Friday 19 June 2015

HARPYSHAFT!: The Dungeon Adventure

  1. I wanted to write a dungeon but I'm not sure how to draw a map that isn't fuck-ugly
  2. Nobody can decide if they want to fuck harpies or not and I think that's hilarious
would you fuck this harpy? why or why not?
You start at the bottom of a vertical shaft. Every room in this dungeon is a ledge or flat place somewhere along the walls of the shaft. If you can fly this isn't even a dungeon, you just go up and out. It is assumed that you cannot fly. If you can fly your DM is under instructions to take that away from you. Why would they even try to use it if... ugh whatever.

It is possible to start at the top of the vertical shaft and go down. It is maybe even possible to come into the vertical shaft via a cave in the side and have the choice of going up or down. It would be cool if there were three multiple, adjacent shafts that you could get back and forth between via caves. There aren't though.

The shaft used to be a tower. Now it is underground. This is because it is thousands of years old. The shaft is high in barren hills that used to be a city and now aren't. The city used to stand on a flat plain. The city used to not be colonized by harpies. The harpies used to not know how to grab human beings by their upper arms and fly off with them and drop them down a hole and break their legs and leave them there until the harpies get bored or hungry. Now they do.

(Sidebar: harpies cannot actually fly very far or high. This is because harpies are basically vultures and vultures are heavy as fuck. They would prefer to glide than flap and can't really effectively take off unless they have access to a thermal updraft. Thermal updrafts only form during the day so if a harpy is on the ground at night it's not going very far. The presence of thermals is often indicated by cumulus clouds, so the desert scavengers know that if they see a clump of cumulus clouds they should keep an eye out for harpies. All of this is the reason that the harpies need a shaft to drop people down and can't just use, you know, the sky. I'd like to thank a comment by Scrap Princess on Patrick Stuart's blog and also Animorphs for the knowing of this.)

You have been dropped down the shaft by a harpy. Or you have to rescue somebody who has been dropped down the shaft by a harpy. I am going to be describing this dungeon from the bottom up because that's better in all ways.

like this only square. square as a high school principal
The tower is square in cross-section, maybe twenty metres along each edge, maybe a hundred metres high. The walls are crumbling ancient stone. In places they are etched with ancient designs that mean nothing to anybody now and were probably just dumb scatological graffiti in the first place. They are also etched with dumb scatological graffiti that is in your language and perfectly comprehensible. Thanks, harpies.

If it's morning or evening a harpy will come down to see if you are worth eating yet about once every half hour. If it's close to noon half of the harpies will be out hunting, taking advantage of the thermals on the plains. If it's close to midnight half of the harpies will be asleep. In either case a harpy has a 50% chance of coming down every half hour. See how neatly the maths works out there? If you make too much noise during the morning or evening there is a 50% chance of this happening. If you make too much noise during the night or day there is a 25% chance, obviously. If a harpy sees that you are actively trying to escape it will go and get its flock and they will all come back and drop shit on you until you are not actively trying to escape any more. Individual harpies are all extremely greedy, weak-willed and easily amused and if you need a harpy not to alert its flock you could do worse than to play on these factors. After the second time they catch you trying to escape they'll probably start posting guards, which probably wouldn't even be that bad for you, since the guards are all extremely greedy, weak-willed and easily amused. There are maybe thirty harpies up there.

All the decomposition and harpy shit going on at the bottom of the shaft creates significant amounts of methane gas. The warmer it gets the more of there is. Between morning and evening there is enough of an updraft (a horrible, acrid updraft) in the shaft to enable a harpy to take off and fly from the bottom to the top without landing. Around noon a harpy could actually pick a human up and carry them to the top with reasonable ease. If a harpy comes down late at night they have to flutter-hop from platform to platform; they don't have enough lift to soar. This is a big part of the reason (besides cruelty) that the harpies even keep the shaft around - all the gas billowing out the top allows them to get into the air basically whenever.

It's possible to climb the sides of the shaft, but methane-related wooziness makes it impossible to do all in one go. Unless your character doesn't need to breathe for some reason. Then the DM has to think of some other reason. For every ten metres you climb vertically, unaided, you get -2 to all climb checks until you've rested on a flat surface for five minutes. If you fall there's a 25% chance you land in a pile of harpy shit for half damage. If you do there's a 50% chance you get harpy shit disease.


A. This is the floor. The floor is covered with bones, rotting flesh and harpy guano. The harpy guano lies in uneven mounds and is in places so thick that it will cushion a faller and leave them dazed but unbroken. This is what has happened to you. Or to the princeling you're rescuing. The princeling is extremely glad that you have come to rescue her (princeling is a gender-neutral term designating "one who is to be rescued"). Searching the bones will net you:
  1. Nothing
  2. Harpy shit disease
  3. Couple of fingernail-sized white tiles
  4. Couple of copper coins!
  5. Dented-to-shit knight's helmet, might fit a guy with a really fucked-up head
  6. Potion of feather fall, cork still in
  7. Crust of bread smeared w/ harpy shit as if it were blue cheese
  8. Tusk of baby elephant, scrimshawed w/ somebody's last words
Searching the shitpiles will get you the same thing but also a 50% chance of contracting harpy shit disease regardless of what else you get. If you are particularly greedy, weak-willed, or easily amused, this will eventually turn you into a harpy. If you have harpy shit disease twice you will turn into two harpies.

There is also a person here w/ two broken legs. She did not land on the harpy shit. She is a level one thief named Moggs from the second-nearest town who has been the victim of a cruel prank by a level two thief. She cannot climb or walk. She has harpy shit disease. If you do not rescue her from the pit she will emerge on her own at a later date as a harpy and try to fuck w/ you. She has a thirty-metre length of black silk rope concealed in the lining of her doublet (she is totally wearing a doublet) and four discs of tarnished silver in the sole of each boot. She knows someone in town who you would also like to know. She will not tell you about the rope until she is completely convinced that you are going to help her. It is special soundless thieves' rope and highly illegal in all civilized societies. It's worth more than the silver. She has already eaten all her food.

If you try to kill Moggs she will tell you that she is protected by an ancient revenant that seeks vengeance on all who would harm her. Then she will die. If you try to escape without Moggs she will do her best to alert the harpies. She is a dick but she is also doing exactly what you would do in her situation and she will remind the players of this constantly.

Every day you spend here you have a 10% of catching harpy shit disease. There's also a 7/16 of some new prey falling from the sky onto your head (see E. Also, hahahaha good luck figuring out how to roll for that). You probably don't have that much food. You could eat Moggs I suppose. If you do that you definitely get harpy shit disease.

what about... this harpy

This is the remnants of the second floor of the tower. It's about twenty metres off the ground (ancient civilizations like high ceilings). It's a jagged metre-wide clay ledge taking up the whole of the west side of the tower. It used to be a floor. A couple of wooden beams jut out from the clay and cross to the opposite side of the shaft. If you have a rope you can throw one over the beams and use the beams to get to the ledge. If you're a really good climber you could go up the west wall and get stuck under the ledge and then go around to the north wall and get up that way. Or just straight up the north wall I guess.

If you make a harpy come down here to get you the harpy will perch on this ledge. It won't come down any further alone because it is a loathsome coward. It will stay up there and yell insults at you and probably try to shit on you because this is the only thing harpies know how to do. Then it will leave and go back and get its friends.

There is a small hole behind the ledge. In the hole is the skeleton of an ancient tomb robber who has not understood that this is not a tomb. He is holding a bronze pick. He was apparently trying to dig diagonally to the surface. This is not possible. It's dark in the hole, especially at night, and it would be possible to hide in there and ambush a harpy who was sitting on the ledge. The bronze pick would be worth some money to a collector of antiquities.

There is a snake in the ribcage of the skeleton. It is a docile, non-poisonous snake. If surprised it will bite you and deal no damage whatsoever. It has adopted the distinctive colouration of a well-known variety of poisonous snake. If the harpy finds it there is a 50% chance it will freak the fuck out and a 50% chance it will grab the snake and throw it at you. There is a network of rodent holes in the dirt that you will only find if you are looking for them. This is how the snake got there. Inside the rodent holes are a couple of fingernail-sized white tiles.

If Moggs doesn't think you're going to rescue her she will totally tell the harpy that you're planning on ambushing it.


This is the remnants of the third floor. It's twenty metres up from the second floor. It's a flat square chunk of clay suspended in the middle of the shaft by a couple of wooden beams that cross the shaft, just like the second-floor ones. The underside of the clay is decorated with a mosaic of frolicking dolphins from which most of the fingernail-sized white tiles have fallen out. If you put three of these white tiles back in the mosaic the Sea God of the tower people, long since reduced to the most pathetic of shadows, will recognize it as the last act of devotion it will ever receive and expend its dying breath to grant you the Blessing of Lost Thalassa. The smallest dolphin's mother-of-pearl eye will fall out into your hand. Anyone who holds it under their tongue for a full day gains an extra saving throw against disease, which they can keep for themselves or give to somebody else with a touch. The more times you use it the more deeply you understand the seas and the more tempted you become to declare yourself Thalassa Nova, the Oceanic Messiah. If you're looking to sell it there's a duke in the closest large city who has sunpox and would pay handsomely for anything like a cure.

There is a dead guy on top of the clay. He is wearing nothing but a leather codpiece. He came here to fuck a harpy. His mostly-skeletal hand is dangling over the side of the clay. It could easily be lassooed and used to pull the guy's whole corpse down. If you get too close to the corpse it will animate and attack. It is possessed by a furious spirit, angry that it never got to achieve its one wish in life - to fuck a harpy. Around its neck there is half a broken copper coin with a hole drilled in it on a bit of string. If you remove this coin the spirit's connection to the body will be broken. If you hurt the body badly enough, or if you simply wait long enough, the spirit's rage will be dispelled and it will temporarily calm down.

One of the harpies in the flock is wearing half a broken copper coin with a hole drilled in it on a bit of string around its (long, slender) neck. This coin is its priceless treasure and fits codpiece guy's half perfectly. It traded a smashed child's rattle to another harpy for it three weeks ago.

The other harpy is called Felch. It was the lover of undead codpiece guy. They met in the hills, hunting, both alone as the sun went down. They spoke for hours. They were afraid at first but as the days went by and the long summer drew to a close they knew they were ready. They arranged a secret rendezvous in a quiet dell that only codpiece guy knew. Or so he thought. Actually when he got there a couple of other harpies were stalking antelope in the rocks above and they spotted him and by the time Felch got there it was too late and it had to help kill him to save face because if it had shown even a second of hesitance the other harpies would have torn it apart. It couldn't bear to look at the coin so it traded it away for some worthless garbage. It is indistinguishable, except by smell, from all the other harpies.

If you can give Felch the opportunity to apologize to codpiece guy's spirit and explain that it was all a terrible mistake his spirit will finally be free. Felch will do anything to help you from that moment on. Also Moggs will find the story so adorable that she will stop being a dick for the rest of the adventure.

if you want to fuck this harpy it's not my place to judge

This is the remnants of a staircase connecting the third floor of the tower to the fourth and fifth floors. It starts halfway across the south wall, ten metres up from the third floor. It goes up at a 45-degree angle until it gets to the point on the east wall where the fourth floor would be. Then it keeps going up along the east wall until it gets to the point where the fifth floor would be. Then it stops. It's maybe half a metre wide, less in places. In places it is slippery with harpy shit.

If you walked out along the wooden beams that keep C. suspended in the air until you got to the east wall you'd be ten metres below the beginning of this staircase. From there it would be an easy climb up to it, assuming the revenant didn't get you and you didn't fall off the beams. You could then edge along the staircase until you got to its end, in the corner of the east and the north wall, eighty metres off the ground. Then you would be only twenty metres from the top of the shaft and you might be able to just climb out.

There is a cave in the west wall, across from the staircase and above it. The cave is lined with twigs, straw, feathers, bones and harpy shit. There is a morbidly obese harpy living in the cave. It is wearing a crown woven from brambles. It can only fly out of the cave in the hours around noon, when the sun is at its highest. Otherwise it will tumble out and fall to its death.

The other harpies have told this harpy that it is the Queen of the Harpies. They have told it that it is the ultimate authority over a grand continent-spanning harpy empire. They bring it food and pretend to relay its wishes to its millions of obedient slaves. The food is not that good. The Queen of the Harpies does not suspect a thing.

If the Queen of the Harpies sees you trying to climb out of the shaft, it will shout "Halt! Who goes there!". It has a one-track mind and is deathly afraid of conspirators. If you do not identify yourself to its satisfaction, it will scream. Its scream is painfully high-pitched and brings all the harpies scurrying, no matter what time it is. It also makes your ears bleed for 2d6 damage. If you are within a metre of the Queen it stuns you. If you are not expecting it you must make a Will save not to clap your hands to your ears and, if you fail the Will save, a Reflex save not to fall off the side of the shaft. From the Queen's cave it can only see the upper half of the staircase.

Two wooden beams jut out from the wall below her cave. Each ends in splinters and is about a metre long. Either would take the weight of a rope. If you walked out along the wooden beams that support C. until you got to the west wall you would be directly beneath them. If you climb over the lip of the Queen's cave it will scream. If you introduce a harmless but poisonous-looking snake into the Queen's cave it will scream. If the Queen screams once and there's nothing there, only half of the harpies will come scurrying the next time. If she screams twice and there's nothing there, only one harpy will come scurrying. It will be the harpy with the broken copper coin around its neck. The Queen is friends with the coin harpy and knows where the coin harpy got the coin from. The coin harpy kind of feels bad about the elaborate prank they're playing on the Queen, but not bad enough to stop doing it.

The Queen's cave is actually a tunnel that leads out the side of the hill, past the harpy nest at the top of the shaft. Moggs knows about this. It's how she got in. She was told by a level two thief that the tunnel led to a secret treasure complex of the ancient wizard people kings. She came on the Queen from behind and then the Queen screamed and stunned her and hop-dragged her to the edge of the shaft and threw her in. This is why the Queen is now deathly afraid of conspirators. You are unlikely to be able to identify yourself to the Queen's satisfaction but one good way to do it would be to proclaim yourself her loyal servants and toss her the head of an assassin, which she will eat.

The cave also has a couple of fingernail-sized white tiles mixed in with all the straw.


This is the area around the top of the shaft. It's a clearing in the scrub atop an barren hill in between a couple of larger, more barren hills. There are bones scattered all around the clearing. There are big conical piles of mysteriously sticky straw that the harpies have gathered together for obscure harpy reasons. These are spectacularly flammable, almost like gunpowder, and will explode at the slightest spark, sending bone-shrapnel in all directions and scaring the shit out of the harpies. Do not stand too close to them.

If it's morning or evening there are thirty-odd harpies scattered about the clearing, scratching at the ground, perching on the branches of a huge acacia tree, gossiping, picking fights and getting the last little bits of brain out of children's skulls. If it's around noon there are ten to fifteen harpies doing the same thing. If it's around midnight there are fifteen to twenty harpies sleeping in rows along the branches of a huge acacia tree and the remainder doing the same thing on the ground. Harpies only sleep four or five hours a day, but when they do it's extremely hard to wake them up.

If the harpies spot you trying to get out of the shaft they will make every effort to throw you back in. Or just kill you.

Around sunset each day a harpy hunting party will return with one of the following:
  1. Nothing
  2. Stray dog, still w/ collar
  3. Scale-armoured caravan guard
  4. Skinny, overly-confident wizard
  5. Plump, terrified merchant
  6. Horse
  7. Couple of small antelope
  8. Elephant calf
They will toy with their prey for an hour or two before getting bored. Then 50% chance of tearing it apart in a feeding frenzy, 50% chance of throwing it into the pit for later. So each sunset the PCs remain in the shaft there's a, I guess 7/16 chance of something from this list plopping from the sky onto their heads. If you poke your head up over the side of the shaft you can probably observe their behaviour without being seen, they're not all that observant themselves. They will definitely notice if you just straight up make a break for it though.

If the huge acacia tree catches fire the harpies will abandon this site and never come back ever again. The Queen of the Harpies will starve to death.
i'm just saying they range widely in fuckability


  1. Earlier tonight I inserted this into a dungeon as a shortcut between levels.

    One player tried to tackle Moggs. She king hit and killed him. He asked if he could play her next. I said sure. I made him roll a will save every time he laughed. Moggs transformed into a harpy in the middle of attempting a harpy summoning call. The harpies descend, and everyone who doesn't flee is shat on and consumed.

    1. That is everything that should have happened and I am pleased.

    2. Moggs under my control became a medieval Feminist crusader for the last 18 mins of her life and sounded like a pantomime wench. We had no idea there were Harpy fuckers about but we would have had strong words about the Male Gaze and dismantling the patriarchy. Are all harpies female?