Tag Archives: Palace of Sweet Dreams

Death at The Palace of Sweet Dreams

The sweet scents of the lotus flowers spells death and madness for the carefree adventurer, and trolls eat people even statues of trolls. Welcome to the Palace of Sweet Dreams.

This is the third of the Hinterlandet adventures translated to English and converted to D&D 5th edition. The two previous adventures lead the protagonists to an abandoned tower and into the hidey hole of a lich king’s disciples, but this time the adventurers are lead to the ruins of a palace, and here they will lose their mind. You can find it here at DMs Guild: Palace of Sweet Dreams.

This module is from the story line “Seven Swords of the Dwarves”, which was about bands of adventurers looking for the legendary swords of the dwarves, and during the adventures some players succeeded in accidentally awakening the sleeping Dragon introducing the Dragon-story lines, which Tower of the Star Watcher was a part of. In its converted version, the story line about dwarves and swords have been removed. But there is still plenty to explore, as the palace is home to a group of mad people acting strange, and unwary PCs will end up among them, while they are fighting to survive flesh-eating plants and monstrous spiders (and for spoilery reasons I am being vague here, but the cause of madness finds its root in old sword & sorcery tropes).

We had a lot of fun with this module at the convention, where it was originally played, as the adventure does strange things to the adventurers’ sense of time and place. For the lucky players, great treasures await them. The adapted version has maintained most of the original material but added new hooks and a few other details, but it is now setting agnostic and maintains its use of non-balanced encounters. You can read more on the design principles behind Hinterlands adventures in this post.

Design Principles for a Hinterlands Dungeon

photo (87)There are many guides and posts on building an exciting encounter or creating a three-act structure or five room dungeon of combats, but when we began designing adventures for OSR-clone Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) different principles were being used.

  • Many ways and none is the right one
  • There are bosses, but no boss fights
  • Balance is not the issue, avoiding combat is
  • There will be death

These are some of the key-elements, and now that I have begun translating the adventures into English from their Danish originals, and adapting them for D&D 5th edition, it might be the right time to have a look at the principles behind the adventures.

Many ways and none is the right one

The dungeon must have more than one way to go. It cannot be linear, and ideally it has multiple entrances, and it allows the players to choose directly or indirectly between the entrances. A great part of the fun is to see the players choose, and when running a living campaign with multiple groups running through the same dungeon, the different choices are interesting. Many dungeons emphasize the multiple paths by giving the characters the option of breaking down walls, falling through floors to other areas or scaling the walls to gain quick access to other parts, i.e. in Tower of the Star Watcher the PCs can scale most walls and enter different areas in almost any order.

There are bosses, but no boss fights

It follows that when the PCs can choose multiple paths, there will rarely be a boss monster exactly at the end of the dungeon, and it helps bring the world to live, when the players know, that monsters in the dungeon do not behave according to computer game logic. I.e. in One Night amongst the Necromancers the ‘boss’ is moving around in errands, and stealthy PCs can easily find their way to him without working their way through all the rooms. In other adventures, such as Grave of the Alchemist, one of the worst monsters resides just inside of the dungeon and to gain access, it must be defeated in some manner.

Balance is not the issue, avoiding combat is

The encounters in Hinterlandet are not really balanced, and this feature is carried over into their D&D 5th edition adaptions. However, many encounters include creatures that can be avoided or snuck by, or they begin with parlay – some monsters are hungry and can be bribed, some are sleeping or distracted, others are mistaking the PCs for other residents or guests, and yet others are suspicious but not hostile. Rarely does a monster attack, when the PCs enter. Instead the players are invited to interact with the monster, and this results in many great moments.

There will be death

Even though it may sound easy to avoid the nasty encounters and the tough fights, it is not so. Character death is common, and one cause is traps and magical dangers. Each dungeon usually contains one trap or phenomenon, that will kill or remove a PC from the game. Often there is some warning sign, and usually the PCs can simply choose to stay clear of it, but it will challenge their curiosity, and it will tempt their greed. For instance, in Palace of Sweet Dreams drinking too much of the ghost wine will trap a character in the realm of the dead, and merely visiting the ruins of the palace might result in a character forever lost in its madness.

These are some of the main governing principles for the adventures of Hinterlandet / The Hinterlands. The adventures have all been part of the OSR Living Campaign at Danish roleplaying conventions and have been run for multiple groups. Some characters survive, some don’t, but we always end up with great stories of adventurers’ daring do.