Thursday, October 13, 2011

Random Encounter #1: The Door to Hell

With this post I am attempting to make this blog live up to its namesake of Random Encounters. With this series of posts, I will present persons/places/things that can randomly be inserted into games. This, being the first, I've decided to go with an encounter inspired by a natural phenomenon from the "real" world that has always intrigued me: The Door to Hell located in Turkmenistan.

The Door to Hell in Turkmenistan was created three decades ago initially by a mining accident that released dangerous gases. Thinking that those gases would burn off in a matter of days, fire was set to them. It has been burning for 35 years.

It would be interesting if as part of the back-story of the crater, it too had been burning for a similar number of years. With this in mind, the players could seek out old-timers that were there when it started burning. The genesis of the flame could be mundane or mysterious as the Dungeon Master sees fit.

The Door to Hell is a location based encounter. It is easily placed randomly, or as a planned location in a desert environment.

It is possible, and may be more effective, if the characters have heard rumors of it.

As the picture shows, it is a gaping maw of fire. It began burning years ago. There are various reasons: perhaps a craft of alien origins wrecked and ignited it, or it may have been caused by a magical mishap, it could be a direct opening to the elemental plane of fire, or, as its namesake suggests, it could very well be the Door to Hell.

Adventure Seeds:
The ideas below are just adventure seeds, the doorway could be used as local color as well.

As a low-level encounter, it is doubtful that the characters would have the means to directly enter the doorway, so adventures at this level would have it as background noise; however, having knowledge of its location, the characters could return when they have means sufficient to explore it further.

The characters could come across it and find a cult of desert dwelling clerics that firmly believe the crater to be either a door to Hell or a portal to the elemental plane of fire. The cultist could be right.

This cult has kidnapped some victims from a nearby oasis, and plans on sacrificing them by tossing them into the pit. Thus, this could be a simple "rescue the prisoners" encounter; however, what happens if the players are not successful in their rescue? Perhaps there is a an astronomical convergence and if the cultists are successful, then something "bad" will be released. The "bad" could be an elemental that is not happy about being on the prime material plane, or it could be a demon or devil that the players are not powerful enough to deal with. The being may or may not be controlled by the cultists.

As a mid-level adventure, the characters could have been sent by a higher level magic-user that wants something from the door that will enable him to make a powerful item.

The item could be a ruby that is deep within the crater that would be valuable for making the elemental item the mage has in mind.

The players could be granted temporary or, items with limited charges, or expendable items - such as potions- that will allow them to enter the doorway. Of course, there are bound to be denizens, elemental or nefarious in nature, that call the Doorway home.

Perhaps the doorway is nothing more than a mundane crater that continually flames from the gases that have been put to torch. It may still have attracted creatures from the elemental plane of fire that now claim it as home. It may have been set fire for a reason. Perhaps it is a doorway that leads to a "Lost World" in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar. An advanced elder race calls this Hollow Earth home and set the crater to flame three decades ago when their Utopian realm was threatened with discovery by a band of adventurers. They are not happy to be "re-discovered". While their realm is Utopian for them, it is not for the race of primitive humans (or elves, or dwarves, or halflings) that they keep enslaved.

As a higher level adventure, it could be much the same as the mid-level adventure, but now the characters may all ready have magics of their own that allow them to enter the doorway.

It could be a level of a mega-elemental dungeon. There are other levels dedicated to each element and there are sub-levels dedicated to various lesser elements. As a level of a mega-dungeon, it could be a door way to the first of the Nine-Hells that just happens to connect directly with the Prime Material Plane. It may also be a smaller dungeon as the lair of an ancient Red Dragon that is as much Elemental as it is dragon. It may also be the home of an exiled Demi-God of Fire. The demi-god might also be a member of an elder race from beyond the stars that crashed here three decades ago and is yearning to return home.


  1. I heard about this on NPR and have been thinking about it ever since. I'm glad to see somebody picking up on this great inspiration.

  2. Thanks Theodric. In the October issue of National Geographic, there is a nice photo spread of it and an article. That is what reminded me of it.