Adventure Locales09/29/2004

The Sea Cave

You can place this cave encounter on the shoreline of any sea. It fits best where pirates are likely to operate, such as in the Sea of Fallen Stars or the Sword Coast. The Shining Sea is a possibility as well, as are the seas farther south. This place can either be a curiosity and a place to gather some wealth, or a dangerous place that may mean the death of a character. The encounter here is very difficult and is suitable for four 2nd-level characters.

A meandering path winds along the cliff overlooking the sea. Sometimes it can get down to a few feet above sea level, and sometimes it climbs much higher up the cliffside. The people who wore this path are long gone, but some part of them lives on. This path sees little use nowadays; the locals have easier ways to get to the sea and their fishing places.

As the path reaches the level of the sea yet again, it wanders a little inland, and then rounds a turn to the left and back toward the sea. At this turn, a side path leads into some trees. The side path is almost as wide as the main path, but weeds still overgrow it while the main path remains free of them. About 40 feet down the side path and to the left is a cave entrance. The entrance gapes darkly, though some trees hang down and partially block it. Old and crumpled leaves and debris cover the path and ground before the entrance.

Human smugglers and pirates once used this cave as a base of operations. About six months ago, though, the local navy tracked them to this base. When the locals raided the cave, they found no sign of the pirates. It appeared as if they were away on a raid. The local military watched the cave for a few weeks, and finally determined that the pirates had been scared off. They raided the cave and removed every bit of loot left behind. The fate, or location, of the pirates remained a mystery.

Within the last three months, a few ships have been lost to what is presumed to be pirates. The local military checked the cave again, but they found no sign of life. The local officials then forgot it as they concentrated their search elsewhere.

No humans have been here in more than a month. The last group that entered the cave was a group of smugglers that wanted to use the cave as a base, but the five of them met their end here. A DC 30 Track check allows characters to detect the old presence of humans on the trail. Near the cave mouth, however, the PCs can find some tracks. It takes a DC 29 Track check to locate them. Anyone who finds them can tell they are about two weeks old and made by a humanoid about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds. They appear around the edges of the opening, not in the middle area.

The 10 foot by 10 foot area in front of the cave conceals a pit trap. Pirates originally dug the pit some years ago, and then they dragged planks across it to carry loot in and out. The current occupant of the cavern still uses the pit as a deterrent and warning system. A number of ceramic crocks are piled up at the bottom of the pit where someone is likely to land, so the victim breaks them and makes a lot of noise when hitting the ground. The sound of the victim hitting the crocks echoes into the cave.

Covered Pit Trap: CR 5; mechanical; location trigger; repair reset; DC 15 Reflex save avoids; 20 ft. deep (2d6, fall); multiple targets (all within 10-ft. square); pit spikes (Atk +20 melee; 1d4 spearlike pieces of debris per target for 1d8/x3 each); Search DC 20; Disable Device DC 20. Market Price: 16,000 gp.

The cave entrance itself is about 10 feet wide and about 8 feet high; blackness is the only thing visible within. The cave mouth opens into a cave about 10 feet long by 10 feet wide, with a 5-foot-wide passage going deeper underground on the right wall. This cave has a few bones thrown into a back corner, but nothing else. The bones can be identified as humanoid with a successful DC 15 Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (nature) check, and as human with a successful DC 20 check. This cave has shadowy illumination because of the opening to the outside. PCs need light sources or darkvision to make their way down the passage that leads inward.

In the days of pirates and smugglers, goods were broken down in this room into boxes or chests that would fit down the narrow passage. Usually a lookout stood watch here as well. The bones are his.

The narrow passage leads down 10 feet and then turns left (toward the sea) and goes another 10 feet before opening into a chamber about 50 feet wide by 60 feet long. The ceiling is 15 feet high, and a couple of stalactites hang downward about 6 feet. This main chamber of the small cave system is roughly square, but it has small niches every few squares along the walls.

Characters can find a number of items left by past occupants, as well as the remains of a number of these occupants. Bones litter the floor as if some ogre had eaten in here. All the bones are human (Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (nature) check DC 10 because of the presence of skulls) and strewn randomly. If PCs collect them and compare them, they can determine that about fourteen people contributed their bones to the refuse.

About fifty long wooden poles are stacked near the entrance passage. They are used to rebuild the pit trap's cover.

Two narrow passages exit this cavern. One goes out the opposite wall from the entrance (and toward the sea), and the other goes out the left wall.

A DC 10 Survival check (or a Search check DC 10) allows PCs to notice some watery footprints in the ground. They lead through this chamber from the passage in the back wall to just before the entrance passage, and then return. The prints are of a humanoid and were made with bare feet. They do not appear as if the maker hurried.

The passage entrance on the left wall leads down a 5-foot passage to a smaller irregular cavern where eleven cots and five hammocks are set in as regular a pattern as could be managed in this room. The hammocks hang from bolts in the ceiling rock. A chest sits at the foot of each bed. The chests have been opened and ransacked, but nothing taken (as far as the PCs can tell anyway). The chests all contain clothing and personal effects owned by the former occupants. There is nothing of real value here.

The passage in the rear of the main cavern leads down a winding 20-foot-long passage to a smaller cavern that is half-filled with seawater. At this point, a tunnel goes underneath the path outside and connects with the sea. The cavern is about 30 feet square, though irregular, and the watery section is about 10 feet by 30 feet in the back. The dry side of this small chamber holds another pile of bones, maybe enough for two humans. A successful DC 20 Heal or Survival check reveals that the bones were gnawed on within the past two days.

This chamber is the lair of a sea hag named Maraglynis. About seven months ago, she found this cave and the pirate group. They provided an easy source of food, and by the time the local navy found this cave she had consumed all the pirates and hidden their remains. The officials cleared out the loot but left behind the cots and hammocks in the side cave.

Maraglynis sees this cave as a long-term home and would like to remain undetected. To this end, she reset the pit trap at the entrance and keeps it maintained. She also added the crocks at the bottom, as an alarm system. When she hears the breaking crockery, she moves to see what creatures are entering the cave. She attacks groups that she feels she can overcome, and then clears out remains and gear. She thinks that provided she can keep the cave free and clear of anything new that would tip off the local and those investigating piracy, she can live in peace.

Whether Maraglynis attacks the PCs depends on how they explore the cavern. She might think she can handle them, especially if they bungle around in the dark and use light sources, but if attacking would jeopardize the safety of her hiding place then she might refrain, and lurk underwater until they leave.

Maraglynis: Female sea hag rogue 1; CR 4; Medium monstrous humanoid (aquatic); HD 3d8+6 plus 1d6+1; hp 23; Init +1; Spd 30 ft., swim 40 ft.; AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14; Base Atk +3; Grp +7; Atk +7 melee (1d4+4, 2 claws); Full Atk +7 melee (1d4+4, 2 claws); SA evil eye, horrific appearance, sneak attack +1d6; SQ amphibious, darkvision 60 ft., skills, spell resistance 14, trapfinding; AL CE; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +4; Str 19, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 14.

Skills and Feats: Craft (trapmaking) +7, Hide +6, Listen +6, Move Silently +3, Spot +6, Swim +12; Alertness, Toughness.

Evil Eye (Su): Three times per day, Maraglynis can cast her dire gaze upon any single creature within 30 feet. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Will save or be dazed for three days, although remove curse or dispel evil can restore sanity sooner. In addition, an affected creature must succeed on a DC 14 Fortitude save or die from fright. Creatures with immunity to fear effects are not affected by Maraglynis's evil eye. The save DCs are Charisma-based.

Horrific Appearance (Su): The sight of Maraglynis is so revolting that anyone (other than another hag) who sets eyes upon her must succeed on a DC 14 Fortitude save or instantly be weakened, taking 2d6 points of Strength damage. This damage cannot reduce a victim's Strength score below 0, but anyone reduced to Strength 0 is helpless. Creatures that are affected by this power or that successfully save against it cannot be affected again by Maraglynis's horrific appearance for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Sneak Attack (Ex): Maraglynis deals 1d6 extra points of damage on any successful attack against flat-footed or flanked targets, or against a target that has been denied its Dexterity bonus for any reason. This damage also applies to ranged attacks against targets up to 30 feet away. Creatures with concealment, creatures without discernible anatomies, and creatures immune to extra damage from critical hits are all immune to sneak attacks. Maraglynis may choose to deliver nonlethal damage with her sneak attack, but only when using a weapon designed for that purpose, such as a sap (blackjack).

Amphibious (Ex): Although Maraglynis is aquatic, she can survive indefinitely on land.

Skills: Maraglynis has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. Maraglynis can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. Maraglynis can use the run action while swimming, provided she swims in a straight line.

Trapfinding (Ex): Maraglynis can find, disarm, or bypass traps with a DC of 20 or higher. She can use the Search skill to find, and the Disable Device skill to disarm, magic traps (DC 25 + the level of the spell used to create it). If her Disable Device result exceeds the trap's DC by 10 or more, she discovers how to bypass the trap without triggering or disarming it.

Possessions: Bracers of armor +1, oil of darkness, potion of cat's grace, potion of cure moderate wounds, potion of invisibility, salve of slipperiness, piece of black coral (100 gp).

Alternative Background

Maraglynis could also be trying to find something specific on nearby ships or she could be preying on ships hoping to cause rumors of piracy to be stirred up. Either case could be at the behest of some more powerful evil being who holds her in its sway or who has promised her something in return. If this is the case, make the following changes to the set-up of the cave:

The bones are newer and all show signs of gnawing (Search or Spot check DC 10 on the bones); someone ate these people. Ripped clothing, torn leather armor, and torn packs and sacks and pouches lie thrown in the back corner. A small collection of useful weapons is scattered around as well: 6 rapiers, 8 shortswords, 3 shortbows (no arrows), 9 daggers, and a light mace. Some look like they were dropped, and some are on a crate in the center of the room.

The chamber holds about 35 crates and chests (total), all stacked in a sloppy fashion. The containers hold silks, artwork, ceramics, and bronze pieces worth a total of 1,020 gp (that is what the PCs can sell everything for). Feel free to roll on the treasure tables for specific items if the players are interested. The crates bear the markings of nearby nations. Depending on where you locate this locale, these could include Sembia, Cormyr, Westgate, and Turmish (all on the Sea of Fallen Stars), or Waterdeep, Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan (on the Sword Coast), or Calimshan, Halruaa, Thindol, and Tashalar (on the Shining Sea).

The passage in the rear of the main cavern leads down a winding 20-foot-long passage to a smaller cavern that is half-filled with seawater. At this point, a tunnel goes underneath the path outside and connects with the sea. The cavern is about 30 feet square, though irregular, and the watery section is about 10 feet by 30 feet in the back. The dry side of this small chamber holds another pile of bones, maybe enough for two humans. A successful DC 20 Heal or Survival check reveals that the bones were gnawed on within the past two days.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide.

About the Author

Robert Wiese is a veteran of the RPGA offices, where he worked for seven years and has been a member since early 1991. In that time he has written over 60 adventure scenarios for the club, a couple of articles for Polyhedron, and the Living Force Campaign Guide (the last one with Morrie Mullins). He also got the Living Greyhawk and Living Force campaigns off the ground and into the hands of wonderful members to develop. Now he works at the University of Nevada at Reno in the Biochemistry department, proving that you never can tell where you'll end up.

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