Cliffhangers Adventures

Unearthing the Past
Episode Two: Plots Uncovered

by Jesse Decker

"Unearthing the Past" is a four-part cliffhanger adventure for three to five 1st-level characters. Characters who survive the adventure should advance to 2nd-level. DMs can easily modify the adventure to accommodate higher level characters by increasing the number of foes in each encounter. Many of the villains are humanoids, so you may want to adjust the Encounter Levels within the adventure by substituting more powerful humanoids in each encounter.

Adventure Background

The second episode of "Unearthing the Past" takes place in a dwarven ruin located a few miles northwest of the village of Travensburg. In episode one, the players have the opportunity to trace a group of human and orc raiders back to these ruins.

At the Cave Mouth

The episode opens with the party outside of the cave mouth. Any character who succeeds at a DC 10 Spot check notices movement within the cave mouth.

As you approach the cave mouth, you notice that the area outside of the cave is well traveled. Dozens of different boot tracks have trampled the light covering of snow into the mud by. All of the prints appear to come and go from the cave mouth.

For characters who made their Spot checks, you may add the following note:

As you glance around the area, you see the shadows within the cave shift: Something inside obviously moved.

Inside the Cave

Inside the cave, two orcs stand guard with crossbows. Marsem left them with instructions to guard the cave entrance until he comes back. The two guards have a good chance to see the party before anyone notices them, because the cave shelters them, and the party is on open ground. At a distance of 3d6 x 10 ft., the orcs need to succeed at a DC 20 Spot check to see the party. The party, on the other hand, is looking into total darkness and won’t be able to see the orcs unless they have darkvision and are within 60 feet of the cave entrance. (Those with darkvision can see them automatically if they draw to within 60 feet.)

If they see the party, the orcs slip to the back of the cave and attempt to shoot at the party from the cover of darkness. If one of the orcs falls, the remaining orc will attempt to flee to alert the orcs in area 1.

After the fight, read or paraphrase the following description.

The cave is roughly hewn and holds little of interest. A well-worn path leads from the entrance to the back of the cave. The back wall of the cave actually apears to be shaped stone. The shaped stone corridor leads to a stout-looking door.

Orcs (2): CR 1; Medium-sized Humanoid (6 ft. 6 in. tall), HD 1d8; hp 4, 6; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+4 scale mail); Atk +3 melee (1d12+3/crit x3, greataxe); AL CE, SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Wil –1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8.

Skills: listen +2, spot +2

Possessions: Scale mail, greataxe, pouch containing 20 silver

1. Supply Room

This room is used by the Trember brothers and the orcs as a staging and supply area. The walls of the room are lined with tables, boxes, and barrels of all shapes. There are picks, shovels, and other tools for digging and hauling dirt. There are weapons, including 60 crossbow bolts, five spears, two damage suits of scale mail, three spare hafts for greataxes, and one light crossbow. The other useful equipment in the room includes 150’ of heavy hemp rope, 2 dozen spikes, 3 small hammer, two lanterns, four flasks of lantern oil, and ten large sacks. Most of the boxes and barrels held food and are now empty. There are a few days worth of iron rations left.

Four orcs are working here. To hear the door opening, they need to succeed at a Listen check. The DM should set the DC based on how quietly the party moves. If the party makes no attempt to be stealthy, the orcs must succeed at a DC 10 Listen check to hear the door open. As soon as the orcs are aware of the characters, they attack. If they have been alerted to the group’s presence ahead of time, two of the orcs will have light crossbows and begin firing at the PCs as soon as they open the door.

Orcs (4): CR 2; Medium-sized Humanoid (6 ft. 6 in. tall), HD 1d8; hp 4, 6; Init +0; Spd 20 ft.; AC 14 (+4 scale mail); Atk +3 melee (1d12+3/crit x3, greataxe); AL CE, SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Wil –1; Str 15, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 8.

Skills: listen +2, spot +2

Possessions: Scale mail, greataxe, pouch containing 20 silver (At this point, it might become obvious to the PCs that the orcs have all been recently paid.)

2. Crypt

The door to this chamber is barred from the outside. The ruin was haunted by a ghoul, but the priests of Wee Jas were able to control it long enough to force it into this chamber. Unable to break through the stout door, the ghoul waits just on the other side for anyone foolish enough to let it out.

The ghoul waits just inside the room. Knowing that the door can easily be barred again, the ghoul won’t attack until the group enters the room. Once at least one PC is in the room, make a contested skill roll between the ghoul’s Hide skill and the PC’s Spot roll. Only PCs in the room get an attempt to spot the ghoul. If the ghoul is successful, it gets a free surprise action. Because it’s watching the door intently, the ghoul cannot be surprised.

Although the ghoul keeps no treasure, there are two locked coffins at the back of the large chamber. The coffins are dwarf-sized and contain the remains of two nameless dwarven warriors. A masterwork battleaxe lies in each coffin with the remains. The handles have rotted away, but the blades are still in good condition. If fitted with a new handle, the axes retain their masterwork qualities.

Ghoul (1): CR 1; Medium-sized Undead (5 ft. 4 in. tall), HD 2d12; hp 14; Init +2 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural); Atk +3 melee (1d6+1 and paralysis, bite), and +0 melee (1d3 and paralysis [x2], claws); AL CE, SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Wil +5; Str 13, Dex 15, Con —, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 16.

Skills: Climb +6, Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Intuit Direction +3, Jump +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +7, Search +6, Spot +7, Feats: Multiattack, Weapon Finesse (bite)

Possessions: none

The Cliffhanger

As the group readies to head down the corridor to room 3, any character who succeeds at a DC 15 Listen check hears the lift in room 3 operating.

As you start down the corridor, you hear the muffled rattling of chains sliding over metal. The sound is coming from just around the bend in the corridor.

About the Author

Before becoming managing editor of TopDeck Dragon . Unearthing the Past was inspired by his current campaign, which he runs for coworkers.


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