Dungeon-A-Week #4: The Coral Reef

Introduction

This is part of a series of posts, Dungeon-A-Week, that I started a few weeks ago. This series contains short, single-level D&D 5E 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.
  • 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.

This week I present to you a dungeon for 4th-level characters, Dungeon #4: The Coral Reef.

The Coral Reef

  • Location: The coral reef is located about a thousand yards off the shore on the coast of an ocean (or at least a very large sea). There should be some towns and/or villages nearby along the coast.
  • Hook: Sahuagin have been raiding the towns and villages along the coast recently, and the townsfolk are getting desperate. A young girl rumored to have the gift of second sight has dreamed of something large and evil slumbering deep beneath the waves, and she believes the sahuagin are attempting to awaken it. Someone needs to go into their lair and destroy them.
  • Complications: The townsfolk can have managed to trade with local traders for two potions of water breathing for each character. The girl’s dreams indicate that the magic in the coral reef causes steams of magical bubbles to flow up from crevasses at certain points in the caves within the reef, and inhaling these bubbles also work as potions of water breathing. The PCs will need to be careful, however, to ensure that they don’t get trapped under water without access to one of the potions.

Key to the Reef

Getting to the reef is the first problem. However, the girl has scrawled a crude map that will lead the characters between rock formations under the water to direct them to the specific cave entrance where the sahuagin have their lair. The PCs will need to swim underwater, so they’ll need to use one of their two potions to reach the reef.

Remember that, unless a character has an ability that grants a specific swim speed, their speed while swimming is half their normal movement speed. However, even characters with a 25-foot movement speed will still reach the reef within 30 minutes of entering the water.

Refer to the color map for the following area descriptions.

A. Cliff Drop

The PCs need to enter the water at a low (15’ above the water level) cliff. Unfortunately, a group of 10 giant crabs lair in many small tunnels that riddle the cliff side. When the walk down the sloped path the lower area where they should enter the water, the hungry crabs emerge from their tunnels and attack.

If the PCs leap into the water, the crabs follow. The crabs fight to the death.

B. Underwater Ambush

The PCs must swim straight ahead for 200 yards and go between two rock formations. When the PCs are between the rocks, a pair of giant octopuses emerge from crevasses on either side of the “path” and attack the PCs. These octopuses are trained by the sahuagin to attack any humanoids in the waters near the reef, and they fight to the death.

C. Shark!

When the PCs make the turn around the last rock formation and aim for the reef, any character with a passive Perception score of 12 or more sees the unmistakable silhouette of four sharks circling overhead.

The PCs have one round to react before the four reef sharks descend and attack. Like the octopuses above, the reef sharks are trained by the sahuagin to attack intruders. The sharks use their pack tactics ability to stay together and increase their chance of inflicting damage on the characters.

D. Sahuagin Cave

The entrance to the cave looks like any other crevasse in the miles-long coral reef. Only someone who knows where they are going, or who succeeds on a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check can find the cave while searching.

Note that the cave maps are designed to be stacked directly on top of each other, with Level 1 on the top, Level 2 in the middle, and Level 3 on the bottom.

Refer to the level 1 map for the following cave descriptions.

1. Cave Entrance

The entrance leads to a 20-foot long tunnel. The tunnel is dark and the walls, floor, and ceiling are made of coral.

2. Large Cave

This cave is 40 feet from floor to ceiling and entirely filled with water. The walls are made of rock, but bits of coral cling to the rock across nearly every surface. Some of the underwater fungus glows, giving off dim light.

In the southeast corner of the room, a crack in the floor lets up a constant stream of bubbles. If inhaled, these bubbles act as a standard potion of water breathing. Though the bubbles seem like air, they dissipate into the water about fifteen feet above the crack and disappear. The bubbles lose their magical property within 5 rounds if they are captured in a flask or other container.

The many passages from this cave are protected by a hunter shark and two reef sharks. These sharks attack any creature that is not a sahuagin or accompanied by a sahuagin. The sharks fight to the death, but do not pursue characters fleeing into the tunnels.

3. Dry Cave

The path between area 2 and this area slopes upward, and it appears a very large air bubble is trapped here. The air entirely fills this side cave section. There is enough air here for the PCs to spend up to 8 hours in this room. After that point, the air starts to become toxic.

The passage on the other side of the cave slopes back down to the same level as area 2.

4. Dead End

This side passage ends in a dead end. There is nothing of interest here.

5. Slithering Cave

All the passages leading into this cave slope upward, and the PCs climb out of the water as they reach the cave entrance. The rock walls glisten with moisture, and the cave floor is covered with dirt and large plants up to a height of almost 3 feet, potentially obscuring the vision of shorter characters. A few scattered boulders also provide additional cover for their cave’s inhabitants.

A giant constrictor snake along with four regular constrictor snakes live in this cave. The sahuagin feed them occasionally so that they only attack non-sahuagin.

The snakes slither through the underbrush until they get close to a character and then strike from ambush. The giant constrictor snake waits near one of the boulders and attacks when a character gets within 30 feet.

The constrictor snakes attack until they are at half hit points and then they retreat and attempt to hide among the underbrush. The giant constrictor snake fights until it is at one-quarter hit points and then retreats to a corner of the cave and fights only if pursued and attacked. The snakes do not pursue any fleeing characters who leave the cave.

6. Corrupt Cave

The coral and underwater plants in this cave look sickly and mutated. The cave entirely filled with water, is unlit, and it reaches 30 feet floor to ceiling.

A pair of sea spawn lair in this cave, along with four giant crabs. Like the sea spawn, the crabs are also crusted by barnacles and look mutated (no change to their combat stats).

The spawn and crabs attack (and pursue) any non-sahuagin and fight to the death.

7. Ahab’s Cave

This vast cave is mostly filled with water. The ceiling is 80 feet above the floor, and the top 20 feet is filled with air that constantly refreshes through the magic of the reef.

The cave is filled with all kinds of fish. Scattered among the various fish are a swarm of quippers. When the PCs move more than twenty feet into the cave, the quippers gather into a swarm and attack the closest PC. As soon as they attack, the killer whale in area 7a hears the frenzy and swims out to attack anyone invading its cave.

The whale is trapped in this cave—the sahuagin has some nefarious plan for it in the future—and while it is kept fed and has access to fresh air, it is enraged by any humanoids that come into its cave.

If the PCs have some way to communicate with the whale, they may be able to calm it down enough to get it to stop attacking. Unfortunately, it is too large to move through the tunnels, and so cannot easily be rescued from this cave.

8. Blood Frenzy Cave

This large cave is filled with water, and is dimly lit with the glowing underwater plants that can found in places throughout these caves. The ceiling is 40 feet above the floor of the cave.

A giant shark is kept here by the sahuagin, and it attacks any non-sahuagin who enters the cave. It is too large to pursue characters who flee into the tunnels.

9. Dry Cave

The path between area 2 and this area slopes upward, and it appears a very large air bubble is trapped here. The air entirely fills this side cave section. There is enough air here for the PCs to spend up to 8 hours in this room. After that point, the air starts to become toxic.

The passage on the other side of the cave slopes back down to the same level as area 2.

10. Living Water Cave

The passages from this cave eventually lead to the more important sahuagin leaders, and so they have placed a powerful guardian here. The cave is fully filled with water, and the roof is 25 feet above the floor.

A water elemental guards the passages leading further into the cave complex. It is completely undetectable in the water-filled room until it attacks. The elemental waits until the party fully enters the room, and then reveals itself as it moves forward and attacks whoever is in the front line of the party.

The elemental pursues fleeing characters and fights until destroyed, but does not attack any sahuagin, and does not attack if the party is escorted by sahuagin.

11. Magic Bubble Cave

This cave is completely filled with water, is unlit, and the ceiling is 20 feet above the floor. In the south corner of the room, a crack in the floor lets up a constant stream of bubbles. If inhaled, these bubbles act as a standard potion of water breathing. Though the bubbles seem like air, they dissipate into the water about fifteen feet above the crack and disappear. The bubbles lose their magical property within 5 rounds if they are captured in a flask or other container.

12. Sahuagin Shrine

This cave is 60 feet high, and filled with water up to a height of 40 feet. Ledges run along the west wall, from north to south, just above the surface of the water. The ledges are 5-10 feet wide at any given point.

A large altar sits on the floor of the cave, under the surface of the water. A sahuagin priestess resides here, praying before the shrine. A pair of reef sharks continuously circle the cave, protecting her while she performs her rites.

When any non-sahuagin enters the cave, the reef sharks immediately rush to the attack. On the following round, the priestess turns and joins combat. She cannot be bargained with, and fights to the death, as do the sharks, pursuing fleeing characters wherever they go (though the sharks cannot pursue outside of water-filled areas.

13. Poisoned Cave

The tunnels slope upward as one approaches this cave. The cave is 15 feet high, and water fills it to a height of 5 feet. Above the water, the walls are riddled with small holes.

The ground of this cave is covered with dirt, and underwater plants grow right up to the surface of the water, making it impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction.

A small stone altar is placed in the middle of the cave, and a sahuagin priestess stays here, conducting constant prayers to her god.

When the PCs enter the cave, the priestess hears their movement through the water unless they take precautions to move quietly. Two rounds after the PCs enter the cave, six poisonous snakes emerge from the holes in the wall and swim toward the characters. If the priestess is not already aware of them, the movement of the snakes alerts her.

When the snakes close with the PCs, the priestess rises from the water and attacks. She attempts to capture the PCs, if possible, though if they die from the snake poison, she doesn’t try to save them.

The priestess fights to the death.

14. Bubble Source

This is less a cave than a wide section of the tunnel. In the north side of the tunnel, a crack in the floor lets up a constant stream of bubbles. If inhaled, these bubbles act as a standard potion of water breathing. Though the bubbles seem like air, they dissipate into the water when they reach the ceiling and disappear. The bubbles lose their magical property within 5 rounds if they are captured in a flask or other container.

15. Open Cave

The ceiling of this cave is 60 feet above the floor, and the top 10 feet is filled with air. Glowing plants give off dim light and a large opening leads out of the cave complex to the water above.

A killer whale spends most of its time in this cave, in thrall to the sahuagin. A giant octopus hides among the rocks on the cave floor. When the PCs enter the cave, neither creature attacks right away, waiting until the PCs fully enter the cave and move toward the passage to area 21.

When the whale and octopus attack, they fight to the death. The octopus pursues fleeing characters, but the whale is too large to fit into the tunnels.

Refer to the level 2 map for the following cave descriptions.

16. Guard Post

This cave is entirely filled with water, and the ceiling is 15 feet above the floor. Four sahuagin are stationed here to prevent any intruders from moving further into the complex. The sahuagin immediately attack anyone entering the cave, and fight to the death. They pursue fleeing characters regardless of where they go.

17. Uneven Cave

This cave is 40 feet high, and filled with water up to a level of 20 feet. A series of ledges at various heights line the walls, most of them 5 feet deep, and a number of large boulders area scattered around the room, many of them reaching above the surface of the water.

A giant constrictor snake stretches out along the ledges, while a pair of sahuagin swim in the water beneath. The snake has learned not to attack the sahuagin, and so leaves them alone. However, it will attack and attempt to eat any non-sahuagin that enter the room. The sahuagin wait for the snake to attack, and then they join in battle, attacking whichever PCs are not grappled by the snake.

The snake fights until it is at one-quarter hit points, and then retreats up onto the ledges. The sahuagin fight to the death.

In the northeast corner of the room, a crack in the floor lets up a constant stream of bubbles. If inhaled, these bubbles act as a standard potion of water breathing. Though the bubbles seem like air, they dissipate into the water about fifteen feet above the crack and disappear. The bubbles lose their magical property within 5 rounds if they are captured in a flask or other container.

18. Guard Post

This cave is entirely filled with water, and the ceiling is 15 feet above the floor. Four sahuagin are stationed here to prevent any intruders from moving further into the complex. The sahuagin immediately attack anyone entering the cave, and fight to the death. They pursue fleeing characters regardless of where they go.

19. Lower Guard Post

The ceiling of this cave is 20 feet above the floor, and it is entirely filled with water. Two sahuagin and a merrow are stationed here. The sahuagin are terrified of the merrow, which is always hungry and previously killed and eaten a pair of sahuagin. The merrow serves the sea hag in area 26 below, and has been ordered to protect this area and leave the sahuagin alone, and it seems to be making the effort to do so.

The sahuagin and merrow attack any non-sahuagin entering the area and fight to the death.

In the northeast corner of the room, a crack in the floor lets up a constant stream of bubbles. If inhaled, these bubbles act as a standard potion of water breathing. Though the bubbles seem like air, they dissipate into the water about fifteen feet above the crack and disappear. The bubbles lose their magical property within 5 rounds if they are captured in a flask or other container.

20. Prison

The ceiling of this cave is 20 feet above the floor, and the cave is filled with water to about 10 feet. The air is continually refreshed through small cracks in walls as part of the magic of the reef, so characters can breathe in here indefinitely.

The three smaller caves on the north of this area rise up above the level of the water, and are blocked with heavy bars—requires a DC 15 Strength check to move enough for the prisoners to leave the cell. This is used as the prison for the sahuagin, where they keep captives until they are sacrificed to their god, or fed to one of the monsters that serves the sahuagin.

A pair of sahuagin are stationed in this cave to keep watch on the prisoners.

The northernmost cell holds a human merchant from the closest town on the coast. The merchant is terrified and wants nothing more than to get home again.

The cell beside him to the west holds a deep scion in human form. The deep scion has been placed here to “befriend” the merchant and the sahuagin plan to stage an escape for the pair, so that the merchant can vouch for the deep scion once they return to the town, and the deep scion can be a hero while secretly spying on the surface for the sahuagin.

When the PCs enter the cave, the sahuagin put up a fight, but surrender if reduced to half hit points. The deep scion recognizes the PCs as a real threat to the sahuagin and their plans. It stays in human form and asks to join the PCs—it tells them it is a warrior and only needs a weapon to help them fight the sahuagin.

During the next battle, the sahuagin shapechanges into its hybrid form and betrays the PCs.

Treasure: Each of the sahuagin carries a pouch with 2 potions of water breathing.

21. Shrine

This cave is entirely filled with water, and the ceiling is 25 feet above the floor. A large altar sits in the middle of the room, and a sahuagin priestess conducts her rites while a pair of sahuagin float nearby and guard her.

The sahuagin warn the priestess as soon as any PCs are spotted, and all three attack the party immediately. The sahuagin and the priestess attempt to capture the PCs (knocking them unconscious instead of killing them), but they do fight to the death.

Refer to the level 3 map for the following cave descriptions.

22. Heated Cave

The water becomes noticeably warmer as the PCs near this cave. The ceiling of this cave is 30 feet high, and the water is only 5 feet high. Cracks in the floor of the cave glow a hellish red, and the heat comes from these cracks. The two smaller caves on the east wall have floors above the level of the water. These areas are covered with thick vegetation. Steam fills the air above the level of the water throughout this entire cave area, reducing visibility to 10 feet.

A pair of hungry giant toads live in the two smaller caves on the east side. Three steam mephits float in the air in the thick steam, often arguing with each other and trying to boss each other around.

When the PCs swim through the underwater tunnel and enter the cave area, the toads wait in ambush, and the steam mephits stop arguing long enough to see what is going to happen.

If the PCs approach the smaller caves on the east side, the toads wait for the PCs to climb out of the water before attacking. If the PCs look like they swim through the cave toward the other tunnel, the toads leap out into the water and swim toward the PCs, attacking as soon as they are in range.

The steam mephits wait until the toads have swallowed a character each, and then they gleefully attack the remaining PCs so as to distract them while the toads swim away with their meals. The mephits fight until they are down to less than 10 hit points, and then they retreat and try to hide in the steam up above. The toads attack until they are down to less than 10 hit points, and they swim away and retreat to their individual cave areas. If pursued, the toads fight to the death.

23. Sauna Cave

This cave contains a giant air bubble that keeps out all the water. The ceiling is only 15 feet high in this cave, and the cracks in the floor give off heat like in the previous cave area. The room is filled with steam, limiting visibility to 10 feet.

A pair of sahuagin currently rest in this room, while four steam mephits fly about and argue and boss each other around.

When the sahuagin become aware of anyone entering the room—most likely hearing them before they become visible through the mist—they move to either side and ready themselves to charge out and ambush the PCs on the following round.

The steam mephits join in combat for the fun of it and to help even the odds against the sahuagin.

The sahuagin fight to the death, but the steam mephits retreat if they are knocked down to less than 10 hit points.

24. Kraken Temple

The tunnel, after descending to a great depth, curves upward again at the end, anyone entering this area must climb up out of the water at the entrance. The uneven stone walls of the tunnel end at the mouth of this chamber. The walls, floor, and ceiling of this chamber are made of giant stone blocks of a greenish, jade-like material (not jade and has no value). The ceiling is 30 feet high, and 5-foot-diameter pillars line the north and south walls. A huge altar occupies the west wall—a statue depicting a cluster of waving tentacles mounted atop it.

Standing in front of the altar is a kraken priest. He has allied himself with the sahuagin, and spends most of his time here venerating his god—a kraken that lives in an ocean far away from this coast.

The priest is automatically aware of anyone entering his temple. He moves behind one of the pillars and waits for the PCs to come within range of his spells before he launches his attack. He starts by casting evard’s black tentacles, and then uses his voice of the kraken to frighten anyone not affected by that spell.

The priest fights to the death and refuses any offers to surrender.

Treasure: A hidden panel in the base of the altar—requires a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to notice—contains the kraken priest’s treasure. The PCs find a bone scroll tube with a scroll of green-flame blade, a scroll of toll the dead, and a scroll of control flames inside; one potion of healing; two 50 gp gems; four 250 gp art objects; and coins equaling 240 cp, 3,000 sp, 1,005 gp, and 42 pp.

25. Bodyguard Cave

This cave is entirely under water, and the ceiling is 20 feet high.

A merrow lairs here, protecting the sea hag in area 26 below. The merrow immediately attacks anyone entering this chamber, and fights to the death.

26. Hag’s Lair

This cave is entirely underwater. The ceiling is 15 feet high, and glowing underwater fungus provides dim light.

This is the lair of a sea hag. She is an ally of the sahuagin and, while she does not care about the kraken priest and his god, she is willing to go along with their plans as long as it causes destruction and despair to those who live on the surface world.

The hag always has a pair of sea spawn with her in her lair. The spawn serve the hag and help her with her rituals.

The sea hag is magically linked to the merrow in area 25 above. If the merrow dies, the sea hag is aware of it and prepares an ambush. She disguises herself as another of the sea spawn, and the three of them spread out in the room to make it difficult for area effect spells to hit all three of them at once.

When the PCs enter the room, the hag and the sea spawn swim toward the party, as if to attack. However, once she is within 30 feet of the rearmost party members (as she wants to affect as many PCs as possible), the hag reveals her true horrific appearance. She then tries to use her Death Glare on any frightened PCs, letting the sea spawn get between her and anyone trying to close to melee. She reverts to using her claws only if she has no other choice.

Treasure: The small cave on the south wall is the sea hag’s personal living quarters. A small, corroded metal box contains a potion of growth, a waterproof bag of dust of sneezing and choking, a philter of love, and assorted coins equaling 400 cp, 5,000 sp, 1,675 gp, and 70 pp.

27. Sahuagin Baron’s Lair

This large cave is entirely underwater. The ceiling is 30 feet high, and glowing underwater fungus provides dim light throughout the cave.

The sahuagin baron resides in this cave. He is the leader of all the sahuagin, and is allied with the kraken priest and the sea hag.

The baron generally floats in the middle of his cave in front of an altar to Sekolah, contemplating the mysteries of his god. He immediately attacks anyone who is not part of his force, and fights with every means at his disposal. He does not surrender, nor does he take prisoners.

Treasure: The baron has a large wooden chest. The chest is locked, and the baron keeps the key on a small cord around his neck. The chest contains medium-size mithral scale mail armor, a potion of climbing, a potion of healing, three 50 gp gems, two 250 gp art objects, and assorted coins equaling 960 cp, 12,000 sp, 4,020 gp, and 168 pp.

Maps

This is the area map for the path the PCs must take to reach the reef.

Level-4-Map-A

This is the map of Level 1.

Print

This is the map of Level 2.

Print

This is the map of Level 3.

Print

Update and Conclusion

Like last week, this was a much larger dungeon than the first couple. Providing enough experience points to advance a party of five characters a full level becomes a greater challenge each time they go up a level.

Which brings me to a change I’m going to make to the Dungeon-A-Week format starting next week. This blog is a secondary thing for me—it takes a backseat to the work I do on my novels. I’m finding that the blog is taking too much time away from my other writing, and that’s not something I want to let happen.

So, I’m going to continue the Dungeon-A-Week project, but I’m going to put a time limit on myself each week. That means that, as the dungeons go up in level, I’m going to start spreading them across more than one week.

I intend to provide a complete “section” of a dungeon each week, so that it’s usable pretty much right away. It might be the first bunch of rooms, or the first “level” of the dungeon, or so forth. And I’ll try not to spread a particular dungeon over more than 2 or perhaps 3 weeks, as I will continue to keep them simple.

Again, I hope this material is of use to you. If you end up using it, either whole or in parts, please drop a comment and let us know how it went.

 

Dungeon-A-Week #3: The Crypt

Introduction

This is part of a series of posts, Dungeon-A-Week, that I started a few weeks ago. This series contains 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.
  • 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.

This week I present to you Dungeon #3: The Crypt.

The Crypt

  • Location: This dungeon was once a crypt used by an evil noble family to inter and worship their dead. An ornate mausoleum on the surface leads, through a hidden passage, to the tunnels and rooms of the crypt underneath.
  • Hook: Some item or information the PCs need—or perhaps just rumors of a magical item—lead the characters to decide to raid the crypt for treasure. Alternately, the might discover information about the long-dead noble family that indicates some members are still active (though not necessarily alive) and planning some kind of nefarious plot. Someone has to go down there and put them to rest for good.
  • Complications: Parts of the crypt have collapsed, opening it up to tunnels in the earth. A group of bugbears found an entrance to the crypt from the tunnels in the underdark. They are using the west side of the crypt as their lair, and every so often they go out hunting in the underdark by existing through their tunnel.
  • In addition, a small group of darklings managed to come through the summoning circle in room 13 from a weak spot in the Feywild. They have been there only a few days, and have taken refuge in room XX. They are extremely paranoid, and are trying to figure out what to do once their own provisions run out.

Key to the Crypt

The walls, floor, and ceiling of the crypt are stone blocks. This is not dwarven craftsmanship, however, and parts of the crypt have collapsed over time (including a sinkhole that caused part of the floor to drop just a couple of days before the PCs enter the crypt). The debris is a combination of broken stone and hard-packed dirt.

1. Mausoleum

The mausoleum rises some 15 feet above the ground and is carved with all manner of decorations and designs. Nothing about the decorations indicates that this noble family was evil and worshipped the undead.

The inside contains a single large sarcophagus, also carved with ornate designs. The sarcophagus is sealed, though PCs can open it with crowbars and a couple of rounds of chiseling and hammering at the edges. The sarcophagus contains the bones of a long-dead member of the noble household. Surprisingly, there are no objects of value in the sarcophagus—this body was a minor member of the noble house who was placed here as a decoy.

At the base of the sarcophagus, on the side facing north, there is a small latch hidden among the carvings. Pressing the latch causes the secret trapdoor in the floor beside the north wall to open. A ladder leads down twenty feet to a small landing.

2. Stone Staircase

The landing is at the top of a 60-foot-long staircase leading down under the ground. The stone stairs are well-worn, though they are dusty and do not appear to have been used in a very long time.

3. Entry Chamber

This large chamber is 50 feet wide, 90 feet long, and the ceiling is 20 feet high. Pillars line the east and west sides of the room—they are carved in the likenesses of early heads of the noble family (not necessarily recognizable to the PCs). All the doors to this room are made of stone and are kept closed.

This chamber is also dusty. Anyone with a passive Perception score of 13 or more, or anyone taking time to search in the correct area, notices the footprints of four humanoid creatures moving from the doorway to area #5 behind the pillars and to the doorway to area #10. A Wisdom (Survival) check of DC 10 reveals that the tracks are from goblinoids, and a DC 15 reveals they are specifically bugbear tracks.

Note: These tracks were made by four bugbears, all of which are now in room 19.

4. Crypt Hallway

This hallway leads to multiple single crypt chambers. Each of the chambers holds a single sarcophagus, and each sarcophagus contains the bones of a long-dead human. Their clothing has long since rotted away.

The ceiling in the hallway and chambers is only 10 feet high.

Chambers b and d are partially collapsed. Chamber c has fully collapsed and the sarcophagus cannot be reached without many hours of digging with pickaxes, shovels and spades.

Treasure: The bodies were interred with little in the way of treasure. However, the PCs can find a silver ring worth 18 gp (room d), a gold earring shaped like a goose worth 17 gp (room e), a silver pendant worth 17 gp (room b), a gold brooch worth 16 gp (room f), and a silver ring worth 16 gp (room g).

5. Crypt Hallway

This hallway leads to more individual crypt chambers, and a few larger chambers. The chambers are identical to those in area #4, except that each sarcophagus has already been opened by the bugbears looking for treasure. In this hallway, Chamber h is the only that has partially collapsed.

The following two rooms are exceptions to the notes above.

5a. Guard Post

A pair of bugbears stays in this area to keep watch against any incursions by the undead that populate the other areas of the crypt. If the stone door from area #3 is opened, the pair of bugbears move stealthily to the junction and hide at the corner, preparing to ambush anyone who approaches.

In combat, the bugbears attempt to block the entryway. After the first round of combat, when they realize that their opponents are not undead, one of the bugbears flees to room #7a to warn (and join) the bugbears in that area.

Treasure: Each bugbear has some coins tucked into a slit in its armor. The two bugbears have 20 cp and 18 cp, respectively.

5b. Rat’s Nest

This room houses a nest of 12 giant rats, plus 21 baby giant rats (who are too young to fight). While there is no food for the rats within the crypt itself, the soft ground above has allowed them to tunnel up to the surface to forage and then return here to nest. The tunnel exits between the two halves of a split stone block, and creatures of small size or smaller can crawl up the long slope to the surface some distance away from the mausoleum.

The rats immediately swarm and attack anyone opening the door to this chamber. The rats fight to the death to protect their young.

6. “Game” Room

The walls, floor, and ceiling of this room are made from the same stone blocks as the rest of the crypt. The ceiling in this room is 20 feet high. The chamber contains four sarcophagi, already ransacked by the bugbears. A large pile of debris blocks off part of the room, with narrow gaps in the debris (not large for creatures of medium size or larger to get through). The debris piles are only 10 feet high, and can be climbed to reach the other side. The side of the piles facing the blocked-off section are smoother and cannot be climbed (which is why the skeletons haven’t climbed out).

A pair of bugbears found a pair of animated skeletons in this room, and managed to trap them behind some piles of debris. They often amuse themselves with a game they made up—each bugbear takes a turn throwing a stone at the skeletons, and where the stone hits scores a specific amount of points (for example, tossing a stone into a skeleton’s eye socket scores 3 points).

The bugbears immediately notice anyone opening the stone door in this room. As soon as either bugbear sees the PCs, it grabs a piece of stone in one of the debris piles (marked “x” on the map) and yanks it, bringing down the pile and releasing the skeletons.

The skeletons attack the closest living creature in the room. The bugbears know this and attempt to move so that the skeletons attack the PCs instead of them.

Treasure: Each bugbear has some coins tucked into a slit in its armor. The two bugbears have 13 sp and 13 gp, respectively.

7. Large Crypt Chambers

These large three rooms are connected by doorways—the stone doors have broken and fallen away, leaving them permanently open. Each of the rooms is filled with debris from the partially-collapsed walls and ceiling.

While the straight sections of the walls are unbroken stone blocks, the ragged wall sections are a mixture of broken stones and dirt. The debris piles are likewise made of broken ceiling blocks and fallen dirt from above.

The ceiling in these rooms are 20 feet high, and the debris piles go right up to the ceiling.

Three bugbears reside in these chambers, one in each chamber. They generally rest out of sight of the stone doors leading to area #5. If the stone door to a chamber is opened, the bugbear in that chamber automatically hears it (unless something is done to eliminate the loud grinding noise of the door being opened).

An alerted bugbear grabs a small stone out of the debris and throws it into the adjoining room(s), alerting the other bugbears. (The PCs have a chance to hear the clattering stones by making a Wisdom (Perception) check against DC 10.) The bugbears then stealthily move into position so that they can ambush the PCs as the party moves through the rooms.

When the first bugbear launches its surprise attack, the other two bugbears follow suit on the next round. When one of the bugbears is killed, one the remaining bugbears flees toward room #8 to alert the ettin and bring him into the fight.

Treasure: Each bugbear has some coins tucked into a slit in its armor. The three bugbears have 19 cp, 1 pp, and 2 pp, respectively.

8. Ettin’s Nest

Just over a year ago, an ettin wandered into some passages at the back of a cave she was exploring (while looking for a new home). She got lost in the underdark and, after wandering in circles for a few days, encountered the bugbear chief. The chief offered to help the ettin in return for the giant joining his band of bugbears.

The ettin is the nuclear option for the bugbears when an ambush is unsuccessful. The ettin mostly keeps to herself, but loves wading into combat and smashing the life out of some unfortunate victim.

If the ettin is alerted to the PCs’ presence by one of the bugbears, she grabs her weapons and follows the bugbear back out into area #7 and charges into the PCs (assuming they are still near where the bugbear left them).

If the ettin has not been alerted, she is resting in her room when the PCs find her. The bugbears know to knock before opening the stone door, even in an emergency. If the door is opened by the PCs without knocking, the ettin immediately grabs her weapons and attacks whoever is at the door.

The ettin fights until she is down to 20 hit points, at which time she goes on the defensive and yells for the PCs to stop. She refuses to completely surrender, offering her treasure and to “let” the PCs leave in peace, without acknowledging that she was one who lost the fight.

If the PCs battle the ettin in this room and do not close the stone door before the fight starts, the bugbear chief automatically hears the sounds battle and is alerted.

Treasure: The ettin has a pouch with 24 gp, 3 gems each worth 50 gp, a small mirror set in a painted wooden frame (worth 25 gp), and a potion of healing.

9. Bugbear Chief’s Lair

This is the private chambers of the bugbear chief. He spends all his time in this room when he is not leading the bugbears on a raid.

Note: The bugbear chief wears a set of gauntlets of ogre power, which provides him with an additional +1 to attack and damage rolls.

The chief’s bed is a pile of dirty furs, tapestries, and assorted fabrics that have been stolen from various victims over the years—they are all now too permanently soiled and stained to be of any value.

If the bugbear chief heard sounds of battle outside his room, he immediately dons his chain shirt (takes 5 minutes) and will not charge into combat until he has his armor on and his weapons in hand. If the fight is still ongoing once he is ready, he will open his door and enter the fray. If the battle sounds like it is over, he will wait in his room, ready to ambush anyone coming through the door.

The chief is a canny leader who will bargain for his life as soon as he is down to one-quarter of his hit points. He makes escalating offers of his treasure (starting with the coins and working upward) until he has successfully convinced the party not to kill him.

Treasure: The bugbear has a sack that contains his treasure—86 gp, 5 gems worth 50 gp each, a black velvet mask stitched with silver thread (worth 25 gp), a copper chalice with silver filigree (worth 25 gp), a bone scroll tube with a sleep scroll inside, 2 potions of healing, a +1 heavy crossbow with a wooden case containing 20 normal crossbow bolts, and a pearl of power. As noted above, the bugbear chief also has a pair of gauntlets of ogre power that he wears in combat.

10. Undead Guard Chamber

This chamber is the entryway into the rest of the crypt. It was used as a guard post to prevent anyone except members of the noble family from coming through here.

The ceiling in this room is 20 feet high. The tracks of the two bugbears proceed straight across the floor to the door on the opposite wall.

The ambient magic in this room had gone dormant for years due to the lack of activity. When the bugbears passed through the room, they triggered the magic wards, which “woke up” just after the bugbears had left the chamber. The guardians in this room, two skeletons and a minotaur skeleton, are once again aware of their surroundings and are ready to prevent anyone else from passing through this room in either direction.

The minotaur skeleton stands in the alcove to the northeast, one skeleton is in the alcove to the northwest, and one stands in the alcove to the southwest. When any PC steps out of the 10-foot section directly in front of the south door and into the room proper, the minotaur skeleton charges the closest PC, and then the other two skeletons advanced and attack with their weapons.

The skeletons pursue intruders until they are destroyed or the intruders are dead.

11. Main Hallway

The ground under the crypt collapsed into a sinkhole just a couple of days ago, and this has left a permanent alteration to the crypt. A sunken area crosses the hallway, the floor 5 feet lower than the rest of the hallway.

The sides are fairly easy to climb, and there is no chance the PCs will fall into the sunken area unless they have no light sources and no ability to see in the dark.

Note that both “ends” of the sunken area are blocked by tons of debris—it requires many hours of digging with pickaxes, shovels and spades to tunnel into room #17, and many days of digging to tunnel into room #19.

The tracks of the two bugbears are visible in the dust coming from room 10 up to the edge of the pit. The tracks appear again on the east side of the pit and continue along the hallway to the door of room #19.

A second set of tracks, made by four sets of small booted humanoids, comes out of the door to room #13 and stops at the west edge of the pit—these tracks are from the darklings who came from room #13 and took refuse in room #17 before the collapse of that section of the floor (see room #17 and #19 for details).

12. Large Crypt Chamber

The floor of this room is covered in human bones. Twelve sarcophagi are placed here, all seemingly intact.

Among the piles of bones, six skeletons (positions marked by “x” on the map) wait to attack anyone approaching within 5 feet of any of the sarcophagi. They rise from the piles and immediately attack the closest PC—though at least one skeleton attacks the PC who moved within 5 feet of a sarcophagus.

The skeletons attack until destroyed, and will pursue fleeing PCs out of the room.

Like the chambers in area #4, the sarcophagi contain only the bones of humans bodies, their clothing long since rotted away.

Treasure: If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 12 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 2 gp.

13. Summoning Chamber

This chamber was used by the noble family to summon creatures from the outer planes for nefarious purposes. Four sets of small, booted footprints start at the center of the summoning circle and proceed to the door, out into the hallway, and end at the west edge of the sunken pit in the hallway of area #11. These are the boot prints of the darklings that recently came through from the Feywild and hid out in room #17.

A small crack in the sunken depression—a 15-foot-deep pit in the northwest corner of the room—leads to the underdark. It is too small for any creature larger than tiny size to move through. However, the day before the PCs enter the crypt, a black pudding flows up from the underdark and stops in this chamber, enticed by the residual magical energy of the summoning circle.

The black pudding stays in the pit until anyone enters more than 5 feet into the room. The pudding them flows up out of the pit and heads straight for the nearest source of food—the PCs. The ooze follows the PCs if they try to flee, and fights to the death. The ooze pursues and attacks the closest living thing in any area.

14. Huge Crypt Chamber

This vast chamber holds almost thirty simple stone coffins, with more likely buried under the collapsed north end of the room, and a couple partially buried in the southeast section of the room. All the lids of the coffins have been pulled off, and the bones are all broken and scattered around the room.

A ghast and a ghoul got trapped in this room—there is no way to open the stone door of the crypt from the inside—many years before. They scoured the bones for any remaining marrow long ago, and have been waiting here for any chance to get free and eat.

When the PCs open the door to this chamber, both the ghast and the ghoul are curled up in the northwest and southwest corners of the room, respectively. It takes a couple of rounds for them to become fully aware from their long-dormant state. The ghoul is unable to lie in wait, and immediately leaps up to attack the closest PC. The ghast quietly scurries through the shadows between the coffins in order to get close to the party before leaping into combat.

If either creature manages to take down a PC to 0 hit points and is not in immediate danger of attack in the round it gets its next action, it starts feeding on the downed PC (forcing the PC to fail one of its death saves for each round the ghast or ghoul feeds).

Treasure: If the PCs take time to search the room, the find 27 assorted bronze, brass, and copper rings and earrings scattered on the floor amongst the bones, worth 2 sp each.

15. Den of Shadows

The stone sarcophagi in this room have not been disturbed. Two shadows were drawn here by the darkness and evil of this crypt, and have not yet overcome the powerful aura enough to leave. When the PCs enter this room, the shadows hide in the cracks in the walls and wait for the best moment to strike (i.e. when the characters are searching inside the sarcophagi).

Treasure: If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 8 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 2 gp.

16. Empty Room

This room has another 8 sarcophagi, though one has tumbled down the slope of the sunken section of floor, spilling the bones across the floor of the pit.

The floor in the northeast corner is 10 feet lower than the rest of the room. The slope is fairly steep but can be climbed easily.

Treasure: If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 8 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 2 gp.

17. Darkling Lair

This room is difficult to access, as the hallway in front of the door sunk into a 5-foot-deep pit, though the door itself is braced and is at the same height. The shifting of the ground has also warped the frame around the door, requiring a concerted effort to push open. Any characters of Strength 12 or greater can spend 2d4 rounds shoving on the door to get it open.

The four darklings that came through the summoning circle from the Feywild have taken refuge in this room. They have been trapped here in the last two days since the floor collapsed. They are confused, frightened, and ready to lash out at any threat. However, PCs who approach carefully can avoid a fight with the darklings and perhaps make allies with them.

The darklings want nothing more than to get out of the crypt and back above ground. They will not accompany the PCs to explore the rest of the crypt, and can provide information only about the summoning circle and the direct route to this room (though they walked that route before the floor sunk, so their information is out of date already).

Treasure: If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 8 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 3 gp.

18. Empty Room

This is another burial chamber. Twelve stone sarcophagi are stored here, but the room is otherwise empty.

Treasure: If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 12 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 3 gp.

19. Trapped Bugbears

The door to this room has been left open. This room is the one most affected by the sudden collapse of the floor underneath the crypt. A 15-foot-deep pit crosses the room from the northwest to the southeast corner. The sarcophagi that were here have all (but one) fallen into the pit, spilling open and scattering the bones across the floor of the pit.

Two bugbears are trapped on the ledge in the southwest corner. They were exploring the crypt with another pair of bugbears when the floor collapsed. The two other bugbears were killed by the falling sarcophagi. However, the evil aura of the crypt animated them as a pair of zombies.

The zombies have been unable to scale the south wall of the pit and reach the bugbears, so they wait in the pit until they are alerted by the sound of the characters (or the light from their torches/lanterns). When the PCs enter the room, the zombies climb up the north side of the pit (which is much shallower) and attack the PCs. The zombies fight until they are destroyed.

Once the fight breaks out between the characters and the zombies, the bugbears leap off their ledge, cross the pit, and climb back up toward the door. They attempt to break out of this room, attacking anyone who gets in their way. The bugbears only goal is to escape and get back to the other bugbears.

Treasure: Each bugbear (and bugbear zombie) has some coins tucked into a slit in its armor. The two bugbears have 9 sp and 12 gp, respectively, and the two bugbear zombies have 10 sp and 15 sp, respectively. If the PCs open the sarcophagi, they can find 12 pieces of jewelry of assorted types (rings, earrings, etc.), each piece worth 2 gp.

20. Worship Chamber

This large chamber is where the nobles worshipped their evil god of undeath. The ceiling is 40 feet high, and the platform on the left side of the room is 10 feet above the floor of the chamber. In the center of the east wall is a large blood-stained altar to the god of undeath. The entire room is decorated in unsettling carvings reflecting death in all its many forms.

Four pillars rise from the floor of the chamber on the west side of the room. These are carved to resemble the god of undeath in various poses.

When the PCs enter, a cloaked and hooded figure stands unmoving in front of the altar. This figure is a wight who has stayed in the crypt for centuries, continuing its worship of its dark god. An additional cloaked figure stands in front of each of the four pillars (marked with “x” on the map). These four figures are zombies who have not decayed into skeletons due to the aura of undeath that permeates the crypt.

None of the figures reacts to the presence of the characters until a) a PC approaches to within 10 feet of one of the figures, or b), the party attempts to climb up onto the platform. When either of these conditions are met, the zombies launch into motion towards the PCs and attempt to pummel them to death.

The wight spins and throws off its cloak, revealing its ornate leather armor and blood-encrusted sword. It immediately sizes up the party and then leaps to the attack, targeting the most tactically-important character before moving on to the next.

21. Trapped Room

This room is a large trap, used to prevent PCs from reaching the vault where the noble family’s treasure is kept.

The room’s ceiling is 15 feet high, and the walls are covered with ornate carvings that resemble an army of marching skeletons.

Trigger. The trap activates when any PC steps into the 10-foot-square in front of the falling stone door (marked with “x” on the map). The DC is 16 to find (or passively notice) the trigger plate in the floor. To find or notice the gas pipes hidden in the wall before the gas begins to flow, the check is DC 20. Once the gas begins to flow from the pipes, the DC drops to 12.

Initiative. The trap activates on initiative count 15.

Active Elements. The trap seals off the room and fills it with poison gas (which is not visible, but does have a noticeable scent).

Stone Slabs (Initiative 15). A solid stone slab slides down from the ceiling, blocking both the entrance and exit doors (marked on the map with dotted lines).

Poison Gas (Initiative 15). Six nozzles hidden among the carvings on the walls pour poison gas into the room. On the first round, the gas can be heard and smelt, but has no effect on creatures in the room. On each subsequent round, each creature inside the room must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Countermeasures. There are two main ways the trap can be overcome.

Open the Doors. Getting the doors open is the fastest way to circumvent the trap, but the stone slabs are heavy. To lift a slab high enough that characters can crawl through, a character must succeed at a DC 20 Strength check. The stone slab is wide enough that up to two additional characters can assist with this check. Unless the character(s) hold the slab, however, it drops back down into place. If the characters make three successful DC 20 Strength checks in a row, they manage to lift the slab high enough that it locks back into place and stays open. Each check takes an action. Once both doors are lifted back into place, the gas stops flowing and the trap is reset.

Block the Pipes. The flow of gas can be stopped by blocking all six pipes (locations marked with “a” on the map) with a cloak or similar object. Once blocked, someone must remain to hold the blocking object in place (unless the characters come up with a way to prevent the force of the gas from pushing the object out of the pipe). If the character block up all six pipes in the first round, they take no damage from the gas. If they start blocking the pipes after the first round, they must still make saving throws to avoid the damage for another five rounds after all the pipes are blocked. After five rounds of being blocked, the gas backs up and triggers the trap reset—the stone slabs rise into the ceiling and the gas stops flowing.

If the characters do not open either door or block the gas, the poison continues to flow into the room for 30 rounds (29 saving throws). After that time, the trap resets. If the characters manage to prop open (or lock in place) only one of the doors, the gas continues to flow for 120 rounds (the entire reservoir of gas) before it is empty.

If only the door to the vault is kept open, the vault begins to fill with the gas as well. After 10 rounds, anyone in the vault must start making saving throws to avoid taking damage from the poison gas (same DC and damage as above).

22. Vault

This room is where the noble family kept some of their treasure. It is obvious that this room was ransacked at some point in the distant past, and all coins, gems, jewels, and magic items have been removed.

If the party has come to this crypt for a particular item, then it is found in this vault. If the party is after information, then the vault contains a small library with histories of the family, treatises on death, unholy texts about their god, and tomes containing the information the party is searching for.

The ceiling in this room is 25 feet high, and in each of the four corners near the ceiling is a platform with a carved stone gargoyle looking down into the vault. One of the statues is an actual gargoyle that was placed here as a guardian. If anyone enters the vault who is not a member of the ancient noble family, the gargoyle attacks the interlopers.

In addition to the placed guardian, a spirit of one of the nobles still haunts the vault. On the round after the gargoyle attacks, a specter emerges through the wall behind the rearmost party member. It also seeks to slay any living members of the party.

Both the gargoyle and specter pursue the party if they flee the area—the specter stops pursuing if the party reaches daylight—and both fight until destroyed.

Map

Here is the map for the crypt.

Level-3-Map

Conclusion

This was obviously a longer adventure than the previous two. As the levels go higher, it takes more encounters for a party of five characters to gain a level. Obviously, this adventure will be much more difficult for a party without a cleric (or anyone with the ability to turn undead). And it will likely take more than one or even two sessions to complete.

As usual, if you end up using this adventure, please drop a comment to let us know how it went.

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.