Dungeon-a-Week #2: The Bandit Hideout

Introduction

Last week, I started a new series of posts, presenting a simple dungeon that was designed for first-level D&D 5E characters—with just enough encounters to take them to second level.

This is part of a series of short, single-level adventures that people can grab when they don’t have a lot of time and need something quick and fun to run that night. Note that is an experiment—I have no idea if I will continue through all twenty levels or not, though I will make a serious attempt to complete this project.

In writing these adventures, I will keep the following design guidelines in mind:

  • These adventures will most likely be a series of small dungeon environments. I don’t intend any of these to be event-based.
  • The encounters in the adventure will be enough to provide a single level’s worth of experience points for 5 characters. DMs with larger or smaller groups will have to add or eliminate monsters in the encounters to make them appropriate for their home groups.
  • Each dungeon will have a series of encounters with various numbers and types of creatures, plus one solo creature.
  • Not all the encounters will necessitate a battle—the players will usually be free to choose how to deal with the monsters within the dungeon.
  • Each dungeon will include one or two traps and/or hazards, separate from the monster encounters.
  • Level-appropriate treasure, rolled entirely randomly, will be included.
  • I will use any creature published by Wizards of the Coast and available on DnD Beyond. I will not include stat blocks—the DM will need, at the least, the Monster Manual. I will try to suggest alternate creatures from the MM in case the DM does not have access to the book in which the creature appears or access to DnD Beyond.
  • I will provide very rough maps for some—but not necessarily all—of the adventures.
  • I intend to keep the word count for these adventures to about 2,000 words, and definitely below 3,000, to make it easy to read quickly and bring to the table.

This week I present to you Dungeon #2: The Bandit Hideout

The Bandit Hideout

  • Location: This hideout consists of a series of natural caves that were expanded and reinforced by the bandits in a local forest area, fairly near to at least one large town and preferably in a region with multiple towns and villages so that the bandits can raid travelers moving along the road that connects them.
  • Hook: Bandits have become an issue in the last while, and their raids are become more daring. There is a 1,000 SP bounty offered to anyone who can eliminate the bandit menace (proof of success is required to claim the bounty).
  • Finding the Hideout: There are countless ways that characters may find the bandit hideout. They might escort merchant caravans traveling through the area in the hopes of capturing a bandit and interrogating him/her. The PCs may stage their own fake caravan with the same objective. They may explore the forest area and search for any signs of the bandits. They might question people in the towns and villages hoping to find the family of any of the bandits and use those family members to either track down the bandit hideout or bring the bandits to them. It is up to the DM how much time they want to spend on the PCs searching for the hideout. The DM can make it fairly easy if the group just wants to get to the “dungeon crawl” quickly.
  • Experience Points: This adventure is designed to provide a total of 3,000 XP, exactly enough for 5 characters of 2nd level to advance to 3rd level.

Key to the Hideout

Note that the walls and ceilings of the hideout are a combination of exposed tree roots, packed dirt, and wooden beams used to stabilize the areas where the bandits are. It is obvious that these were natural caves, and that the bandits cut through tree roots and dug out the caves to make them much larger than they were originally. The floors are packed dirt throughout the hideout.

1. Forest Area

(Easy; 3 creatures; Encounter XP 450; Earned XP 225)

A pair of scouts and their trained mastiff are patrolling the area near the hideout to ensure that anyone getting too close is eliminated before they can find the actual location. The scouts are very confident, and will ambush even a party of adventurers, using the trees for cover and attempting to keep at missile range as long as possible. They will target spellcasters first. The mastiff will stay beside one of the scouts, and will engage anyone getting too close to his master so that the scout can stay back and continue to use his bow to inflict as much damage as possible before getting into melee.

If one of the scouts dies, the other will retreat in a direction away from the hideout. He attempts to escape and lose the PCs in the forest before eventually doubling back to the hideout to warn everyone about the PCs. This puts the hideout on alert for the next three days.

Treasure: Each of the scouts carries a belt pouch with their personal money. They have 22 cp and 18 sp, respectively.

2. Disguised Entrance

(Medium; 1 creature; Encounter XP 700; Earned XP 700)

The entrance to the hideout is a hole in the ground leading down into a dirt tunnel. The hole is covered by a screen of branches woven with brush to hide its location. The PCs must make a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to find the hole if they are searching—or they automatically notice it if any PCs passive Perception is 15 or higher.

In the branches of a large tree 20 feet above the entrance is a hunter’s blind. An archer sits inside the blind, keeping watch over the entrance. He attacks anyone attempting to enter the tunnel unless they are accompanied by one of the bandits. The archer continues to attack at range as long as he can, unless he is forced out of the tree. If forced to fight on the ground, he attempts to remain at range so that he can use his bow, and only fights in melee if he has no choice.

Just inside the tunnel is bear trap—a set of iron jaws that springs shut when stepped on. The first PC who passes through the spot marked with a X on the map becomes the targeted creature. The trap makes a +8 attack roll against the PC and deals 5 (1d10) damage. Furthermore, a PC hit by the trap has their speed reduced to 0 and can’t move until they break free of the trap (a successful DC 15 Strength check). The PC hit by the trap, or another character adjacent to the trap can try to pry it open.

Attached to the trap is a small bell. When the trap snaps closed, the bell rings and alerts the bandits in the main hall (room 3), who prepare an ambush. Three of the bandits move into the hallway to room 4 and hide down the stairs and around the corner. The other four bandits wait at the entrance to room 3. When the PCs pass the hallway to room 4, the bandits there rush up and attack from the rear. The remaining four bandits run out and attack the PCs from the front.

The bandits intend to capture the PCs (any PC who drops to 0 hit points is knocked out from non-lethal damage). If more than two bandits are killed by the party, then the bandits switch to attacking with lethal blows.

If the PCs slay two of the bandits in the front, one of the remaining bandits retreats and attempts to alert the bandits in the barracks (room 5).

Treasure: The archer has a belt pouch that contains 27 sp and 14 gp.

3. Main Hall

(Medium; 8 creatures; Encounter XP 500; Earned XP 200)

This large chamber doesn’t have a door, just an opening. Several long tables—enough for approximately thirty people are placed in this room. At any given time, there are seven bandits sitting around, playing dice, and eating.

At the north end there is a fire pit, with a stone chimney of sorts that channels the smoke up into the gaps between the tree roots. The bandits take care not to leave the fire burning when they are not actually cooking food, otherwise the smoke will eventually fill up the underground gaps and start to flow back into this room. They cook no more than once per day, which allows time for the smoke in the tree roots to settle before the fire is lit again.

A small well has been dug in the northwest corner, and mostly-clean water can be drawn up with a bucket on a rope.Barrels of ale and boxes of foodstuffs stolen from traveling caravans are stored in the southwest area of this chamber.

If the bandits were alerted by the sound of the bell on the bear trap, then see area 2 for their reaction. Otherwise, once they notice the PCs, they grab their weapons and ready themselves for a fight. If possible, one of the bandits attempts to get out of the room to alert the bandits in room 5, but only if the PCs move far enough into the room that the bandit can get past them without being attacked.

Treasure: The bandits each have a small belt pouch that contains 11 gp, 16 cp, 10 gp, 15 sp, 15 cp, 13 sp, and 4 pp, respectively.

4. Dog Trainer

(Medium; 3 creatures; Encounter XP 712; Earned XP 475)

The entrance to this chamber is covered by a wooden door that is kept closed. It has a simple latch and no lock. A berserker stays in this room. He is responsible for training the mastiffs that are used as war dogs by the bandits. Currently, he has one mastiff that is ready to join begin accompanying the scouts, and another five mastiff puppies (that are incapable of combat).

If the PCs come into this room, the berserker demands to know who they are unless they are accompanied by one of the bandits. Unless they give him a good reason to trust them, he orders the mastiff to attack, and he attacks using his reckless ability. The berserker attempts to prevent the PCs from all entering the room—he tries to bottle the PCs up in the hallway so that no more than two of them can fight him at a time.

The mastiff puppies are kept in a large wooden crate with no top. The berserker has a bedroll, a crate with food, a small barrel with water, small wooden bowls for the dogs, and assorted personal items.

Treasure: The berserker has a pouch that contains 22 cp, 16 sp, and 15 gp.

5. Barracks

(Medium; 8 creatures; Encounter XP 500; Earned XP 200)

The entrance to this chamber is covered by a wooden door that is kept closed. It has a simple latch and no lock. The passage to room 6 is also covered by a door of the same type.This is the barracks for the bandits, scouts, and archer. There are twenty-two bedrolls scattered around this room. Only a single small lantern is kept lit in the northeast corner, providing dim illumination so that the bandits don’t stumble over one another in the dark.

At any given time, there are eight bandits resting in this room. At least three of the bandits are awake and aware of anyone entering the room. If they see the PCs enter, they yell out an alert that wakes up the remaining five bandits.

Once aware of the PCs, the bandits jump up and grab their weapons. Note that these bandits have an AC of 11 instead of 12 as they are not wearing their leather armor while sleeping. The bandits immediately attack the PCs unless they have good reason not to, and one of the bandits runs for the door leading to room 6 so that he can warn the three thugs in that room.

Like the bandits in room 3, these bandits attempt to capture the PCs until half of their number are slain. Then, they fight to kill unless given a chance to surrender.

Treasure: The bandits each have a small belt pouch that contains 15 cp, 15 ep, 17 sp, 10 sp, 11 gp, 18 sp, 20 cp, 12 gp, and 22 cp, respectively.

6. Sergeants’ Barracks

(Medium; 3 creatures; Encounter XP 600; Earned XP 300)

The entrance to this chamber is covered by a wooden door that is kept closed. It has a simple latch and no locks. The door is actually located at the point where the passage exits room 5.

This chamber is where the three bandit sergeants (use the stat block for a thug) rest. Then tend to stay together and avoid the rest of the bandits unless they are training or leading them on a raid.

When the PCs reach this chamber, all three thugs are awake and wearing their armor. If the PCs are able to spy on the thugs without being noticed, they can wait for up to two of the thugs to go to sleep—one always remains awake. The sergeants, being fairly tough individuals, generally sleep in their leather armor.

If one of the bandits managed to warn the sergeants of the PCs incursion, then their preparations depend on the situation. If the battle in the barracks is still going on, then two of the sergeants head up the stairs to the barracks and attempt to turn the tide of battle. The third sergeant goes down the other passage and warns the bandit captain. If this happens, the bandit captain, the sergeant, and the scout in the captain’s room leave the captain’s chamber and circle around to attempt to attack the PCs from behind.

Otherwise, the sergeants take cover around the corners of the room and ready their heavy crossbows. They attempt to inflict as much damage on the PCs as possible as they enter the room, only switching to their maces if the PCs move into melee range.

The sergeants do not attempt to capture the PCs—they fight to kill, and they fight to the death.

Each sergeant has a bedroll and assorted personal effects.

Treasure: Each of the sergeants has a belt pouch containing his personal treasure. The first sergeant has 18 cp, 17 sp, 11 gp, and 4 pp; the second sergeant has 21 cp, 15 sp, 13 gp, and 6 pp; and the third sergeant has 17 cp, 16 sp, 13 gp, and 3 pp.

7. Chapel

(Medium; 5 creatures; Encounter XP 700; Earned XP 350)

The entrance to this chamber is covered by a wooden door that is kept closed. The door has a latch and a lock that is usually engaged.The chapel currently has two acolytes standing in front of a wooden cage, two bandits standing nervously off to one side, and a ghoul inside the cage.

This chapel was set up by the pair of acolytes who joined the bandit group some time ago. They are generalists, tending to the varied religious beliefs of the bandits as necessary, and providing healing for wounds received on the bandit raids.

Recently, the acolytes managed to capture a ghoul that was inhabiting an old, forgotten graveyard deeper in the forest. They brought it back to the hideout and the bandits constructed a cage for it. The ghoul is kept here while the acolytes attempt to control it with magic—something that has not been successful so far.

When experimenting with their attempts to control the ghoul, they always keep a couple of bandits in the chapel with them in case the ghoul manages to get loose.

When the PCs enter the room, one of the acolytes demands to know who they are. If the acolytes are not convinced that the PCs should be there, they order the bandits to attack, while they stay back and fling spells. If any of the bandits or acolytes are killed, the acolyte near the cage unlocks the door and leaps away, freeing the ghoul. The ghoul wants to slay the living, but also wants to escape, so it launches itself at anyone near the doorway (most likely a PC). Once in combat, the ghoul will not be able to resist its hunger, and will keep attacking and fight to the death.

The acolytes and bandits will surrender once at least two of them have been killed (if the ghoul has already been released).

Treasure: All four humans have belt pouches with their personal treasure. The bandits have 8 gp and 12 cp, respectively. The acolytes have 18 cp, 6 ep, and 14 cp, 11 gp, respectively.

8. Bandit Captain’s Room

(Hard; 4 creatures; Encounter XP 825; Earned XP 550)

The west entrance to this chamber is covered by a wooden door that is kept closed. The door has a latch and a lock that is usually engaged. A similar wooden door blocks the passage on the east side of the room.

When the PCs arrive at this room, the bandit captain is having a discussion with one of the scouts about an upcoming raid on a merchant caravan. If the PCs have caused an alert and one of the sergeants has warned the bandit captain about the party, then he, the sergeant, and the scout move through the passage to the west in an attempt to ambush the party. The bandit captain is not afraid to get into melee with the PCs.

The bandit captain does not surrender unless he is reduced to less than 10 hit points. If he does decide to surrender, he attempts to bribe the PCs to let him go, promising to give them all the treasure he has, and to leave the area and not return.

Treasure: The bandit captain has a chest that has been cunningly hidden in an alcove behind some tree roots that make up the north wall of the chamber.

The chest is trapped with a poison needle. A successful DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check allows a character to deduce the trap’s presence from alterations made to the lock to accommodate the needle. A successful DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools disarms the trap, removing the needle from the lock. Unsuccessfully attempting to pick the lock triggers the trap. When the trap is triggered, the needle extends 3 inches straight out from the lock. A creature within range takes 1 piercing damage and 11 (2d10) poison damage, and must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 hour.

The chest contains the following treasure: 1,668 cp, 1,118 sp, 76 gp, four gold lockets with painted portraits inside (worth 25 gp each), one small mirror set in a painted wooden frame (worth 25 gp), two black velvet masks stitched with silver thread (worth 25 gp each), a potion of healing, a potion of climbing, and a bone scroll tube with two spell scrolls: sleep and zone of truth.

Map

Bandit-Caves-Layout

Conclusion

I hope you get some use out of this simple dungeon. There is a notable lack of monsters in this one, but next week’s dungeon will make up for that, I think.

If you do end up using this dungeon, please let us know how it goes by leaving a comment.

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