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).
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.
Area A: Kobold Mining Encampment (EL 2)
Read or paraphrase the following text aloud when the PCs descend the stairs into the cave.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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