Return to Undermountain03/23/2005

Room 2: Down on Their Luck (EL 2)

Room Summary

Creatures: (3) Three 1st-level orc warriors.
Traps: None, but caltrops are spread about the floor near the door.
Terrain: The orcs have spread caltrops in the squares around the western door to slow and injure attackers. If overwhelmed, the orcs attempt to jump over the caltrops and flee, counting on the spikes to hinder their pursuers.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: None, but the walls are inscribed with several spells. See the Relevant Skill Checks sidebar.
Detectable Alignments:Three faint evil auras (the three orcs).
Secrets: (2) There is a secret door, and spells are inscribed on the walls. See the Relevant Skill Checks sidebar.
Treasure: Caltrops strewn about the floor, orcs' equipment (see creatures' statistics), spells inscribed on the walls. See the Relevant Skill Checks sidebar.

Relevant Skill Checks

Listen DC 22: Whether through the secret door to the south or the normal door to the west, a character can hear the orcs whispering by succeeding to this degree on a Listen check. Beating the DC by 10 or more allows a PC to hear that the orcs are arguing about what to do and agreeing to gamble to decide. For each 10 feet of distance from the nearest door, the DC increases by +1.

Search DC 15: This result allows a PC to discover the spells carved into the walls and hidden among the other carvings. To a PC without Spellcraft ranks or spellcasting ability, they seem to be a foreign language, but other PCs can recognize them as spells.

Search DC 20: Getting this result on a Search check allows the PCs to discover the secret door in the south wall. The door can be opened simply by pushing. It swings both ways, but it is heavy and requires a DC 15 Strength check.

Spellcraft DC 15+: The DC increases by +1 for each level of the spell. A successful check allows a PC wizard to learn or prepare the spell inscribed on the wall (assuming the PC has used read magic or Spellcraft to understand the spell first).

Spellcraft DC 20+: The DC increases by +1 for each level of the spell. A successful check allows a PC to read the spell inscribed on the wall and determine what it is.

The Map

The map for this room is available in two different sizes: One serves as a reference for the DM, and the other is a map with a grid that works nicely with your miniatures.

Each map is presented as a compressed (zipped) Adobe Portable Document Format file (pdf). You need to have Adobe Reader installed to use it. Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free from the Adobe website.

Room Location on the Poster Map: This room is on piece 5 of the poster map. You can see the pieces in thumbnail size in the introduction to this series. For a better idea of where this room is, please view the Article Reference Map.

Read the following aloud, adjusting as necessary for successful Listen checks and the like:

The floor about the door is strewn with caltrops, and the walls of this dusty room bear engravings of robed figures bearing staffs, wands, scrolls, spellbooks, and other symbols of arcane spellcasting. It also holds three snarling orcs warriors! Already on their feet when you enter, they draw their weapons and shout at you in their crude language.

Three orc warriors rest in this room. Their squad was on patrol in the northern part of level one of the dungeon when three trolls attacked it. These three fled through the tunnels along with two companions, and a troll stayed close on their heels. A trap claimed one orc, and the troll stopped to eat it. The remaining four orcs continued to flee, and they finally decided to rest in this room. Confused by their long flight through the dungeon, the orcs sent their least injured companion to scout and get their bearings. She hasn't returned. Now healed and ready to continue, the orcs are settling an argument about what to do by playing a game of knucklebones. One orc wants to set out together to find their tribe; another wants to find a way to flee to the surface, fearing that the tribe won't accept them after their cowardice and long absence; and the third wants to look for their scout.

Although eager for the outcome of their contest, the orcs are worried about being trapped in the room (they don't know about the secret door), and they keep an ear cocked for sounds outside their room. (DMs may want to allow the orcs to make Listen checks of their own.) If confronted by PCs who outnumber them, the orcs try to frighten them off, shouting in Orc and brandishing their weapons. The orcs attack wounded PCs or a number of PCs of equal or smaller number. In either case, the orcs attempt to flee if the fighting goes poorly, jumping over the caltrops and heading north and west.

Orc Warriors (3): hp 5 each; Monster Manual page 203 (or use the statistics for the Orc Warrior miniature from the Harbingerset).

Treasure: The PCs can collect the orcs' equipment and three bags worth of caltrops from the floor. In addition, the walls of the room are carved with cleverly hidden spells. Wizards can learn these spells and copy them into their spellbooks according to the rules in the Player's Handbook. The spells are arcane eye, binding, hold portal, light, and arcane sensitivity. Arcane sensitivity , presented here, appears in Shining South, a sourcebook for the Forgotten Realms setting. This book contains tons of great spells, monsters, magic items, and plot ideas that you can easily adapt for your campaign.

Arcane Sensitivity
Level: Sorcerer/wizard 1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: One creature touched
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

With a touch, you instantly determine if a creature can cast arcane spells and the maximum spell level it can cast.

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • You can make the encounter more difficult by using tougher orcs. A number of orc miniatures could provide a greater challenge to your players' PCs. Here are a few: Orc Archer (CR 1, Harbinger), Orc Berserker (CR 1, Harbinger), Orc Spearfighter (CR 2, Harbinger), Orc Brute (CR 1, Giants of Legend), Orc Champion (CR 7, Archfiends), Orc Raider (CR 3, Archfiends), Mountain Orc (CR 2, Aberrations), Orc Sergeant (CR 3, Aberrations), Orc Savage (CR 2, Deathknell).

  • One of the spells on the wall could be a spell long lost to wizards and unknown to sorcerers. When the PCs cast it or talk about it in public, a group of evil wizards sets about stealing the spellbook from the PC wizard.

  • The spells on the wall are an excellent way to introduce spells you want your players' PCs to cast. Also, granting them knowledge of a spell they wouldn't cast (such as a spell with the Evil descriptor) can prepare them to face its use by an NPC at a later point.

  • If the PCs talk to the orcs, the encounter can end without bloodshed. The orcs want only to be left alone, and they leave if allowed. This might make the orcs friendly to the PCs during a later encounter, possibly winning them allies in a later battle with orcs.

Need more information? Check the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.

Article Reference Map

About the Author

Once editor-in-chief of Dragon Magazine and now a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Matthew Sernett wrote in a Dragon editorial that there's nothing in D&D he likes better than when the adventurers flee through the dungeon, running pell-mell through traps and past monsters because what chases them is worse. When he wrote that, Matthew was thinking about Undermountain.

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