Regional Cult Headquarters – 3 Room Dungeon

RPG Talk's October 2016 Design Contest was to design a 3 Room Dungeon. 

Specifically:

Give a description of a three-room dungeon. What makes each room different? What ties them to together? How do the players enter/exit the dungeon? What is the goal of the dungeon? The entry should also be game system-agnostic. The entry should have a limit of three pages.

My entry is below, or you can download the PDF here.

Also check out the PDF of Duneaught's entry here.

 

Regional
Cult Headquarters

The Regional Cult Headquarters (referred to from here on as RCH) is located in a village, or more commonly a town, and provides a secret space for cult members to worship. It has a front as a curiosities shop / pawn shop etc. The shop itself is a legitimate business, and trades in all manner of weird and exotic items (though nothing magical unless the setting is crawling with them)

Outside (Setting the scene)

The RCH is located near a main street, though off one of the side streets from it. The front is a little dilapidated, the glass is dusty and it's hard to see in. In the window are some faded curiosities. Statues of old gods, crystals, good luck charms, beaten up instruments, etc

During the day there would be some foot traffic, though no cultists unless one
happens to be walking past / making a delivery etc

At night, a group of cultists hang around outside the shop. Smoking, drinking, etc. They are not there necessarily as guards; they are the dregs of the cult.  They find it easier to socialise with other members. They should not be armed unless everyone (including weak and elderly) are armed in the setting. They will, however, come rushing in, if they hear any commotion in the shop.

Shop  (Entrance, Guardian, and
Challenge)

Inside, the shop is cluttered and disorderly. An elderly attendant sits behind a desk, and is quite chatty. This person is a cult member, and is their gatekeeper. At some point, he will ask a call-response question, to ascertain whether the players are part of the cult. All members of the cult across the region know this, to ensure that visiting members have a place to pray, can get help etc.

How easy it would be for the players to get this information
depends on how well the cult guards its secrets.

Behind the desk, there is a trap door, which a staircase
leading down to the Ceremony Room.

Ceremony Room (Red Herring or Big Bad)

The main Ceremony Room is large, and circular. At one end is
the staircase leading up to the shop. At the other is a doorway with a curtain
drawn across it, which leads to the Sacristy.

All around the underground walls are alcoves with statues appropriate to the object of the cults worship. Mounted in the walls is some kind of lighting that is maintained and always on (only being turned off for ceremonies if that's thematically appropriate) Dominating the middle of the room is the object of worship. This could be an altar with items on it, it could be a large pentagram drawn on the floor, it could be a deep, deep pit with haunting noises coming from within.

Sacristy (Plot Twist or Treasure Room

This small room contains the priest's robes, ritual items, including religious texts. This could include summoning scrolls, genuine holy artefacts, and ritual blades. This can be played for a plot twist. Letters from the Big Bad revealing that this cult was actually running things for them? Holy text revealing they were the same religion as a PC?

Example Implementations

Forgotten Realms:
Cult of Umberlee, goddess of the sea

Men and women hanging about outside the shop at night are
all old sailors.

The shops knick-knacks are mainly nautical themed.
Call-Response:  “Bring in a good haul this morning?” “Aye, though the sea was fierce as a kraken”

Ceremony Room: In the centre if the room is a shallow pool of water that ripples despite no wind. In the alcoves around the room are statues of crashing waves. If anyone who isn't a member of the cult touches the water, the statues will turn into water and fill the room.
Sacristy: This contains a holy text, which is completely waterlogged and
unusable. The book is bound in a rough material which can  be identified as shark skin. Also in this
room is a fishing net.

Greyhawk / Ravenloft
etc: Organ of Vecna

Men and women hanging about outside the shop at night all
have something missing. A hand, and ear, a foot, an eye etc

Knick-knacks are varied. An appropriate check will reveal an
uncommon number of statue hands and eye motifs.

Call-Response: “some of these items here are very sharp” “yes, be careful or you'll lose an eye”

Ceremony Room: the ceremony room is very dark. There are
torches, but they give very little light. The altar has a few esoteric items.
Triggering a trap will bring the bodies in the alcoves to life and they attack
the adventurers.

Sacristy: Several magic scrolls, a assorted letters and documents. Blackmail on a few town officials and other members of the community.

Warhammer 40,000: Cult of Nurgle

Men and women hanging about outside the shop are all either
old, diseased, or have lost limbs

The shops knick-knacks are things like tool that are world
appropriate (farming implements, DIY tools, etc) as well as medical supplies
and any legal drugs.

Call-Response:  “You look awful sir/madam, are you okay?” “Aye, just been blessed with this cough”

Ceremony Room: The centre of the room has an alter with a
clearly decaying corpse on it. If disturbed, it will rise and attack. Could
also summon a Plaguebearer if you want to be mean.

Sacristy: Should contain the original item that corrupted
the priest. A weapon that is possessed, or something else tainted.

Call of Cthulhu 1920's: The Esoteric Order of Dagon

Men and women hanging about outside the shop are dressed well, middle aged, stand with a hunch, and have very oily skin. Very early onset of “the innsmouth look”.

The shops knick-knacks are mainly nautical themed.
Call-Response:  “Bring in a good haul this morning?” “Aye, more gold than we could carry”

Ceremony Room: a pit in the room descends to below sea level (which shouldn't be far unless this is a very strange Dagon cult indeed) and then down further than can be seen. Anyone entering the pool feels a riptide pulling them under.

Sacristy: Robes, statue of dagon, ceremonial knife, and a
scroll of summoning deep ones.

CyberPunk:
Singularity / Transhumanist Soul Cult

Men and women hanging about outside the shop are very
heavily modified. From tattoos right up to the theoretical limit of the
setting.

Anything non-technical is books / data slates / etc with
philosophical texts about life, consciousness, etc. Also includes abstract art
and poetry.

Call-Response: “How would it feel, to be born with no senses?” “Ask a microchip”

Ceremony Room: Wires, everywhere. The walls are servers. In
the centre stand a facsimle of a human face. Two webcams for eyes, and speaker
for a mouth. Two microphones for ears. (How far the cultists are is up to the
GM)

Sacristy: Computer Science journals on AI, as well as
ramblings and texts from philosphers.

SteamPunk: God Is The
Machine

This cult literally worships steam power, made manifest by
the engine running in the basement. They believe it to be alive. The men and
women hanging about outside the shop will not have any distinguishing features,
though a few may be mechanics.

The shop is all off-cuts and spare parts. More of a DIY
swap-shop.

Call-Response: “Thank the machine for the comfort it brings us” “It protects us”

Ceremony Room: More accurately, the engine room. The engine doesn't seem to actually do anything,
but it is constantly running.

Sacristy: ritual robes, and what looks like a ceremonial
spanner. Blueprints and diagrams.

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