This encounter works best if the PCs' average level is one to three levels lower than the EL. The encounter with the roper will be much more challenging and interesting if the PCs must struggle to defeat it.
This scenario assumes the PCs enter the area from the eastern side of the room rather than coming from the direction of the large caves in the southeastern section of the dungeon (check out the next few articles to learn more about that area). If they do not, modify the encounter to suit your needs.
As the PCs enter the area depicted on the map, you can give them a chance to hear the screaming of the kobolds as they run through the dungeon. If they do, they have a round to prepare for what is coming. If they don't hear the kobolds, you can start the encounter right away. If they block the eastern door before the kobolds enter, the combat works a little differently. See the Blocking the Eastern Door section for a description of how this changes the encounter.
The PCs likely think of kobolds as laughable threats, and they're right. In this encounter, the kobolds serve as a distraction that obscures the real threat: a roper.
Place twelve kobolds in the room, tracing a single-move running path for each of them from their starting positions shown on the map. Have the players roll for initiative, roll for the kobolds, and secretly roll for the roper. The kobolds try to avoid the PCs if they can, but they fight their way through if the PCs threaten areas they must run through to escape through the western door.
When it is the roper's turn, read or paraphrase the following:
The roper has arrived and stands in the next room at the location marked "R" on the map. From the next room it attacks the PCs, using its enormous reach to its advantage. If a PC moves up to fight it, or if it drags a PC into the room, it shuts the door between itself and the other PCs with one of its strand attacks. It can do this because the dragging ability of its strands allows it to pull the door shut. If it wants to push a door open or closed, it must use a standard action like anyone else.
The roper is looking for a meal, and the kobolds make easy pickings. When the kobold it grabbed reaches it 2 rounds later, it bites the reptilian in half. If the PCs feel like saving the kobold, they need to work fast.
Note that spellcasters will likely have little or no chance of beating the roper's spell resistance. Allow a PC with Knowledge (arcana) ranks to make a check and learn that fact. That means that spellcasters must rely on spells that do not allow spell resistance -- typically spells cast on allies and conjuration effects.
Kobolds (13): Use the statistics on page 161 of the Monster Manual for kobolds. There have been many great kobold miniatures you can use, but the Kobold Miner (38/60) from the Underdark miniatures set is particularly appropriate.
You might also consider using Kobold Warrior (48/80) from the Harbinger miniatures set, Kobold Skirmisher (35/60) from the Dragoneye miniatures set, Kobold Champion (37/60) from the Aberrations miniatures set, Kobold Sorcerer (38/60) from the Aberrations miniatures set, Kobold Soldier (44/60) from the Angelfire miniatures set. If you like, you can use the statistics on their cards instead of those from the Monster Manual. It won't increase the difficulty of the encounter appreciably, but it will make the kobolds a more interesting element of the encounter.
The kobolds once lived in the western part of the large cavern of this level of Undermountain. A change in the eastern end of the cavern caused many cave inhabitants to shift their habitats westward, and the kobolds fled their home to seek a new place to live in Undermountain. They had been camping in the room just outside the cavern and were feeling fairly safe until the roper broke in and chased them out.
If spoken to, the kobolds relate the reason for their fear ("A kobold-eating rock with arms as long as dragons!") and plead to be allowed to pass. If kobolds are alive and in the area once the roper is dead, they explain their plight in exchange for their lives and freedom. The kobolds won't go back to the cavern willingly or travel with the PCs, preferring to go it on their own in Undermountain rather than trust the PCs.
Roper (1): Use the statistics for the Roper (56/60) from the Underdark miniatures set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics from the Monster Manual.
The roper lived in the large cavern but it found its home too crowded by other creatures. As a result, it was seeking a new hunting range when it happened upon the kobold tribe. The kobolds make quick meals, so it's pleased to slaughter as many of them as it can snatch up with its tentacles.
If the PCs somehow parlay with the roper, it can explain how a larger-than-normal amount of activity in the cavern's eastern side convinced it to find a new hunting ground. It can describe "robed ones like you" moving about and claiming territory in the cavern, but it doesn't know specifics; even the color of their robes is a mystery as it saw them with darkvision.
Treasure: The roper's body contains a few small gemstones: a ruby worth 100 gp, a ruby worth 200 gp, four rubies worth 25 gp, a diamond worth 500 gp, and two emeralds worth 50 gp. It also contains a gem of brightness with 35 charges.
Blocking the Eastern Door
If the players react to the noise of the kobolds by holding shut the eastern door, the kobolds bang against the door a few times but are then chased north. They outpace the roper and get to the northern door of the room in about 5 rounds. The roper might follow them, taking 11 rounds to reach the northern door. If the roper can hear the players on the other side of the door, it instead attempts to push the door open while the kobolds run around. This results in an opposed Strength check with a PC if a PC is holding the door shut. If it can't get the door open in 3 rounds, it follows the kobolds.
Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins
Check out the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.
About the AuthorOnce 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.