Tag Archives: cave

Murderer’s Drop

Murderer's Drop

Murderer’s Drop

I ran this map for a new player to my campaign as an introduction to his particular plot. His troublesome partner had gotten in over his head and needed rescuing from the infamous Murderer’s Drop.

Built inside a seaside hill near the docks, this neglected home once belonged to a corrupt Harbourmaster. This monstrous man took payments in return for help disposing bodies. Being incredibly lazy to boot, he built a chute that led into a fetid pool beneath his own home. A rear entrance, only by rowboat, also sufficed.

Even after he was found out and executed, his abandoned home remained. The worst kind of derelicts moved in and broke down the walls that separated the civilized from the depraved. And in the dead of night they would deny seeing two men carrying a drunk friend into this building… to join the mass of others.

“They were faint, but Lucius followed the trail of blood droplets to this room. He’d passed quietly by several other rooms and was met with blank stares and mindless muttering. Behind a ruined wall was a cave where men fought bare-knuckled to a roaring audience, but they did not see him. He hoped that remained true. The only thing in this room was mold, encrusted filth, and a heavy-looking trapdoor. He opened it carefully, expecting the worst, but there was only a filthy metal slide. Lacking other options, he flung himself down it and hoped he would he would find his friend one way or another. Above him, a maddening laugh became a screeching wail. A murdered body had just sent itself down the Drop.”

Blood Witches Coven

Blood Witches Coven

Blood Witches Coven

The cave entrance on the surface wards away intruders with the heads of men who dared challenge the coven of witches that dwell below. If the heads aren’t enough to dissuade casual visitors, the Glyph of Warding just underneath them might.

The entrance tunnel opens up into a large cavern with a babbling stream running through it. A stone bridge allows crossing, though the water isn’t really deep enough to be an effective barrier.

On the left is a windowless tower with a conical top, but a hidden door grants access. The obvious door in the center is trapped to seal when whoever opened it reaches the room on the other side. This leaves the unfortunate person in an empty courtyard, devoid of cover and surrounded by arrow slits 30′ up. Skeleton archers usually man the guard posts. A hidden exit leads to the last exterior feature, an octagonal platform with an elaborate ritual circle in its center.

Otherwise, there are small cells where the witches sleep, a small (but disorganized) library, and a temple to their bloody, goat-headed god. Only the witches’ matriarch, a swamp hag, has access to the males she keeps captive next to her rotten quarters.

“The sound of rushing water was reflected by the sound of shifting gravel as the party half-slid down the steep tunnel. Their thief had gone ahead to scout, but didn’t return after several hours. Assuming the worst, they headed down anyway to find him.

The tunnel opened up onto a high ledge in a huge cave, poorly lit by cracks in the ceiling and a brazier glowing next to a large wooden door in a cobblestone fort. Water flowed, fast and loud through the middle of the cave. The water flung itself from a stony waterfall into darkness and the sound drowned out all else. However, the elf spotted the thief’s head above the lip of a platform embedded in the fort’s walls. Oddly, the halfling thief just stood there on the edge staring at nothing. 

The Elf was about to shout to the halfling, but another figure slid from the darkness behind him. She had long, lank hair and a crone’s face. Standing behind the entranced halfling, she stroked his short hair, shot a hateful look at the party and drove her long, taloned fingers through the back of his neck.

As we rushed down the ledge, the hag pushed the halfling’s body off to thud wetly on the stone below. A bloody aura of black magic surrounded the hag and the sickening light it gave off slid behind her as she slowly moved back the way she came. The party collected themselves at the fort’s door and swore they wouldn’t rest until they had revenge for the murder of their comrade.”

Pus-lick Goblin Burrow

Puslick Goblin Burrow

Puslick Goblin Burrow

I really enjoy drawing maps with multiple elevations and overlapping tunnels. I hope this one isn’t too confusing, but I think it makes a great natural goblin stronghold.

From the bottom, the first elevation is ~20’ above ground, the next elevation is ~40’ high, the next is ~50’ high, and the last is ~70’ high. You can be sure that there will be numerous goblins with shortbows raining down arrows on intruders, though there is some cover in the form of  some large boulders that they’ve been too lazy to move.

There are two major burrows where the goblins make their nests. One is near the entrance is for the lowest-ranking goblins, so the floor is likely cluttered with detritus, and the other is protected by a door and features the rare concept (among goblins) of privacy curtains.

“You can smell the goblin warren before you find it. The usual smells of unburied waste, unwashed bodies, and rotten meat is undercut by a much more putrid smell. As you approach the cliff-side, you spot more than a dozen dark vertical gaps in the rockface from which a gabbling of goblin voices echoes. Also issuing down from each hole is a dark brown stain that fades to yellow, then white, near the hole. A crude door level with the ground has a skull-and-crossbones painted on it with the same brown substance. You have a feeling you’re going to need a long bath afterwards.”

Pus-lick Goblins

Goblinoid, CE, 20’, 1-1 HD, 1d4 or by weapon (shortsword or shortbow), F1, Mo 8, xp ??

Diseased weapons:

These goblins coat their weapons and arrows in the foul pus of goblins that have been deliberately given festering infections. The smell and inherent disgust that these weapons instill in their enemies is often enough to incapacitate them.

It takes 1 round for a goblin to apply the coating to a weapon or a bundle of 4x arrows. Goblins typically carry up to three clay bottles (or 1d4-1 bottles if you wish) and are considered to be proficient in its application, so there’s no chance of accidental exposure. Those dealt damage by such weapons must make a Save vs Poison or be Nauseated for 1 round (only Move actions) and have a 50% chance of being infected with the Purple Shakes.

Symptoms start in two days and the disease causes circulation to be restricted to one’s limbs and brain.  This results in extremities turning a deep purple or blue and a feeling of intense cold, numbness, and uncontrolled shaking. Once symptoms start, movement and speech is impossible. There is a 10% chance of naturally recovering and death occurs in 1d4+CON bonus days later (min 24 hrs of symptoms).

Fort Blackcove and the Forgotten Chambers – Part 2

The Forgotten Chambers

The Forgotten Chambers

Behind Fort Blackcove, built into a huge stony hill on the shore of a salty sea, there is a tunnel that is hidden when the tide is high and protected by treacherous rocks. During low-tide, though, the narrow opening can be found and the tunnel traversed. The current can be swift, however, so if one isn’t careful, one’s boat will be dashed on the rocks further downstream. If one is sharp, one will notice the stone ladder built into a ledge (once there was a rope ladder as well, but it has since rotted away). At the top of the dank ledge is a heavy door, perfectly sealed and rusted shut.

The old lords of Fort Blackcove learned not to open that door too often, for it may let the sea in, but they used the chambers to build a secret prison. In this prison the lords kept the captives they never wanted their allies to know about, where they could torture whomever they please and let them waste away in the damp darkness. The goalers never cared that it was originally built by Naga, only that none ever escaped. The serpentine artwork and frescos are painted over or washed away.

Over the years, the salt water and underground streams have worn away the walls around some of the rooms, causing floors to collapse and flooding during high tide. One cave has been worn away so far it’s nearly washed some of the cells away.

No one can say what might be found in the dark torture chambers that have been forgotten by all living men. Perhaps what remains are only anguished souls, a monstrous goaler who never left the defunct prison, or perhaps the Naga have returned to restore their outpost.

“You’ve hit yet another impasse. Ahead of you and to your left are thick iron bars, though rusted at their base. Behind you is the hidden passages you passed through to enter this gods-forsaken dungeon. To your right you can see the other side of the thick door that keeps out the seawater at high tide. The air here is moist and smells of salt and seaweed. In fact, everything below a handspan’s height on the wall is encrusted with salt and tiny sea-creature’s shells. As you’re looking around the walls for a way to raise one or the other portcullis, you hear a high-pitched screech that echoes from all directions. You hope that whatever did that is still on the other side of those bars and doesn’t know another way around…”

The Unbroken Forge – Part 1

Unbroken Forge Part 1

Unbroken Forge Part 1

“Past the antechamber with its statues clad in mirrored ceremonial armor, you see a wide hall with long steps and a narrow ramp leading down to a huge bronze door. Upon the thick doors are shaped two dwarf thanesguard holding pikes, their beards appearing ornately braided and capped and their bodies wreathed in flames. Beyond the sealed door you can hear hammer on anvil, the distant whoosh of bellows, and echoed orders. The Unbroken Forge is occupied once more, though one wonders if it’s the ancestral dwarves of legend, or some usurper seeking the forge’s power.”

 The Unbroken Forge was originally built by the now-extinct fire-dwarves of Borzen-khar, the Firelands, who, centuries ago, were renowned for their skill in creating terrible weapons and frightening armor, all imbued with their unique runecraft rumored to be native to the Plane of Elemental Fire.

The map features two main obstacles: the bronze doors at the bottom of the hall and the wide portcullis just beyond it.

West of the bronze doors are mostly storage rooms and a few plundered museum pieces (though hidden treasures might still be found!). To the north east is a private bazaar where the fire-dwarves sold their wares to the highest bidder.

Beyond the portcullis, a wide tunnel leads to Part 2 of 3 maps in this series.

The Lost Retreat of the Druids of Bear-Kyne – Level 3

Druids Retreat Level 3

The Lost Retreat of the Druids of Bear-Kyne – Level 3

The bottom level is the Retreat-proper and features several rooms where druidic relics could be stores, a central cave with a hot-spring, and the disused quarters for the druids when they are in human form. At the rear is another large chamber where the druids hibernate in their bear-from next to warm volcanic rocks and gently glowing crystal formations.

“The central cave has a large domed ceiling that glows with an almost dawn-like yellow light from a local phosphorescent fungus. The air is warm and damp as the deep pool in the center of the cave bubbles and steams. Flowing into the center is an almost musical waterfall that splashes off the rocks and flows underneath a simple wooden bridge.”

The Lost Retreat of the Druids of Bear-Kyne – Level 2

Druids Retreat Level 2

The Lost Retreat of the Druids of Bear-Kyne – Level 2

Hidden here is the upper level of the Retreat. Atop a high ledge is a pool of water and a Druidic dais. The minor artifact protects the Retreat from intruders and warns the hibernating Druids that a potential threat approaches.

The Retreat was constructed by an old conclave of druids who worked the stone and the roots into the shapes and spaces they desired. The Retreat is a testament to the fusion of nature and magic; a place where druids can meditate on long, deep dreams of universal mysteries.

“Behind the hidden wall is a large cave, supported by several pillars like interconnected tree-trunks and canopy, and flanked on either side by burbling hot-springs that fill the cave with a gentle mist. At the rear is a tall archway like two immense bears, made from a mesh of tree-roots, standing on their hind legs and pressing their mighty paws together.”