View Full Version : Help Me Make The Ultimate Horror Dungeon!

Chainsaw Hobbit
2010-04-06, 06:42 PM
Help me make the ultimate 4e 5th lv horror Dungeon!
I'm going to DM a 5th level horror-themed adventure as part of my dark 4e campaign. The characters include a human cleric, a dwarf ranger, a half-orc fighter, and a tiefling sun-pact (from an obscure supplement) warlock.
I want to make it a dungeon-crawl and the PCs are trying to get out (not in). :xykon:

Forever Curious
2010-04-06, 07:56 PM
Grr...more of a 3.5 man myself. Not to certain on how 4e works dungeon wise...

I suggest looking for the 4e book concerning all things undead and just start chucking stuff at them. Pretty sure there's a fear based creature in there somewhere...

sorry for lack of help :smallredface:

Chainsaw Hobbit
2010-04-06, 08:25 PM
I was thinking the dungeon should be an undead infested maze of torture pits.

Realms of Chaos
2010-04-07, 06:02 AM
I don't have my books with me and I'm not too familiar with 4e but I have an idea that may work.

Make the purpose of the mission to rescue villagers who have been captured by a necromancer and been put in a grotto for experimentation and torture.

In addition to describing the torture rooms and the wounds of the villagers (and corpses of dead ones), you now present the difficulty of getting this group of people (I believe that there is a level 2 human minion that would suffice for villagers) to safety.

In that undead book that came out awhile back, there were all sorts of undead that were good for ambushing, such as zombies (or was it skeletons) who could climb, swim in pools of murky water (the prisoners may be dying of thirst), or otherwise surprise party members.
Also in this train of thought, consider placing some undead on dissection tables or in other places that make them look like normal corpses until fools get close. Brains in Jars (especially the weak one in the broken jar) are especially good at looking like part of the scenery.
Don't forget to put in plenty of traps and tons of grates in the grotto, possibly occupying the walls, ceiling, floor, or any combination of the three. Grates work well as you could either place prisoners behind the grating or place some treasure or place the undead (which can reach out to attack the party or rescued citizens). Nothing is more nervewracking than leading civilians over an old grate that may or may not contain the living dead.
Another important point to make is to somehow cut the party off from the entrance after they enter the cave (so that they, and the civilians, can't travel back down hallways of destroyed monsters and disarmed traps to reach the exit :smallyuk:) so they must search for another way out. The most direct way to do this is with a cave-in (incidental or planned).
An interesting possibility to consider is adding a tough monster to the dungeon, a single wandering undead that the party couldn't hope to kill. Look through your monster manuals for a grotesque undead (like the Mohrg) and have it wander around, slowly picking off party members whenever it sees them and forcing them to run through a labyrinth. In this way, the monster would serve as a minotaur (or perhaps the more apt comparison is Pyramid Head) for your labyrinth of a dungeon and adding a sense of tension to every footfall that the party hears.
Another interesting twist would be to have one or more of the prisoners actually be doppelgangers under the necromancer's control. Even when left in completely safe areas, prisoners continue do die through unexplained means. :smallwink:
A note regarding the traps that I mentioned earlier is that not all traps need be set off by the party. Showing the splattered, severed, and boiled remains of an initial searching party over the course of several traps (the last of which resets itself and is only noticeable due to the bodies) gives a nice sense of tension (give the last of them a journal for extra spooky points). Similarly, a couple triggered traps with crushed or even still active undead within them is a bit unnerving (halve the undead's hp and reduce its speed to 0 or 1, depending on the extent of structural damage).
Don't be afraid to go all out on your party as well. One of my favorite tricks is to have the party hear a scream for help behind a door when they pass it, only to find the mangled remains of a dead child in the arms of an undead (or even the "pyramid head" undead). With the right description, that's just darn terrifying.
Of course, when the party gets the group to the surface, that's when the true fun begins. You see, the necromancer infected each citizen with the undead plague described in that undead book (I can't remember what it's called...) and the party is letting them infect the entire community.

*evil laugh*

A couple tips for running horror:
1. Detail can help but going overboard can hurt. Describe the basic atmosphere of the dungeon when they enter it (stale air, flickering light, low groans in the distance) and let them know when it changes. Likewise, it's okay to describe interesting things in detail (even if they're just red herrings). Do not, however, give a deep description of each and every identical corridor (except for the grates, of course :smallbiggrin:)
2. The players will only be scared if they are willing to be scared. Only the very best of DMs can evoke true fear from players at will so it helps to let them know what's going on so they can get in the proper mindset.

Also, here's something I'd suggest. If you can find some spooky ambient music for your dungeon, try editing it for your purpose. If you use a program like audacity (a free download), you can loop it a few dozen times and overlap it with other sound tracks.
If you can find a sound track of halloween "spooky noises" (creaking doors, low moans, footsteps, howling wind), you can edit them in (at low volume) to make a more complete sound track for your dungeon.
Even better, if you can find a loud and monstrous roar sound effect, you can have the music suddenly cut off and be replaced with the roar every 30 or 60 or 90 minutes to catch your players off guard. Whenever the roar goes off, the "pyramid head" has found your party, making them dread that noise even more.

Well, that's just my two cp.

2010-04-07, 10:20 AM
All the Ideas you should ever need can be found in the following thread:


The biggest message to take away from that AWESOME thread: Messed-up children are the creepiest things in the world if presented well, and the best way to make a setting creepy or horrific is not the encounters, it is the atmosphere you put the players in.

Have fun making your players poo themselves with fright!

2010-04-11, 06:36 AM
Don't forget to metaDM a little, too. Try lighting the room you play in with no lights and only a single candle, and maybe use the DM's screen(which, preferably, is black with some kind of red rune-like marks) in such a way that your players rarely see your face.

Also, something I used last time I played one of was having a lot of invisible creatures. They don't necessarily have to be invisible-you can have it be a huge room with someone sniping you from the dark rafters out of reach of light sources, or even just a room filled with magic darkness in a pinch. Deus Ex Machina isn't a problem as long as it's not too obvious.:smallwink:

Now, for creatures. There are some vicious, creepy and just plain ugly undead out there, but you don't have to use just undead. For instance, gibbering beasts would be perfect (albeit a little high level), as they're creepy and make weird noises. (In fact, weird, creepy noises+total darkness=fear factor 100%.) You can edit existing monsters or homebrew new ones to fit your needs, too. (Heroic tier gibbering beasts? Invisible wights?) The sky's the limit!