Return to Undermountain01/25/2006


Room 22: Cavern, Part 1 (EL 2, 12, and 12)



Prevailing Cavern Summary

Creatures: (Many) See area descriptions and the Other Cavern Inhabitants sidebar.

Traps: None.

Terrain: Cavern Floor:DC 10 Balance check to charge or run.

Cavern Ceiling: DC 25 Climb check and DC increases by +5 if surface is slippery.

Cavern Wall:Hit points vary based on thickness (hardness 8), Climb DC 20.

Fungus Forest Squares (see map): Costs 2 squares of movement to enter this difficult terrain.

Lighting Conditions: Darkness and shadowy illumination (mushrooms, fire beetles, will-o'-wisps).

Magic: None.

Detectable Alignments: See area descriptions.

Secrets: None.

Treasure: None.

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 pieces 7 and 8 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.

Area A Summary

Creatures: (6) Six giant fire beetles.
Traps: None.
Terrain: As prevailing cavern.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: None.
Detectable Alignments: None.
Secrets: None.
Treasure: None.

Area B Summary

Creatures: (6) Five scrags and one troll hunter.
Traps: None.
Terrain: As prevailing cavern, plus 15-foot-deep pool.
Lighting Conditions: Shadowy illumination due to fungus forest.
Magic: See Treasure.
Detectable Alignments: Faint evil (scrags), moderate evil (troll hunter).
Secrets: None.
Treasure: (9,800 gp) A +1 battleaxe, several masterwork and mundane weapons, and approximately 4,800 gp of silver, copper, gold, and platinum coins.

Area B Relevant Checks

Spot DC 10 or 15: A PC in the water must make Swim checks according to the rules in the Player's Handbook . The DC is 10 until the scrags make the water rough by fighting while within it.

Swim DC Varies: If the PCs cause the shriekers near the pool to scream, the scrags hide and lie in wait for the PCs, requiring a PC to make a Spot check to see one.

Area C Summary

Creatures: (6) Five basilisks, one greater basilisk.
Traps: None.
Terrain: As prevailing cavern.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: None.
Detectable Alignments: None.
Secrets: None.
Treasure: None.

Area D Summary

Creatures: None.
Traps: None.
Terrain: As prevailing cavern.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: None.
Detectable Alignments: None.
Secrets: None.
Treasure: None.

Area D Relevant Checks

Knowledge (religion) DC 28: A PC with ranks in Knowledge (religion) may make a check to identify the identity of the statue. It is an ancient depiction of Laduguer, god of the duergar, placed here when the gray dwarves and drow battled for control of Undermountain.

This article assumes the PCs enter the cavern from stairs on the western side of the cavern, having just survived the encounter from Room 21: Moving Day. If they do not, modify the encounters to suit your needs. Level 1 Cavern, Part 1, describes part of the large cavern on level one of Undermountain. The following two articles will describe the other parts of the cavern and reveal the changes in the status quo that caused the roper to chase the kobolds out.

Use the following read-aloud text when the PCs get a glimpse of the larger cavern beyond. Then, as the PCs enter area A, use the read-aloud text for area A (see Area A: Kobold Mining Encampment below).

The huge cavern is dimly lit in some areas by glowing lichen and strange blue mushrooms that stand as tall and as broad as dwarves. Many twin red lights scuttle about the floor of the cavern, each shining from the carapace of a giant fire beetle. A thick cluster of fungus of various types forms a miniature forest a little ways away, and the glow from that strange landscape illuminates several small side caverns to your right, plus the edge of a pool in a cave on the opposite side of the cavern. Beyond the forest, a lightless abyss yawns, giving the impression that the cavern extends to greater distance.

This cave developed a strange ecosystem due to Halaster's husbandry. Small insects flit about or crawl on the ground, providing food for thousands of bats that periodically leave the cavern to fly about Undermountain before returning en masse. These bats create waste that helps to form earth in which the glowing mushrooms and other fungus grow. The cavern's fungus forest provides food for giant fire beetles, which in turn provide food for some of the cavern's other inhabitants. The monsters described in the area descriptions below exist largely outside this ecosystem, leaving the cavern to hunt for larger and better-tasting meals than fire beetles.

As the PCs explore the cavern, describe the features they encounter. The area descriptions below offer more details. If you'd like to have the PCs encounter creatures other than those listed in the area encounters, consider the monsters listed in the Other Cavern Inhabitants sidebar.

Fungus Forest: The map depicts several areas of fungus forest growth. These squares are difficult terrain. The large mushrooms block passage. They have a hardness of 6 and 480 hit points, and each is about 5 feet tall and 4 feet thick. These large blue mushrooms glow with a dim radiance and release a sparkling cloud of spores when disturbed. The spores are harmless. Several of the large mushrooms in the fungus forest are actually shriekers.

Chasm: The chasm roughly in the middle of the cave is 100 feet deep, and it grows narrower as one descends. Nothing of note lies at its bottom besides the bones of creatures unfortunate enough to fall within it.

Other Cavern Inhabitants

A number of other creatures might inhabit the cavern, and the PCs could encounter them while exploring, resting, or during a fight with another creature. The following creatures are of a CR too low to be very threatening to PCs of a level appropriate to the challenge of facing the encounters in the area descriptions, but they might be interesting as noncombat encounters or as easier breaks between big fights. Also, one of these creatures could be quite challenging for a lone PC or one on the edge of a fight that has the other PCs occupied. You might also consider having multiples of these monsters confront the PCs, thus raising the difficulty of the encounter.

  • Average Xorn: CR 6; Monster Manual page 260 and Underdark 28/60.
  • Bat Swarm: CR 2; Monster Manual page 237.
  • Carrion Crawler: CR 4; Monster Manual page 30 and Dragoneye 41/60.
  • Choker: CR 2; Monster Manual page 34 and Aberrations 47/60.
  • Delver: CR 9; Monster Manual page 37.
  • Dire Bat: CR 2; Monster Manual page 62 and Underdark 44/60.
  • Phantom Fungus: CR 3; Monster Manual page 207.
  • Ochre Jelly: CR 5; Monster Manual page 202.
  • Umber Hulk: CR 9; Monster Manual page 248 and Harbinger 44/60.
  • Violet Fungus: CR 3; Monster Manual page 113.

Area A: Kobold Mining Encampment (EL 2)

Read or paraphrase the following text aloud when the PCs descend the stairs into the cave.

It grows slightly colder as you descend the stairs. A scent of smoke and iron adds a tang to the moist air, which has a pungent organic smell underlying it. As you reach the bottom of the steps, you see that the carved walls of the dungeon give way to roughly cut cavern walls. Up ahead you spot the likely source of the metal and smoke scents: seven small bloomeries, which are primitive stone furnaces for smelting ore.

The kobolds from Room 21 lived in this part of the cavern, having set up a low-walled settlement after discovering iron ore in the walls of this part of the cave. The kobolds kept themselves relatively safe from other cavern inhabitants by using displaced stone to build rubble barricades and transplanting shriekers (see the Monster Manual, page 112) to serve as alarms. When any creature got close enough to cause the shriekers to scream, the kobolds scrambled into their sleeping warren, squeezing through its small opening and taking shelter within. The opening to the sleeping warren is hardly more than a foot wide, making it impossible for the cavern's larger predators to reach the kobolds.

The kobolds had lived relatively happily here, mining ore to make weapons and tools, and hunting and gathering food from the cave. Then the roper burst through the northernmost barricade, killing a shrieker as it did so. Although slow, the roper's tremendous reach allowed it to kill many kobolds that tried to reach the sleeping warren. Those that survived watched in horror as the roper used its thin tentacles to pull their kin from the sleeping warren and stuff them in its gaping maw.

Little of value remains in this area. A few kobold body parts are strewn about where the roper was eating messily. When the PCs arrive, six giant fire beetles are investigating the sleeping warren and eating the skins and furs the kobolds used as blankets. They don't menace the PCs, but they cause a red glow to emanate from the warren, and they attack any PC crawling inside.

Area B: Troll Seraglio (EL 12)

As the PCs enter area B, read or paraphrase the following text.

A dark pool of water fills this cavern. It looks shallow near the edge, but it swiftly grows deeper. A fungus forest on the other side of the water reveals that the pool divides and laps up against shores strewn with gold! Silver, gold, copper, and platinum coins glitter in heaps just a stone's throw away!

Several female scrags (aquatic trolls) live in this small pool, transplanted here by Halaster. Given the small space and limited food resources, the scrags would have killed one another, but a troll happened upon the feuding sisters soon after their appearance, and through force and bribery earned their allegiance. Now this troll hunter uses the caves beyond the water as his lair while the scrags serve as his guards and harem. Knowing the cavern doesn't hold enough food for himself and the scrags, the troll hunter goes out into Undermountain daily to hunt, leaping over the kobolds' barricade and leaving the cave for the halls. When the kobolds first arrived, the troll thought to make a quick meal of them, but the fiery brands and molten metal they used on him when he reached into their warren soon convinced him they were too much trouble.

Each day, the troll returns with a fresh kill and a bit of treasure, giving much of both to his mates. The scrags pile their treasure and the bones of their meals on the far shore to keep the "pretties" safe from thieves, and to lure would-be thieves into the water where they have the advantage.

When the PCs arrive, the scrags are sleeping in the water, having eaten a large meal of orcs a few hours earlier. The troll naps on various old rugs and furs in his lair. If the PCs disturb the shriekers, or if they make noise in the water or with the coins on the shore, the troll and scrags awake and attack.

Scrags (5): Use the statistics for the Troll (77/80) from the Harbingerminiatures set or the Troll Slasher (59/60) from the Underdarkminiatures set. If you don't have those miniatures, use the statistics from the Monster Manual. Scrags are identical to normal trolls, except they are aquatic, they have a swim speed of 40 feet and a land speed of 20 feet, and they only regenerate when mostly immersed in water.

Troll Hunter (1): Use the troll hunter statistics on page 247 of the Monster Manual. The troll hunter casts resist energy (fire) when alerted to the PC's presence. It then moves to the cave to aid the scrags in their battle against the PCs. The troll hunter hurls javelins at foes, hoping to lure the PCs into the fungus forest and cast entangle on them.

Treasure: The scrags' hoard of coins on the shore contains 2,537 cp, 1,110 sp, 2,763 gp, and 190 pp. The troll hunter wields a +1 battleaxe, and a weapon rack in the troll hunter's lair holds 2,690 gp worth of masterwork and mundane weapons the troll collected in its hunts.

Area C: Statue Garden (EL 12)

When the PCs approach the first kobold statue, read or paraphrase the following.

Just ahead is a still humanoid shape beside a large blue mushroom. It's a statue of a kobold glancing over its shoulder in fear. Looking where the stone kobold's gaze is fixed, you spy another kobold statue in the middle passage of what looks to be three tunnels out of the main cave.

The statues of kobolds throughout this area are the petrified remains of the reptilian creatures turned to stone by some of the basilisks lounging in the caves. Having turned many kobolds to stone when the humanoids first arrived, the basilisks aren't hunting and have plenty of food for later. So long as the PCs don't aggravate any of the basilisks, they all continue napping and lounging. If a fight begins with any of the basilisks, the whole colony comes running to attack.

Greater Basilisk (1): Use the statistics on page 24 of the Monster Manual for the abyssal greater basilisk, but strip away the effects of the fiendish template (damage reduction, resistances, smite good, spell resistance), making it a CR 10 creature. Largest of the basilisks and the leader of the colony, the greater basilisk is marked with a larger "B" on the map.

Basilisks (5): Use the statistics for the Basilisk (13/72) from the Giants of Legendminiatures set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics from the Monster Manual.

Area D: Ancient Temple (EL --)

Read or paraphrase the following when a PC enters this area and spots the statue.

This irregular cave seems to hold little of note, but then you notice a tall stone figure in the far end. It looks like a terribly stern dwarf holding a hammer. Bits of the statue have broken off, and flowstone from the cave wall around it has covered much of its base and parts of its body.

This statue was put here long ago when duergar claimed this cavern . They had intended to make this chamber a temple to Laduguer, but they were killed off before their plans could come to fruition. Nothing lives in the ominous presence of the stern statue. Even the giant fire beetles avoid the chamber.

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • If your PCs have too few levels to face the threats described in the area descriptions, consider having them face some of the monsters in the Other Cavern Inhabitants sidebar in those areas instead.

  • Use area D to create your own Undermountain encounter. The ancient temple might be guarded by undead hidden in the walls, or perhaps the statue comes to life to attack the PCs. The Skeletal Dwarf (Death Knell 40/60) and Dwarf Ancestor (Underdark 2/60) might prove useful for such encounters.

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.

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