Return to Undermountain
Room 18: No Place Like Home (EL 3)
By Matthew Sernett

Room Summary

Creatures: (8) Eight goblin warriors.
Traps: (1) A ledge over the water will break away when stepped on. See Break-Away Ledge (below) for a description.
Terrain: Floors are normal, but broken pillars have special rules (see Relevant Checks), and calm water is under the floor.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: Faint illusion (the treasure).
Detectable Alignments: Faint evil (goblins).
Secrets: (2) See Traps above and Treasure below (a magic item lies beneath the water).
Treasure: (250 gp plus) An elixir of sneaking bobs in the water.

Relevant Skill Checks

Balance DC 10: Although the pillars are fairly wide, their tops are wet and broken. A PC on a pillar must balance to maintain her footing. When a PC jumps onto a pillar, tries to jump off a pillar, or takes damage while balancing on a pillar, the PC must make a Balance check. When a PC is balancing, the PC is considered flat-footed unless the PC has 5 ranks of Balance.

A failure by 4 or less prevents any more movement that round. A failure by 5 or more results in the PC falling. A falling PC can make a DC 15 Reflex save to grab the side of the pillar and hang beside it to avoid hitting the water. See page 67 of the Player's Handbook for more details.

Balance DC 10: The boards the goblins use to cross over the water are roughly 10 inches wide and thus require Balance checks. When a PC is balancing, the PC is considered flat-footed unless the PC has 5 ranks of Balance.

A failure by 4 or less prevents any more movement that round. A failure by 5 or more results in the PC falling. A falling PC can make a DC 15 Reflex save to grab the board and hang beneath it to avoid hitting the water. See page 67 of the Player's Handbook for more details.

Climb DC 15: Climbing the side of a pillar is considerably easier than climbing a wall (which is DC 20).

Jump DC Varies: PCs can step to adjacent pillars, but other distances require a Jump check. A pillar edge is 1 foot inside its square, thus no jumping distance is less that 7 feet. Remember that standing jumps double the DC. See page 77 of the Player's Handbook for more information.

Search DC 12: A search of the water can reveal the presence of the treasure.

Spot DC 16: A PC that can see the surface of the water and succeeds on a Spot check to this degree can spy the corked top of the potion bottle bobbing in the water. See Treasure for details.

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 7 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.

If the PCs do not approach this encounter from the north, adjust the encounter accordingly. Read aloud or paraphrase the following text when the PCs reach the area.

In a hallway off this room you can see a gaping hole in the floor. Part of the hall seems to have fallen away, leaving a few supporting pillars at about floor height. Beyond the hole you can see a 2-1/2-foot-tall heap of stone, wood, and cast-off weapons. It doesn't look like rubble from the ceiling or like a pile of broken floor pieces. You can't see what's in the hole in the floor, but its sheer sides seem damp.

Several goblins call this section of Undermountain home. They've taken advantage of dungeon terrain to create a defensible resting area. A water-filled pit yawns below an area once occupied by slate floor. Within the pit stand several pillars while other broken pillars lurk beneath the water. The area might once have served as a natural cistern, or perhaps a pit trap once guarded the hall but has since been lost. In any event, the goblins guard their position fiercely.

If the PC aren't carrying any light sources, the goblins need to make Listen checks to learn of the PCs before they enter the range of the goblin's darkvision (60 feet). Assuming the goblins know the PCs are coming, they hide behind the barricades they've made out of dungeon detritus and peek over the tops or through cracks. In such a case, make Hide checks for the goblins.

The goblins don't initiate an attack until a PC has jumped onto a pillar, gone into the water, or otherwise come close to them. Their goal is to stay behind cover and throw javelins at the PCs. They focus attacks on balancing or climbing PCs to make them fall in the water. They largely ignore swimming PCs unless the PC causes them damage or no more PCs are active and out of the water.

If a goblin runs out of javelins (each carries 5), it retreats and allows another goblin to take its place. If they all run out of javelins or are taking too many casualties in the fight, they retreat to total cover and hope to make a stand in melee against the PCs. The goblins behind the walls wait to relieve a fallen comrade or to take their place as throwers when one runs out of javelins.

Should the PCs attempt to parlay, the goblins make a show of listening, even going so far as to offer a board for the PCs to cross. As soon as a PC is in a vulnerable position above the water, such as when crossing over a board, the goblins kick out the board and attack.

Pillars: The pillars once held a floor above the water. Now that floor lies beneath the water, and the pillars remain standing. The goblins use wooden boards to cross the pillars, keeping unused boards in their sleeping area. The top of each pillar is rough and slippery, requiring Balance checks (see the Relevant Checks sidebar). Jumping from pillar to pillar might lead to a fall to the water 10 feet below. Adjacent pillars would be a 5-foot adjustment, but the need for keeping balance makes the 5-foot adjustment impossible. Thus, even a step to an adjacent pillar requires 10 feet of movement.

Break-Away Ledge:CR 1/3; mechanical; touch trigger; no reset; unavoidable fall to the water; Search DC 15; Disable Device DC --.

A section of floor remains attached to the wall over the water. Having fallen prey to another such section already, the goblins know it to be unstable and avoid stepping on it. When a character puts weight on the floor section, it detaches from the wall and dumps the PC into the water.

Barricades: The goblins have created barricades out of rubble, rotting boards, and other dungeon detritus. They stand roughly 2-1/2 feet tall and provide the goblins standing behind them with cover (+4 to AC). Although made of strong materials, the barricades are poorly constructed.

Barricade: 1 ft. thick; hardness 9; hp 25; break DC 11.

Goblin Skirmisher (8): Use the statistics for the Goblin Skirmisher (31/60) from the Harbingerminiatures set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics from the Monster Manual.

Water: No dangers lurk in the water (unless you put them there), and the water is perfectly potable (if you don't mind the idea that a goblin might have fallen into it once or twice). The goblins keep the water clear of bodies and other refuse since it serves them as their source of fluids.

Treasure: An elixir of sneaking bobs in the water, left here by a past victim of the goblins. It floats cork up near one of the walls.

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • Although technically an EL 3 encounter, you should consider using this encounter against lower-level PCs. A wand of magic missile can make short work of the goblins, forcing them to hide around the corner rather than throw javelins at jumping PCs, and a 3rd-level PC is likely to have better bonuses on the relevant skill checks. This encounter will be more fun for you and the players if there's more risk. However, 1st-level PCs might find this combat very difficult. If so, you can reduce the EL by diminishing the number of goblins and artificially reducing the Jump and Balance DC.

    This encounter could be a goblin guard post protecting the rest of the tribe. The five rooms beyond this one are separated from the rest of the dungeon and make a great lair for the goblins or some other creature that uses the goblins as guardians.

  • You can increase the EL of the encounter by adding more goblins. Other cool goblin options include the Goblin Warrior (Harbinger, 32/60), Snig the Axe (Archfiends, 8/60), the Silent Wolf Goblin (Aberrations 3/60), and the Goblin Adept (Death Knell, 4/60).

    You can also increase the encounter difficulty slightly by having some of the broken pillars lying a foot or two beneath the water's surface. Then a PC or goblin that falls into one of those squares takes 1d6 points of damage.

  • You could change the encounter by making the area around the pillars be a dry pit or have it be filled by some other material such as diseased water or even acid.

  • Consider adding a monster to the water beneath the floor. Perhaps there's a sea cat in the water, which the goblins periodically feed but keep hungry. The monster might have gotten into the water through some now-closed link to the ocean, or perhaps Halaster put it there on a whim.

  • The watery area beneath the floor could lead to a heretofore undiscovered section of Undermountain -- even an entire sublevel.

Check out 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.

1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.