Days of High Adventure

Dungeon World: Crypts of the Carrion King


How much danger can one four-room dungeon possibly contain? Unwary characters are bound to find out as they venture into this installment of the Dungeon World series.

On the rocky seashore at the southern edge of the Wyrmspine Mountains rests a giant cylinder of rusted iron covered in strange orange flora. What lies within? The locals aren’t saying much, aside from typically cryptic and vague warnings of doom and madness. It’s probably nothing the adventurers haven’t heard a hundred times before – so why buy into such superstitious ravings now?

The answer lies within that iron-bound deathtrap called:

Crypts of the Carrion King

(For a map of this dungeon, click here.)

Above Ground

1 – Mausoleum & Grounds

The Crypts lay below a walled mausoleum that sits atop a barren, rocky outcrop on the coast north of Rocport. The sky above this necropolis is black with crows.

The mausoleum proper is hidden from sight by a doorless, 18′-high, 3′-thick wall of solid iron (‘a’). The wall is rusted and pitted, but otherwise in excellent condition. A thick growth of firethorn vines (an orange vine with orange-and-yellow leaves and thin blood-red thorns) blankets the wall (inside & out). A character may attempt to scale the wall using the vines (or rope, or some other means), moving at a rate of no more than 1/10th their normal movement rate vertically per round if they wish to avoid the vine’s 4″ thorns. (They may move at double this rate, but take 1d4 points of damage per round in so doing.) A character whose exposed flesh touches the vines will begin to suffer from a burning, blistering rash on those areas 1d3 rounds after initial contact with the vines. A character whose hands are so affected suffers a -3 modifier to all to-hit rolls until the rash goes away, which will be in 1d3+3 hours or until remove poison is cast on the character. Any character taking damage from the vine’s thorns automatically suffers from this rash on their hands and legs.

The mausoleum (‘b’) is an undecorated, windowless, 20′-square, 15′-high box of red marble and granite. The only obvious means of entry is the pair of 1′-thick iron double doors on its south side. These doors have no handles or locks, but are barred from within and wizard locked. Any character attempting to open the doors will be immediately attacked by a swarm of crows that dive down from those circling overhead. If one swarm is defeated or driven off, another dive down and attack the next round. These birds will continue to dive and attack in this manner until the character is within the mausoleum or outside the wall.

Inside the mausoleum, the characters will find nothing but bare walls and floors of gray granite blocks. Careful searching, however, will reveal that the floor below the center-most block is hollow. That block is only 4″ thick, and if pried up (combined Strength of 20 to lift) will reveal a staircase descending to the south.


1 – Antechamber

The stairs from the mausoleum end at a 25′-square vaulted chamber. The walls and floors are made of the same dark gray granite tiles as the interior of the mausoleum. The room is unadorned, save for an iron door on the east wall and a statue along the south wall.

Immediately in front of the foot of the stairs is a well-concealed pit trap (‘a’). A character searching for traps is at half their normal chance to discover this trap. When sprung, any character standing on the trap is deposited into a 30′-deep shaft with smooth stone walls. The bottom 7′ of the shaft is submerged under water, and home (prison?) to a trio of ravenous lacedons (aquatic ghouls). These creatures are unable to climb the walls, but will gladly cling to any character being lifted from the water.

The statue on the southern side of the room is a 7′-tall red marble likeness of a bat-winged demon. It is kneeling, with its left arm draped over its raised knee and its head hidden in the crook of its elbow. Its right arm is outstretched, pointing a clawed finger toward the door to the east. It sits atop a 2′-high circular dais, about the base of which is inscribed a series of runes. Although they are not of any language familiar to the characters, they are nonetheless readable:

“Once to the left, one time down
Twice to the right, your salvation is found.
Embrace any other path
To oblivion your soul will be bound.”

Characters may mistake this for the correct combination to the “lock” on the eastern door. It is really the solution to finding the true exit of the room and entrance to the deeper parts of the Crypts. (If a character leaves the room via the secret door in the wall to the statue’s left, goes down through the concealed trap door and turns right twice, they will be on the path to the next chamber.)

The statue is immobile, but will radiate a magical aura if detect magic is cast. (See the door, below, to learn why.)


The door to the east (‘c’) is a piece of solid iron with iron bindings. No hinges are visible, and there is no handle or lock. The door radiates magic (if detected for). Set in the door at 4′, however, are a trio of cogs, each the size of a door handle with a small raised triangle on one edge. These cogs are aligned in the shape of an inverted triangle (one cog right, one left, and one lower down). Each cog has four markings etched into the door around it: a square, one circle, two circles, and three circles. Initially, each cog is aligned such that the raised triangle on it is pointing toward the square.

It takes some effort, but each cog will turn, clicking into place to align with the markings. If only one or two of the cogs are turned to one of the circular markings, the cogs reset themselves, winding back into their initial settings.

If all of the cogs are turned to a circular marking, consult each cog’s position on this table for the result:

If the result is “Teleport,” the character who turned the final cog into place is instantly teleported into the sarcophagus in room 2 that has the corresponding number in parentheses. The character suffers 1d6 points of damage for being teleported into a tight space that is already littered with bones and gear of previous victims. These sarcophagi are airless boxes of 6″ granite, with iron-bound lids of the same. A character trapped within takes 1d6 damage per round of suffocation damage. To escape, the character must destroy the lid or the sides (AC 3, HP 30) before suffocating.

If the “Teleport” result has “surface” in parentheses, the character is teleported to the surface 1d20x100 feet from the mausoleum. Furthermore, 1d6 of the character’s possessions (chosen randomly or at DM whim) are teleported into sarcophagus 13 in room 2. (This may include anything on the character, including clothing, jewelry, armor, etc.)

If the result is “Statue Animates,” the statue to the south animates and attacks the characters. Treat it as a living statue (rock). It attacks until destroyed or until the characters are killed or vacate the room. If the statue is destroyed, it reforms into its starting position in 1d6 days.

If the result is “Lightning,” a bolt of lightning shoots from the door (as per the lightning bolt spell, at 9d6 damage). This bolt will definitely rebound, given the size of the room.

If the result is “Sleep,” a sleep spell will affect all characters in the room. (Be sure to make those Wandering Monster rolls while the characters are snoozing…)

If the result is “Door Opens,” the door loudly grinds 6″ into the room then slides to the south. Upon reaching its fully open position, it will begin to close, giving characters that turn only to get through it before it closes. The space beyond the door has phantasmal force cast upon it, making it appear to characters as if they’re standing at the western entrance to room 2. In reality, it conceals an immobile 2′-diameter sphere of annihilation. Any character stepping into the space beyond the door is sucked into oblivion.

Regardless of the result, the cogs immediately spin back to their initial positions.

The true exit to the antechamber is via the secret door in the west wall. This door opens onto a stairway (‘d’) that spirals down to an iron door with no visible lock or handle. Despite characters’ best efforts, this door will not open – because it’s a fake. Behind it is nothing but granite blocks – the real exit is the concealed ladder under the hidden trap door at the top of the stairs. (Similar to the block that hides the stairs in the mausoleum.) The ladder descends 10′ to a passageway that travels beneath the antechamber and emerges in room 2.

2 – Vault of Unwilling Entombment

This room is architecturally the same as the antechamber, and just as free of décor. The only noteworthy features are the 14 sarcophagi that line the walls (seven to the north and seven to the south) and the handle-less, lock-less iron door set in the east wall (‘a’).

The sarcophagi appear identical: 3′ wide by 7′ long by 3′ high granite boxes, bound in rusting iron. Their lids are not locked, but require a combined Strength of 36 and 1d4 rounds to move; alternatively, they can be broken (AC5, HP 30).

Sarcophagi 1 through 4, 6, 8, 9, and 12 are all teleport destinations for the puzzle door in room 1. Within, characters will find remains of unfortunate victims of the trap (possibly including their own compatriots). Each contains treasure Type D.

Sarcophagus 13 is the repository for items taken from previous adventurers that have been teleported to the surface. It contains Type E treasure, but the lid is trapped – when it is removed, a series of gears and pulleys under the floor open sarcophagi 7 and 14, each of which contains three very unhappy and very hungry wights that will instantly attack the party.

Sarcophagi 10 and 11 are not really sarcophagi – each is an iron-bound block of solid granite. No amount of pushing will remove the “lid,” and after it sustains 30 points of damage the true nature of the block will become obvious to characters.

Sarcophagus 5 is cursed – any character directly touching the lid (even through gloves or other clothing) instantly suffers from a polymorph other spell if they fail their saving throw. To determine what the character is polymorphed into, check the “Reincarnation Table” as per the spell reincarnation. Inside the sarcophagus is a giant wooden lever. It takes a combined strength of 24 to pull the lever – doing so opens the eastern door.


The eastern door has no handle or lock, nor are any hinges evident. It has a variation of anti-magic shell cast upon it, making it impervious to spells and other magic. The only way to open it is to pull the lever in sarcophagus 5 (and pushing the lever down is the only way to close it). When the door opens, it slides silently into the floor – and allows the unit of undead (24 skeletons and 6 mummies) crammed into the passageway beyond to enter the room. They defend the door, attempting until they or their enemies are destroyed, to prevent any from passing.

3 – Throne Room of the Carrion King

This room is architecturally the same as the previous rooms, but its north, east, and south walls are adorned by ornate and disturbingly beautiful tapestries depicting an army of the dead rising from a fiery chasm and destroying an army of humans and elves clad in shining gold and silver armor. Rising behind the army is a man in dark robes – characters may recognize it as the likeness of the Dead God, Califrax. The tapestries’ colors are impossibly bright and vibrant, and at close inspection it will appear that they are quite valuable. (Although they will crumble if the Carrion King is destroyed.)

A 2′-high, stepped red marble dais occupies the center of the room, upon which rests a throne of gilded bones. On the throne sits the Carrion King, a mummified figure with burning eyes, clad in heavy, expensive-looking (but worn and dusty) wizard’s robes and wearing a variety of jewelry. He is a 21st level lich, and has on his person 2d8 magic items. He will not move or acknowledge the party unless attacked, waiting instead for them to set foot on the dais.

As soon as a character steps on the dais, the images on the tapestries begin to move and spectral figures step from them into the room. They become solid, appearing as white-haired, skeletal warriors in black armor; their appearance leaves the tapestries appearing dull and worm-eaten. These are reveners (specters instead, if you do not have their stats), two for each character in the room. These guardians will attack any intruders (and pursue them all the way to the mausoleum, if need be) until they are destroyed or driven off. If the Carrion King is destroyed or the characters driven off, these guardians return to their places in the tapestries (which return to their prior glory).

Once the guardians appear, the Carrion King will attack from his dais. (If the characters threaten the King but do not step on the dais, he will summon the guardians from the tapestries.) He will defend his throne to the (final) death (but will not leave the dais willingly). If his doom appears imminent, he will attempt to destroy the hoard hidden beneath the dais (see below).

If the throne is searched thoroughly, a bony lever will be found at its back. The lever is locked, with a small keyhole at its base. It can be picked, but at ¼ the normal chance of success. (Attempting to force it may work – but has a 75% chance of destroying the mechanism.) They key to the lock is inside the King’s chest cavity, in a small, heavy leather pouch where his heart should be. Once unlocked, the lever can be turned, which causes the central portion of the dais to rise 4′, exposing a shelved interior containing the King’s treasure hoard:

A large, iron lockbox, trapped with a poison needle (save v. poison or die), contains the King’s spell book. (DM’s discretion as to spell contents, but it contains not only spells but experimentation notes, personal anecdotes, etc.)

A medium, iron lockbox, trapped as above, contains treasure of Types N and O (do not roll for chance of treasure – it automatically exists).

A medium, iron lockbox, trapped as above, contains 50,000gp in gems.

2d8 random magic items, scattered loose about the shelves.

A small, dilapidated leather pouch containing seven faceted, obsidian stones, each the size of a human eyeball. Three of these are cubes; the others have a varying number of facets. Each facet bears a High Eggian rune. The stones do not radiate magic, and have a market value of 100gp each. (In the King’s spell book, in Low Eggian, is an account of these “Stones of Wonder and Woe” being given to the King by Califrax in the distant past. He was told by the Dead God that they had served him well, and it was time they found service under another master. He was never told what their purpose was, however.)

The map of the dungeon can be found here, and this dungeon can be downloaded in .PDF form here.

Chris Brackett is a web monkey by trade, but in real life he’s a veteran gamer and author of several tabletop miniatures games. He spends far too much of his time working on his RPG-focused game blog, A Rust Monster Ate My Sword.

About the author