Oroborus University: Inn without End [4E D&D]

The Tavern, Illustration by Matt Meyers

The Tavern, Illustration by Matt Meyer

Something is wrong at the Hodgeson Street Inn.

The Hodgeson Street Inn is owned and operated by Oroborus University, with David Hilbert serving as manager, and provides fair accommodations – the university uses the facility to teach people the trade of inn keeping. The tavern and dining hall provide decent food and a standard selection of drinks. Stables stand next door but are separate facility operated under different management.

Shaped like the letter “U”, the exterior walls are smooth, wattle-daub and punctuated by few windows. Inside the “U”, wide balconies provide access to the rooms and overlook a narrow brick-paved courtyard. Access to the the balcony is made possible by a wide staircase located at the bottom of the “U”. A rarely opened two story gate permits wagons into this courtyard and a smaller door, set into the gate, lets patrons in and out. During winter, the inn’s management hangs canvas over the balcony openings to keep out the worst of the frost and snow, while in summer people enjoy a comfortable breeze on the shaded balcony.

Occupying the ground floor are the common rooms, dining hall, kitchens, privies, storerooms and staff rooms. The best rooms are on the second floor, those with actual beds, including several full suites. Standard rooms occupy the third floor, where low counters with cushions double as beds. Dormatory rooms, where people sleep on the floor, occupy the fourth floor. Most rooms feature a small fireplace and typically, at least one window. The Hodgeson Street Inn has no cellar or attic, least none that anyone knows about.

Something is often seems “wrong” with the northern end of the third and fourth floors and sometimes the second floor as well.

A GM should roll on the tables below for each character in the party for every six hours they stay in the inn. The appropriate table depends on the characters location. Ideally, the character should be alone when they encounter something odd the first time. Roll a d20 – each floor has its own encounter table.

Second Floor Encounter Table (d20)

01 – 18 No Event – Nothing unusual happens.
19 Slugs – The PC encounters a few dozen slugs where no one would expect to find them. The slugs continue to arrive in the area for 1d10 minutes from random directions and eventually crawl away in random directions.
20 Singing – The PC finds 13 garden spiders singing softly, rather like songbirds. This continues for 1d10 minutes. The songs are often melancholy and familiar to the PC.

Third Floor Encounter Table (d20)

01 – 16 No Event – Nothing unusual happens.
17 Not True – When the party members are not looking, the furniture, walls, doors, window frames, and the distance of the ceiling from the floor shift and twist askew by several inches. This continues for 3d10 minutes, then returns to normal. Should any combat in this area occur during that time, treat the area as Difficult Terrain.
18 Old – One member of the party will begin seeing their surrounding room, including everyone who they encounter afterwards, as terribly old, decrepit, and poorly kept. This continues for 1 hour.
19 Slugs – The PC encounters a few dozen slugs where no one would expect to find them. The slugs continue to arrive in the area for 1d10 minutes from random directions and eventually crawl away in random directions.
20 Singing – The PC finds 13 garden spiders singing softly, rather like songbirds. This continues for 1d10 minutes. The songs are often melancholy and familiar to the PC.

Fourth Floor Encounter Table (d20)

01 – 12 No Event. Nothing unusual happens.
13 Maze – The layout of the inn, which should be a simple “U” arrangement of a balcony and rooms twists into an Escheresque maze, making it impossible to use the stairs to exit this floor (any attempt returns the PCs to the same floor). This continues for 1 hour.
14 Distance – The distances between all the doors, halls, and rooms seem to extend out for hundreds of feet. All movement is reduced to 1 and the range of all spells and ranged weapons is reduced to 1. The character also has to resort to yelling to communicate since, to them, it seems like everyone is hundreds of feet away. This effect lasts for 1 hour.
15 Water Above – Dark water rolls across the ceilings, but does not drop. It eventually fills the ceilings of the entire floor. Judging by the ripples that are passing through the water, it’s clear there is something on the other side of the surface that remains unseen. Should a PC investigate closer and disturb the water’s surface – a random Elemental (water) manifests and attacks everyone within sight. The ceilings remain flooded for 1 hour, and then the water recedes.
16 Not True – When the party members are not looking, the furniture, walls, doors, window frames, and the distance of the ceiling from the floor shift and twist askew by several inches. This continues for 3d10 minutes, then returns to normal. Should any combat in this area occur during that time, treat the area as Difficult Terrain.
17 Old – One member of the party will begin seeing their surrounding room, including everyone who they encounter afterwards, as terribly old, decrepit, and poorly kept. This continues for 1 hour.
18 Slugs – The PC encounters a few dozen slugs where no one would expect to find them. The slugs continue to arrive in the area for 1d10 minutes from random directions and eventually crawl away in random directions.
19 Singing – The PC finds 13 garden spiders singing softly, rather like songbirds. This continues for 1d10 minutes. The songs are often melancholy and familiar to the PC.
20 Roll Again – Roll on the Fourth Floor Special Encounter Table below.

Fourth Floor Special Encounter Table (d8)

1 – 2 Ring of Fire – while working their way back from a great and unexpected Distance (Result #14) if the character looks out a window, or looking out from the upper balcony, they perceive the world as a terrible, bleak and blasted landscape, the sky the color of a bruise and the sun a ring of blood colored fire.
3 – 4 Corpse – A character is navigating the Maze (Result #13) and while doing so encounters their own corpse in an advance state of decay. If they loot their own pockets, they may be surprised by what they find (roll a random, level appropriate magic item).
5 – 6 Mind Eaters – While they party encounters the singing spiders (#19) and slugs (#18) they also encounter 1d4 mind flayers navigating their way through the temporal fissure. Each is surprised to encounter the other. The ensuing battle should be appropriate for the level of the party members involved.
7 – 8 Alternate Takes – While out getting a bucket of water or on a similar errand, a member of the party encounters an alternate version of themselves on a similar errand. Such as the human rogue in the party runs into an anthropomorphic fox version of themselves, from a world were such creatures are the norm.

The events listed on these tables are essentially plot seeds and situations designed to provoke a reaction and not full encounters in and of themselves.

Why is this happening?

In some distant future, an empire of mind flayers fight a losing war against their former slaves and those they attempt to enslave. As a mad gambit, they strike a blow against space and time itself, damaging the fabric of reality. Cracks spread through creation like fissures through a pane of glass. They then fled backwards through time and across worlds along these fissures. (2)

One such fissure – invisible unless physically encountered – snakes through portions of the large inn and tavern on Hodgeson Street. As damage to the structure of space and time, it is at once; not yet appeared, always been present and is only just appearing. This is why no one has attempted correct the situation, and why the inn was built at this location in the first place. This fissure connects the inn to other places and times, including a potentially endless assortment of other inns.

This is why it is easy to become hopelessly lost, discover one’s own corpse and be attacked by brain eating slugs in the short and brightly lit room of a respectable midtown inn. The party – by dent of being adventurers – will remember their experiences at the inn and tavern standing on Hodgeson Street, even as the memories of others are consistently inconsistent. There is also no permanent solution to the problem – it is just something to deal with and survive. However, a GM seeking a climactic battle may lead the PCs to discover that they are the only thing that can prevent mind flayers from entering the party’s world…


1. Some of the imagery here and mood come from “House on the Boarderlands” by William Hope Hodgeson.
2. This is a reference to Lords of Madness: the Book of Aberrations by Richard Baker, James Jacobs and Steve Winter, which described the illithids as having arrived in the past from the future. This is one of the best “monster” books produced by WotC during the run of 3.5