaks. The head of one of them was damaged. When the spectators turn away, the three undamaged genies disappear from the reliefs. These three active winged genie guardians will then invisibly stalk and attack the intruders at the most convenient moment.

Winged Genie Guardians (HD 6, 2 attacks, limited flight [long jumps])
The genies have to be defeated, or, alternatively, their stone slabs can be broken (by at least two blows dealing 4 or more damage). If a slab is broken, one genie disintegrates.

Main archives (North part)

Myriads of clay shards. For each turn spent searching, 1d20 complete clay tablets can be salvaged, up to a total of 100.
The tablets contain economical records, hymns, epic stories, historical annals.

Sacred archives (West part)

Five limestone chests. Sealed with wax – the wax has the imprint of a cylinder seal (nude hero battling a bull-man). If the wax is broken, the perpetrator takes 1d8 damage and must save against Magic. On a failed save, the word THIEF is burnt into their forehead (in cuneiform Akkadian).
A person holding the Seal of the High Priest (see Chapel area) can break the wax without any consequences.
Each chest holds 1d12 complete clay tables. Descriptions of rituals, hymns. Every fifth tablet from this room is also a random spell “scroll” (written in cuneiform Akkadian).


  1. Just love it and had to steal it! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cheers, glad you like it!
      Let me know if you run it!